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Bringing Art to the Streets of Ladysmith: Arts on the Avenue

Photo courtesy of Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle, 2015.

During the winter months of 1998, a small group of artists met in Ladysmith to discuss the future of public art in the town. Maria Latulippe, who had a vision for an arts festival along the iconic First Avenue, was met with enthusiasm from fellow artists and art -lovers. This original (and long-lasting) vision involved showcasing local talents, including both the visual and performing arts. Artists from Chemainus, Crofton, Cedar, and Yellow Point would be welcome to participate in the festival. As a result of this vision and the dedication of art council members, Arts on the Avenue was born. By 2004, the festival had grown to consist of over 30 juried visual artists, hands-on art activities for children, and was seen as being a highlight of the summer for many residents of Ladysmith. Since its humble beginnings in 1998, Arts on the Avenue has cemented itself in its position as one of the most attended formal events in Ladysmith, alongside events such as the Show ‘n Shine and the Festival of Lights.

In 2011, at the 13th annual Arts on the Avenue festival, dozens of talented local artists took to First Avenue to showcase their work. At this point in the festival’s history, its positive reputation among artists and art-lovers began to spread and evolve. Jack Fisher, who was the featured artist that year, noted that: “It seems to get better each year, I would say. Certainly bigger!” (Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle, 2011). Cecile Von Woesel shared a similar sentiment, stating that “It’s a great event. . .The organization is really good” (Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle, 2011).

In 2013, Arts on the Avenue celebrated its 15th anniversary in a big way. At this celebration, the festival had the opportunity to move even further down First Avenue, which allowed for far more space to be filled with artists and their artwork. With this increase in space, approximately 50 artists were able to attend the festival. In an article by the Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle, several key organizers were interviewed, including Kathy Holmes. The following is an excerpt of the article and interview:

‘“It’s grown, I guess, slowly because people have tried to maintain the fact it was all about the pure art,” said Kathy Holmes, president of the Ladysmith Arts Council. “It’s sort of gone up and down, but it’s always gone forward and always been a successful event, mostly due to the artists and to the hard work of the volunteers”’ (Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle, 2013).

In 2015, the number of juried artists grew even larger, with approximately 56 of them attending Arts on the Avenue on August 23rd. The diversity of artistic mediums in this group of artists was impressive, ranging from pottery, jewelry, metal, wood, glass, fabric, and photography. Kathy Holmes described this event as “not just an art show and art sale, it’s a community activity too” (Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle, 2015). This was also the first year during which the Arts on the Avenue festival shared the fun on the avenue with sister-festival: Light Up the Night.

In 2019, during its most recent full-scale run before the Covid-19 pandemic, Arts on the Avenue celebrated its 21st birthday. Along with featuring 50+ juried artists, this festival also featured a huge “community canvas,” which was painted by festival-goers. Once again, Light Up the Night closely followed the festival, drawing in people of all ages.

After missing one year of regularly scheduled festivities in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Arts on the Avenue returned in 2021 with a smaller-scale event on August 22nd. Despite the decrease in size and space, the festival was still considered a success. Approximately 25 juried artists attended the event, displaying their artwork under tents from Roberts Street to Gatacre Street..

This year, Arts on the Avenue will return once again on August 28th from 10:00AM-4:00PM to celebrate its 24th run on First Avenue. Like so many before it, this festival will feature a wide range of local artists. The event will also appeal to children, who can take part in a variety of fun art-related activities in the designated Kids Zone. This year's guest artist is Coco Jones. To stay updated on Arts on the Avenue 2022, see the website.


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