It was one of the shortest cultural events the city has ever seen. Quite an impact. Watch for it again next year.

September 19, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  It was like one of those small things that you come across.  An object you see in a store window, a restaurant menu that delights the palate, a sunset or a cloud formation that deserves the word – awesome.

If you were there – and you could have been there – the No Vacancy event held at the Waterfront Hotel Thursday evening was certainly a one of a kind.  Held in a part of the hotel where the hallways were narrow and left people feeling a little crowded which turned out to be part of the charm of the evening.

The images, some thirty of them were just hanging from the ceiling by a piece of nylon – twisting from time to time. It was simple, almost austere until you looked closely at the work and saw immense detail. People kept wanting to go back to the room and look again.

Ten artists either in their room doing their work or standing outside the room assigned to them welcoming you and in a couple of cases handing out a small memento to remember the experience.  And there were experiences.

Ten area artists were each given a room and asked to do whatever they wanted with the space.  They were to be open to the public for just three hours.

The space couldn’t handle all that many people and the hallways were plugged solid at times; people bumping into friends and chatting away.  There were a couple of “slam poets” that brought energy and life to the hallways.

Kyle Tonkens stepped way outside his comfort zone and stretched the imaginations of most of those who looked at his installation.  It was a bold, brave move.

It wasn’t the kind of thing that could be reviewed.  Some of the artists had a large collection of their work on the walls of the room.  Another went way, way WAY outside his artistic comfort zone and put on one of the most stunning displays.  Two people in a room, one standing, and the other stretched out face down on the bed.  If you were there – you hopefully understood the significance and the strength of the installation.

Another artist had a small table of small flashlights that you needed to work your way through her display – the room was close to totally dark.  I didn’t get the significance of the ironing board in the bathtub but the room was fun to experience.

Selina Jane Eckersall is to be credited for getting the event off the ground.  Too early to tell if all the work was worth the outcome.  The sense I got was  that everyone wanted more.

What Burlington is beginning to see is a cultural layer that was below the surface and not seen by very many people.  When Jeremy Freiburger turned in his Cultural Directions document to the city – he was commissioned to do the report – then  watched it sit on a desk for more than six months before the city finally got moving on public consultations the artists in the city decided they needed to do something.

The formed a collective; held a meeting.  Twenty people came to the first, sixty to the second and there is now a group of 220 + people who chatter away on the Facebook page they created.

And they do chatter and in the process the public gets to learn more about just how much there is going on in this city.  It is amazing – few people knew about much of it.

Everyone knows that Canadian authors by definition are non-profit operations.One author complained about not being able to put up any literature on the Bulletin Board at the library – the space is apparently only for non-profit organization; something we will look into.  Everyone knows that Canadian authors by definition are non-profit operations.

The Arts and Cultural Collective may not move the yard stick very much at city hall but they have broken that hard surface and people now know more about the events taking place.

Mayor Goldring is certainly onside.  He attended the first Public Consultation and was close to overwhelmed with the energy and the talent he saw.  Translating that enthusiasm into policy with funds attached to it is going to be the challenge.

There wasn’t a dime of public money spent on the event.

There are some very interesting art and cultural events going on in this city – it is out there – you just have to dig to find it.

Don’t expect to see anything on the library bulletin boards however.

Will  Selina Jane Eckersall do another show next year?  She should.

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