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Amber Bloom paints Savannah Shott's face at the Festival of the Midnight Sun in 2003. The festival began as a week-long visual arts festival but morphed into a performing arts fair. - NNSL file photo

Full speed ahead

Jennifer Geens
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 04/05) - If all goes well over the next month, Yellowknife will celebrate the arts with a week-long festival this August.

The first week of August is the proposed date for the brand-new Yellowknife Arts Festival, which would draw artists and craftspeople from around the North for shows, workshops, sales and other related events.

Larry Adamson, who is the main driving force behind the festival, along with Vicki Tompkins, said the idea has been growing for more than five years.

It's based on the Festival of the Midnight Sun, an arts festival that ran for a few years in Yellowknife in the early 1990s.

"In the early '90s every bank had artwork showing, every restaurant had some sort of an event," he said.

"There were poetry readings, music and workshops. The idea was to see if we could get the town alive for a week."

Interest in the Festival of the Midnight Sun dwindled in the late 1990s as organizers struggled to find enough volunteers to run the event. It eventually shrank to a weekend of arts-related activities, now under the umbrella of the Solstice Festival in June.

The Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik, running July 15 to 24, would wrap up about a week before the Yellowknife festival is scheduled to start. Adamson said the new festival is not meant to compete with the established artsfest in Inuvik.

"The idea is to grow the appeal of NWT arts and crafts in the rest of the world and the rest of the world's a pretty big market. The goal is not to compete at all, but to complement each other."

"It worked well before," he said. "We co-operated on getting artists back and forth."

Adamson said last Wednesday's first AGM attracted about 25 people, half of whom became voting members of the festival society.

The society's fundraising goal is $200,000 and applications for financial support have been made to the city, territorial and federal governments, as well as to larger corporations in the NWT.

Brian Desjardins, communications manager for NWT Arctic Tourism, supports the idea of an arts festival in Yellowknife, as long as the organizing committee is prepared for the headaches that come with putting on a festival and keeping it going.

He suggested the new society look to the Great Northern Arts Society for guidance on how to pull it off.

As long as there are enough things to see and do, Desjardins said the festival would bring tourists to the NWT capital.

"The competition for volunteers and sponsorship might be a hurdle to get across," he said. "But if there are enough people in the community willing to make it happen, why not?"