Its been a few years since the Brantford Arts Block had a physical location, but Gerry Lafleur, who was an integral part of the group, has been instrumental in keeping the spirit alive online and in real life – by organizing A Day on the Grand Festival, September 8, 3 – 11pm at Brants Crossing and beyond. Last year saw a remarkable amount of creativity grace the banks of the Grand for this one day celebration of all things creative, including the river. Along with co-organizers Glen Marshall, and Chris George, Lafleur, who doesn’t originally hail from Brantford, has felt that the river, in all of its strength and glory, is often relegated to being a backdrop rather than a star.
This year’s version of A Day on the Grand takes place in close proximity to Brant’s Crossing behind the Casino. Lafleur deems the event a ‘site specific festival exploration of space’ where the location would dictate to some extent, what would be offered. For instance, a tunnel is used for its unique acoustic vibrations, and a graffiti wall is a backdrop for a pop up visual arts gallery. Last year, the river itself became a player when Rob Porteous and Garner Beckett created the first ever Grand River Giant Carp. Musicians played on river banks, art was installed temporarily in random spots, a deer made of sticks took a drink from the waters, musicians played under bridges, and acrobats suspended by tethers, performed on the walking bridge.
This year’s organization was much easier than last when the Ministry of Natural Resources had to do an environmental assessment of the are to make sure that nothing would be disturbed. The Department of Fisheries sent a biologist to look at 3 at-risk species that could potentially have been affected by the presence of art installations and musicians in and on the river. Acrobats needed insurance and safety standards met in order to perform on the (now closed) walking bridge. Asked what made him go to the tremendous trouble of organizing such an event, Lafleur states “I wanted to experience what it would be like to have all of the cool people I know in these cool surroundings and see how they fit in”. Well it seems that he was pleased with how they fit in because he has organized another event this year, set for September 8.
Because conditions at the river have changed after a harsh season that included flooding and damage to the walking bridge, the festival will reshape itself. Plans are for 8 of the existing islands to have bonfires burning, while on one of the islands David Secord, Pow Wow singer and his troup of drummers will perform in the evening. There will be more to see along the trails starting just behind the casino, where there is free parking around the Civic Centre. Also confirmed and offering unique experiences are visual artists Dave Hind and his amazing Scorpiotron:
Also, visual artists,:John Kirmiss, Suzanne Coverett Earls, Fleur-Ange Lamothe, David Wierzbicki, Arlene Laskey, Julie Whitbread, Avery Tanner, John Kurmis, Ryan Van Dijk, Gerry Lafleur, Heather Verplanke and Aliki Mikulich. Musicians: Temp, Tim Ford and Raccoon Wedding, The Cellar Dwellers, Johnny Hover, Human Nun, My Teenage Wah, Austin Pigott, Baby Girl, Harley Wesley, Alex Iarocci and Rob Michalchuk will play at various times and locations throughout the day and evening. There will be an exhibition area under the pavilion at the skate park and various stations of interest including the everything you need to try life drawing…your kids can make art, too…and you can go on a walking tour through the wildflowers – led by Dean Gugler, and watch the night sky with a Newtonian telescope.
Attendance to this festival is free. “The point is to experience the river; have an excuse to come down, maybe get your toes wet, as an alternative to the way people are living. The river is a free treadmill with a really big screen”, muses Lafleur. His affinity to the location is very evident, and very deep. He goes on to say “We are living in this place where a river goes through, and it doesn’t occur to us that people were here a long time ago, whose life depended on the river. We don’t connect the river to a way of life – although we get our water from it. Many don’t feel the life force of this spiritual place that represents the perpetual forces that we don’t understand”. Lafleur feels that connecting artists to the river would help us understand a little more…and he may just be right. Last year’s event was enchanting, with music and drumming and visual spectacles. Truly the spirit of a collection of creative people who called themselves the Arts Block.