Elevate strikes a chord in Downtown Courtenay

Elevate bannerSomething special happened last May in the streets of alleys of Downtown Courtenay. Seemingly out of nowhere, a grassroots arts and culture festival was born. With over 22 venues and over 250 performers and artists spread across alleyways, restaurants, plazas, halls and cafes, it was an event that certainly caught the attention and interest of the community. So much so that organizers have decided to do it all over again!

The Elevate Arts Festival is produced by a hardworking volunteer team of culture lovers and community unity builders and the event seems to have really hit a chord with the Comox Valley. For artists, businesses, musicians, performers and residents of all ages it created a new, free and highly accessible forum for celebrating diverse arts and culture. It also provided a much needed injection of energy and activity in our downtown core.

piano on 5th“We’ve been blown away by the incredible support and encouragement from all aspects of the community” says Elevate Co-Producer Bobby Herron. “That support has given us the momentum do it again.” And so, Elevate 2013 is set for June 4-8th in the ‘Heart of Courtenay’.

Elevate was unique in a number of ways and that has certainly been part of it’s appeal. The event is all about breaking down the barriers between culture producers and culture consumers and bringing audiences, supporters and artists together in their experience of arts and culture.

Instead of closing 5th street or booking a big field somewhere, Elevate was about the nooks and crannies of the community. Instead of big ticket prices, the event is about total accessibility. Instead of passive viewing and listening, the event is all about finding your own voice and your talents and engaging directly with artists. Instead of escaping from our day to day life, Elevate is about transforming our community into a place where creativity, experimentation and exploration is celebrated every day.

art truck
Elevate is also all about partnerships. Organizers have committed themselves to producing an event that provides a vehicle for many arts, culture and community organizations to express themselves, as well. Instead of multiple organizations competing for dates and audiences throughout the year, Elevate is dedicated to providing a collaborative forum for ‘elevating’ arts and culture.

“Elevate seems to have really piqued an interest”, says Co-Producer Anna Rambow. “The Comox Valley seems hungry for an event that is a bit more challenging and a bit more welcoming to alternative voices. We’re really committed to making sure that the diverse voices of our community are expressed in our programming. We’re also creating vending and exhibition opportunities for artists who have very ‘non traditional’ work through the Underground Art Fair. Many of these artists are not included in more traditional craft fairs.”

Organizers have been using a series of ‘E’ words as guiding inspiration for programming. “At one of our first meetings in late 2011 we came up with the name and a list of words that really represented what we were trying to achieve.” says Co-Producer Kera McHugh. “Explore, Experiment, Entice, Expose, Excite and Evolve are just a few. Whenever we try and figure out if an activity fits with our vision, we go back to the ‘E’ words.”

simms alley
The Downtown Courtenay BIA, City of Courtenay, Comox Valley Art Gallery, Comox Valley Community Arts Council, Motif Music Studio and Imagine Comox Valley are already confirmed supporters and partners of the 2013 event. Artists, musicians, dancers, businesses and creators of all kinds have begun applying to be part of the fun by offering to perform, exhibit or champion projects.

jack busking“We have plans in the works already for over 15 venues and locations and this number is growing like crazy!” says Bobby Herron. “We have an incredible amount of activity happening in Simms Alley including a music stage, participatory art projects, puppet shows and projections, circus arts and really unique vendors. We also have some really amazing programming coming together on local plazas and street corners and in several local cafes, shops and restaurants including Zocalo, Union Street Grill, Joe’s Garage, the Lower Elks, the Legion, Lower Native Sons, CVAG, Muir Gallery, Sid Plaza and more. The website is in a constant state of evolution, so check back often!”

What does this band of hardworking culture promoters hope to achieve?

“We really want to do something that makes a difference in the evolution of our community.” says Co-Producer Meaghan Cursons. “We need to be creative about how our community evolves; environmentally, economically, socially and culturally. I think we’re all really committed to contributing to a thriving, sustainable and creative Comox Valley. We have an opportunity to focus our energy on our downtown cores and create places where community comes together for a variety of activities - not just commercial ones. This is an alternative vision to the one that promotes big box stores, residential sprawl and more pavement. We want to re-imagine our downtowns as places where community happens, outside of our cars and away from our TV’s.”

There are lots of ways to get involved in the second annual Elevate Arts Festival. Check out their website for volunteer, sponsorship, venue and programming opportunities today at www.elevatethearts.com

canada.com – “Mayor puts spoke into Car Free Sunday”

Article by Phillip Round, as posted on canada.com – June 26, 2012

Was the latest Car Free Sunday in Courtenay too much of a pain in the saddle for local businesses and residents?

City Mayor Larry Jangula certainly thinks so – but to be sure, he suggested last night that every merchant and resident along the three closed-off streets should be asked for their opinion.

He said that for around $2,500, an independent survey could be commissioned which would help guide council decisions on whether to approve similar events in the future.

Jangula said that contrary to what some people were suggesting, he believed “quite a few people were very upset” – including several businesses that were negatively impacted by the road closures.

He gave two specific examples, but said there were others who had contacted him. The owner of Comox Taxi on McPhee had, he suggested, been vilified for criticizing the initiative; and Appletree Market on Fifth was virtually shut down for a day, much to the concern of its owner.

Not only had Courtenay Council authorized significant lengths of road to be closed, but the council had also contributed around $1,000 to a $4,423 budget to help fund the initiative, and he questioned whether it was money well spent.

While the council would in due course receive a report from the organizers on the event and its impact, Jangula said human nature dictated that it was bound to present a positive picture.

So he wanted to launch an independent survey to obtain a complete cross-section of views.

But Coun. Jon Ambler said the total budget of over $4,000 did not all come from taxpayers; some of it was from merchants and businesses that were supportive.

And he added: “I’m not sure I want to spend $2,500 for a survey about whether we should have spent $1,000 on this. That doesn’t add up.”

Along with Coun. Doug Hillian, Ambler expressed support for a full debate on the subject at a later date, after the organizers had inputted their considered observations to City Hall.

“To debate this right now would be just pooling our ignorance,” said Ambler.

It was not as though a decision needed to be taken quickly – there were, he noted, 350 or more days to the next potential Car Free Sunday event and no commitments were being made by anyone at this stage.

Councillors agreed to await the report from the organizers before debating the issue further, with Jangula urging anyone with a view on the issue, particularly if they were in the affected area – mainly McPhee, Fitzgerald and Fifth Street – to make their opinions known.

His survey idea was not taken up.


© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

Press Release: Comox Valley Car Free Sunday approved

(Comox Valley Record - June 6, 2012) After recent presentations to both Courtenay and Cumberland councils, the 2012 Comox Valley Car Free Sunday has been approved to proceed June 17 from noon to 5 in these two communities.

This initiative is organized by the not-for-profit organization Imagine Comox Valley and enthusiastic community partners and sponsors.

Car Free Sundays are organized all over the world as a way to bring communities together in the roads and streets of our cities, towns and villages. This year, the Comox Valley will collaborate with the people organizing the Car Free event in Vancouver (www.carfreevancouver.org) to establish some solidarity in this movement. Roads and streets are a key part of our community infrastructure. Everyone pays for them, but only some people use them on a daily basis. Car Free Sundays help to demonstrate various alternative uses of this great community resource.

Road closures are set to take place in downtown Courtenay and Cumberland to facilitate activities including everything from live music to a bicycle rodeo and more. The Courtenay route will be the same as last year, with the Cumberland closure confined to Dunsmuir Avenue from First to Fourth streets) and a small section of Second Street. Street closures will be limited and residents and businesses will be given alternative routes. Organizers are committed to ensuring the community has safe alternate routes, professional signage, clear communication about the event and trained volunteers who can assist people on the day of the event.

An event like Car Free Sunday requires community support and engagement, and organizers are actively looking for volunteers for the event. If you want to be a part of Car Free Sunday 2012, you can get involved by:

  • Signing up to be a volunteer by visiting http://imaginecomoxvalley.ca and completing the sign-up form available there or contacting volunteer co-ordinator David Frisch at frisch.david@gmail.com;
  • Publicly supporting the idea, whether it be through conversations with friends or posts on your favourite social media channel(s);
  • Signing up to be a sponsor or vendor, which can be done by sending an e-mail to imaginecomoxvalley@gmail.com;
  • Signing up by e-mail to be an entertainment or activity provider or an event leader;
  • Participating in the event June 17 and encouraging others to do so, too.

Please note that organizers welcome new ideas and will do their best to incorporate any reasonable requests.

Organizers are looking forward to working with their community on the 2012 Comox Valley Car Free Sunday and would be happy to provide anyone interested with additional information or answer any questions. They can be reached via e-mail at imaginecomoxvalley@gmail.com.

For more, visit www.imaginecomoxvalley.ca or see the group’s Facebook page.

— Imagine Comox Valley