The New Art Festival’s reputation precedes it
By Michelle Potter
I first heard of the festival when I moved to Ottawa in 1998. Of course, back then, it was known as Art in the Park and I wasn’t yet part of the city’s art community. But both friends and strangers kept mentioning the festival and what an interesting and unique event it was. My curiosity and my love for art and nature drew me in and I vowed not to miss it. When the festival weekend rolled around months later, I gathered up a few friends, a few snacks and a few dollars, and made my way there.
What was not to love? The venue is stunning. Central Park is a beautiful space centrally located in the Glebe. It’s home to large, mature trees, a rolling creek and tons of adorable little critters. The park was full of people – couples, families, people with their pets and those who ventured solo, knowing the quirky art and characters they found would keep them in good company. And the artwork was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Almost 200 artists displayed their colour, creativity and very souls for all to see. The space was filled to the brim with original paintings, sculptures, jewellery and unique crafts. And the makers were all happy, smiley and more than willing to tell you all about their creations, their processes and their inspirations.
That first visit turned into a day-long affair and I continued to stroll the grounds long after my friends had left and my snacks had been eaten. I enjoyed the atmosphere and calibre of the art so much that visiting the festival quickly became a much-anticipated summer tradition.
Years later, after much dabbling, experimenting and struggling with my sewing machine, I became a part of the city’s maker community. As such, I began applying to all the craft shows and festivals. I was thrilled the first time I was accepted to be a vendor at Ottawa’s longest running outdoor arts festival. But I knew that I had my work cut out for me. It was to be the biggest art show I’d done and despite having visited several years in a row, I had no idea what to expect as a vendor.
The festival runs rain or shine, so I knew I had to pack up my collection of tarps and bungee cords. It’s also a two-day event and I had no idea what that meant in terms of amount of stock I had to make and bring. As a first-timer, I had several questions, a couple of concerns and, truthfully, a little self-doubt. I reached out to the maker community – other artists who were attending and the organizers of the festival themselves – to get some answers and maybe a bit of encouragement. The support I received was incredible. The organizers were quick to respond to my queries and thoughtful and caring in their communications. And my fellow artists were extremely supportive, encouraging, loving and abundant in their advice and guidance.
As a vendor, I couldn’t have asked for a better event. The birds were singing, the sun was shining and the large old tree I was set up under offered the perfect shade. The park was packed with people from open to close, all eager to walk, talk, peruse, purchase and learn all about the artists and their work. There was colour and laughter all around. And I even got to pet a few friendly dogs. It was such an incredible weekend and I left the park with new friends, new stories and new inspiration.
This year, I’m involved behind the scenes. I’m planning with the organizers, who are professional, patient and kind. I’m talking with sponsors who support the festival every year because they’re passionate about encouraging local art and talent. I have the privilege of viewing all the artists’ applications and am absolutely blown away by the talent that surrounds us. I’m seeing the art community come together to share, to excite, to express and to encourage. It’s obvious to me, now more than ever, that this is one of the best events this beautiful city has to offer.
It’s hard to describe the festival in a way that truly does it justice and that really expresses its warmth, colour and excitement. No matter the capacity in which you’re involved, The New Art Festival is truly one of a kind.
It’s real people. It’s real art. And it’s a really good time.
Join us, won’t you?
The New Art Festival, June 8 and 9, Central Park in the Glebe.
Michelle Potter is a local crafter, art lover, event planner and snack enthusiast.