Intersite Visual Arts Festival reveals what’s going on in Calgary’s visual arts scene

Don’t worry about seeking out the Intersite Visual Arts Festival. It’ll find you.

Well that may be a bit of an overstatement. If a three-day festival that showcases participatory visual art experiences piques your interest you should certainly take the initiative to seek out its exhibits. But this isn’t the type of art bounded by the typical white cube of gallery walls. There will be duelling player pianos on a CTrain platform projections in Central Memorial Park soundbombs where you least expect them and drums that will pulse to visitors’ heartbeats.

The festival is in its first year created by eight arts organizations including the Art Gallery of Calgary the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts Emmedia the Mountain Standard Time festival and a slew of artist-run centres including Stride Gallery The New Gallery Untitled Art Society and Truck Contemporary Art.

Renato Vitic Truck’s director says the groups decided to organize the Intersite festival as sort of an answer to 2012’s successful Nuit Blanche arts event and also to create more of a grassroots type of off-site decentralized festival that involved artist-run centres as well as larger institutional organizations.

It’s anomalous that a city as big as Calgary doesn’t already have a regular visual arts festival; Vitic notes that other performance-based festivals like the High Performance Rodeo and Sled Island try to fill that gap by programming a visual arts component to their festivals. However that isn’t the same as a dedicated celebration of purely visual arts and so Intersite hopes to step in and fill that role.

“There’s a lot going on and a lot of very different things going on so I think there’s a flavour for everybody” he says of this year’s lineup. In addition to the spectacular art in the public sphere attendees can get their hands dirty whether at the Epcor Centre cymatic installation where an individual’s movement literally changes the visual experience of the piece or at Untitled Art Society’s photo tent set up in Truck’s parking lot. Or they can get their intellectual kicks at a panel discussion or socialize at the different launch parties and receptions going on throughout the weekend.

If you dig Calgary’s visual arts scene you’re already revved up for Intersite and probably already know where to find all the artist-run-centres in town (including The New Gallery and Truck which recently relocated and Stride which is temporarily calling Truck’s upper floor home after being flooded out of its gallery sapce). But maybe you’ve never heard of let alone set foot in any of these smaller galleries; Intersite is also and perhaps especially for you.

“Really this will hit people who never come into our space” says Vitic. “I’m hoping that people will walk away with wonder with a deeper appreciation of what the artists of the region are up to and hopefully they’ll come back for more.”

After all Intersite isn’t really inventing anything new (commissioned works notwithstanding); what it’ll do is make the energy of our visual artists a little more visible for a few days.

“Calgary is a rich cultural environment with artists of the highest calibre” says Vitic. “This city focuses on many other aspects — its corporate identity or its relationship to natural resources — and maybe [Intersite will foster] an appreciation of different cultural resources… that are in many ways untapped by the general public but flow richer than any oil well in the province.”

Intersite Visual Arts Festival runs from September 27 to 29 at various venues

Nearly 175 artists in 40 studios in Ramsay and Inglewood are opening up their workspaces this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5p.m. on Saturday September 28. Grab a map collect or make artistic mementoes to complete your ArtPassport be amazed by art-making machines and chat with local artists at this neighbourly commercial-free afternoon.