This is the Life: Show took Creston arts to a new level

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Thank you, thank you, thank you. Add another 60 or more thank yous to that sentiment and it comes close to how I felt on Friday night while we attended the artists’ challenge show at what is now known as Casey’s Community House.

The former Kootenay Hotel was the scene for artistic works created as a result of a call and response event six weeks earlier at the same location. Credit to the building owners Ralph Casemore and Tanya Wall for getting the building ready to host a public event (on Saturday night they also hosted a large group, announcing their business plans and the new name, a tribute to Ralph’s dad, Harold “Casey” Casemore).

When Gary Deatherage dropped off an invitation to the call and response initiative a few months ago I was baffled as to why I was included. I did not attend because I do not view myself as an artist. But about 50 artists did respond and most of them produced works that were put on display Friday night. About 40 paintings, sculptures and pottery works were shown, beautifully illustrating what a vibrant visual art community we have become. Another 14 performances pieces — ranging from songs written as responses to the earlier call to video, chants, an extemporaneous choral piece and poems — had me thinking that I had travelled back in time to Greenwich Village in the 1960s. The notable difference was that neither performers nor audience were influenced by alcohol or drugs (at least to my knowledge). This was purely an evening of creative artistic expression and I loved every second of it.

Dotted around the spacious, unfinished Canyon Street building were some 40 paintings, several sculptures and some clay pieces, as well. An estimated 250 people milled around, socializing and checking out the space, which was largely gutted and is now framed, ready for electrical and plumbing work before the walls can be finished. On the upper floor, 100 chairs were set up in front of a makeshift white tarp backdrop. Lighting was subtle but effective, making use of the limited amount of power available at this point.

The evening’s performances began with an introduction from painter Alison Masters, whose collaborations with Deatherage lead to the call and response challenge. Masters explained how the event had come about, and that this coming together of artists who work in so many different media is probably unprecedented in our area.

What followed was, in my opinion, remarkable. Maureen Cameron kicked things off with her reading of a poem. Deatherage played a song he had written for the event, appropriately called “How Many Artists Does It Take To Change The World?” Next up was a video that forewarned that we should expect the unexpected. Ghostly video images provided a visual backdrop for a guitar piece by Cory Cannon, who is best known as an airbrush artist. Kris Dickeson provided the vocals, Monique Wartman played the djembe, an African goblet-shaped drum and Mario Melisse added strings. He also recorded and edited the piece.

Ann Deatherage then read a collaborative piece of writing by Betsy Brierley and Elaine Alfoldy about an experience of a woman traveling in Mexico. Another musical piece, “Mind Unhinged”, was written and recorded by Howling Dan, the popular singer and guitarist. Ric Little performed what he described as a drumsong/chant and Luanne Armstrong brought down the house with a brilliant reading of a poem she wrote for the event, “Echoes”. Armstrong’s powerful piece served as a reminder that she is the grande dame of the written word in the Creston Valley and East Shore.

As the evening wore on, I kept thinking that 50 or 60 years ago, we might have been referring to the event as a love-in. Simon Lazarchuk did a dance piece while images created by Richard Reeves, Darlene Amendt and Sophie Short were projected on him. A musical piece recorded by Jason Deatherage was hypnotic. A sound recording made by Zav Huscroft proved to be one of my personal favourites. It started with the in utero heartbeat of one of her children and continued with a layering of violin and piano over her children’s recorded voices. It was a powerful and moving testament to motherhood, and I have listened to it several times since, enjoying more each time.

The remarkable Kuya Minogue read a poem she wrote for the event and guitarist and singer David Lyons performed an original song. As a finale, a group of singers improvised a vocal piece that started with a simple tone sung by Maureen Cameron and morphed into a beautiful and emotional choral work.

I have often joked in my years in Creston about how wonderful it is to have so many people who work so hard to entertain me. This artists’ challenge will stay with me for many years to come. Thank you to you all.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.