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Arts Atlantic Festival and Conference Wants To Help N.B. Artists With Their Business

Mark Burnett, ArtsLink NB's event coordinator. (Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle Today)

SAINT JOHN– A new festival being organized by ArtsLink NB wants to help develop new audiences for the region’s art and help more New Brunswick artists make a living out of their work.

The Arts Atlantic Festival and Conference, taking place October 14 to 18, 2020 in Saint John, will be a multi-day symposium celebrating and examining the creativity and challenges that come with working in the arts in Atlantic Canada.

Mark Burnett, ArtsLink NB’s event coordinator, says the organization has held events and symposiums in the past, but none have encompassed all mediums and disciplines.

“Those symposiums are fantastic, but it lacked that ‘togetherness’,” said Burnett. “That’s why we’re doing this now. To bring everyone together, give them the tools that they need to make a living from making art in New Brunswick and show everyone, including the general public, the merit of living here, making art here and supporting art here.”

The conference portion of the event is open to anybody who considers themselves an artist, while public events and art demonstrations are open to the public.

“We want to make it accessible to anyone. We’re going to make everything as public and as free as we can. Of course, there will be some ticketed events because some things cost money, but we’re going to make it as economical as we can make it so people can come out and enjoy it,” says Burnett.

“There will be plenty of free programming all over the city with plenty of signage so people know exactly what’s going on and where to find it.”

The events are still in the planning stages, but the event will kick off the evening of October 14 with a rooftop reception.

“We wanted to do that just to make things a little different. You don’t hear of it a whole lot around here. We’re going to glitz it up a little bit and have our artists, our dignitaries, sponsors out to show our appreciation and to kick things off in a really cool way,” says Burnett. “During that, we will have musical performances, dance, you’ll have some static exhibits there as well to show off some of the painting, photography and things like that.”

From there, will be the conference portion of the event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Speakers and sessions are still being organized, but Burnett says they will focus on giving artists practical and useful information, and tools to build their practice and make a living off their art in New Brunswick.

“We’re going to give them things they can take action on right away that will help them with the business side of their art,” he says. “The people making art, they’re artists. They’re good at what they do already. We don’t need to help them with that. But what we can help them with is the business side of things, being successful and making a living so they don’t have to leave here.”

From 7 p.m. until midnight (or later) will be the festival portion of the event, which will see public art demonstrations in the streets of uptown Saint John.

“We’ll have musical performances, specific stages people can go to,” says Burnett. “We’re looking at having a big show at the Imperial Theatre and maybe some programming in King’s Square so when people are all milling about in the same.”

Burnett says New Brunswick different art communities are often fragmented, that’s something organizers hope to change through this event.

“We have quite a few of our partner organizations such as Craft NB, the NB Film Co-op, Music New Brunswick – they’re all on board. They all want to be a part of this in some way, whether it’s curating exhibits or a music stage, we’re all working closely together,” he says. “Things are a little bit fragmented. I guess that’s just the way the industry is built, especially in New Brunswick, but this is a really good opportunity to pull everybody together.”

If the first Arts Atlantic Festival and Conference is successful, the goal is to host it every year, possibly moving it to different cities.

“The plan is after the first year, as long as it’s successful, which we assume it’s going to be, it will move to a different city and from there, we will play it by ear,” says Burnett.