Art festival ‘illuminates’ downtown Fredericton

Dancers and performers of all kinds displayed their talents during the Illuminate Arts Festival on Oct. 1, 2022. (Brooklyn Wilkins/AQ)

The Fredericton downtown area was blanketed with lights, music and art installations from dusk to dawn on Oct. 1 to Oct. 2 as the Illuminate Arts Festival made its debut in the city.

The Illuminate Arts Festival was produced by Fierité Fredericton Pride (FFP). The festival took place outdoors and was free of charge. Dancers and performers of all kinds took to the stage, while muralists and other local artists proudly displayed their art and projects to the public.

Amelia Thorpe, co-director of the festival, said it was inspired by the Nuit Blanche festival in Toronto, Ont., an annual all-night arts festival where museums and art galleries open their doors to the public free of charge.

“[Our goal is] to highlight artists and performers and musicians and so on and to also provide a free, engaging and hopefully thought-provoking opportunity for individuals to explore this downtown core of unceded Wolastoqey territory … in a new light,” said Thorpe.

Though the festival is organized by FFP, it is not exclusively a 2SLGBTQIA+ event. The festival features both queer and non-queer artists, and was open to all. Thorpe said the goal of the organization is to promote visibility, education and collaboration within the Fredericton community.

A part of that is holding Pride events outside of Pride month.

“There are a lot of folks that can benefit from the visibility and sense of community and the affirmation that can come along with events that are explicitly created to provide a safer space to build community and to allow folks to exist in a space as their full self,” she said.

Thorpe said FFP received funding this year from the federal government, giving them the opportunity to create more diverse and accessible experiences and events. Some of the performances at the festival were interpreted into American Sign Language for those with auditory disabilities.

“We have artists, films, music, fire performances, belly dance, DJs … we have a huge variety in terms of different things to check out and to be taken in,” said Thorpe.

Artist Ysabelle Vautour used recycled materials and non-toxic paints to create pieces inspired by the experiences of disabled artists like herself. (Brooklyn Wilkins/AQ)

One of the artists presented was Ysabelle Vautour and her art installation “Questioning Access.”

She created the project as a summer artist-in-residence for the City of Fredericton. Vautour exclusively used recycled materials and non-toxic paints to create pieces inspired by the experiences of disabled artists like herself.

“I haven’t tried to express myself that way [before],” said Vautour. “I hope that people see disability differently [when looking at the installations].”

As a blind artist, Vautour said she has experienced and heard of people being shamed and made to hide their disabilities and can relate to the feeling of exclusion shared with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

“I think that we’re both minorities [on] the sidelines and I think, as minorities, you’re always fighting [for representation],” she said.