Ecotone returns to the Rotary Arts Centre in downtown Kelowna

The ever popular Ecotone Festival is back under (one of) its original names, in its most successful venue. - contributed
The ever popular Ecotone Festival is back under (one of) its original names, in its most successful venue.
— image credit: contributed

The latest, the greatest, the most interesting and sublime.

If there is one thing the Ecotone Festival is known for it's bringing out the best of the Okanagan creative community for a night of collaborative revelry and it would appear the 2013 version will be no different; it's even returning to its most successful venue, the Rotary Centre for the Arts, and its mid-winter time slot.

Last year the organizing committee, clustered around spokesman Gabe Cipes of Summerhill Pyramid Winery, moved the event to the spring and held it on the Mission-area winery's property under a new name, The Fertility Festival.

Designed to bring together the arts community and those on the cutting edge of the farming/green movement, the festival still mustered a significant draw, but the venue proved difficult.

"It was cool at Summerhill, but I think we need to do something that's more educational at the winery, like the Okanagan Greens (Society) Festival. That works really well there," said Cipes.

Given its proximity to neighbours and lack of proximity to the youthful, party crowd Conduit is intended to serve, Cipes said the organizers felt the Fertility version missed its mandate.

As such, Ecotone will return to its roots, keep the earthy elements it has picked up along the way, but focus on creative spirit once more—and on behind a conduit for change in this world.

Joining spoken word artists like Cameron Welch and Rawle James will be urban farmer Curtis Stone, who will give the keynote address on the CSA—Commmunity Shared Agriculture—urban farm he will be operating this year.

Stone has garnered international attention for his urban farming. Known as the cycling farmer, he currently sells at the farmers' market and directly to customers who commit to purchasing boxes of produce from him for the growing season. A CSA allows farmers to maximize potential by securing upfront investments from members, so it will help him grow the successful business he's built off his bike, a little ingenuity and borrowed urban plots of land.

Another solid investment this community can showcase is its ever-expanding music scene and this year's Ecotone will certainly have a tonal element to it. Noted as one of the upcoming music hotspots in B.C. since the Western Canadian Music Awards in 2010, Kelowna's live music roster is growing every day with venues from The Bike Shop to The Streaming Café and pubs like The Pheasant and Quail focusing heavily on the arts.

The festival music line-up includes a long string of performers from the Trevor Salloum Drumming Group to Killer Panda, and will also include the new group Wild Son, releasing their debut album mid-January.

Formed by guitar player Aaron Desilva, fiddler Mitch Howanyk, lead singer Kieran McCaffrey and drummer Cam Wilks, the group has been working as a quartet since August, playing Fernandos Pub, O'Flannigan's and the Greatful Fed in regular rotation.

"We're a groove-based, folk rock fusion sound," said Howanyk, who teaches at Wentworth Music.

The group met by happenstance, one member moving in with another who had a friend who played music, or pretty well the usual way bands form to make the most unusual mix of people—Desilva is from Kitchener, ON, Howanyk from Kelowna by way of Winnipeg, McCaffrey from Kitchener and Wilks from Winnipeg.

Wilks and Howanyk both have music performance degrees and studied together, and McCaffrey and Desilva are childhood friends.

With the resurgence of folk, notably Mumford & Sons from England, and the growth of artists like Vancouver's Dan Mangan, their sound is very much the feel of the moment, though with their own special twist.

As usual, Ecotone will also be filled with plenty of visual artists and the Cool Arts crew, an arts group for those with disabilities or diversabilities, as they prefer to say it, will also premier its new claymation film.

The group worked with local filmmaker Joanne Gervais to create minimalist story lines.

"It's definitely got this very playful quality to it," said Rena Warren, Cool Arts executive director.

Warren is very excited about the timing of their opening in the Alternator Gallery with the festival because the event itself offers her artists a growth opportunity to "see a cool event and participate in it after."

"It increases our public engagement," she said.

Among the noteworthy local visual artists whose work will be included in Ecotone are Meghan Wise and Shauna Oddliefson; Kevin Jesuino, who was part of the organizing committee; Corie Waugh, who works with the local zine group operating out of the Alternator; the Ullus Collective; Nikki Balfour, who often works on stage in conjunction with her musician husband; and dozens of others.

The Sixth Annual Ecotone Festival runs Feb. 2 from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Rotary Centre for the Arts. It is dubbed the annual local, organic, zero waste Okanagan underground creative gathering known as conduit. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students. For kids or Alternator members it is asked attendees make a $5 minimum donation.

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