A spontaneous jam and sing-along at the 2019 ArtsWells Festival. Island Mountain Arts has cancelled the 2020 festival due to COVID-19. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer file photo)

A spontaneous jam and sing-along at the 2019 ArtsWells Festival. Island Mountain Arts has cancelled the 2020 festival due to COVID-19. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer file photo)

ArtsWells cancels 2020 festival due to COVID-19

Island Mountain Arts hopes to deliver some kind of online version of the festival to support artists

The board and staff of Island Mountain Arts announced Wednesday, April 22 that the 17th annual ArtsWells Festival will not take place this July 31 to Aug. 3 due to COVID-19.

“This decision came on the heels of the announcement from Dr. Bonnie Henry on Saturday that there will be no large gathering this summer in B.C.,” Julie Fowler, executive and artistic director of Island Mountain Arts (IMA) said in a letter on behalf of the board and staff of IMA and ArtsWells. “Her announcement was something we were anticipating, as we saw the order come down in Quebec last week to cancel all large events until Aug. 31. Keeping our community safe is our No. 1 priority.”

Fowler says it seems fitting that the day they make this announcement is Earth Day, as this global pandemic reminds us how very crucial it is that we honour the planet.

“We truly are all in this together, and we know, as a festival and arts community, how absolutely amazing it is when we work together on a common goal,” she said. “As a festival, we know what good community is about. For the last 16 years, we have come together to share our talents, help one another, eat together, build together, love together, learn together, celebrate together and be together. These are lessons that I know we all take into our lives, not just on the festival weekend but, 365 days a year.”

Fowler says it also seems fitting that this is the National Week to celebrate volunteers.

“ArtsWells has been supported by thousands of volunteers over the course of the last 16 years, and similarly, Island Mountain Arts has been fuelled by volunteers for the last 43 years,” she said. “We are so very grateful for everyone who has given of themselves through this astonishing history of art in the Cariboo, and we certainly look forward to working together again. Thank you.”

Fowler would also like to designate April 22 as a day to honour the artists.

“It is artists who have built ArtsWells, growing it from a seed of an idea to the large event that it has become,” she said. “ArtsWells is so grateful for all the transformative work that artists have shared with festival-goers over the last 16 years. You have made our lives richer and more filled with meaning, purpose and joy! We love you and need you and thank you. We will all miss being able to have that live experience with artists this year, but I know that many artists are working harder than ever to share their gifts in the ways that they can. Please support all the artists out there right now. For many artists, all of their income and ability to make income has disappeared, and due to the nature of live music, which relies on gathering large groups of people, it will be a long time before they can tour again.”

In light of this, Fowler says ArtsWells does hope to support artists through delivering some kind of online version of the festival, and more details will come in the future as IMA figures out what makes sense to do.

For those who already bought tickets to ArtsWells 2020, IMA is offering full refunds, as well as the option to give a full or partial donation of your ticket. Watch for an email from IMA with more information.

“Choosing to donate will help ArtsWells and Island Mountain Arts to navigate this truly challenging and unprecedented situation,” says Fowler. “Thank you for your support. For those of you that didn’t buy a ticket but want to support ArtsWells and Island Mountain Arts, we welcome and appreciate anything you can donate at this time. As a charitable organization, we can offer tax receipts.”

Fowler says IMA will also be coming out with ArtsWells 2020 merchandise featuring the beautiful designs done for this year’s festival by Clawhammer Press to celebrate the spirit of ArtsWells.

“One last very important thank you is to the community of Wells and Barkerville for being such gracious and welcoming hosts to the festival every year and to our important funders, sponsors, partners, businesses, vendors and donors,” says Fowler.

READ MORE: WATCH NOW: ArtsWells 2019 thrives despite Friday night power outage

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Quesnel Cariboo Observer