Calgary’s Sled Island Music & Art Festival is Famed for Music, but Art Takes Center Stage

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Calgary’s Sled Island Music & Arts Festival kicked off its eighth year this weekend, showcasing local artists at 38 venues alongside 250 musical acts. The festival showcases artwork in intimate night clubs, large music halls and public spaces, and although it draws big name musical performers, the volunteers say the art is number one.

Jodie Rose, the volunteer visual arts coordinator for Sled, says that the goal is to “Make the art more noticeable, whether it’s a fan with a Sled Island bracelet, or Calgarians who happen to be downtown.”

Calgary's Sled Island Music & Arts Festival kicked off its eighth year this weekend, showcasing local artists at 38 venues alongside 250 musical acts.
Calgary’s Sled Island Music & Arts Festival kicked off its eighth year this weekend, showcasing local artists at 38 venues alongside 250 musical acts.

One must-see event, says Rose, is the Sled Island Poster Show, which shows off the graphic arts of 10 to 12 artists that have been paired up with a musician or band. The posters display artwork for the festival’s headliners, which include Neko Case, Spiritualized and St. Vincent, and other musical acts.

Some of the visual art included in the festival becomes less mainstream, and includes live comedy and film in addition to paintings, sculptures, and other forms. Ghostly horse stables, an installation dedicated to combating low serotonin levels, and a live show about mourning are some of the stranger exhibits this year.

One of the more accessible pieces featured at Sled Island is “We Are The Filters,” a large, solar-powered outdoor sculpture. The sculpture is described as “a site specific, interactive installation blending new media, sculpture, painting, silk-screen and performance.”

Organizers established Sled Island in 2007, after being inspired by Pop Montreal and noticing “that Calgary had many more artistic venues than it was usually thought to have.” Today, the festival has grown to include internationally acclaimed musical acts and features art selected by guest curator Kathleen Hanna, musician and famed “riot grrrl.”

The blend of art and live music is a way to get the public interested in the visual arts, and it helps the artists, too. An estimated 57% of multimedia artists and animators are self-employed, so festivals like Sled Island are beneficial for both viewers and artists alike.

Festival-goers can also purchase art in some locations, such the limited edition prints at the Poster Show. The festival’s website also features apparel and other items for sale.

The festival kicks off on Wednesday, June 18, with pre-festival events on June 17, and runs until Sunday, June 22.

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