Get ready for lift-off…

Each July in Merritt, B.C., Bass Coast Music Festival embraces a fresh theme to seduce and cajole their fans into attending a weekend of art, music and fun. SPACE became a fast favourite of both the planning committee and patrons this year.

NASA’s open-source Cassini Mission, voyaging deep into space to transmit stunning photography back to Earth, played an inspirational role in this year’s design and video campaign. “Not only does this represent a bridge between science and art, but also the excitement of human [adventure]. I feel a strong parallel to Bass Coast, where science, art and exploration are deeply valued,” Bass Coast co-founder and art director Liz Thomson tells FREQ. over email. “Many of our workshops are exploring the science of space, and of course our stage environments are pulling heavily from space visuals and references.”

Bass Coast has long prided itself in its support of the arts. The ambience of the festival is built, in part, by visual elements — fashioned by patrons — to be interactive, unique and innovative. “Our goal is to not only fund young artists but to strengthen their skills and develop more meaning behind their art. The association between human rights movements and environmental sustainability to the underground arts is a historic connection that is central to the Bass Coast experience,” Thomson says.

In 2012, Bass Coast launched the Bass Coast Art Grant Program to empower emerging and established art collectives in their contributions to the festival. Each year, Bass Coast invites visual artists to apply to create an immersive experience for festival-goers. As their website puts it, “Art turns a concert into a festival.”

Thomson speaks to the criteria for funding: “Our headliners must produce three-dimensional art that has strong evocative qualities such as innovative light, sound and interactive technology. We look for experienced groups [with] a history of successful installations.”

Projects incorporating natural elements, repurposed materials and interesting lighting design stood out over the others; proposals with a focus on structural soundness took favour with the selection committee, who recommend teaming up with electricians, structural engineers and graphic artists.

“We look for installations that transform the viewer’s perception of space or initiate profound conversation,” Thomson says.

Providing financial assistance, operational support and the professional advice needed to facilitate safe, successful installations, the program has funded over $100,000 worth of grants since its inception.

That year, OfTrees — the partnership of Marc DeMontigny and Neil Johnson — received the very first grant. It was their inaugural collaboration on a large-scale project, and each year since, they have brought a new piece to Bass Coast.

This year, they will headline as Installation Artists and winners of the endowment.

Festival-goers have a beautiful SPACE-inspired piece to look forward to. DeMontigny best describes it as the lovechild of a seashell and a spaceship, curving over 30′ wide and 12′ high, and the most ambitious piece he and Johnson have ever created.

Using recycled materials for the majority of their artwork, OfTrees offsets the excess of rubbish produced in the construction industry. “We hope it inspires people to repurpose things our society considers ‘garbage’ into beautiful new creations,” asserts DeMontigny.

When asked about the triumphs of his work, DeMontigny says “the most rewarding part is sneaking up and secretly watching people enjoy and interact with our art.”

The Guild Arts Collective, co-founded by Thomson and Andor Tari, will produce large installations for Main Stage and Slay Bay. Although Tari’s work is not funded through art grants, according to Thomson, it “has been the most significant artistic contribution to the festival from any one individual.”

Bass Coast also supports the arts community by purchasing selected installations in order to fashion the Bass Coast Collection, an archive of previous and curated current works. Thomson reveals, “the long-term vision is to have an exhibit that we can install at galleries and onsite. [It’s] an important part of documenting our history and reflecting back at the collective achievements of our community over time.”

Bass Coast takes place in Merritt, B.C. July 7–10, 2017. For more, check basscoast.ca, oftrees.ca and guildart.ca

• KASIA GORSKI

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