Arts Featured Theatre

Look again

Look, over there! Site-specific theatre! // Nico Laroche-Humby
Look, over there! Site-specific theatre! // Nico Laroche-Humby

That back alley passed or that bridge crossed on your morning commute is often swept into the mundane. The Found Festival, though, is exploring the city’s spaces hardly looked at twice—let alone seen as venues for art.

Now in its third year of production, the three-day festival showcases multidisciplinary art in non-traditional venues throughout the Old Strathcona neighbourhood. The performances range from a mixed-media performance on the High Level Bridge to a roving adaptation of Peter Pan throughout the river valley.

Festival director Andrew Ritchie has lived in Old Strathcona for years, but says the festival has made him see his own neighbourhood in a completely different way. Tiny details in alleyways and sidewalks now glimmer in a new light.

“Some spaces just pop to me like they’ve never done before—it’s so cool,” he says.

And so is the purpose of the Found Festival, says festival producer Elena Belyea.

The idea for Found first came out of Ritchie and Elena’s frustration with the lack of opportunities for budding artists to showcase their work on a limited budget. While serving that purpose, the festival also allows guests and artists to form their own relationships with the spaces around them and the art itself.

Heartbreak Hotel, for example, is a curated exhibit of items representing the end of a relationship. Belyea says guests need not be “precious” with the items—touching, even stealing, items is all fair game—because they will be burned at the end of the festival.

Or take Herbert, the play hosted at Whyte Ave’s Blush Lane Organic Market. Belyea mentions the work, about the pains of growing up, re-explores the details of the grocery store.

“I have been inside Blush Lane Organic Market before. I’m used to interacting with it in one way,” she says. “Site-specific stuff is cool because it forces me, anyway, to re-look at the way I look at that space. I may take for granted I know on a day-to-day what that space is about.”


Guests will have ample opportunity to make art of their own, too. The main festival grounds at Dr Wilbert McIntyre Park will be charged with grown-up arts and crafts, and the Citizen’s Gallery will allow anyone to wallpaper the alley outside the Gravity Pope Warehouse with their own work.

The festival blurs boundaries of venue or conventions, but Ritchie and Belyea are clear on one thing: the crux of the festival is rediscovery. The two festival organizers hope guests embrace the unknown the best they can, whether that means connecting with an unfamiliar art scene or seeing your grocery store in a new light.

The end result, says Ritchie, is a rewarding—and almost otherworldly—experience.

“There’s a level of intimacy because you’re right there and there’s no fourth wall. You’re really seeing what’s happening and you’re really existing in the same world within that play or gallery.”

Thu, Jun 26 – Sun, Jun 29
Found Festival
Various venues (box office at Wilbert McIntyre park [104 St & 83 Ave]), free – $10 (festival pass: $40)

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