Craig Francis Power on the Community Worth of Hold Fast: The Festival Formerly Known as the 24 Hour Art Marathon

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My first experience with the Art Marathon was after I’d returned to St. John’s from working on a farm in the very dry countryside outside Barcelona.

Six to eight hours a day basically spent digging with a pick and a shovel in the ground—moving soil in a wheelbarrow from one end of a field to the other—while my down time was spent hard on cheap local wine and chain-smoking Drum.

It was an out of the frying pan, into the fire type thing, because I’d gone to Spain to a) escape a soul-crushing job as a janitor on Spring Garden Road in Halifax, and b) to hang out in a place where certain pre WW2 political movements had their beginnings, and had been shortly thereafter, mercilessly crushed—but anyway, it had all gone horribly wrong (heartbreak, destitution), and I somehow found myself back here in St. John’s with some serious culture shock to go with my tan and disillusionment.

Now called HOLD FAST, the 24-hour art marathon offered me a glimpse into the heart of not just the St. John’s visual art community, but rather into how a place like Eastern Edge—a gallery dedicated to showing often provocative, always experimental contemporary art—a place that, at various points throughout its history, had seemed to alienate those of us with a more traditional view of art—could bring together and embrace a myriad of disparate local groups. It isn’t just artists or recent art school grads who are there, it’s everyone.

Families, punk kids, LGBTQ, jugglers, rappers, clowns, face-painters, musicians, members of city council, new Canadians, the social justice crowd, business people, even actors and writers—all of us. After my first exhibition at the gallery came down, I signed up for the Board of Directors. Just because my escape plan (and Spanish Anarchism) had failed, it didn’t mean there weren’t things worth your efforts.

HOLD FAST continues that earlier tradition with events designed to appeal to a small niche of contemporary art enthusiasts as well as a broader spectrum. On Friday, August 14th, Amy Fung, current Images Festival Director and former prairie based art blogger—you wouldn’t believe the trolling she put up with back in the day—presents Before I Was An Art Critic I Was A Human Being, an art-writing workshop that seeks to combat “regurgitations of art school speak and the tired copy of press releases.”

The workshop is followed later that night by Only Believe in Things That Are Easy to Understand, a touring series of short films curated by The Images Festival and co-presented by The Rooms, Eastern Edge, and Images at The Rooms auditorium.

Saturday afternoon will see a BBQ in partnership with Happy City, while an abridged version of the art marathon – called ART SPRINT – takes place at Gateacre Garage (the public was welcomed to sign up to create spontaneous art between 12-7; there are awards involved this year). This will be followed by an art crawl throughout downtown, featuring both local and national artists.

The 15th concludes with the after-party at The Ship in partnership with Shed Island, while Sunday the 16th involves an art exhibition and auction with submissions from members of Eastern Edge Gallery.

HOLD FAST is not to be missed. For more events than could be mentioned or listed here, visit easternedge.ca/hold-fast.

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