PHABRIK Magazine

The Works Art & Design Festival

March 2014

The outdoor temporary arts festival is a relatively new trend in the presentation of art across Canada, but it’s not a new concept. Since 1986, The Works International Visual Arts Society has produced The Works Art & Design Festival in Edmonton, Alberta, offering over 250 exhibits, performances, and special events to the public, and attracting artists and patrons from around the world. At the start of every summer, The Works boosts the energy and imagination of downtown Edmonton by showcasing cutting-edge design, fashion, media, art and interactive installations alongside traditional visual arts such as glass, painting, drawing and photography.

Artwork can be found in hotel lobbies, commercial spaces, office towers and public buildings, as well as larger than life installations outdoors on Sir Winston Churchill Square. The Works also partners with local galleries and interdisciplinary arts presenters to bring focus to the city’s year round art scene at a time when over 300,000 patrons from all walks of life are excited about art and design.  Here are the top 5 reasons that you should visit The Works this summer:

It’s all there: the artwork ranges from traditional to interactive and immersive. The Works offers culturally diverse programming including contemporary indigenous artists in The Works Canadian Aboriginal Artist program. The Works’ main festival site has a multidisciplinary Street Stage, with ten hours of programming every day and an all ages licenced patio to sit and enjoy a variety of performances in between exhibits. Site #1 also features a market of Canadian made arts and crafts, culinary offerings from local restaurants and food trucks, and opportunities to create artworks for new and experienced artists of all ages.

You will learn something: The Works integrates Education into everything it does, from the trained exhibit attendants and tour guides offering insights, to the artwork on display, to the opportunities to try your hand at a new arts technique.

Each Spring, students and emerging artists from across Canada compete to participate in the Works to Work Program, one of the Enbridge art internships offered at The Works. In Works to Work, students learn the practical and theoretical aspects of arts presentation and administration, and then return the following summer to learn more and participate in teaching new recruits. This is the team that works alongside the presenting artists to bring the festival to life every June.

It fits with your life and vacation plans: The Works is thirteen full days of free outdoor presentations and entertainment. All of the exhibits are on display for at least this length of time, with many holdover exhibits extended through the summer! With a bit of planning, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see them all.

It’s great for creatives: whether you are a professional designer, an emerging artist starting a studio practice, or a hobbyist looking for a new project, you can take advantage of meet the artist opportunities, volunteer with artists on site, see something new, and meet with other creative visitors to inspire your own work. The Works is the perfect opportunity to get out of the studio and collaborate with the public as a presenter, test out an idea, or make connections with people in your own and neighbouring disciplines.

Did we mention it’s totally free?  The Works runs a pay what you can donation program to support education programs and the continued accessible presentation of art and design in public. You’ll find opportunities to donate at exhibits with interpretive attendants, as well as on the main festival site, and no one is turned away from the public stage presentations, indoor or outdoor performances, exhibits, and even scheduled tours.

With that, there’s almost no reason not to go, so plan ahead and add Edmonton and The Works to your summer festival schedule.


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