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A Look Back On HOLD FAST Festival 2017

Eastern Edge Gallery's HOLD FAST Festival is now in its 18th year, and it is the only annual festival dedicated to contemporary art in the province. The past week was filled to the brim with incredible workshops, talks, and unique events! Here's a look back on those jam-packed days.

Wednesday, August 9th launched the festival with a bang at the Quidi Vidi Brewery, where their incredible beer was served and delicious food was provided by the St. John's Native Friendship Centre, a spread which included toutons with molasses butter. HOLD FAST manager Hannah Morgan used the stage to introduce this year's artists: Vicky Sabourin, At The Reception (Kiersten Holden-Ada, Zak Miller-Ada, and Michael D. McCormack), Ray Fenwick, Woven Wires (Pearl Marie Salas and Vanessa Dion Fletcher), and April White. The event also marked the launch of Riddle Fence's Issue #27 and featured readings from Danielle Devereaux and Jennifer Newhook. Live music from Casey Meyers filled the room until a film screening of local music videos captured the audience.

Thursday, August 10th and Friday, August 11th rolled in with workshops given by each featured artist and collaboration. Vicky Sabourin taught wet felting, April White helped with animated creations, At The Reception explained the process of radio transmissions, Woven Wires facilitated manifesto writing, and Ray Fenwick experimented with conversation techniques.

Ray Fenwick

Friday evening kicked the festival into high gear with the Fancy Artist Talks, an event hosted by Eastern Edge Director Philippa Jones. Each artist gave a 15 minute talk that you could enjoy while sipping a unique cocktail inspired by their practice. The talks were engaging, informative, peppered with hilarious moments, and accompanied with compelling images that deepened our understanding of their projects and excited us for the art crawl to come the following day. At 11:00 pm, Eastern Edge was transformed into a karaoke bar, hosted by artist in residence Vicky Sabourin. The gallery sang the night away to songs like Tiny Dancer, Fast Car, and Toxic.

On Saturday, August 12, Pop Up workshops and events filled the day while the artists prepared their Art Crawl performances. At 4:00 pm, Vicky Sabourin kicked off the Art Crawl at Christina Parker Gallery with her performance Warmblood. Sabourin, upon entering the gallery space, began the emotional task of emptying the stomach of a life size, hand-felted horse filled with large, smooth stones. Her anguish was clear with the weight of each stone, and when she had made enough room, she crawled into the body of the horse and let it warm her body.

Ray Fenwick's How To Talk With Plants was performed at 5:30 pm and again at 8:30 pm at the Anna Templeton Centre. He stood surrounded by plants that looked almost otherworldly in a cloak of green light. His wishful portrayals of their personalities, his pursuit of preparing his mind for telepathy, and his attempts to communicate with the plants through language, were clever, humorous, and, for now, futile.

Pearl Marie Salas and Vanessa Dion Fletcher performed Woven Wires at 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm in the Neal Building and their performance began in a dark room bathed in the light of a projected digital image. Salas warped and transformed the projection, while voices described moving experiences and struggles with gender. Fletcher then filled the room with light and projected her voice through hearing aids she cupped between her fingers. She later drew blood from her each of her fingers with porcupine needles and then offered one to each member of the audience.

April White relaxed and comforted art walkers with her installation It's okay to be tired at Harbourside Park from 7:00 - 10:00 pm. Upon entering a tent, participants were encouraged to grab a seat, a pillow, or a cup of tea. When you placed your head on the pillow printed with White's likeness, her voice began a meditation on the importance of rest and self care. Also featured was an interactive yawn animation created from White's watercolours.

When darkness fell, At The Reception's installation Ensemble began in the parking lot between Eastern Edge and the Neal Building. Cars sat with doors open and radios blaring as five radio transmitters were channeled through the vehicles. Listeners sat and picked between the stations, each one featuring the tuning process of a different group of instruments in the same ensemble. The screen the vehicles faced showed the crackle and colour changes of a reel of film.

The after party took place at The Ship where the bands Baby Bunny, Property, The Blonds and Green & Gold took the stage. It was an evening of great music and high spirits after an outstanding week.

In the days following HOLD FAST Festival, Eastern Edge Gallery is quiet. It's not surprising when considering how much activity and hard work it’s artists, staff, and volunteers are able to pack into a few days, not to mention the months of preparation it takes for festivals such as HOLD FAST to happen. This celebration of the city's thriving art community was an overwhelming success and we can't wait to see what next year has in store.

Did you have an incredible experience at HOLD FAST Festival and you'd like to help support Eastern Edge Gallery run more awesome events? Buy a membership (which gets you into an annual member's exhibition), buy a raffle ticket from their fundraiser, donate, or sign up as a volunteer! Visit to learn more.

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