Artfest to end media partnership after backlash

Artfest the day before kick-off. Photo by Owen Fullerton.

A controversial newspaper will no longer be included in future Artfest events after pushback from members of the community. 

The Epoch Times is a far-right leaning publication that, particularly in recent years, has published articles that many say are bigoted, racist, or generally have just promoted misinformation. 

Some attendees were dismayed to see the company have a booth at this year’s festival and felt that their inclusion didn’t align with the event or its theme of “Connections”.  A petition was launched over the weekend asking for the festival’s organizer, Lory MacDonald, to nix any future association with the media outlet. It had just over 100 signatures as of Tuesday evening.

“We want Lory to understand that partnering with such a toxic publication is what hurts not only artists, but also members of the marginalized communities targeted by the Epoch Times,” the petition reads. “We want Lory to reflect on the community’s response, apologize and reconsider her partnership with this publication. And we wish Lory to commit to transparency when advertising for vendors and volunteers.”

After some backlash last week, MacDonald said she was concerned that excluding a company like The Epoch Times would only hurt the artist community involved and make the festival a less welcoming and neutral space as a whole.

On Tuesday, however, MacDonald said Artfest has taken the feedback into account and will no longer partner with the company going forward. 

“Artfest Ontario has reviewed its cultural exchange relationship with the Epoch Times, and will no longer be including them as a sponsorship partner,” MacDonald wrote in an email. 

“In 2012, Artfest accepted a sponsorship exchange to promote Chinese ballet, dance and orchestral performances backed by the Epoch Times. At that time, the editorial content of the Epoch Times did not conflict with our values. Regretfully, Artfest was unaware of the change in content over the last few years. We thank the community for bringing this to our attention. Artfest remains apolitical and focused on art, but we recognize that our association with the Epoch Times no longer reflects our mission or vision. Artfest would like to go forward with a renewed commitment to art, diversity and freedom of expression and will be more vigilant in aligning Artfest values with our partners.”

Artfest took place over the Canada Day weekend after a two-year hiatus. 

Owen Fullerton is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter in Kingston, Ont. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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