Skeleton Park Arts Festival 2023 will celebrate music, arts, community

A past Skeleton Park Arts Festival event being enjoyed by the community. Image via SPAF.

Music, art, and community will be celebrated over the Summer Solstice weekend during the 18th Skeleton Park Arts Festival (SPAF). The 2023 festival will take place from June 21 to 25, 2023.

The annual non-profit festival in McBurney Park and the Skeleton Park neighbourhood will once again feature local and world-class arts and entertainment programming for the whole family, free of charge.

According to a release from organizers, this year’s festival will include a diverse range of performers, including Grammy/Latin Grammy and Juno award-winning singer-songwriter Alex Cuba, The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Kasador, Kyoko Ogoda, Bangerz Brass, Emilie Steele & The Deal, Luella, The Codas, Ombiigizi, Ariko, Princess Towers and more.

The fun will kick off on the evening of Wednesday, Jun. 21, with renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, widely recognized as one of the “most compelling Indigenous voices of her generation,” organizers noted.

Simpson will present an evening of film, song and story at The Screening Room beginning at 6:30 p.m. The free event of culture, conversation and critique is presented by the festival, in partnership with The Screening Room, Kingston WritersFest and the Department of English at Queen’s University.

“It’s an honour to open the festival on National Indigenous People’s Day with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson,” said SPAF’s artistic director, Greg Tilson.

“SPAF is also honoured to partner with the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) for a Community Drumming Circle on Thursday, June 22, that will build community through the arts at that essential health, housing and social service organization.”

Friday evening will feature dance performances by Movement Market at the Broom Factory, and live performances will take place in McBurney Park all day Saturday and Sunday. On the weekend, McBurney Park will also host the festival’s artisan fair featuring more than 30 local artisans, as well as local food vendors and plenty of family-friendly hands-on arts activities.

Schedule of events. Image via SPAF.

According to the release, the festival will be working towards maximal waste diversion during its events. What started as a pet project by students from Calvin Park Public School, who first took on the challenge of minimizing festival waste in 2006, has evolved into the most successful waste diversion event in town, only creating one bag of garbage despite thousands of annual attendees, according to the release.

“SPAF is helping to provide inspiration for other organizers to follow suit in reducing waste and coordinating more environmentally sustainable events,” said Tilson.

This year, the Porch Jazz Parade is back by popular demand. This fun, musical romp through the streets in the Skeleton Park neighbourhood makes pit stops for half-hour concerts on porches along the way.

The parade was postponed in 2022 as the festival found its legs in the community post-pandemic, organizers noted, but this year’s parade band, Bangerz Brass, will revive the tradition starting at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday at 154 Ordnance Street, and ending up at 58 Alma Street at 12:15 p.m.

“Folks love it because it literally takes live music right to your doorstep,” Tilson expressed. “That parade is such a fun way to ‘take back the streets.’ The neighbourhood really owns this annual event.”

New this year, the festival is partnering with the City of Kingston’s Department of Arts and Cultural Services for a Crosswalk Murals Pilot Project that will engage local artists including Dakota Ward, Floriana Ehninger-Cuervo, Jaylene Cardinal, Marney McDiarmid and Vince Perez to work with neighbourhood residents to design and paint a series of crosswalk murals.

“These will transform parts of the Skeleton Park neighbourhood streets into works of art,” Tilson said. 

As part of the pilot project, SPAF volunteers will be leading the creation and painting of three murals at the following intersections: 

  • Redan and Balaclava Streets
  • Patrick and Balaclava Streets
  • Alma and Ordnance Streets 

The Skeleton Park Arts Festival is not only a free, multi-disciplinary arts experience that happens every year in and around Skeleton Park on the summer solstice weekend — it’s also a community organization that offers pop-up events around the neighbourhood all year round, and community news in the form of its hyper-local quarterly publication, The Skeleton Press.

The most recent issue of that publication is now in mailboxes and at businesses around the Skeleton Park neighbourhood and features a complete schedule of this year’s festival events, organizers noted.

“It’s the most exciting grassroots community event in town,” stated Tilson. “We’re looking forward to sharing this year’s event with the community, and to continuing to foster the arts in our city and neighbourhood.”

The festival is still seeking volunteers. For more information, visit www.skeletonparkartsfest.ca.

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