SPAF’s Next Door kicks off two-month public art experience

For 15 years, Kingston and area residents could look forward to the summer solstice, not just because the sun travels its longest path in the sky creating the longest day and marking the beginning of summer, but because of the Skeleton Park Arts Festival (SPAF). Billed as a “free, grassroots, multi-disciplinary art experience that happens in Kingston on the summer solstice weekend,” this year’s festival has metamorphosed into a two-month ongoing showcase and celebration. 

Jane Derby, Ghost Tree, 2021. Photo by Chris Miner.

Rebilled as Next Door for the second year, the temporary public art exhibition will be displayed throughout the Skeleton Park neighbourhood beginning Wednesday, Jun. 16 and running until Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. This year’s exhibition will feature sculptures, paintings, performance art, and a wide array of other remarkable creations by local artists.

This second iteration of the project showcases the work of 27 artists based in Katarokwi/Kingston, taking shape in the form of sixteen eclectic installations, from painting and sculpture, to performance art and augmented reality.

Nicole Daniels, Next Door 2021 Coordinator/Curator for SPAF explained, “We have 27 artists doing varied installations. We even have an augmented reality piece. And then there’s some fun interactive artwork; like John Wright’s Our Oldest Neighbours, a series of portraits of trees in the neighborhood. And they’re strapped to the trees themselves and you can go and take paper and crayons with you and make rubbings from the wood.”

Of the exhibits, Daniels said that, “They all take different technical approaches. It’s just a really fun sort of representation of our wonderful area.”

Nicholas Crombach, Every slated lot has a previous story (detail), 2021. Photo by Chris Miner

Why is the neighbourhood so full of artists? Daniels said, “It’s something I’ve wondered about myself and it’s really wonderful. I think these things just started happening naturally where, you know, enough artists live in the area and then it becomes this desirable artists community and more people kind of fall into it. I mean, I myself would love to live in that neighbourhood, for that reason.”

Also, she clarified, “This year we made the choice to put out an open call for artists, and it was open to anyone in Kingston or the surrounding area. So the artists don’t all live in the neighborhood, but all of these installations are housed in the neighborhood, which is more representative of the broader Katarokwi/Kingston area.

There are pop up events planned throughout the festival once the province gives the green light, Daniels explained, including “Stilt walkers in the summer and little parade bands and things that just make the community really ,really fun.” So keep an eye out for the SPAF e-newsletter, or visit and social media feeds for ongoing developments.

Daniels explained that usually there would be an opening ceremony gathering, “So instead, on Wednesday evening, we have a small parade band of five people and they will be walking part of the route with a videographer. The idea is for them to provide a festival feeling and bring some energy to the streets in celebration of opening day/weekend, without encouraging gathering.”

People in the neighbourhood will be able to watch as they pass by, but will be asked not to follow the band to avoid gathering.

“The videos will then be used to promote the exhibitions, give a peek at the different locations + walking route, and highlight some of the installations. film and they will put out a video highlighting the different installation locations.” 

Also, she said, “on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. there will be the same thing but within both of those times, different artists will be located throughout the mapped area.” That event will take place this Saturday, Jun. 19, 2021.

Hayden Maynard, The Urban Environment (detail), 2021. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The breadth of topics explored in this second annual rendition of Next Door offers a series of snapshots into the lives of artists working through a global pandemic, finding the time to create, reflect, and simply be. 

Next Door 2021 speaks to a more expansive notion of community, not only extending to artists across Katarokwi/Kingston, but further drawing attention to some of our oft-overlooked “next-door neighbours,” from community members who are rendered invisible, to the undervalued and complex ecosystems that support our ways of life. 

The artists offer an inherent invitation to question who or what makes up this community, how it takes shape, and how we identify it. Some works further question the definition of “art” and “artist” through collaboration with nature and the audience. Others offer a space for quietude and reflection, commemorating our losses or emphasizing ephemerality and joy in the face of a universally challenging time.

Next Door 2021 features artwork by:
Jane Kirby + Erin Ball, Clelia Scala, Jane Derby, Chaka Chikodzi, Kemi King, GHY Cheung, Simon Andrew, Abolition City, Onagottay, Willa Molen, Hayden Maynard, Ying Lee + Kate Yüksel, Nicholas Crombach, Amelia Glancy + Benjamin Nelson, John Wright, Jenn Norton + Matt Rogalsky + Laura Murray + Dorit Naaman.

You can learn more and download your own Festival Map by clicking this link. You can follow SPAF on Facebook on Twitter and on Instagram.

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