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WATERSHED PRESENTS: Spirit of the Hills

author: Chris Cameron   

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THE LIFE OF THE CREATIVE ARTIST CAN BE A SOLITARY ONE. There are the hours spent alone in front of a blank canvas or computer screen, and those little insecurities that can accompany any artistic process. But artists and writers do not live in a vacuum; they thrive on shared support, and on engagement with the larger community. And of course, it’s always a delight to be able to share artistic joys and triumphs when they come along.

Twenty years ago a group of Northumberland artists and writers came together to provide the comradeship of kindred spirits and to advance the artistic achievements of the region, and the Spirit of the Hills Arts Association was born.

Since those early days, Spirit of the Hills (SOTH) has grown to over 160 members and now includes authors, poets, performers, photographers, visual artists, and artisans.

This fall, the group’s commitment to celebration and community involvement will be highlighted at the Spirit of the Hills Festival of the Arts, to be held October 24-26 at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Cobourg.

Building on the success of their festival in 2017, this year’s celebration will reflect the group’s diversity and broad social scope under the theme of “Twenty Years of Sharing Across the Arts.”

SOTH has invited writers, artists, and performers with a diverse range of backgrounds, cultures and experiences to take part in the festival. Among the many scheduled activities are performances, workshops, interactive multimedia and visual arts events, sales of art and books, and a panel discussion about the opportunities and challenges of sharing across the arts. There is even a beginner’s belly dancing workshop!

The keynote event will be a concert featuring local musicians and the launch of Hill Spirits IV, the association’s latest anthology of prose, poetry and art by group members, published by Cobourg’s Blue Denim Press. The credentials of SOTH writers run deep and wide, and work by the anthology’s visual artists is a familiar sight in venues throughout Northumberland County.

A much-anticipated highlight will be two evenings of dance and drama, featuring performances from such disciplines as flamenco and belly dancing plus four fully staged ten-minute plays, chosen especially for this event from among many submissions.

Katie Hoogendam, a poet and playwright who moved to Cobourg six years ago, joined Spirit of the Hills to be close to the group’s creative community. Her play, Plan X, will be produced at this year’s festival. It will be her first dramatic work to be seen by a larger audience. “I am excited and honoured to have access to the wisdom of our Spirit of the Hills group as we work our plays into production this fall,” she says.

One social challenge that becomes more evident each year is the need to bridge differences between newcomers to the area and the established population, and to find common ground. Spirit of the Hills believes that the arts can be an effective and exciting means to foster understanding between different groups.

Far from being solitary endeavours, the creative arts in Northumberland are woven, painted, sculpted, and written into the fabric of our community, with benefits and pleasures for everyone. Next time you are in a restaurant or a library, take a moment to look at the artwork hanging on the walls. Chances are it could be by a Spirit of the Hills member. Writing by local authors fills the shelves of our libraries and bookstores.

“A major goal of Spirit of the Hills is to nourish its members and the community through the visual and performing arts, the written word, and music,” says Susan Statham, a visual artist and president of the association. Twenty years of reaching across the arts to share expertise and experience with the community successfully positions Spirit of the Hills to accomplish this goal.

Visit spiritofthehills.org for more information.

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