Arts festivals and shows for students this August

A round-up of some new, returning, and unique arts events you can actually afford


By: Alison Wick, Arts Editor

This is the last summer issue of The Peak, and so we have curated a list of the best (and mostly free) arts festivals and shows happening in the city. Even though you’ve given all of your money to the university, don’t spend all of August too broke to have some fun — check out these affordable, accessible, and unique Vancouver arts events.

One of the works from Language Matters, the graffiti art exhibit running until September 16. Courtesy of Bill Reid Gallery Courtesy of BC guide to Art and Culture.

Ongoing until the fall — Language Matters and qaʔ yəx^w at the Bill Reid Gallery

The Bill Reid Gallery is one of the special artistic perks that SFU students receive. It is free at any time for SFU students (regardless of whether you are enrolled that semester) and the Gallery offers free tours every day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. This August, in addition to its permanent collection, the Bill Reid Gallery has two special exhibitions: qaʔ yəxʷ – water honours us: womxn and waterways and Language Matters. Open for all of August and free to see, the Bill Reid Gallery is the perfect alternative to the sometimes busy and expensive Vancouver Art Gallery across the street.

Carleen Thomas at the Burnaby Village Museum Learning House last year. Courtesy of Burnaby Now.

Weekends from Aug 3–31 — Indigenous Learning House at the Burnaby Village Museum

Every weekend in August, the Burnaby Village Museum invites a local Coast Salish artist and/or educator to the museum’s Indigenous Learning House. The Learning House is meant for exactly what it sounds like — a place of learning and respectful cultural exchange. The learning house is open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. when artists are there (check the online schedule for what day each artist will be there) and attendance is free.

Handpan Journey, pictured above, is one of the artists performing on the street stage at the festival. Image courtesy of the Powell Street Festival.

Aug 3–4 — Powell Street Festival in Vancouver’s historic Japantown

This celebration of Japanese-Canadian art and culture is the largest of its kind in Canada! Historic walking tours of Vancouver’s Japantown, traditional and contemporary Japanese Canadian performances, food trucks, craft booths, and more will fill Powell St and Alexander St. There will be things to buy, of course, but the festival itself is totally free. Enjoy the music, the performances, craft tents, and display booths, and take some artist’s cards for when your bank account allows for more generous patronage.

Local blues and roots band Soda Crackers are one of the four groups performing at Trout Lake in August. Image courtesy of the Soda Crackers.

Aug 7–28 — Trout Lake Outdoor Summer Concert Series

Every Wednesday the Trout Lake Community Centre (TLCC) hosts local bands and musicians in the park. Right in front of the playground on a comfy patch of grass, it’s the perfect place to take the oldest and youngest people in your life. It’s a perfectly low-key, weekly, family-oriented event that anyone can enjoy. You will want to make sure you get to the last music night on August 28, as the Illuminares Lantern Festival returns in spirit as a lantern procession around the lake, complete with crafts and performers. There is a kids’ art station and cheap eats for purchase in the form of a food truck or a TLCC Youth Popcorn Fundraiser.

Tidal Beats with Erica Dee and Friends (August 9 at Crab Park) is an example of the breadth and excellence showcased at Vines. Image from Vines festival.

Aug 7–18 — Vines Art Festival at Parks throughout Vancouver

This is the fourth year of this Vancouver grassroots festival of art and activism. Vines seeks to bring art “out of the theatre or gallery and into community parks, paths, and trails making it accessible to all [ . . . ] creating works at the intersection of environmental and social justice.” All performances and events are held outdoors in parks across the city — no tickets or memberships needed. Browse their full program and list of events on their website; I guarantee you will find something you won’t want to miss.

Aug 10 — Decolonize and Anti-Oppression Community Workshop at the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House

We have to remember that each of these arts festivals and all our summer fun is happening on unceded and stolen territories. It is our responsibility, speaking to fellow settler students, to not only learn how to be good allies with Indigenous Peoples but to unlearn and re-evaluate our own socially ingrained colonialism. Although this is not a festival like the others on the list, this sliding-scale workshop is accessible to students and is a great opportunity to help continue your summer in a good way.

Reece’s 2018 video works Muster Gester (left) and Hold Me (right) at the Belkin Gallery. Courtesy of Belkin Art Gallery.

Until Aug 11 — Surrounded: Skeena Reece at UBC Belkin Art Gallery

This is the last day to see this exhibition which features an artwork, The Time it Takes (2017), that actually began as a performance at SFU’s Audain Gallery in 2016. Said artwork is now being acquired by the Belkin Gallery at UBC. The exhibition features multiple works by Reece, including works that document the creation of this piece. Entry is free and the gallery offers drop-in tours between 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Aug 11 — Comics for Comics at Cloudscape Comics in Memorial Park

B.C. non-profit comics organization Cloudspace Comics Society is giving out comics for every comic you make. Make a strip or a page and receive a free comic! A place to create art, get art, and hang out with people making art. People of all ages and walks of life are welcome and there are no tickets or fees required.

The student made short Ricecake profiles the Vancouver Queer and Asian dance party of the same name. Image via Queer Film Fest.

Aug 15–25 — Vancouver Queer Film Festival

From performances to international features to local student made short films, the Queer Film Festival is an event to look forward to year-round. From a documentary about the gay men’s choir touring the deep south with an interfaith choir to youth drag workshops to locally made films about Vancouver’s Queer community, the festival promises a film for everyone. The festival offers discounted tickets to students as well as bundled tickets (a six-pack for $50 for students). Entertainment that is unique, high-quality, and affordable? Maybe I really can have a hot girl summer.

Aug 24 — Friendfest 2019

This one day festival is being organized and put on largely by students — including SFU alumni! The event intends to feature underground and up-and-coming Vancouver artists and performers, showcasing the breadth of unique talent we have in the city. With the cost of tickets at just $10, this all-ages event in East Van is one you can’t afford to miss.

A look at the inside of Banner’s Heart of Darkness, now on display at Emily Carr University. Courtesy of Fiona Banner.

Until Aug 25 — Fiona Banner aka the Vanity Press at Emily Carr’s Libby Leshgold Gallery

Opened in early July as a part of Emily Carr’s three-day symposium on artists’ publishing, this exhibition showcases the work of Londan based artist and leading voice in the field of artists publishing, Fiona Banner. It centres on her 2015 publication Heart of Darkness, a magazine style re-imagining and recreation of the 1899 novella — setting the story in the financial district of London instead of the Congo. The exhibit also includes other recent works as well as some of her first publications. The Gallery is open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and is free for the public.

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