The Grand River, or O:se Kenhionhata:tie in Mohawk (meaning “Willow River”), is the beautiful stretch of lazily flowing water that ribbons our community. Our river is so often left in the background of our story, but Gerry Lafleur of the Brantford Arts Block continues to use the river as the main character in his annual event, Day on the Grand. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, September 7 from 2pm to 9pm, in the stretch of river along the historic Brant’s Crossing, near the Lorne Bridge.
In 2017, the event made its first big splash with the larger-than-life Grand River Giant Carp sculpture, perfectly constructed in the middle of the river by Rob Porteous and Garner Beckett. It was the fish that made everyone stop and realize that cool things are happening in Brantford.
It’s been a few years since the Brantford Arts Block had a physical home of its own, but being creative minds, they’ve adopted alternative spaces to offer something magical to the community. It’s this exploration of natural space that makes Day on the Grand so enriching. It’s the feeling of freedom as you roam at your pace, music echoing to the openness with the accompaniment of birds and breeze, and the splendor of art and performances mixed with natural elements leaving you feeling refreshed and alive, that make the Day on the Grand an amazing event.
The day’s offerings re-establish connection through various artists, performances, and interactive displays, to engage minds and stimulate the senses. It’s an event unlike any other, as the beauty and deep history of the environment exemplifies this truly unique experience. As Lafleur observes, “We are living in this place where a river goes through, and it doesn’t occur to us that people were here a long time ago, whose life depended on the river. We don’t connect the river to a way of life – although we get our water from it. Many don’t feel the life force of this spiritual place that represents the perpetual forces that we don’t understand”.
Lafleur calls the event “a site-specific exploration of space,” with each artist’s location chosen for the possibilities it offers. Existing infrastructure like tunnels are used for their acoustic vibrations; graffiti walls become backdrops for artistic displays; trails of wildflowers become educational tours; secluded islands are intimate performance stages; moonlight enhances fireside ghost stories; the rapids mirror a communal appreciation of the sunset. “The point is to experience the river; have an excuse to come down, maybe get your toes wet, as an alternative to the way people are living. The river is a free treadmill with a really big screen,” says Lafleur.
This family-friendly event also offers engaging artistic opportunities for kids. Admission is free, restrooms are open, pizza is available for purchase, and ample free parking is available at the Brantford & District Civic Centre (79 Market Street South, Brantford).
Building on the past years, attendees can once again expect an array of music, theatre, poetry, DIY life drawing, dance, ceramics, printmaking, mosaics, pop-up displays, wildflower walks, and a new addition titled “The History of Brantford: A Musical Puppet Freak Show.”
Come dip your toes on Saturday, September 7 from 2pm to 9pm, at Brant’s Crossing behind Elements Casino.
Here’s just a partial list of participants slated to appear:
Visual artists: Garner Beckett, Holly Bouillion, Lona Bourke, Suzanne Coverett Earls, Timothy Doctor, Dean Ellis, Dave Hind, Gerry Lafleur, Arlene Laskey, Aliki Mikulich, Rose Risi, Avery Tanner, Mike Tutt, David Wierzbicki, and Irena Zenewych.
Music: Rob Michalchuk (sax), Johnny Hover (acoustic), Tim Turvey with Joe O'Connor and Matt Welbanks (rock), Planes and Trains (dream pop), Gag Order (punk), ASCREM (metal), Blonde Entwistle (Hits of The Who), Monique Hunsley (country and folk), and Cymer (Celtic drum and harp).
Performance: "The History of Brantford: A Musical Puppet Freak Show” by Brant Theatre Workshops, LARPers (live action role play), Just Dance Line Dancers, and Academy of Music and Performance (student recital).
Exhibitors: Brantford Food Forest, Why Not Youth Centre, Brantford Public Library, and Brant Historical Society.
More information and performance schedules will be announced on the Day on the Grand Facebook event page and on the Brantford Arts Block Facebook page (facebook.com/artsblock) leading up to the event.
Guest Blogger: Lauren O’Neill
Photograph of Grand River Giant Carp sculpture by Rob Porteous and Garner Beckett courtesy of Dean Ellis