Flourish 2016 (Adam Travis/The East)

Flourish Festival: Fredericton’s Art Scene In Bloom

The trees have barely started budding, but Fredericton’s art scene is in full bloom. Flourish Festival wrapped up its sophomore year this past week and one of the marked changes from last year is the emphasis on visual art and installations.  

“We’ve put a lot more interest on visual artists so we had a lot more of that compared to just the musical artists,” said Jane Blanchard, co-coordinator of this year’s festival. “We paid a lot more attention to installations, making the venues a little more special.”

(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)

Not to say the festival has done away with music, though. Once again, this year’s edition saw a selection of the best young acts and artists from Fredericton and the Maritimes. From folk acoustic acts like Grand Manan’s Owen Steel to a rock and roll radio drama courtesy of Young Satan in Love, the festival’s line up was as varied as the venues.

“We try [to] build our line-up so it’s a little less niche. We cover a lot of bases in terms of the different types of music; you can be at a folk show, then a hard rock show. It’s a little more diverse.”

As before, the Capital Complex took centre stage, with Wilser’s Room and the Capital Bar playing host to most evening shows – and one surprise afternoon show featuring Fredericton talent Keith Hallett. Besides the Capital, venues included a used clothing store, art gallery, the Shiftwork Studio and a yoga studio.

(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)

“A lot of thought goes into [venue selection]. We put artists in venues that we think makes the most sense, you could have Owen Steele at the bar, but it’s so much nicer to listen to Owen Steele in a studio like YogaGrow.”

While the Capital’s shows were high energy and packed to the doors, the smaller venues still shone with their individual quirks and charms. Down the hall from Backstreet Records, the Mazerolle Gallery welcomed Flourishers with both live music and vendors selling prints, zines and used books, as well as grilled cheese and plants for sale. As one attendee stated, “what more could you want?”

Climbing the stairs to the Shiftwork Studio, listeners lined the walls outside the packed room. The band, bathed in red light, cast their silhouettes on the art-covered walls as they took centre stage in wild rock and roll show.

(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)
(Adam Travis/The East)

Yoga Grow Studio, on the other hand, felt more akin to a kitchen party: a mountain of Blundstone boots and Birkenstocks in the doorway with listeners congregating on couches, sharing pillows and blankets or sprawling out across the antique hardwood floors as the sun set through the tall studio windows.

Flourish is largely by artists, for artists. Both founders are highly active in the music community and performers and bands were seen throughout the week in the crowd, mingling with other attendees. In that, it’s more than simply a spectacle for outsiders to behold, it’s a celebration of a thriving arts community.

Not to say the festival is exclusive, either. Another one of the hallmarks of Flourish is its high accessibility. With a number of all-ages venues, many of which played host to free shows, the festival provides an opportunity for entertainment that is hard to access for under-aged kids without a fake ID.

“We’re trying to fill gaps and voids in the community and one of those was not enough good all ages shows. I think sometimes people tend to bill the really great bands at the bar because they know that’ll bring them the most money but then all ages people are missing out on really great acts.”

For more information visit Flourish Festival.

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