A holy union of art and music: Our conversation with the co-creators of Up Fest

Sudbury, Ontario’s inaugural Up Fest starts from tomorrow until Saturday August 15, and Shoeclack will be coming to you with coverage directly from the festival, which unites great art with fantastic up-and-coming music in a town with a growing festival reputation. We spoke with the festival’s artistic director Andrew Knapp and general director Christian Pelletier over the phone to get a taste of how the festival got its footing and what they’re looking forward to over the next three days.

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Andrew Knapp

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Christian Pelletier

Shoeclack: How did the idea for this festival come about?

Christian Pelletier: It came from a few different places. We’ve travelled a lot and seen a bunch of really cool festivals and originally Up Fest is organized by We Live Up Here, it’s an art collective that Andrew and I founded back in 2012. We published a few photography books about Sudbury, trying to shake up the way the people saw their city, and then delved into public art headfirst back in 2013-2014 and did a bunch of new murals downtown. That’s when we kind of knew we were on to something, because people [in Sudbury] were hungry for public art and hungry for city celebrations.

When we did our second photography book launch, we rented the Grand Theatre in Sudbury, which is this huge, beautiful, century-old theatre. It was really [a] community celebration; it was a “test fest”, we called it, where we brought a bunch of people together, a bunch of bands, a bunch of DJs… an explosion of art! There was this roller derby team on roller skates serving gourmet grilled cheese to people and then [we had] a bunch of bands doing little surprise shows all over the place. It’s a beautiful little theatre, and that night we actually had this video prepared where we were announcing that [we were] working on our next big project, which was Up Fest – which was always kind of part of our plan. In the past couple years, we were kind of working towards it. We announced it in December and we’ve hit the ground running since.

Shoeclack: This festival is both about music and about public art; there are muralists and an all-night art crawl. How much do you think the art and music components of this festival go hand in hand with each other?

Andrew Knapp: I think it’s all marrying together quite nicely. I think it’s a culmination of everything we’ve been working on in the past and learning about how we like to celebrate and what we think is important in community growth and what we feel like we have to offer… We worked on a few murals in the past and said “this is good. This starts conversations. This brings people together.” The music obviously is the heartbeat of the festival; it’s what really brings people out. And then the art installations: I’ve always felt like the best parties are the ones with weird, interactive art installations that make people talk to each other and start those conversations, and inspire [others] a lot because you really get to see what people do and they create something that you can interact with and it’s open for everyone. I think they marry together very well in creating this atmosphere of epic party that’ll happen all weekend. The murals will always be this reminder and this gift that the festival leaves behind for the festival for years to come.

Shoeclack: You have Tanya Tagaq, A Tribe Called Red, Suuns and Rich Aucoin among others playing this year. What’s the booking process like for this festival? Why did you choose these artists?

CP: For A Tribe Called Red and Tanya Tagaq, for us, it was kind of a given. In my opinion, [they’re] the two most awesome up-and-coming artists in Canada right now… But we also [wanted an emphasis on] emerging music. We wanted people to come to Up Fest to discover new things, to see a band they don’t know and be completely blown away by them. There’s something really cool about that: for me, as a festival-goer, when I don’t know a band and I step into a venue and I’m blown away, that feeling is incredible. If we can put that in a jar and sell it at the merch table, that would be fantastic! *laughs* A big part of it was trying to sell that experience of discovery and coming in with an open mind and being super curious and discovering a bunch of new things.

(This post originally appeared on Shoeclack.)

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