2016 has not been a kind year to the arts and artists internationally.
The losses continue and as a Star Wars fan bordering on obsessive, the news of Carrie Fisher’s death hit hard.
Yes, 2016 has already become a trope, but to cheer up myself, and hopefully a few readers, I’d like to look back on the wonderful experiences, expressions, performances and more from the Penticton arts community and beyond which I was able to explore this year.
I took a walk through this amazing exhibition twice. More incredible than the pieces on display was the story behind putting the show together.
Penticton Art Gallery Curator Paul Crawford started the project through a Facebook connection with Syrian online gallery curator and artist Humam Alsalim.
“Like everybody else, the war has made everything much harder. We lost our friends, people from our families, our families got shattered,” said Alsalim in an interview earlier this year from the Syrian capital of Damascus. “This is the most important event I’ve worked on so far, and it’s really exciting, The event is mainly about trying to connect our society to the Canadian society.”
Crawford has been touring with the exhibition, which garnered national attention, in the territories and the around the Lower Mainland. He said he plans on bringing more international art projects like this one to the gallery in the future.
There were more than a few celebrity run-ins in Penticton this year. By now, you probably know Nicholas Cage is filming The Humanity Bureau in the Okanagan. He has been sighted at local shops including The Grooveyard and Tiger Alley and Provincial Court Judge Gail Sinclair even said hello outside the local courthouse.
Rock legend Alice Cooper visited Penticton just in time for Halloween with a spectacular concert on Oct. 16 at the South Okanagan Events Centre. He also reportedly took some time to visit the local downtown shops.
I was able to talk to some big names this year too, including a nice phone conversation with actor and musician Billy Bob Thornton. Despite being nervous, and having some technical difficulties with my phone, I was able to have an interesting conversation with Thornton about his lesser known musical background. He brought his band, The Boxmasters, to the Mule Concert House on Sept. 11.
I was surprised to find out Thornton worked as a roadie in his early years, eventually making his way to California.
“I tried to get into a band out there and found out it was harder than I thought,” Thornton told me in August. “One thing led to the next and I started recording again in the ‘90s. It’s been a long road. We still feel like we’re 19 year olds in a band trying to make it.”
Dream Café re-opens
The Dream Café is a Penticton arts institution and it was proved once again as the community came out for fundraiser concerts to get the internationally acclaimed venue back on its feet.
Four nights kick off the re-opening with Ben Waters Feb. 1 to 4, followed by Kobo Town on Feb. 8, Eric Bibb from Feb. 15 to 16, The Screen Doors on Feb. 18, Dave Sinclair and Keith Bennett on Feb. 25, Devon Coyote on March 3 and The Silver Screen Scoundrels on March 4.
WWE wrestler Tyler Breeze (Mattais Clement) returned to Penticton where his love of wrestling began.
When I talked to him all the way back in January he told me about driving his parents crazy wrestling in the basement, which led to a backyard ring.
He also talked of the difficulty in telling people you want to grow up to be a wrestler.
“I heard that a lot. ‘He’ll grow out of it, he’ll grow out of it,’” Clement told me. “As I went through school I even had teachers go out of their way to say ‘hey it’s a one in a million shot.’ This is the big time, the odds of making it are extremely slim and the odds of not making it are extremely large. Nothing is guaranteed, you’re basically jumping and taking a risk.”
Penticton Secondary School graduate and 31-year-old male model Daniel Maguire graduated from Pen High in 2003 and appeared on the popular ABC romance-based reality show The Bachelorette. Maguire gained a brief bit of notoriety for his appearance, but was not able to beat out Jordan Rogers, the brother of top-tier NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, for the final rose.
Penticton played host to the first-ever Okanagan Beard Festival which took place over multiple weeks of stringent judging and beard upkeep. The festival concluded with a finale in April at Cannery Brewing Co. Over $1,900 was raised and donated to Discovery House, and Richard Saunders took home the title of best beard.