The latest addition to the ever-growing festival hopes to change the look of the city itself.
North by Northeast has been growing for some time now. What started off as a music festival now features a huge interactive conference, a film festival, and tons of comedy. This year, it’s expanded again—this time to include an art festival.
According to festival director Christopher Roberts, the idea came about after NXNE founder Michael Hollett visited Miami’s Art Basel. “He went down there this year and was just blown away by what it was bringing to both the city and the participants,” says Roberts.
Hollett didn’t have to look too far to find someone to run the art portion of the festival. His sister, Kate Hollett, is an award-winning artist who had been working as a curator and filmmaker in Europe.
Kate says that she wanted to make the art portion of NXNE fit in with the festival’s overall ethos. As a result, it will encompass everything from exhibits done in concert with the AGO to graffiti artists painting the NOW magazine offices.
“The whole approach before even going out looking for work is ‘What do we want this to look like? What are we representing?’ ” she says. “We’re part of an umbrella of the arts, and that umbrella represents an accessibility for people. We’re about everything from the biggest and the best names down to the unknowns. It’s an inclusiveness. So we wanted everything from the high end, which we have through the connection to the AGO, to out there on the street performance art were you’re walking on the street and and you’re watching them as they go…We want it to be understandable and accessible.”
Kate hopes that adding art to NXNE will not just transform the festival, but the neighbourhoods it takes place in.
“We have artists from all over the world joining us. We have an installation artist from Paris who’s coming to do an installation on the Ryerson quad, just for us. There’s Ulu Braun from Berlin, who’s doing a video collage, sort of a landscape thing with layers of different images on top of each other. That’s going to be huge, and it’s going to be on the Sears building at Yonge and Dundas.”
Both Roberts and Kate Hollett say that they’re not concerned about art taking away from the rest of the festival. Roberts says art is just another “tentpole in the NXNE circus…I don’t think anything is overshadowing anything else.”
That said, Roberts admits that with the festival being so broad, he and the other organizers are considering spreading it out a little.
“I’d like to accordion out the festival,” he says “So interactive has it’s own four days; then it folds into film, which has its own two or three days; and then fading into music, which has its own dedicated five days…It [would] allows us time to concentrate on those things, and it allows participants the ability to try and do everything.”
Kate Hollett says that in many ways, this year’s NXNE art show is a sort of trial run.
“Everyone who works here is dedicated to what we do…And it’s hard, there are always growing pains, but it’s so new that the excitement and joy way overshadow any bumps in the road,” she says. “This is year 19 for the festival, and this is perfect for us to get our feet wet. Year 20 is going to be huge.”