Culture Days is a yearly celebration of arts and culture across the country beginning at the end of September. Sault Ste. Marie is taking part in the event and highlighting many key areas of our society.
According to its website, “the Culture Days national office works with our provincial partners and a wide network of event organizers, from grassroots community volunteers to major institutions.”
“Millions of people attend thousands of participatory arts and culture events across the country,” it reads. “Culture Days programs invite the public to get hands-on and behind-the-scenes to highlight the importance of arts and culture in our communities.”
Traditionally, events were held in-person during the last weekend of September. This year, because of COVID-19, many events are being held online. The duration has also been extended. It started on Sept. 25 and will go on until Oct. 25.
In the Sault, the Public Library is hosting a digital photography class. Other events include Algoma University’s Bollywood dancing livestream and an anti-racism seminar by the Sault Museum.
Of particular interest is the Striking a Pose, an event jointly organized by the Art Gallery of Algoma and Indigenous Friendship Centre.
It consists of a photoshoot of Indigenous ribbon shirts and skirts. Pictures of the IFC’s outfits (which have been in the making all summer) will be released along with written pieces explaining them and interviews with the director and the cultural coordinator.
Striking a Pose is one of three highlighted events in Ontario.
2020 marks the eleventh year where Sault Ste. Marie has had a presence in Culture Days.
“The Sault Ste. Marie Public Library, the Art Gallery and [the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site] have been the main organizations involved,” said Kathy Fisher in an interview with SooToday.
Fisher is the curator of the Historic Site. For its part, the site is uploading daily videos on Sault history. So far, it has recounted some of the experiences of the Francophone community and Anishinaabe peoples.
“Each one of the organisations have created an event or an exhibit or a digital presentation that highlights some of the culture in Sault Ste. Marie,” said Fisher.
“Some of them are hands-on participation activities and some are virtual presentations. It’s a combination this year of what we can do in person safely and the rest are digital live streams or pre-recorded.”
Planning for this year’s events started in April.
“We started during the complete COVID shutdown because we could all get onto Zoom meetings to start to plan and think about how we needed to change,” said Fisher.
While most events are live virtual, some will continue to be held in-person following “social distancing [guidelines] and within the restrictions of Algoma Public Health.” (All in-person events will be pushed online if the Sault experiences a dramatic increase in COVID cases).
For Fisher, going digital has “been a learning curve.” She recalls having to learn the intricacies of YouTube’s playlist features and devise a plan for promoting Culture Days via social media.
Despite the challenges, the curator said that the event offers “something new and exciting to create and present.
"We do it because we’re passionate. It’s a great opportunity to get people in our community to pull together and share what we have,” she said.
“We’ve been able to, in the past, do a lot of large gatherings involving people in our community and also tourists. Our activities that were planned were free of charge.”
She maintains that holding this sort of event is the best way to attract members of the public and serve the community.
“It’s another way to bring audiences to us, to showcase the art, culture and history of Algoma and Sault Ste. Marie,” said Fisher.