The artists at this weekend’s Virtualian Festival include (clockwise from top left) comedian Yixuan Zhang, performing artist Angela Brown, singer-songwriter Stephen Spender, and author Lori Sherritt-Fleming. (Submitted)

VIDEO: Chilliwack artist launches free online festival to connect people worldwide to the arts

The Virtualian Festival was launched last weekend by Brunella Battista and runs every Saturday

Live music, a silent theatrical performance, a poetry reading, and a bit of comedy.

That’s what people attending the Virtualian Festival will get a taste of this Saturday, all from the comfort of their own home.

The festival was started by Chilliwack artist Brunella Battista who, like many others, has been feeling the hit firsthand of the COVID-19 pandemic. With artists switching to virtual concerts these past few weeks, she’s noticed a lot of positive feedback from both artists and the audience members watching.

“People are appreciating the healing power of the arts,” Battista said. “There’s no better time to put ourselves out there.”

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Last weekend she had a “soft opening” for her online festival which featured musicians from Italy, comedian Nina Wilder, and some visual artists.

She wanted to recreate that familiar feeling of hanging out and engaging in arts activities.

“I wanted to have a real festival, with artists and vendors, but in a safe space for everyone. The beautiful thing is that audiences can participate as little or as much as they like,” she said.

This weekend’s lineup includes Canadian-British singer-songwriter Stephen Spender, performing artist Angela Brown (with audience participation), comedian Yixuan Zhang from New Westminster, and author Lori Sherritt-Fleming who will be doing a poetry reading (with audience participation).

The way it works is people join the festival via Zoom, a teleconferencing app. Everyone gets to see not only the artists while they’re performing, but they may even see fellow audience members watching the festival or even dancing along to the music and laughing at the comedian’s jokes.

“I wanted the interaction with the audience. They can participate with video or with without,” Battista said.

There’s also an area for art vendors at the festival. On the Virtualian Festival website, a handful of different visual artists are featured along with links to their websites.

Everything about the festival is free. It’s free to attend and it’s free to be listed in the vendors’ “market.”

That being said, Battista is hoping to see some money go towards those who perform each week. She’s seeking sponsors for the artists, and has a “donate” button on the website for those able to offer up some cash. The money will be split between all the artists.

The name “Virtualian Festival” is a play on words from the words “virtual” and “Bacchanalia.”

It runs about an hour long every Saturday with each artist performing for about 10 to 15 minutes. People will be able to ask the artists questions after their performances, and following the event, there will be something called an “on-nomi” which is like a social online beer garden.

The Festival takes place every Saturday at 4 p.m. for as long as the current COVID-19 pandemic continues. Battista is wanting to continue the festival even after the self-isolation requirements have been lifted, as an online spring festival with some offline sanctioned events worldwide as well.

Arts associations that want to remain active during their tough times can sponsor the program by emailing Battista at brunellabat@gmail.com. Vendors and businesses can also contact her.

To join the Virtualian Festival, go to artistsrtcinc.wixsite.com/virtualian. There are 100 spots each week and reserving your spot is recommended. Additional spots may be added if there is a need.


 

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