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We've been out of the public eye for several months now, and have received many questions why. Our new festival site posed several important challenges, and demanded that we shift our focus away from promotion. We'd like to share what we've learned, and why we're moving forward.
With Arts Court’s long-awaited redevelopment on the way, we began searching for a new home in early 2014. We explored several options before connecting with Windmill, a local development company, who offered us Albert Island. This island is part of the former Domtar industrial grounds behind the War Museum, which Windmill is in the process of purchasing for a new, mixed-use development. The opportunity to host the festival on an unused concrete lot in the middle of the Ottawa River, just minutes from downtown, fit perfectly with our mandate: to transform spaces.
We announced the move in April 2015, and were almost immediately faced with challenging questions about the island’s history, its significance to First Nations, and its impending remediation and development.
We had a lot of questions, many of which we didn't even know how to ask, or whom we might approach for trustworthy answers; we quietly ceased festival planning to educate ourselves. We needed to be accountable to our community, our partners, our performing artists, and ourselves. Weeks passed, seemingly with no progress; cancelling the festival was now an overwhelming consideration. Regardless, we slowly drew connections, and began speaking with those closest to the situation.
We had a chance to meet with a council member at Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, we spoke with activists from the Free The Falls movement, others from the Algonquin community, had ongoing discussions with Windmill, and concerned members of our community. In short, we've spent every spare moment in the past two months engaging with dozens of people across our region. Each answer led to countless more questions. We heard a broad spectrum of points, many clear and simple, others obscured by bias.
One thing we did see was a common need amongst all parties for awareness and harmony for all people, not only here in the Outaouais, but globally. Instead of cancelling the festival, we decided to move forward and facilitate public discussions, offering people a chance to come to the land, ask their own questions, and learn from those willing to share. The chance to connect is what made all the difference for us, and we hope it will for you as well.
Arboretum 2015 will be not only a spectacular music festival, but an opportunity for us to share history, ask questions, engage with one another, and ideally, change the way we relate to our region.
Stéfanie, Rolf & TeamARB