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Famous art, Jersey Boys, ghosts: Confederation Centre plans busy summer on P.E.I.

Heritage performers for the tours in Charlottetown. (Source: Simon Reid) Heritage performers for the tours in Charlottetown. (Source: Simon Reid)

Visitors and residents in Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Venice, Italy, might be separated by the Atlantic Ocean, time zones, and perhaps languages, but this summer they will have at least one thing in common: the art of Erica Rutherford.

Rutherford, the world-travelling artist who eventually settled in P.E.I. in the 1980s, will have her work in the spotlight at the 60th edition of the Venice Biennale, an international art exhibition, until November. The showcase features pieces from more than 300 creatives and five of Rutherford’s paintings made the cut.

“Many of the works shown here are painted self-portraits, based on photographs of the artist,” the Biennale’s website reads. “All feature faceless figures – flattened and deprived of any features – staged in a range of rigid poses. Bearing an obvious affinity to Pop Art, Rutherford’s style extends the phenomenon’s critique of the mass media to a complex reflection on gender construction and agency.”

The Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown will also pay tribute to Rutherford with a retrospective exhibition of her work this summer.

“She struggled with identity,” said Kevin Rice, director of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. “When she moved to P.E.I. she began living her life as a woman. It’s kind of a remarkable story. The exhibition looks at her struggles with identity.”

The Erica Rutherford exhibition at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. (Source: The Confederation Centre of the Arts)

Rutherford, who died in 2008, will have more than 100 of her pieces highlighted in the exhibition, which runs until Jan. 5, 2025. It’s one of several exhibitions the Confederation Centre is organizing this year.

“’Yellowknife Forever’ features artists from different areas,” Rice said. “The curator has assembled work by seven artists. It’s a slightly more gothic view of the north. It’s great to collaborate with this guest curator so our audience gets a sense of these artists’ views of Yellowknife.”

The Erica Rutherford exhibition is pictured. (Source: Confederation Centre of the Arts)‘Yellowknife Forever’ debuts June 21 and ends Sept. 29. There will also be the ‘Together Apart’ exhibition from June 21 to Oct. 6, which features work from Aganetha Dyck, Diana Thorneycroft, and Reva Stone, who have shared studio space in Winnipeg for 30 years.

“Curators of this exhibition were interested in the working relationship of women in the arts and how friendship and support for each other helped them persist in their work,” Rice said. “We very often try to reflect our mission with the choice of exhibition. We’re conscious we have a mandate to present Canadian artists and it’s something we prioritize.

“This should be a really fascinating summer for folks.”

Jersey Boys and Anne

The Charlottetown Festival marks its 60th year this summer and, as the largest theatre festival in Atlantic Canada, it’s bringing out the big guns.

“We’ve had ‘Jersey Boys’ on our docket for several years and have been waiting for the right year to do it,” said Adam Brazier, artistic director of performing arts. “Certain shows will draw an interest and get people excited to come to the theatre.”

Along with “Jersey Boys,” which runs from June 25 to Sept. 21, the festival will feature “Anne of Green Gables: The Musical” from June 19 to Aug. 31. Both productions will offer sensory-friendly performances, which are more relaxed renditions of the shows the Confederation Centre introduced last year.

“Sensory-friendly performances are made to be more accessible,” said Brazier. “There are people who don’t come to the theatre because they’re uncomfortable with how dark it might get or how loud it might get. We dim the volume slightly so things aren’t as aggressive as they normally are in the show.”

Beyond the big name productions, the festival will feature “70 Mile Yard Sale,” a show by local Justin Shaw inspired by the coastal yard sale on P.E.I.

“He follows in a long island tradition of storytellers,” Brazier said. “Justin brings a beautiful hybrid, his humour and wit is infectious, it grounds you in the island. It’s a beautiful homage to a tradition on the island.”

Other shows include “Becoming Dolly,” “Rhythms and Stories of the Red Earth,” and “Island Steps.”

On tour

Heritage coordinator Cameron MacDonald has been involved in walking tours in Charlottetown for 10 years and in that time he’s fielded his fair share of oddball questions from visitors.

“Almost every summer there’s a question I never thought to research,” he said. “I say, ‘I don’t know but I’ll look it up.’ People have asked how deep is the harbour, some people think we’re part of Nova Scotia. You never know what will be asked.

“I have a great love for leading the tours and I refuse to give them up.”

This year MacDonald and his team are offering a different kind of tour. Visitors will be able to go behind the scenes at the Confederation Centre starting July 3. They will be able to explore theatre memorabilia and the history of the building.

“A lot of people come to the Confederation Centre and they’re curious about the building itself and there’s lot of curiosity about what happens behind the scenes,” MacDonald said. “We thought it’d be wise to offer a tour that talks about the building itself and gives visitors a glimpse behind the scenes.”

The Confederation Centre of the Arts is pictured. (Source: Confederation Centre of the Arts)

For visitors looking for something a little more traditional, the historic Great George tour will run from July 3 to Sept. 28 and the ghost tour will go from July 5 to Nov. 1.

“It’s generally a gravedigger (character) who leads a group through historic Charlottetown,” MacDonald said. “(The stories) are all based on history.”

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