Print Edition: June 3, 2015
Talented youths of Mission offered their take on life, love, and Taylor Swift via poetry, dance, and music at the third annual Mission’s Youth Arts Festival. Hosted by the Mission Arts Council, the evening presented 12 stage performances from artists aged 13 to 25.
The festival began with a viewing of artwork in the foyer of Heritage Park, featuring five artists and a range of methods. Stencilled skateboards, animal portraits, Illuminati symbols, and Nicholas Cage’s face set the tone for a night of the sweet earnestness of today’s youth.
The performances were introduced by Tony Loyer, who expressed his amazement at the artists’ ages with contagious enthusiasm throughout the night. Thirteen-year-old singer-songwriter Rebecca Sichon opened the night with a sentimental guitar performance, 14-year-old violinist Ruth Lindl treated the audience to Sydney Carter’s “Lord of the Dance,” and 16-year-old Britt Grant performed a beautiful and physically trying solo dance. Solo performances were punctuated by a tap and ballet set by the Fraser Valley Academy of Dance.
Despite the wide variety of media, a theme of youthful passion emerged as the night progressed. Dyllan Singh Thind was introduced by Loyer with a side note that the young man had just that day secured a date for prom. Thind performed a newly composed rap that delved into the confused experience of the adolescent boy bridging on young man; anger, pity, fear mingled in a mass of bravado and an uninformed, if earnest, plea for social change. The performance offered the unnuanced wisdom of inexperience— “The illuminati isn’t the enemy / it’s you and me” — and declarations of adult wrongdoing: “Mission is messed … why is there still poor people?”
Mission poet Vienna Jeffery performed “The first person I ever loved,” a spoken-word poem that won her an impressive third place in Vancouver’s Youth Poetry Slam. The poem, an angry retaliation at an upbringing that tied self-worth with gender roles and an endgame of loving a man, came from the mouth of a feminist who isn’t yet tired of her own awareness. The experience she relates (“I know that my greatest downfall was / the first person I ever loved wasn’t me”) is all too common. It was her passion that made the poem stand out and struck the audience with a keen hope that this fire is something Jeffery can sustain.
Several performances by UFV students raised the average age, with short films by Mitch Huttema, and a lively banjo performance by Alex Rake, who took part in organizing the festival. Katie Stobbart presented poems from her English honours project, which explores the link between Greek mythology and perceptions of modern day female celebrities. Emma Watson, Kim Kardashian, and Anne Hathaway were mythologized beside the likes of Athena and Aphrodite; after all, “all myths are true and have one origin.”
The evening wrapped up with a couple of suitably angsty Taylor Swift covers by Chantel Justine. And the audience found themselves reminiscing about the confused, self-conscious, impassioned days of their youths.
Mitch Huttema, Alex Rake, and Katie Stobbart are employees of The Cascade.