Art on the rocks

Chaba Conrad is among the many locals sharing their work at the Peggy's Cove Area Festival of the Arts. Photo: Submitted

The Peggy’s Cove Area Festival of the Arts returns, with organizers promising a reinvigorated festival after two years of pandemic disruption

Running from July 6 to 17, the Peggy’s Cove Area Festival of the Arts kicks off with an opening night event at the new Hubbards Barn venue.

“It’s a change of scenery and a beautiful location,” says Paula Fredericks, one of the festival’s organizers. “Another wonderful thing about Hubbards Barn is it has multiple entrances and exit doors. It has a pavilion and a beautiful patio. There’s lots of parking and more space for people to circulate, so if they wish to keep their distance, they will be able to.”

With the backdrop of a jazz duo, 100 pieces of artwork will be on sale. “It’s a chance for the public to meet some of our artists,” she says. “Some of our artists don’t know one another, and it’s a chance for them to meet each other. We’ve been missing this, especially these past couple of years.”

Another popular event coming back this year is Paint Peggy’s Cove, running July 8 to 10. With the new boardwalk now occupying the space near the Sou’wester restaurant, the event will centre on a yurt in the village, near the visitor information centre.

“It’s going to be in the heart of the village, near the ocean and cove,” Fredericks says. “That’s such a beautiful area that people can picture the reflected buildings and the calm water.”

Forty Canadian and American artists are scheduled. The event allows people to meander and meet artists. As they complete their works, they’ll be available for sale in the yurt. There will also be a kids’ art camp on site.

Paint Peggy’s Cove will feature dozens of artists working at sites around the village. Photo: Trevor J. Adams

Rounding out the festival is the self-guided Studio Tour on July 15 to 17, featuring over 70 artists at 42 locations in the area.

Chaba Conrad is participating for her third year.

“I noticed how warm people are and how they have taken me in like a family is beautiful,” she says. “It is such a beautiful opportunity for people like me or anybody that are artists and don’t have a chance to expose their passion. It gave me a chance and feeling that I needed to fulfill my dream.”

As a child, Conrad always envisioned doing something unique. Growing up, she remembers her father’s passion when he designed furniture as a carpenter. When he was 39 years old, he passed away and then 13-year-old Conrad went into his workshop and grabbed a book on his desk that had drawings and the writing of his furniture plans. It inspired her to begin painting in Thailand.

Her affinity for creating flowers came from her mother’s love of orchids but her inability to grow them.

Conrad visited a shop with an orchid at the market that piqued her interest.

“This lady knew how to take care of her orchids,” she says. “I picked up objects from there, and in the corner of my eye, I saw all the leaves and petals lying on the table. I thought about why she first pulled all the leaves out of the orchids. (The owner) told me all the flowers were made out of clay.”

With a lot of persistence and convincing, the store owner taught Conrad the technique. These days, she creates unique hand-crafted flowers using a specialized Japanese clay and Thai terra clay mixture.

“When I make leaves, sometimes the clay that I create myself can crack very easily,” she explains. When I make the Japanese clay into it and bend it, I fold it like paper. It makes it strong and pliable and will not break and crack easily.”

She’s looking forward to interacting with the people who drop by Location #30 at the Melissa Connick School of Dance in Upper Tantallon.

“People here in Nova Scotia are supporting local artists, even more so this year,” she says. “Everything we do comes from our hearts, and we do it because we’re passionate. If you give us a spark and support it, it makes us want to create something more beautiful.”

James Darley is another artist well worth the visit. For over 40 years, he’s operated Seabright’s Cove Gallery. He first became an artist 66 years ago, and his been working in Nova Scotia since moving here from England in 1970.

Artist James Darley has been working in the Peggy’s Cove area since the 1970s. Photo: Submitted

“I remember as a child, my brothers and sisters make a snowman, and I get my mother’s butcher’s knife and carve out horses,” he says. “That started early, and I never really did much until I came here.”

Visit Darley during the Studio Tour at Location #6 at 20 Irwin Hubley Rd. in Seabright, and you’ll discover all sorts of impressionistic birds, geese, ducks, owls, and humans.

“I have quite a number of sculptures involving hugging,” he says. “As I tell people that come, I think I didn’t get enough hugs when I was a child, so I’m making up for it. I do a lot of partner sculptures. I think the relationship with their partners is pretty important; it’s certainly important to me. I tend to do things that I’m interested in. I studied birds, so that’s why I do lots of bird sculptures.”

In addition to sculptures, Darley does acrylic, oil, and watercolour paintings, with his previous experience working in Northern Ontario’s Algonquin Park as his inspiration.

The festival is important to the local art community.

“It is much better exposure than just a random sort of tourists coming by, and it’s advertised, so it brings in a lot more people,” Darley says. “Hundreds come instead of half a dozen people. They support the festival and support each other. There are always new things going on with the festival, which positively affects the artistic community.”

Fredericks adds that it’s not just a great opportunity for the artists.

“We hope people enjoy the beautiful art artisanal work, support the artists if they can, have fun along the coast, stop for coffee or lunch or dinner at one of our beautiful restaurants, and soak up the scenery and share that with their friends,” she says. “We would love people to take a little time out of their week to relax and enjoy themselves. You can hop in the car after breakfast and be somewhere special quickly.”

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