Skeleton Park Arts Festival organizers delighted to be back

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The Skeleton Park Arts Festival returns to McBurney Park in Kingston for its 16th year after a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival is free and welcomes all members of McBurney Park and Greater Kingston communities to celebrate summer through art.

“It’s a solstice celebration,” said art director Greg Tilson. “It’s an event that kicks off the summer for a lot of people.”

During the pandemic, the Skeleton Park Arts Festival has turned to sharing visual art and poetry through outdoor installations and a quarterly journal, the Skeleton Press. This year’s festival incorporates traditional and nuanced artistic performances, including a variety of art forms such as music, dance and visual arts.

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“It’s a big part of who we are,” Tilson said, “building community through the arts.”

The festival kicks off Wednesday with the premiere of “Land and Language,” a film created by Kingston filmmaker Josh Lyon and Tyendinaga photographer and filmmaker Shelby Lisk, at The Screening Room.

Festival programming will resume over the weekend, with musical performances by Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, cellist Cris Derksen and other local talent.

On Friday night, Kingston artist Francisco Corbett will take to the main stage for a live painting performance that will include dancing and music.

The headliner for this year’s festival is Juno-winning rapper Shad, who will perform on Saturday.

For the 16th summer of the festival, organizers have focused on addressing the barriers faced by individuals from marginalized communities to participate as artists, volunteers and participants in the festival.

“We have invested in equity and anti-oppression work,” Tilson said. “There is definitely a concerted effort to really focus on inclusivity.”

The festival will be broadcast live for the first time to include people who cannot attend in person. Information about virtual participation in the festival is available on the festival website.

Festival organizers are asking people who attend in-person events to bring their own water bottles and leave their cars at home to reduce the waste created by the festival.

“People are excited. People are happy to meet in person. It’s necessary,” Tilson said. “It’s going to be something that will really lift people’s spirits.”

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