by ABI CLARK
ROCHESTER NY--Over the course of the last year, artistic performance has evolved. While the curtains are temporarily closed in our favorite venues, the virtual stage has become a prominent way for artists to continue performing throughout the global pandemic.
This weekend, an online festival aims to bring artistic relief to some of the traumas experienced and brought to light in 2020.
To Michigan-based writer and educator Taylor Solano, the online festival had potential to be a vessel for community healing.
"I felt like as an artist we have this really special ability to step in, make a response, and offer something to our community," Solano says.
Singer-songwriter, educator, and community organizer Siena Facciolo was the first person who came to mind when Taylor had the idea for The Arts and Wellness Festival.
"It started with something as simple as a phone call to Siena. I said, 'Siena I have a crazy idea, what do you think about this?'"
The co-founders started to define the festival’s pulse: what was at its core?
Five mission statements were birthed: uniting the community through art; amplifying voices that have been historically silenced and marginalized; acknowledging collective grief, processing and healing from trauma and systemic oppression in our communities; and celebrating International Women’s Day 2021!
These guidelines helped to form a virtual line-up of over a dozen female identifying and non binary identifying artists from all over the world.
"Diverse: both culturally and artistically," Facciolo says. "We really envisioned this smorgasbord of workshops, performances, spoken word, musicians, just any type of art that these artists wanted to present, we were down for. We wanted them to tell their stories in whatever way they wanted to tell them."
Rochester based Artist Sally Louise is a folk/singer songwriter. She will be performing original music and fan-favorites Saturday at 6 pm.
Louise says her creativity was a way for her to cope with 2020, and that it's something she wishes to share with those tuning in.
"To be able to provide some sort of healing through music, an escape through music, a way to process that grief," she says.
"We've gone through a lot together, but there's hope in the future and in each other."
Martyna Alexander is a Detroit- based artist and graphic designer who will be live-painting Saturday night at 8pm. She believes that virtual performance allows the artist and the audience to exist together, sometimes in a more personal setting.
"There is this beautiful aspect to virtual connection that allows to see these intimate moments where someone is performing in their bedroom or creating art in their studio. And these are moments that often are overlooked when we do in person events," Alexander says.
Toward the end of the festival, NYC-based artist and educator Leah Hinton will be holding a Reflective workshop Sunday 3:00 PM via Youtube live. She will begin by sparking a collective conversation with the group and end the workshop with soothing songs.
"We'll be talking about things people have learned the whole weekend during the festival... and in our own lives,"
Both co-founders expressed their wishes in regards to what effect this festival has on both the artists and the community.
Festival cofounders Taylor Solano and Siena Facciolo say they enjoyed cultivating deeper relationships with the participating artists, and they hope that the festival will make the audience feel more connected as well.
"I hope the audience feels loved and like they can let go a little bit and just be for a little bit. Because it's really hard to do that right now," Facciolo says.
"It's been a really tough year, decade, century for a lot of people in our communities," Taylor says. "I think we want to offer them some joy, some healing, some space to process and connect with other people."
The Arts and Wellness Festival kicks off Friday March 5th at 6 pm, continues Saturday evening and picks up Sunday until 4 pm. For a full list of events and festival details, you can visit artsandwellnessfestival.wordpress.com/events. Donations will be split evenly amongst all artists performing.
ABI CLARK is arts and culture reporter for Reclaiming the Narrative. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.