It will be a busy year for the arts as the Community Art Council of Williams Lake gears up for 2020 with new projects and a new president.
Near the end of 2019, Sonya Littlejohn took over the presidency of the CACWL, then celebrating 50 years of promoting arts in the community. A lakecity artist through and through, Littlejohn was born in Williams Lake before spending 14 years in Vancouver studying english and poetry.
In 2016, she returned home with her children with a goal of pushing and promoting poetry in the area as she feels creative writing, in general, is important for people of all ages.
“I think people in Williams lake have a lot of stories inside of them and a lot of feelings that they don’t share, so I’m here to share that,” Littlejohn said.
Littlejohn herself has been writing since she was a child and is particularly interested in forms of writing that allow her to explore themes of life that are important to her. Poetry helps her visualize nature and complicated issues like social justice, while when she wants to be more direct, she enjoys a good essay or short story. It all depends on how she feels and what she wants to address.
She’s published a few of her works through various publications, including a poem called Black Canadian History in Schools on the online poetry magazine Briarpatch and an album of spoken word called Lemonade in January on Bandcamp recorded and mixed by her partner Dana Matthews. For 2020, artistically, Littlejohn plans to focus on trying her hand at playwriting.
In November of 2019, she joined the CACWL because there was a need for a president and no one else amongst the various other arts groups in the lakecity was keen to step into the role. Littlejohn said she took it on because she likes the challenge it presents.
In essence, the president’s job is to oversee the meetings of the CACWL, organize the meetings, ensure fundraising efforts are in line and the financial side of things are being examined every quarter. She also supervises and works closely as a team with the CACWL’s coordinator and program manager Venta Rutkauskas, who she said is very strong in the office.
So far, she hasn’t had to do much as the CACWL is a “very well oiled machine” and because there are so many dedicated people in the other roles, she’s been able to learn lots from them quickly. Littlejohn said it’s been very inspiring to work with them and learn about how she can support various community initiatives.
“Knowing what’s going on in the arts scene here and feeling like I have some way of helping it happen and keep going (is great). Those of us who are artists are very keen to see things (in the art scene) keep building rather than disintegrating,” Littlejohn said.
In the future, Littlejohn would also like to focus more on fleshing out what culture means for both the CACWL and the broader lakecity community. She hopes to tie all the different parts of the lakecity community together so it’s all one big community, rather than a bunch of little pockets you might find in a bigger city. To that end, there are a number of groups looking for volunteers currently that she’d encourage more locals, especially youth, to check out.
There’s no end of events, organizations or groups that will be in need of support this year, Littlejohn said the CACWL both supports and is running.
First up in her mind is Performances in the Park which is now being run by the CACWL directly in addition to their annual POPS in the Park concert, something Littlejohn thinks is great. Too often she feels the arts council doesn’t have enough to work on in the summertime, so she feels this undertaking will keep them busy and inspired.
“I’m really looking forward to helping bring the Performances in the Park together. We have some visions for adding things that are not just music, we wouldn’t mind having some comedy there or some poetry, maybe even a play,” Littlejohn said. “We’re trying spruce it up and give it a little more variety. We know it’s a lot of fun and gets a lot of people out so we’re trying to give them more things to be excited about.”
The Cariboo Chilcotin Youth Fiddle Society, meanwhile, is still fundraising to go to Ireland in June, Littlejohn said, so the community will be seeing more shows from them in the next few months.
At the Central Cariboo Arts Centre the Williams Lake Spinners, Weavers and Fibre Artists Guild will be hosting a ‘spin-in’ event every third Saturday of each month, with the next one scheduled for Feb. 22.
In essence, Littlejohn said it’s a time when people who are interested in fibre art can come and learn tricks of the craft from guild members.
Coming up in March, meanwhile, the CACWL is happy to promote the annual Parade of Choirs is coming up on Sunday, March 1 and will feature music from all of the lakecity’s choirs.
In April the Cariboo Festival Society will once more be held on April 6 to April 21 and will feature band, choral, piano and individual singing, which makes it a nice broad thing to partake in, Littlejohn said. Registration is open until Feb. 10.
The Williams Lake Studio Theatre, in addition to the one-act auditions featured in Wednesday’s edition of the Tribune, will be premiering Silent Sky at the beginning of March which will go on to zones festival in May, being hosted in Williams Lake this year.
Meanwhile, the Williams lake Writers Group is still looking for new members be they hardcore writers or people just interested in “dipping their feet” into any type of writing.
Anyone interested in giving it a try should come to the Writer’s Group Cafe on Feb. 22 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Graham Kelsey Room at the arts centre.
Group members will be sharing their work with one another over coffee and snacks, with attendees off the street welcome to do the same.
The Potato House is planning on doing evening socials in 2020, Littlejohn said, which will consist of concerts and mini-events after school throughout the year. They’re open to hosting fundraising events if people want to reach out to them and also plan to host a few comedy nights.
Every Saturday the Cariboo Potter’s Guild continues to meet up at the arts centre to work on their projects and give tips to new potters. Littlejohn said these sessions are not for brand new beginners, however, but for people who have already taken a course or to.
Classes will be offered in March for those who wish to learn, although she added the Empty Bowls fundraiser will not happen again until 2022.
“It makes me feel really proud that there are so many people with so many great ideas that they’re willing to see through. It’s inspiring and motivates me as an artist,” Littlejohn said.
“I think it’s great for artists to always be involved in their community and volunteering because it keeps their art alive and active.”