By Judith van Berkom –
Arts Night at the First Unitarian Congregation has been shining a spotlight on a diverse medley of artists and delighting audiences for the past 13 years.
Nine performances a year (every month except in July, August and December) and three artists – one each from the literary, visual, and musical arts – at each event, is a total of 27 artists presenting annually.
Arts Night is a chance for artists to share their experience – in all its varying forms – while answering some probing questions for the audience: Why am I doing what I do? Is it because I am able to or because I’m compelled to? When did I start and what made me start? What has made me continue with my art? What do I derive from my art? If I weren’t skilled or successful with my particular form of artistry, would I continue to do it anyway?
“Questioning of the inner self by the artists has not changed. Most love the questions asked, they make them see their art in a new light. The artist is accessible to the audience; there’s an interaction,” says the founder of Arts Night, Joycelyn Loeffelholz-Rea.
Joycelyn is a poet, author, and visual artist who first conceptualized the idea of a monthly evening from various workshops she attended and the inspiration of other artists in the First Unitarian Congregation.
“We learn from each other. That’s the way I learn,” says Joycelyn.
Her primary role is to contact the artists. “I really enjoy getting on the phone with strangers,” says Joycelyn. “You get an image of what this person looks like and then you meet them and they are nothing like that.”
Her personal journey as a visual artist and writer began later in life. During her earlier years she had no particular regard for the arts but her interest grew as her first marriage was breaking up. She decided to take an evening class at the local high school – which turned out to be sketching.
The first poem she wrote was for her son as he finished high school and went on to college. Since then she has published a memoir, written two books of poetry, and painted. Vivid colours on large canvases are often associated with a poem she’s written and often occur in series – a series of paintings on the senses, for example; another on inhospitable places.
Joycelyn’s introduction to the 10th anniversary celebration of Arts Night in 2013 defines their approach to art and the artist: “There would be no room in Arts Night for criticism as we hoped that on each occasion a depth of kindred spirituality would be felt as we listened to creators engender the vulnerable offspring of their soul.”
Arts Night takes place at the First Unitarian Congregation, 30 Cleary Ave. (off Richmond Road) at 7:30 pm. on the last Friday of the month. The 13th anniversary event on April 29 will feature Joel Harden, writer; Hilde Paz, painter; and singer-songwriter Tony Turner, one of the three artists who performed at the inaugural gathering on April 11, 2003. Admission is $5 and is payable at the door.