10 years, 40 artists, one summer day

Art on the Farm in the Columbia Valley near Chilliwack celebrates its 10th year

There's always great music at Art on the Farm.

There's always great music at Art on the Farm.

Picture the scene: you’re standing in Columbia Valley in the middle of summer, surrounded by hazelnut trees and the greenest grass you’ve ever seen. Gently weathered barns and fences stand in the distance, charming and cozy. It’s brilliantly sunny and peaceful—one of the most quiet, secluded neighbourhoods in Chilliwack, tucked around the side of Cultus Lake past the beaches and popular hiking spots.

But on Saturday, Aug. 16, it will be anything but quiet.

This cozy, peaceful farm will soon be hustling and bustling with visitors from all over the valley as they meander between trees and tables, simultaneously enjoying the work of local artists, an a cappella group belting out contemporary classics in four-part harmony, and maybe even a fresh scone from a local bakery.

It’s all part of the 10th annual Art on the Farm—and according to organizer Minda Chittenden, it might just be the best year for it yet.

The tradition has local roots and a simple mandate. Every year the Columbia Valley farm opens its gates and arms to a multitude of visitors with one goal: to spread the art and talent of the valley in a meaningful, creative way.

As Chittenden explains, the event has a funny—and exciting—way of growing into new shapes and surprises every year.

Blackberry picking? Check. Local theatre performers and musicians? Check. Bellydancince? Bagpipes? An attendee who brings an accordion and asks if he can play in the field for the afternoon? Check, check, check.

“We try to get as many local artists as we can, and we’ve got a pretty wide variety,” Chittenden says. “It’s got a really nice vibe, is what people keep saying—it’s very chill, compared to a lot of other events. Come and stay as long as you want. We’re not rushing people out of the farm. You can bring a picnic if you want, you can pick as many blackberries as you want.

“There’s no cellphone coverage in the valley, which I think helps people relax,” she adds with a wry grin. “You can’t really focus on anything else except where you are, and you take your time and enjoy it.”

There will be artisans from all over the valley setting up displays of their wares, as well as interactive activities for all ages. A side of the horse barn will be transformed into a giant mural over the course of the day, with a little help from attendees and and artists alike. Other artisans will be doing demonstrations—throwing pottery and spinning wool. There’s even an unofficial petting zoo: goats and other small animals wandering around looking for attention.

It’s a labour of love put together by a small team of people—for the most part all hailing from the same family and group of friends.

Chittenden says she was first inspired by a similar event on Pender Island called Art on the Fence, where local artists hung, strung, and stapled their art to fences and barns for public viewing.

“So we thought, let’s give it a go,” she says. “There are so many artists that need a venue, and especially a more casual and affordable venue to display their work.”

It’s grown and evolved over the years, from 20 artists to 40—a small sample expanding into a larger showcase of local artists.

“I think we’re stable at about 40 artists now, and that’s about what we can handle,” she says with a smile. “We want to keep the event free, and we want to keep it community-oriented; we just keep trying to change it every single year to make it different.

“We’re always learning about new talent, every single year. People come out of the woodwork that I’ve never met before, and I’ve made some really good friends.”

• Art on the Farm takes place at 1162 Iverson Rd. in the Columbia Valley on Aug. 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but organizers suggest bringing cash in case something on a vendor’s table catches your eye or you feel like having a bite to eat. For more information, visit www.artonthefarm.ca or email info@artonthefarm.ca.

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