When Morlene Tomlinson first heard Ken Lavigne perform, she was determined to bring him to Esquimalt for a concert that would form part of the community’s arts festival.
As much as one might not have expected an internationally known tenor who once graced the stage of Carnegie Hall to perform in a free concert in the heart of the township, it’s a perception Tomlinson feels is changing.
“Our aim from the beginning was to showcase this community as the rich and diverse place that it is,” said Tomlinson, the founder and past president of the Township Community Arts Council.
“We’ve managed to do that to a large extent, and we’ll continue to build on our successes to create a reputation where people look to Esquimalt as a place to come for arts and culture.”
That said, the arts council doesn’t want to lose sight of its traditional connections within the community.
“Our relationship with CFB Esquimalt has always been very close and productive,” she said, noting that the first band to play at an arts council event was the Naden Band.
That relationship continues this summer during the Esquimalt Arts Festival, when the Pacific Blue Swing Orchestra opens for Lavigne in the June 23 performance at Memorial Park.
The park is hosting a series of six concerts this summer, with local recording artist Maureen Washington (June 20) among the featured performers. Tomlinson maintained the concerts are only part of what is setting her community apart.
On June 24, an art exhibit will feature original works by more than 25 local artists. “It’s a chance to demonstrate the depth of talent we have in our artistic community,” she said.
The exhibits will also feature a “Splash of Paint with Emily Carr,” as well as interactive art displays, music and food. Esquimalt residents take great pride in the township’s diverse and talented population, its level of volunteerism and its appreciation of all manner of arts and culture.
“There’s an unfair image of the community at times, but I believe we’re overcoming that more and more,” Tomlinson said. “You might not have expected to see Macbeth performed here, but we’ve partnered with the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival to bring three performances to Esquimalt. We’ve got aerial dancers who will entertain from the tree tops and we have (talented artisans) in our markets.”
Holly Courtright, Esquimalt’s community development programmer, is similarly high on the change of perception regarding her community.
“We have a small-town feel and we’ve always had a lot of great things going on, but recently I can feel a shift,” she said. “The wide variety of attractions has combined to draw people and development to our community. Things are changing.”
For more information on the arts festival, visit townshiparts.org/esquimalt-arts-festival.html