It all started at a show up at Brock’s Centre for the Arts. Joe and Annie went to see Alpha Yaya Diallo and before the show started they got to chatting about Mark Clifford’s Niagara Weave, a night that Centre for the Arts used to hold with him to showcase Niagara musicians. By intermission, Sara Palmieri swung over to say hello. They inquired about the possibilities of doing something together and by the end of the show she and Debbie Slade had booked the theatre for April 23 2009.
Cut to the Merchant Ale House a month later, and the seed had been planted. Joe Lapinski, Deanna Jones, Sara Palmieri, Natasha Pedros, Jordy Yack and Annie Wilson had a pint (or two) and started the seeds of conversations that have grown into the festival. With a collective heart for downtown St. Catharines, and as active participants in an eclectic and lively local arts scene, the co-founders all drew on their mutual desire to create an accessible platform to bring people together with local artists to experience shared connection, elation and pride. They wanted to get down and dirty (and did).
The founding team kept building the ideas, brainstormed looks, and a whole lot of pun heavy ways of putting it all together. Natasha led design, Joe built a website, the team crafted a call for artists, and, much to their surprise, received hundreds of applications. It was around this time that the Niagara Artists Centre, St. Catharines and Area Arts Council and Centre for the Arts joined the roster as founding members, with further support provided by the City’s Cultural Services and the St. Catharines Downtown Association.
The first festival was 13 days (with one event per day) and featured a showcase at Centre for the Arts. It felt a bit like a marathon for festival organizers who, at the time, handled all aspects of each event.
Suitcase in Point took full reigns in year 4 and added their own distinct style with the annual Dirty Cabaret, artist ‘mash ups’ and a push for more one-time audience experiences. By year five, the Steering Committee had tightened the festival into 3 days of multi-layered, multidisciplinary mayhem in a truly Niagara rooted celebration of artistic awesomeness.
In the Soil was born out of a love of our community, of our downtown St. Catharines, of our artist friends and of the belief that we could pool our collective energies to help define and identify St. Catharines and Niagara as culturally distinct.