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Art reworked into street banners for jazz fest

Painter Susan Falk’s 2021 festival image is now flapping in the wind from Fort Langley street poles

by Frank Bucholtz/Special to Aldergrove Star

Last year’s exhibit is this year’s dominant image.

Banners and posters for the fifth annual Fort Langley Arts and Jazz Festival are already out on the streets.

The story behind the image on the advertising for the event, created by Aldergrove-area artist Susan Falk, is fascinating.

In some ways, it reflects the change and upheaval of the past two years marked by COVID-19, and the palpable relief that in-person events are once again happening.

It ties in perfectly with the festival theme of ”Art and Soul.”

Falk said the painting she completed for last year’s event almost never came to completion.

She was asked by executive director Karen Zukas and artistic director Dave Quinn to exhibit some of her work at an evening performance in 2021.

Last year’s event was a mixture of in-person and online performances, with COVID protocols posing attendance restrictions.

“I began with a five- by six-foot canvas,” she said.

“I decided not only would it be musicians but I would use the same colour design, warm tones, acrylic, big brush work, lots of animation, as I did for my 15-foot painting of horses in my studio.”

Her studio is located on her 10-acre farm.

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However, a problem arose.

She had a collection of old instruments she could draw from, but not much with musicians.

She did remember she had a small drawing from a blues festival from an old artist friend, Tony O’Regan.

“We have collaborated for many years with our teaching and a few art shows. So with his blessing to pull a few ideas from his sketches and a combination of me and my guitar mixed into imagery, I went into action. I blocked in a few basic gesture shapes, and then another problem occurred. I lost interest,” Falk recounted.

“So I tossed the big canvas to the back of my studio to be forever out of sight. Then the night before I was to bring my paintings to the festival, I decided to put it back on the wall and have another look. I picked up the big fence painting brushes again and finished at midnight. I’m glad I did – the painting received a lot of attention, and it sold the next day.”

That was not the end of the story, however.

“I received a call from Dave and Karen asking if they could use the painting image on the posters and banners for this year’s festival. They said they couldn’t get it out of their minds. I said ‘perfect!’ I had no problems with their design team cropping the image because most of my large paintings are designed with this in mind when I’m figuring out the composition,” she said.

“This is why I love cross advertising, especially in our wonderful Fort Langley village. I have collaborated with many local businesses, artists, poets, and environmental activists over the years with my paintings.”

Falk said the jazz festival “is a great venue to cheer for.”

The Jazz and Arts Festival highlights both music and visual art. This year’s event promises to be the biggest ever, with 60 bands, 300 musicians, eight outdoor and indoor stages, visual art, and a Kidz Zone. Many other activities are planned.

While some of the events are ticketed, there will be plenty of free performances throughout the four-day event, which runs from Thursday through Sunday, July 21 to 24.

Ticketed headlining events including a 1930’s themed gala opening event, all-star blues show, and a jazz concert series along with free shows on six outdoor stages.

Attendees can take part in a Mardi Gras strolling parade and art mural painting project and enjoy art exhibits, the Kidz Zone, Kwantlen and art and cultural area, food trucks, and street entertainment.

There will be something for every jazz fan from blues, big band, and the music of Frank Zappa and Steely Dan to award-winning jazz vocalists and musicians, jazz-funk fusion, Afro Dominican Latin jazz, and soul-gospel.

For more information and performance times, people can visit

Officially known as the Odlum Brown Fort Langley Jazz and Arts Festival, the event began on a small scale in 2018. That success led to a larger event in 2019, and high hopes for 2020. Then the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns meant it had to be a virtual festival only, although interviews with participating musicians made it quite different and intimate.

Last year featured a mix of in-person and virtual, and this year the event will be a bigger version of the 2019 edition – in-person and lively, transforming Fort Langley into a music mecca.

RELATED: Langley’s annual cultural festival to feature a wide variety of artists this year

Falk looks forward to the event.

“I love all genres of music, but my all-time favourite would be folk music. I enjoy playing my old Washburn guitar that I’ve had for over 40 years and my Newfoundland dogs seem to like the ballads. They don’t leave the room.”

Falk is represented locally by The Kube Gallery in Fort Langley and a solo show of her work was on display there during the month of June. The show featured COVID-inspired figurative paintings. The show received lots of input from the public.

“Some were not impressed with the masks painted on my models. (That is) always a risk when you paint the times you live in,” she said.

Falk plans to be on the streets of Fort Langley during the festival, doing plein air (outdoors) painting.


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