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Festival looks to the future

Chris Hunsley
Northern News Services

Inuvik (July 29/05) - The Great Northern Arts Festival wrapped up another successful year Sunday, with some important lessons learned and a keen eye on the future.

NNSL Photo

Jeweller Martin Goodliffe and Stained glass artist Maidie-Anne Turner carry the ceremonial whale bone out of the Great Northern Arts Festival during closing ceremonies, Sunday. BYLINE:

"We take each festival as a learning opportunity and apply it to the next one," said festival vice-chair Danae Tilley during the closing ceremonies.

Organizers purposely pared the show down to 65 artists, about 40 per cent fewer than last year, in an attempt to solve financial difficulties and work within a three-month organizing window.

The annual event was almost cancelled.

"We've entered an agreement with some great fundraisers and we're addressing past issues," said Tilley, confident that money problems are now a thing of the past.

Organizers of the 2006 edition will begin working with the board of directors right away to ensure plenty of time for planning and marketing this time around.

A display at the Vancouver Airport is already in the works and they have tentatively decided on next year's theme, "In the Footsteps of our Elders."

Festival co-ordinator Christina Wilsdon will stay on for the short term to mentor her replacement and pass on corporate knowledge. Board members also expect to continue their hands-on involvement, which only began this year.

"Now that they've got a taste, they can't slip back into the shadows in terms of guidance," said Wilsdon.

Even with fewer artists, 985 visitors saw the show and end-of-week sales totalled $156,500, off last year's total of $180,000 by less than 15 per cent.

"It was great, much better than I thought," said Josee Charbonneau.

The first-time exhibitor sold more than 40 pieces, including hand-painted silk scarves, books and wall hangings.