Without infusion of new blood Artwalk may never return

Artwalk in its heyday would attract 25,000 people to the downtown. Photo courtesy, Nora Penhale

Troy Shantz

Sarnia’s largest arts festival is taking next year off and it’s possible it may never return, organizers say.

“Artwalk has an energy shortage,” explained festival president and city councillor-elect Nathan Colquhoun.

“It’s a very lean event and the folks, all the volunteers behind the organizing of it, need a break.”

Usually held the first weekend of June, Artwalk has been a three-day arts and music festival that takes over much of the downtown with live music and rows of vendors in tents selling art and crafts.

Artwalk weekends often drew 25,000 people.

Colquhoun became president in 2016 after four members of the executive board resigned. He and two others filled the open positions, but they and the remaining board can’t take on the time commitment required to sustain the festival long-term, he said.

“We are announcing this publicly to see if there is any interest in (others) taking the torch and joining with some of the board to keep it going.”

Colquhoun said the decision was made this summer prior to his election to city council on Oct. 22. He also confirmed the festival’s finances are in good shape.

Artwalk founder and former president Shawn McKnight is disappointed by what is officially being termed a one-year hiatus for the festival.

He and other downtown artists and business owners organized Artwalk in 2002 to coincide with the Tall Ships festival in Sarnia the following summer.

“It’s a community builder,” McKnight said. “There’s a lot more to Artwalk than just a beer tent.”

The original concept was a free exchange of ideas offering artists and creative-types a venue to display works and express themselves, he said.

“I think it’s really important that a community is close and understood that that’s what Artwalk was about.”