ashland.news
May 26, 2024

Unconventional Spaces: Oregon Fringe Festival returns to showcase innovative arts

The chamber folk group, Balladir, will perform Saturday, April 27, in SOU's Black Box Theater. Submitted photo.
April 22, 2024

The festival is scheduled Wednesday through Sunday, April 24-28, in and around Ashland

By James SloanRogue Valley Times

Returning for its 11th year, the Oregon Fringe Festival will present its grandest and farthest reaching event ever in late April, with close to 100 different performances and demonstrations from artists in a variety of veins.

The festival centers on bringing innovative, bold and unorthodox art to the region, is free to attend and is set from Wednesday through Sunday, April 24-28, in and around Ashland.

A focal point for organizers of this year’s Fringe Festival is to bring art to unconventional spaces across the region, extending the festival beyond its typical venues at Southern Oregon University.

“This year especially, it is easily the grandest festival in Fringe history; we really wanted to bring the entire Ashland and Rogue Valley community into this celebration of art,” said Mary Snelgrove, operations coordinator for the festival and student at SOU. “It’s been really exciting for us to approach Fringe with the mindset of reaching out to unconventional spaces.”

Some of those participating venues outside of the university include Grizzly Peak Winery, the Rogue Valley Mall, the Ashland Elks Lodge, Ashland Public Library, ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum and more.

“In my experience with talking to venue managers, I’ve been so surprised and happy to be met with generosity and openness; they’ve all been so interested in what we’re doing and collaborating with us, it really speaks to the community in this area,” said festival marketing director and SOU student Gianna McCardell.

The Fringe Festival will include a wide range of art and expression in numerous media from poetry jams to live music to a drag show.

The full list of performers, visual artists and other creatives — and when and where to catch them live — can be found at oregonfringefestival.org/2024-schedule.

Among those artists and performers include SOU student and singer-songwriter Elizabeth Pisarczyk playing soulful tunes at Ashland’s Black Sheep Pub and Restaurant, along with Seattle-based singer-songwriter Bobby Olde performing under the moniker Townsend’s Solitaire, Saturday afternoon at the pub.

The festival includes much more than just music, with visual art exhibits, live performances from theatre groups, film screenings, and more.

Some of those performances include a screening of filmmaker Ilima Considine’s “Waiting for the Kick” on Friday and Saturday, April 26-27, the Midsummer’s Night Dream Fashion Show presented by Afua Banful Friday at SOU’s Black Box Theatre and Sunday’s performance of “The Big Snap” by Jeremy Julian Greco at Grizzly Peak Winery.

Each of the art forms bring their own themes and topics of discussion, but one connecting theme noticed by Russell Copley — director of the festival — has been the utilization of art to heal or ease trauma.

“A lot of people are addressing trauma on some level … I’m amazed that the overall culture of Ashland is very sensitive and compassionate and a shining example of really advocating for caring for people, and the arts are filling the role of this multifaceted care experience,” Copley said.

The majority of the Fringe Festival is arranged and organized by SOU students themselves working to establish participating venues, reaching out to artists and performing other roles.

“I performed in Fringe in 2022 as part of the commercial music ensemble, Musix,” said JT Taylorson, technical director for the festival and an SOU student. “In October, meeting with Russell (Copley), we hit it off and being the technical director this year has been really cool for me, I love helping artists create art.”

“We’re all students and this festival is primarily student coordinated, so we’re all doing this for free or for (class) credits, so it really comes out of a passion for the arts and event curation,” Snelgrove said. “In my experience, it’s been an awesome process working with these people.”

With all of the scheduling, assembling and other main tasks out of the way, the organizers are eagerly anticipating getting to showcase talented artists and enjoy the festival themselves.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out … I think this should and could and will be an amazing boon for community,” Taylorson said. “I’m really looking forward to the Sunday night closing ceremony and just saying, ‘dude, we did it.’”

To learn more about the festival, donate or to find the dates and times of the performances, visit oregonfringefestival.org.

Reach reporter James Sloan at jsloan@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

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