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Harmony Arts Festival to suit different tastes

The Harmony Arts Festival is thriving. Back in West Vancouver for its 21st season, the 10-day festival will offer an expanded range of exhibitions and performances from right across the creative spectrum.

The Harmony Arts Festival is thriving. Back in West Vancouver for its 21st season, the 10-day festival will offer an expanded range of exhibitions and performances from right across the creative spectrum.

For the first four days of the festival, West Vancouver's Argyle Avenue will be taken over by the Art Market, a high-end collection of jurychosen creations.

For the first time, three artists from outside of B.C. will make the trip to the West Coast to display their work. As well as world-class jewelers Ko Park and Yaïr Stern, Ontario graffiti artist D3N!@L, also known as Denial, and sometimes known as Daniel Bombardier, will be among the exhibits.

The entirely self-taught artist creates his images using spray paint and stencils, but often converts them into adhesive stickers. It's a medium that has taken his playful and pointed messages right around the globe. He estimates more than half a million of his stickers are out there.

"I've gotten stuff all over the world just through meeting people," Denial told the North Shore News from his studio in Windsor, Ont. "I'm a true believer. I like to give something to someone even if they can't buy it. They can still help promote you. I haven't been to all the places my stickers have."

While Denial cut his teeth putting his art up in alleys and on the side of watertowers - "the higher the better" - the 34-year-old now runs his own graphic design firm with a staff and lots of marketing work. But that doesn't mean he's lost his subversive edge, particularly when he feels street art is under attack.

"We just did a lot of fake Toronto police badges with 'Toronto Art Crimes Division' stenciled on them and (Toronto Mayor) Rob Ford's face as the centerpiece," laughed Denial. "We put about 50 or 60 of them up around the core."

Closer to home, North Vancouver resident and North Shore News designer Geoff Ross will be exhibiting his native-influenced wood carvings.

"I take reclaimed cedar, because I like that old look, and I carve into it to reveal the new wood beneath," said Ross.

Growing up with his adopted Interior Salish brother, Ross was exposed to First Nations art and culture throughout his childhood. Those influences returned to him a few years ago when he moved into a new home.

"I needed art for the walls. I had some old wood lying around; I found my grandfather's carving tools and for fun, I thought I'd see what I could make out of it. I had this piece on the wall and friends came over and I was getting really good feedback and I thought let's put it out there and see what other people think. So I put it on Craigslist and it sold and I made another one and it sold and so I just keep going and here I am five years later."

Ross stresses that his work is not traditional native art, and admits he was a little unsure how First Nations buyers would react to him.

"When I had my first native customer I was a bit concerned. He said 'I like your work, can I come by?' and I said 'Just so you know, before we get into some awkward moment, I'm Caucasian.' He said 'I don't care if you're a Chinaman, I just want to buy your art.' Ever since then I've been a bit more relaxed about it. And I've had lots of native buyers."

That uneasiness was finally put to rest this May, when Ross was commissioned to create a dozen pieces to decorate the new offices of Ayas Men Men Child and Family Services in the Squamish Nation.

"It was such an honour," Ross said. On the performing arts side, festivalgoers are sure to find something to suit virtually any taste.

"We touch pretty much every demographic and genre, which is something we are proud of," said media coordinator Jodi Smith. "We run the gamut."

The 55-band gamut includes music for seniors right down to the youngest children, taking in kids, youth, twenty-somethings, families and baby boomers along the way. If you like rockabilly, jazz, folk, gospel, salsa, pop, big band, roots, world music, blues, string orchestras, Celtic music or many others, you'll find something at Harmony Arts Festival.

"We've always wanted to create that community feel, with something for all ages and musical tastes," Smith said. "And all of the concerts have remained free. Even though it has grown so much, we want to make sure everyone feels good. We're a feelgood festival and we celebrate all of the arts."