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YEAR IN REVIEW: The best of the arts

It's been a busy year on the arts and culture beat in the Tri-Cities. Not a day goes by when The Tri-City News isn't asked to publicize details about an upcoming event or activity from an artist or arts group.

It's been a busy year on the arts and culture beat in the Tri-Cities.

Not a day goes by when The Tri-City News isn't asked to publicize details about an upcoming event or activity from an artist or arts group.

With so many highlights in 2014, it's hard to narrow down the list. But, with the help of some prominent movers and shakers on the local scene, we've managed to single out our favourites.

PERFORMER

Port Moody's Julia MacLean was, hands down, the most unbelievable performer of the year. At the age of 12, the Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts student won the lead role in the Royal City Musical Theatre's 25th annual production of Annie! The Musical. Directed by Port Coquitlam's Valerie Easton, MacLean showed off her singing, acting and dancing chops and won the audience over night after night at Massey Theatre. Her father, Dave, tells The Tri-City News his eldest daughter has since moved from Moody to Eagle Mountain middle and has enrolled in Lindbjerg's Triple Threat Day program and SD43's EPIC course, which allows her to leave school early three times a week to pursue her passion. Next month, watch for the Ovation Awards as four shows MacLean was involved in this year are eligible for nomination.

COMEBACK

It's hard to say that a theatre has had a "comeback"; however, the Terry Fox Theatre has had a kind of renaissance of sorts this year after School District 43 took over the reins from the Port Coquitlam Theatre Society - in June of 2013 - and brought on nationally acclaimed theatre manager Rick Rinder as well as Mandara Lebovitz as general manager and Graham Myers as artistic co-ordinator. This past spring, Terry Fox secondary (which is attached to the 336-seat venue) hosted its first school production in three years and, since then, there have been a series of high-quality presentations such as Love Loss and What I Wore - starring Genie award-winner Nicola Cavendish - and the first PechaKucha Night for Port Coquitlam. Next year, look out for a special PKN #2 around Valentine's Day.

INAUGURAL

The City of Arts hosted its first "art explosion" with KaBoom! in April, showcasing the work of local dancers, visual and literary artists, and musicians. And it was clear by the amount of talent in the room that Port Moody is full of creativity and energy. Emceed by up-and-comer Frankie Cena, the event was the brainchild of PoMo arts patrons Rainer and Helen Daniels who wanted to see an untraditional pop-up party where the public could mingle with artists and share their skills. Though it took a bit of organization to co-ordinator (and publish an accompanying 64-page director of who's who), the free all-ages affair at city hall proved to be a delight.

DISPLAY

Port Moody Arts Centre's ceramics artist-in-resident Otto Kamensek used his studio time to produce one of the most heart-wrenching visual arts shows this year. His sculptures that were exhibited this past spring chronicled what it is like to live with chronic arthritis for 40 years. Kamensek produced gnarled limbs with screaming heads, a torso with intense muscular tension and, for his female friends who can no longer wear high heels, a foot with mangled toes. Through his hour-long interview with PMAC curator Janice Cotter, Kamensek painted a deeply courageous picture of having to work through his debilitation pain and his efforts to give more prominence to the disorder that affects millions of Canadians each year.

CONNECTION

After months of fundraising, the Port Moody Arts Centre officially opened its glass atrium to join its facility with the Appleyard/Centennial heritage home.

The process started in July of 2013 when the former Heritage House Pizza Company building was trucked from Clarke to Kyle Street and temporarily placed across from PMAC. Finally, this September, the ribbon was cut for the atrium as part of PMAC's $200,000 expansion project, under the direction of executive director Bruce Campbell and PMAC society president Ann Kitching. The extra space will be used for arts programs and special events.

PUBLIC ART

This summer saw the unveiling of Bruce Voyce's Tidal Train, a human-powered kinetic sculpture in front of Port Moody city hall. Standing 22' tall and weighing 3,000 pounds, the $85,000 work was designed to pay homage to the city's first intercontinental train more than 100 years ago. "SkyTrain is coming and, once again, Port Moody is ready for some change," Voyce said at the press conference.

INNOVATORS

When the new Eagle Mountain middle school opened in Anmore, Ecole Moody middle's population dropped by three-quarters. But those students who stayed got to be part of SD43's first School of the Arts, with a focus on the fine arts. Since September, principal Trevor Kolkea has been trying to build creative partnerships - with no extra funding from SD43 - by allowing community artists (i.e., Robert Randall, Cori Caulfield) to work with the students directly. Next year will see even more alterations to the Mavericks' campus as Phase 2 gets underway, with construction for a new south building due to start this winter.

jwarren@tricitynews.com

THEIR BESTS

Helen Daniels, Port Moody arts champion: "Weenjoyed Kristian Alexandrov and Shannon Gaye's excellent performance at the PoMo Arts Fest Gala at the Inlet Theatre, but my standout event wastheir subsequent gig, on April 30, in the intimate setting of the Gallery Bistro. Nothing like up close and personal."

Joan McCauley, executive director of Place des Arts: "I would say that our annual 'A Celebration of Robbie Burns' has become one of my favourite events.Attendees enjoy a Scottish-inspired dinner and a great performance from Blackthorn band. At the end of the first set, a piper pipes in the haggis and recites the Address to a Haggis."

Vicki Allesia, visual artist, president of the Port Moody Art Association and founder of the Blackberry Artists Society: "The Port Moody Art Association show at the Port Moody recreation complex tops my list because it is a non-juried show that reflects a complete range of artistic experience and abilities from beginner hobbyist to professionals - an inspiration to aspiring painters."

Jon-Paul Walden, executive director of the Evergreen Cultural Centre: "The Musical Mornings concert at the Evergreen Cultural Centre featuring pianists James Anagnoson and Leslie Kinton. Four hands on one piano was like an orchestra of musical sounds."

Richard Dixon, retired Gleneagle drama teacher, poet and playwright: "On April 5, Port Moody's KaBoom! festival brought together scores of local artists at the Inlet Theatre for a brilliant evening of performing and visual arts."

Cori Caulfield, principal of Caulfield School of Dance: "I thought KaBoom! in the Port Moody city hall galleria was an exciting celebration of all forms of art in the community."

David Mann, performing arts manager at Evergreen Cultural Centre: "The exciting Ascension Festival put on by Goliath Stage in Port Moody was a highlight for me. It was great seeing the breadth of youth talent on stage in a variety of disciplines, in a festival produced by and for youth."

Diane Moran, Port Coquitlam visual artist and educator: "My favourite show for 2014 would be the PechaKucha talk at Terry Fox Theatre. It was inspiring and represented several artists including myself who shared their stories and ideas about art and how it affects us."