At one o’clock on September 30, the backstage hallway at the First Ontario Arts Centre Milton was filled with various characters and creatures. The wings of Belldandy spanned from wall to wall, Micah the Dinosaur was ready to pounce, and Chaos Space Marine needed both doors open in order to fit through comfortably. Emily Coe waited anxiously in her own costume as a character named Fiona.
Minutes later they all took turns on the runway in the middle of the Centre’s Escarpment Hall to raucous cheers from the crowd. Attendees couldn’t resist taking endless photographs and videos of the selfmade costumes. The show was a cosplay masquerade, hosted by Coe and her father Phillip as one of the newest highlights of this year’s Milton Culture Days.
Before them, the South Asian Mommies of Milton also walked the runway. Women and children were dressed to the nines in full traditional clothing representing the various states of India. Both shows were well attended and no doubt exciting for both supporters, and those unfamiliar with the subjects in question.
Such is the inherent value of Culture Days – that visitors discover new cultures, groups, individuals and art forms that they were previously unaware of. Culture Days is a nation-wide three-day annual event held at the end of September each year. Individuals and organizations come together to offer interactive activities or present “behind-thescenes” performances. In Milton, activities are coordinated by Arts Milton and are traditionally held in one central hub location – the FirstOntario Arts Centre Milton. Each spring, Arts Milton invites proposals from community groups and artists that match the goals of Culture Days. Months of planning result in a jam-packed weekend in which the public is invited to participate in various genres of activities including fine arts, craft, theatre, music, dance, literature, culinary arts, technology and heritage.
Interim Centre Manager Carly Anderson says the FirstOntario Arts Centre Milton is always happy to support Arts Milton and the organization of Culture Days. “Every year they have exceeded our expectations by delivering a wonderfully diverse program of arts and culture activities. This year was particularly special. Through the bringing together of so many artists, creative professionals, arts organizations and community members, there was a palpable excitement in the air as they shared in immersive workshops and interactive activities throughout the facility.”
The weekend kicked off with a Launch Party at the Centre, featuring both bhangra and line dancing lessons, a magic show, and live music. Guests were open to instruction, and surprisingly well coordinated in their collective movements! The following morning also had a lively start, with a Kung-Fu and weaponry demonstration by Shaolin Temple Quanfa Institute, and a Canada 150 inspired song list by the talented Milton Choristers. More than 70 additional Organizers presented free activities throughout the weekend.
Numerous craft opportunities abounded on the perimeter of the Hall, and more indepth workshops such as macramé, paper quilling, and spoken word took place in the community rooms and studios upstairs. Within the MinMaxx Hall, guests were welcomed to participate in Latin karaoke, African dance, Milton Players theatre and more. As always, Arts Milton offered up a Community Project with artist Aparna Rangnekar – the completion of which can be viewed each year on the Centre walls as a permanent display following the festival.
On a smaller stage, backed by an intricate paper flower wall, were 6 artists at work, creating their art live including paintings, sculpture, hair design and a three-tiered cake. Paper artist Holly Dionisi of FLEURISH describes her multi-faceted Milton Culture Days adventure: “It was such a wonderful experience getting to see all the diversity and talent that we have here in Milton, and being able to be a part of it all. I look forward to participating and experiencing all of next year’s festivities. Thank-you to Arts Milton and Culture Days for putting on such an incredible event!”
Photos by: Ryan Tonegawa/Sarah Arfan