It’s time to throw open the doors, liven up the space and make everyone feel at home.
That’s the driving force behind a new seasonal extravaganza coming to downtown New Westminster in December: the Anvil Centre’s Winter Celebrations, running Dec. 18 to 29.
The arts, cultural and conference centre that dominates the corner of Columbia and Eighth streets opened in September 2014 – but, for many residents, the shiny new building, with its dazzling glass and marble, remains unfamiliar.
“Everybody at the Anvil, and myself included, we’ve all been hearing the community saying that in many ways they don’t feel like it’s got anything for them,” explained Jessica Schneider, executive director of the Massey Theatre, who’s overseeing the Winter Celebrations.
Schneider noted that although there are parts of the Anvil Centre that have become popular – the New Westminster Museum, the New Media Gallery and the arts programming that happens in its many upper-floor studios and activity rooms – there still doesn’t seem to be a feeling that it’s truly a public space.
“There’s nothing quite like activating the lobby and the ground level,” she said.
Enter the Winter Celebrations, which will have the ground level buzzing with activity every day – with music, dance, arts and crafts, kids’ activities, meditation and yoga sessions, story and poetry readings, fashion shows and more. All the ground-level activities will be free, including a community stage that will feature a variety of cultural and arts performances. Upstairs will see a variety of ticketed events in the theatre, from a professional staged reading of A Christmas Carol to a hip hop dance party and a family ceilidh.
“It’s a huge showcase of New Westminster talent, from young to old and everybody in between professional and amateur, student and emerging artist,” Schneider said. “It’s a chance to make that place really feel lived in. I just wanted to break that open and make that possible.”
A major component of the celebrations will be a Winter World art installation that’s being created by Omanie Elias, an artist who works out of 100 Braid Street Studios and who’s also well-known as a set designer (you’ve seen her work with Royal City Musical Theatre Company).
“It’s a luminary labyrinth set in the snow,” Schneider said, noting the installation is based on the Northern European tradition of setting lanterns out in the snow in spiral or labyrinth patterns. “Everybody goes out on the tundra and walks the labyrinth in the dark of night.”
With the Anvil Centre’s glossy white marble lobby standing in for the snow, visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the same meditative experience.
“The intent behind it is that you can actually be in it for awhile, instead of just looking at it. A labyrinth is a meditation, with the intent to hold you for awhile,” Schneider said.
The events will kick off with an opening night sing-along and performance on Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. – featuring singers from a roster of local choirs, with a performance by the Quayside Voices a cappella quintet to cap off the evening. The labyrinth will be illuminated, and everyone is invited to join in the celebration.
With different events happening every day, and the celebrations open from 1 to 7 p.m. daily (except Dec. 24, 25 and 26), Schneider is hoping that people will make return visits to the centre to experience it all.
A highlight of the free, ground-floor events will be Snow Globe Dances, featuring a variety of professional dance performances (including contemporary and hip hop) within a “snow globe” – and yes, there will be a snow machine blowing snow on the dancers. Those will happen at 4:30 p.m. daily from Dec. 19 to 22.
At 5:30 on those same days, visitors can experience Global Harmony, with pairings of local professional performers that fuse the sounds of different cultures (think tabla and saxophone, erhu and cello).
A bar will also be operating for “Festive Mixers” every day from Dec. 19 to 22, and Schneider is hoping that people will turn out with their group – whether that’s a group of co-workers, artists, neighbours or family members – and join in a collegial celebration.
“It’s meant to be a place that you would come every day, if you could, and try something, and just be there,” Schneider said, noting it’s not just about sitting and watching a scheduled performance. “It’s meant to be more social than that, more of a networking, connecting place.”
Schneider isn’t sure what kind of turnout to expect for this inaugural year, but she’s hoping that it will catch on with businesses, organizations and residents alike.
“It’s going to be really grassroots, and we really hope that everybody checks it out and brings friends,” she said. “We can build on it for next year, and it can become one of our great traditions in New West.”
The Anvil Centre is at 777 Columbia St. For full details on what’s happening, see www.anvilcentre.com.
Tuesday, Dec. 18 to Saturday, Dec. 29
Winter World, 1 to 7 p.m. daily: Walk the wintery labyrinth and enjoy and entertainment stage as Anvil Centre transforms into a frosted wonderland. Free arts, crafts and heritage programs daily from 1 to 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 18
Opening Night Winter’s Lights Singalong, 7 p.m.: Singers from a roster of local choirs offer up an evening of joyful songs, followed by a performance by Quayside Voices.
Wednesday, Dec. 19
Indigenous Circle – Storytelling and Tea, 7 p.m.: Join in Coast Salish cultural practices. Free ticket required.
Wednesday, Dec. 19 to Saturday, Dec. 22
Snow Globe Dances, 4:30 p.m. daily: Small Stages presents hip hop, tap and contemporary performances inside a magical snow globe
Festive Mixers, 5 to 7 p.m.: The bar is open, and you can mix and mingle with neighbours, co-workers and friends.
Global Harmony Pairings, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.: Each day, two musicians team up in a unique partnership performance.
- Dec. 19: Jodi Proznick (bass) and Natasha D’Agostino (voice)
- Dec. 20: Cassius Khan (tabla/voice) and David Hodgson (saxophone)
- Dec. 21: Lan Tung (erhu) and Marina Hasselberg (cello)
- Dec. 22: John Reischman (mandolin) and Mark Meroniuk (guitar/mandolin)
Thursday, Dec. 20
Mindful yoga and meditation, 7 p.m.: Free, drop-in session.
Friday, Dec. 21 and Saturday, Dec. 22
A Christmas Carol, 7 p.m.: Experience a professional reading of the Dickens classic, featuring Russell Roberts as Scrooge, directed by Colleen Winton, on the Anvil Centre Theatre stage. Tickets $10 regular, $5 for students and children.
Sunday, Dec. 23
Return of Light, 7 p.m.: Four pairs of musicians come together with exquisite musicianship on the Anvil Centre Theatre stage. Hear Jodi Proznick (bass) and Natasha D’Agostino (voice); Cassius Khan (tabla/voice) and David Hodgson (saxophone); Lan Tung (erhu) and Marina Hasselberg (cello); and John Reischman (mandolin) and Mark Meroniuk (guitar/mandolin). Tickets are $20 regular, $10 for students and children.
Thursday, Dec. 27
The Interactive Magic of Travis Bernhardt, 7 p.m.: It’s an interactive comedy and magic show for the whole family, in the theatre. Tickets are $10 regular, $5 for students and children.
Friday, Dec. 28
Hot in Here, 7 p.m.: It’s a femme-forward pop and hip hop dance party, with DJ Softieshan, in the theatre. Tickets $10 regular, $5 students.
Saturday, Dec. 29
Blackthorn Ceilidh Band, 7 p.m.: Join in the fun for the whole family in the theatre. Tickets $5.
For ticketed events, see www.ticketsnw.ca or call 604-521-5050.