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2015 Pan Am Games will have their very own arts festival

A stunning lineup of Canadian artists is commissioned for Panamania

Toronto’s Mustafa the Poet is among the 27 artists commissioned to create new works exploring themes of water, immigration and identity at Panamania, the arts festival that will take place alongside the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. Credit: Mustafa the poet

Earlier this week, media folk and local artists headed down to El Catrin in the Distillery District for the announcement of the lineup for Panamania, an arts festival in association with the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. After loading up with guacamole, the packed-in attendees settled in for a morning of high-profile speakers, presentations and more guacamole.

Panamania is a five-week multi-disciplinary arts festival running over the course of the Pan Am Games. Focusing on themes of water, immigration and Canadian identity, the organizing committee reached out to arts communities across the country to showcase the most exciting and established artists our country has to offer.

Though many artists might cringe at the combining of sports and the arts (images of wedgies and locker rooms abound), Don Shipley — creative director of arts and culture, festivals and special events for the 2015 Games — sees it as a natural fit. “Athletes and artists are both great risk takers. They have intuitive sense of goals, and they both strive single-mindedly toward them. But both require support, especially in their development,” he says, making reference to the $1.5 million devoted to the commissioning of new works.

Host Rick Miller, of the 20K Collective, led the announcement of the diverse lineup, which is divided into five broad categories: theatre and spoken word; visual arts and fashion; dance and music; fresh eyes, a celebration of Canada’s newcomers; and aquaculture, a category inspired by Toronto’s location on Lake Ontario.

While some artists included are better known than others, the announcement spoke to the calibre of Panamania. This is no Fringe Festival, kids. The theatre and spoken-word category features artists such as Robert Lepage, Studio 180, Culchaworks and Nightwood Theatre, and — our favourite — Videofag’s Jordan Tannahill, paired up with Jennifer Tarver. The visual arts and fashion category boasts The Power Plant, Six Nations of the Grand River, and Design Exchange, to name a few. A collaboration between Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre stands out for dance, while the Lula Music and Arts Centre show puts a focus on jazz in the music category. The lineups for the aquaculture and fresh eyes categories are yet to be finalized, though the Textile Museum of Canada’s involvement is intriguing, and one can never go wrong with Crow’s Theatre.