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Butterflies are the inspiration for a day full of art

Artist Nik Harron and Silence’s Scarlett Raczynski play with MONARCH [Veronica Reiner | OBSERVER]

The Art of Butterflies exhibit at Silence Sounds in Guelph is collaborating with the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory and artist Nik Harron to create a unique experience for every audience member. This will be done through various art forms, all inspired by butterflies.

“I think it’s going to be a really unique opportunity to have a day where you can engage with pretty much every part of your brain,” said Scarlett Raczycki, executive director at Silence Sounds. “Whether it’s auditory, or kinesthetic, working with the crafts and the origami; scientific, learning about the butterflies, so it’s going to be this really weird, amazing, unique experience where you get to kind of bounce around from all those different categories. It all comes down to the butterfly, and  how many different ways you can take one form of inspiration.”

Harron’s contribution to the event is MONARCH, a butterfly-shaped physical synthesizer, as well as an interpretive computer visualization  that visually mimics the sounds played by the instrument. MONARCH is comprised of 38 magnetically-tunable oscillators, four kalimba elements, six strings, two removable steel picks, and a playable reverb spring.

“It was deeply influenced by the Georgian composer Koka Nikoladze,” explained Harron, who constructed the instrument over eight months. “Koka made a little soundtrack box for a movie that he scored that was composed of springs and wires and a resonant spring on the inside to give it some reverb. Seeing it, it struck me that  instruments don’t have to be these pre-designed things. They can just be sort of organic and unique, so I decided, ‘I’m going to build one.’”

Harron hopes that the interactive art will engage the audience and give a novel experience, in a way that other media might not.

“I’m interested in a kind of interaction  that you generally don’t get with a medium like painting,” said Harron. “Where you’re isolated in your studio, and you spend so much time making this thing, and you hang it on a wall, and people are afraid to touch it, and if they have something to say about it, they don’t want to say the wrong thing. And so they’re very, very quiet. But if you build an interactive exhibit, they get to play. Whether it’s adults or children, hearing the sound of laughter, and being able to see them explore something new and novel… it’s a very rewarding experience.”

In addition to MONARCH, there will also be informative presentations by the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory regarding the migration of monarchs and gardening pollinators. The organization is also bringing in live monarchs and tropical butterflies.

In conjunction with the event, there is a juried art exhibition. Visual artists had the opportunity to submit butterfly-themed artwork until August 10 that will be presented at the event. While Silence Sounds received plenty of submissions, they had to narrow down the number of paintings due to space limitations.

“We ended up selecting 19 pieces. It was complicated; it took us a long time to pare down. We kept having to say, ‘we don’t have that much wall space,’” said Raczycki with a laugh. “We have a whole wall being used for the projections. I think even with 19, it’s going to be pushing it a little bit. We did get a lot of really amazing stuff, and a huge range too, which is really exciting. We have everything from abstract expressionism to photography to watercolours.”

There are activities for the whole family, including a children’s art exhibition where youth under 18 are invited to create a work of art inspired by these live, caged butterflies. Other activities include constructing butterfly mobiles at 11:30 a.m., butterfly magnets at 1:15 p.m., and creating butterfly origami at 3 p.m.

The Art of Butterflies will take place at Silence Sounds, 46 Essex St. in Guelph on August 25.

The event is free of charge.

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