The first seed of Ravenswing started 11 years ago as an annual indoor fair at Jack Purcell Community Centre with the intention of creating a crafts show that was more accessible to vendors and more accessible to the public. Co-founded by Sean Zio and Lukayo Estrella who met at a zine fair, the event began with monthly craft and zine fair. Though it was too much work to maintain the monthly event and it didn’t offer as much novelty to the community, this planted the seed that grew over time into an outdoor event that is now widely known and anticipated by local residents.
Though the event is heavily dependent on the weather, there have only been a few rainy days over the last 10 years. The weekend was chosen to coincide with and catch the tail-end traffic of the Great Glebe Garage Sale and Ottawa Race Weekend. Minto Park was chosen to respond to a need to be urban, to be accessible to foot traffic for folks to shop, while also being about community.
“Ravenswing in a lot of ways, the beauty of Ravenswing, is about people meeting new people, artists meeting artists, musicians meeting musicians, people being exposed to local art in the city and the local musicians and local vendors,” said co-founder Sean Zio.
The name came from the raven, which is prevalent in Ottawa, and which is black in one light and rainbow in another light, according to co-founder Lukayo Estralla. “We like this idea that we’re all diverse like the rainbow, but we all celebrate under one united philosophy and celebration of creation.” Said Zio, explaining that the name was meant to be poetic and distinguish itself as not being neighborhood-centric.
We imagine a 10 year old going to Ravenswing with a 5$ allowance being able to buy something and feeling happy and engaged and part of the event.
The event is founded on principles of anti-oppression and embraces art and diversity in the community. Ravenswing vendors have to make what they’re selling, and 60% or more of the merchandise has to be 20$ or less, separating them from other craft shows where the price points are much higher. Ravenswing has discouraged high-end jewelry and expensive fine art that is less accessible to younger or low-income members of the community, preferring to encourage a more diverse range of products and providing opportunities to small business, independent artists, punks who make pins and anyone who doesn’t fit the typical craft show vendor profile but still wants to connect with community-based support to sustain their art.
“We imagine a 10 year old going to Ravenswing with a 5$ allowance being able to buy something and feeling happy and engaged and part of the event,” said Zio. “I feel hopeful that if young people are seeing it and are involved, they’re going to be inspired”.
Another important component of Ravenswing is the Clothesline Project, a serendipitous relationship that arose when both organisations wanted to book Minto Park on the same date. The Clothesline Project is an exhibition of t-shirts painted by survivors of violence. With politics aligned around anti-oppression and the attraction of both events bringing an audience of young women and queer and activist communities together in one space, it is not surprising that Ravenswing has been able to flourish over the years.
Starting off with less than a quarter of the park, Ravenswing 2016 will now be using the whole park for the first time, counting over a hundred people involved in making it happen. Joking about organizing Ravenswing in another 15 years, Zio reflected more seriously on the long term vision: “as long as we’re all in Ottawa and all hanging out, Ravenswing will continue. Our focus is very much let’s stay friends and make cool things happen”.
For the 10th anniversary the music coordinators have created a Bandcamp playlist of musicians who have performed over the years at Ravenswing, a unique 2.5 hour playlist of Ottawa musicians. The artwork on the poster was created by local artist Laura Inksetter and selected by special contest this year.
Ravenswing will take place May 29th from 11am to 5pm in Minto Park featuring local vendors, artists, musicians and the Clothesline Project, taking place on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory. You can find Ravenswing on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest.