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So that happened: An Open Letter To ARBORETUM – From Rolf Klausener

By Ryan Saxby Hill on September 18, 2012

This past weekend, Ottawa witnessed the launch of ARBORETUM – the latest promising addition to our city’s cultural scene. The reviews are positive and our thoughts turn to what’s next for the festival and the team behind it. Rolf Klausener, the artistic director of the festival just posted an open letter the community and we thought you might find his sentiment and thanks to be both motivating and comforting. The full letter is posted below and available on the ARBORETUM website here. We look forward to hearing about your ARBORETUM experience in the comments below.

I feel like I may have blown my mush-duckets in ARBORETUM’s programme introduction, but here goes nothin’.

Ever since my first concert (Voivod, Faith No More & Soundgarden @ Porter Hall — I wore fake docks), I’ve only ever longed to be transported by art. And I don’t mean transported in a Bette-Midler-Wing-Beneath-My-Wings-kind-of-way, but a real, and jarring disconnection from the self, broken only by a lead singer’s spit falling square on your nose.

Many years on, seeing a good show, tasting a well-prepared meal, or relating to new art, still elicits that feeling in me, verbatim; I literally feel 13 again. And in the same way that I hoped ARBORETUM would absorb it’s adult attendees with its simple majesty, I also hoped its young lions would get joyfully lost in the unfamiliar, and grow up longing for those types of intangible experiences.

I saw children making spontaneous music and light reflecting spastically against hundred year-old walls like analog screen savers. I bite through octopus and heirloom vegetables, and sipped on fermented treasures. I saw a couple making out on installation art, and hand-made signs pointing people to things familiar and new. No one’s meal was ever a comprise to a rumbling stomach and every act felt like a headliner.

In every aspect that is important or relevant, ARBORETUM was a success, a perfect first date: A solid connection, a few long gazes, and a passionate and honest make-out sesh before parting ways for the night.

As an organizer, I learned so much from the process and even more from my co-workers; our work was always about dismantling our own roadblocks, rather than creating something we longed for. I felt so lucky to be surrounded by a team of like-minded individuals, dedicated to our vision, and selfless in their commitment. And now as the fatigue of flexing every part of my will for the last 9 months fades, I want to take all these lessons, and the collective love you all gave us, to make ARBORETUM 2013 even more creative and memorable. Someone told me that we’d raised the bar really high for ourselves; I say let’s continue to raise it even higher.

To all who came and supported the festival, who ate and drank and cheered, to the trusting volunteers and unflappable staff, to the artists and their gifts, the chefs and their genius, I’d like to thank you all for making Saturday a day we could all own together.

Here’s to us.



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