Each year, Rolf Klausener, Creative Director of Arboretum Festival, tweaks the logo just a tad. What began as three trees created by celebrated designer & artist, Ross Proulx, has since set to orbit the deeper metaphorical & symbolic realm of culture, history, and geography. It may seem far-fetched, but once the newly evolved logo’s story is expressed, you’ll be convinced of this logo’s ambition.
“I really got into India inks this year,” Klausener expresses, “I’m not a visual artist, and can’t draw to save my life, but I’ve always loved watching the ink transfer to the page, the quality of each stroke growing in complexity as the ink drains from the brush.” In March, Klausener began to think about this year’s design, but the festival’s new location had yet to be confirmed, which made it difficult for him to truly identify the event’s personality. Soon after, in April, the site, Albert Island, was solidified, and the festival was faced with some difficult questions regarding the location’s significance to the Algonquin people and First Nations. “That essentially halted festival planning, but I continued working on the design, and tinkering with my inks. After a few dozen less than stellar tries, the final design came together rather quickly, as most do.”
The original logo, Klausener explains, was a metaphor for an Arboretum, which in latin means tree garden, which in turn signifies diversity. Not to mention the primary role that trees (more specifically, lumber) have played in Ottawa and Canada’s historical narrative. “This year, the three trees, morphed by some hand-painted sketches, looked almost like three islands,” Rolf notes. “I pulled out the inks one afternoon and just started smearing out some triangles. It was meditative and totally unconscious.” The islands incorporated in the logo were not a conscious decision, it was when Rolf showed a friend who said that the new design looked more like three islands rather than three trees. The three trees, he says, were always meant to embody the diversity of Ottawa’s arts and culture, but the imagery of the three islands even furthers that symbolism. Albert Island, the festival’s new site, is one third of the Chaudière Island trio, which were first known as the Asinabka (“place of glare rock”). The trio of islands were a gathering place for the Algonquin people as well as other First Nations, but later, they became home to the lumber district that carried Ottawa into the industrial, economical, and political spotlight. “So this year, I feel like the logo embodies a lot; it could represent the three islands of the Asinabka; it could represent the region’s population: First Nations, settlers and new Canadians; and naturally, it embodies our varied artistic expression, whether it be punk, electronic music, or folk, painting, media art, or gastronomy,” Rolf concludes, of the new logo.
While the site raises many questions that pertain to our region and how we identify with it, Arboretum released an educational and humble letter to the public on the topic. As a result of their new-found knowledge, the festival is hosting several discussions that will open up a much-needed dialogue between several key members of diverse communities. Expanding programming to be more inclusive is part of the festival’s mission.
Last year, Arboretum introduced Francophone programming and our neighbouring city of Gatineau/Vieux Hull, which was a no-brainer when looking to be an inclusive and an “accurate representation of our region’s culture.” When asked if this year’s challenges and insight will have an effect on future programming of the festival, Rolf responded very confidently, “Absolutely.” He elaborates, “this year’s steps forward are definitely the scope of our panel discussions with First Nations, our kick off show with the Queer Songbook Orchestra, bringing in the Indonesian community’s Gamelan group, and working to have most of our line-up be female-led or female inclusive.”
In the end, Rolf hopes that “our little city will walk away inspired, and with an expanded perception of what it means to live here.”