Joe and Joël hit the road with art and music

by Gregory Beatty

Joe Fafard - photo by Darrol Hofmeister

A Tune To Art
Slate Gallery
Oct. 15-16

Over his 20-plus years as a musician, Joël Fafard has toured across Canada numerous times and performed in locales as distant as Europe, South Africa and New Zealand. So he’s more than familiar with the rigors of the road.

As an award-winning sculptor, his father Joe is more used to sending his art on the road while he stays home and works at his foundry/studio in Pense. But beginning in mid-October he’ll be joining his son on a unique tour that will combine visual art with music.

The tour is called A Tune To Art: Sculpture and Song. It opens with a two-night stop at Slate Gallery in Regina before moving to Saskatoon for a show hosted by the Darrell Bell Gallery at the Bassment on Oct. 18.

Additional stops are planned in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, with the tour winding up at the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City on Nov. 20.

The collaborative tour was a long time coming, said Joël during a recent phone interview from his home in B.C.

“Joe and I often talked about doing something together and people were always asking us. But we just didn’t have any ideas about how it could be done. I guess I always had the idea that he would have to be creating live as well, which never seemed possible,” he said.

A Tune To Art had its genesis in two pop-up shows of Joe’s art that he organized last fall, Joël says.

“I did one in Regina and one in Victoria. I kept a guitar in the back in case it ever got quiet. It didn’t get quiet very often, but when it did I’d pull out my guitar. I’ve been around [my dad’s] art my whole life, but I’d never been in a room that was just his work. So I really enjoyed playing to it and feeling the energy. That was when I realized a tour could work and that there was a connection between us.”

That was something Joël had struggled with early in his career, he says.

“Every time I did an interview I’d be asked about my dad. At first I didn’t like it. I was young and just wanted to do my own thing. It’s different for me now. I’ve gone out and achieved what I’ve achieved so now is the time to do it. It wouldn’t have been appropriate 20 years ago.”

The tour is a bit of an experiment, says the elder Fafard.

“With the Internet and other developments things are changing for artists. We have to adapt and look for new ways of bringing art to the public. So we’re giving it a shot and we’ll see how it goes,” he says.

As a veteran musician with seven albums of instrumental guitar and folk music to his credit, Joël is used to organizing tours, so Joe left that in his hands while he concentrated on creating work that could be set up quickly in a different venue every night and then packed away for extended bouts of highway driving.

“I designed some bases that we’ll be taking with us,” says Joe. “The tops are fitted to the base, but they’re not attached to it so that will help us to pack and unpack and transport the art. We have a truck and trailer that we’ll be pulling across the country.”

As an artist, Joe is best known for his sculptures, prints and drawings of domestic animals like cows and horses. Two of his works, in fact, are featured on the cover of Joël’s latest CD Borrowed Horses which is being released Oct. 8. Done in collaboration with Toronto guitarist Joel Schwartz, it features three original songs plus a selection of Southern roots and blues standards.

But the sculptures Joe is showcasing on the tour represent a shift for him.

“There’s 16 pieces in total,” he says. “One’s a domestic animal, a goat, but the others are wild animals. There’s ravens, raccoons, caribou, bears, moose, bison. I also made some smaller figures of people I know plus also a few pieces that combine an animal and human body like a mythological [creature].”

Borrowed Horses represents a bit of a change in direction for Joël as well.

“With my last album, Cluck Old Hen [2010], I was kind of connecting myself to the music that I’ve always loved, which is old blues and country and Appalachian music using fiddle and stand-up bass. This time it’s the same area but leaning more toward the bluesy sound.”

It’s the first time he’s partnered with Joel Schwartz in the recording studio too. “This is a guitar duo album like the old ’50s idea with Chet Atkins and Les Paul. We don’t sound like those guys, but there are two guitars playing off each other.

“That’s how the whole thing came to be,” Joël adds. “We did a workshop at a festival in Bella Coola in northern B.C. in 2011. After the set I said, ‘I don’t have time for a rehearsal now, but I have a main stage set in 90 minutes and if you want to come up and join me…’ He did, and we had great fun. After that we did a couple of tours, and we realized if we were going to keep working together we should make an album.”

Schwartz will be joining the Fafards on the tour.

“Everything will be like an opening,” says Joe. “There’ll be the performance, then afterwards I’ll be there to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. So it’s like we’re taking a show to the people, and we’ll probably mix things up a bit because it won’t necessarily be the same audience that goes to an art exhibition as goes to a concert.

“We’re hoping to attract collectors as well because we’re self-financing the tour,” he says.

“The whole idea is for us to introduce each other to each other’s audiences,” says Joël. “That should be a lot of fun. It is going to be hard work though, probably one of the hardest tours ever because there’s a whole other dimension with the visual art.”