No matter what part of the world you are reading this from, there is a strong possibility that a festival will be taking place near you, now or in the very near future, whether it is music, film, art, or comedy. Thousands take place every year all over the globe; some are world renowned, from music festivals such as Glastonbury in the UK and Southside in Germany to The International Film festival held in Moscow.
Here at Format, we like to concentrate on the underground, and this being our special Canada Issue, we set out to find what was bubbling up in the maple leaf country. Lo and behold, we discovered the hottest festival in Canada fast on its way to vet. status (this will be its fifth year). Style in Progress, a.k.a. SIP, unites graffiti artists, B-boys, and DJs from Canada and beyond to create a mass explosion of energy and creativity in the heart of Toronto. We managed to get the full story of SIP from co-founder and main event organizer Janna Van Hoof. Read as she explains how SIP offers a positive outlook for traditional hip-hop culture, the struggles in organizing SIP year after year, and the success of SIPâ€™s sister event: Resurface.
“Our events aim to bring hip-hop back to the positive roots it came from. We like to offer an event where being creative with your friends and having an outlet for that creativity is shown to the public.”
Format: Could you introduce yourself and explain your role within Style in Progress?
Janna Van Hoof: Janna Van Hoof, co-founder and main event organizer for Style in Progress.
Format: What is Style in Progress and where did the idea originate?
Janna Van Hoof: Style in Progress (SIP) was founded in 2003 in order to put together a solid graffiti jam. We modeled the event after Under Pressure in Montreal and still remain one of the only large graffiti events in North America. However, we have spiraled into other projects over the past five years: along with the original SIP jam each July, we opened and closed an art gallery dedicated to spray-paint artists (www.basegallery.ca), developed another annual jam called Resurface, and painted various utility boxes and murals around the city. We have arranged panel discussions with the police, city officials, property owners, and artists–and even settled a class action suit on behalf of some of the artists. We attempt to support the graffiti subculture as a whole in Toronto, along with throwing events that showcase the positive aspects of all the original hip-hop elements (B-boying, emceeing, DJing, etc).
Format: How important is SIP to Toronto and Canada in particular?
Janna Van Hoof: Well, graffiti, B-boying, DJing, and emceeing will go on with or without SIP. However, with all the fear-mongering done about graffiti (itâ€™s gang related, it leads to other crimes, etc.), itâ€™s nice to be a resource for press and the public to ask questions about the art form and subculture. We are able to put reporters and possible art buyers in touch with different graffiti artists to interview or to hire. The events are a good time for artists to network, and we have a lot of artists coming from other cities to paint and perform. Normally graffiti artists have to work under an illegal context and donâ€™t have the opportunity to discuss their passions with the average public. We get a lot of younger kids, parents, and artists that appreciate the days for sure!
Format: The planning and preparation for the festival must be quite intense. Could you describe what it takes to organize such an event?
Janna Van Hoof: We have lots of dedicated volunteers that know their shit in the community. We have graffiti artists running the art part of the event, B-boys handling the dance floor and the contest, with DJs and emcees setting the lineup, etc. Without the team that comes together to make the event happen, it just wouldnâ€™t go anywhere. As for harder tasks of pulling it all together, Iâ€™d say finding funding and getting property owners to sign the forms that allow the artists to paint can be pretty difficult at times.
Format: In your role as coordinator, do you get to source out acts and artists for the festival or is there a dedicated team?
Janna Van Hoof: We donâ€™t really have to source anyone out. We are lucky enough after five years to have lots of artists that hit us up to participate. Graffiti artists send in flicks to our staff and the best artists get spots to paint. The musical acts are also reviewed by staff and discussed to see who would work/perform the best. Everyone donates their time and performs for free.
Format: You mentioned Resurface, SIPâ€™s sister event. Whatâ€™s the idea behind that particular event? How does it differ from SIP? It took place last weekend, right? How did that go down?
Janna Van Hoof: Resurface is a much smaller jam than SIP. We had about 65 artists painting instead of the over one hundred that SIP hosts. Yes, Resurface was last weekend. It was an amazing day: beautiful weather and very few problems. Probably one of the easiest jams so far.
Format: How are both of the events promoted in Canada? Is there a guerilla marketing campaign (posters, stickers, ads, etc.) or is there a reliance on the Internet and word of mouth?
Janna Van Hoof: We like to rely on alternative means of promoting, like wheat-pasting, stickers, stencils; but the sponsors still like to see hard numbers that involve basic ads, flyers, radio, etc. We definitely get more excited about coming up with street advertising that would catch our attention, and try to employ different graffiti artists to do the flyers, t-shirt designs, and ads.
Format: How have the SIP and Resurface events affected the hip-hop culture in Canada?
Janna Van Hoof: The culture in North America has a lot of bad stigma, especially with all the bling and violence. Our events aim to bring hip-hop back to the positive roots it came from. We like to offer an event where being creative with your friends and having an outlet for that creativity is shown to the public. Music, dance, and art do just that. Hopefully we inspire people to get involved within their own communities and entice youth to get involved in a constructive way.
Format: You mentioned the public image of hip-hop. Do you feel it is now a negative one? I mean things evolve over time, but do you feel that hip-hop has been over-commercialized and lost its appeal?
Janna Van Hoof: Iâ€™m really not an expert on the past, present, or future of hip-hop. Iâ€™d say ask Kool Herc what he thinks.
Format: Last yearâ€™s SIP had to be cancelled due to a lack of funding. What steps have been taken to ensure that this yearâ€™s event got the go-ahead? How have you managed to gain sponsors this time around?
Janna Van Hoof: Each year has its difficulties. Funding is always an issue. Weâ€™ve had to reach into our own pockets and pull it off some years. It almost didnâ€™t happen this year again.
Format: It must be frustrating for positive events like SIP and Resurface to not be given proper backing. I mean it would have been a disaster for you if this yearâ€™s event didnâ€™t get the green light as well.
Janna Van Hoof: Yeah, frustrating for sure. But the jams seem to take on a bigger life than me and go on.
Format: How do you see the future of SIP? Is it going to be more secure or will it be a case of taking each year as it comes?
Janna Van Hoof: Itâ€™s always been a case of seeing what each summer holds. We get some cool offers to do different stuff and weâ€™re always trying to make the main events happen–but it has some ebb and flow to it, so some summers are bigger than others.
Format: There seems to be a great sense of spirit and togetherness in the makeup of SIP, but has there been any trouble over the years? Any beefs with rival crews?
Janna Van Hoof: For the most part everyone gets along and respects each otherâ€™s artwork. The artists look forward to meeting other artists. No one is really trying to ruin that vibe.
Format: Do you have a creative background yourself? Can you cut a mix or go crazy with a spray can?
Janna Van Hoof: I enjoy supporting other peopleâ€™s creativity and standing on the sidelines for now. I feel like my creativity is still being nurtured. One of these days it will take form in a medium other than my overall lifestyle.
Format: So whatâ€™s next for you?
Janna Van Hoof: We like to spend time going to other peopleâ€™s jams too. Check for Under Pressure in Montreal in August!
Format: Finally, could you give the Format readers two main reasons for checking out SIP this year?
Janna Van Hoof: Kick ass artwork and dope DJs.
Style in Progress takes place on July 12 & 13 at Dundas Square and in the Queen West alleys in Toronto. Check out the official Style In Progress website for update news and pictures from this yearâ€™s Resurface event.