ARTIST: CASS COLLINS
by Jasmine Sikand
Cass Collins, a 32-year-old artist originally from Whitehorse, YT, has been living in Atlin B.C. for about a year now.
“It really is a little hidden gem,” she says with a smile, as she carries two large and heavy baskets from the festival grounds to her car. The baskets are full of art supplies and painting samples used in the workshop she just finished teaching. Making her way up the hill, she is met by her partner who takes half the load.
They plop the baskets in her car and Collins shuts the door. They say their temporary farewells and with a sigh Collins says, “Where should we go?” While she’s now an “Atlin local”, she’s still a relatively new one. “I’m noticing more and more how there’s not many places to sit around here!”
Collins' partner lived in Atlin and she had visited several times. She says it didn’t take much to convince her to “unplug” and join him. There’s no cellular service in Atlin, but Collins says she was “all in” for it.
“I was pretty excited about it actually,” she says. “I found with all the times we came and visited, it just instantly de-stresses you and I found it made you a little more cognisant of your own time.”
Collins says being able to choose when she goes on the Internet makes her appreciate the limit of access people have to her. “It forces you to keep time for yourself.”
She says it’s her favourite aspect about people coming to Atlin for the festival, and one that makes this festival unusual. She says a small town like this forces people to disconnect from their usual life.
“It’s nice to give that experience to people where they’re forced to connect more with the environment around them and the arts and music right around them and not be distracted from the outside world.”
One of the benefits of being a local is that she can go home to her cozy and warm bed instead of camping out on a friend’s lawn. This year, she knows more people. She is part of the community. Atlin is her home now, and that makes this year’s festival different. Better.
“It’s almost like you’re doing something with your big group of friends as opposed to just being this one new person amongst a whole bunch of strangers.”
As a local, she understands the collective reasons some community members oppose the festival. The town is crowded, there are strangers trying to set up tents on front lawns and, as with any large event, there’s the potential for lots of garbage.
But, despite all that, she says that overall, the festival is a positive event for the community.
“This is awesome for generating money for the town,” she says. “Atlin’s at the end of a road, people don’t just pass through it. It is good for drawing attention to a place that otherwise people might not discover.”
This year, instead of just attending the festival for fun, Collins decided to host two art workshops. They focus on watercolour painting, and helping people get comfortable with the basics, painting a picture they are inspired by.
She has always been surrounded with artistic influence. Her mother was an artist. But, it wasn’t until she was applying for university in Vancouver that she realized it as her passion. She was accepted into an illustration and design program at Capilano University, one that only accepts 30 applicants. Once enrolled, she began practicing art and never looked back.
Collins says one of the reasons why it’s important for her to teach art is because a lot of people don’t know it is a career option or even consider trying art as a hobby.
“It’s kind of funny,” she says. “I feel like when you’re growing up and you’re in school, nobody ever tells you, hey there’s careers in graphic design or website design or animation.”
Collins says if she can find the right projects to show to the right people, she has no doubt they will be inspired to pursue art.
She also runs a goat farm. “It’s kind of a funny story,” she says. One of her pastimes is looking on Kijiji.ca in the pet section, just for fun. She stumbled across an ad selling a goat. As a joke, she sent it to her partner to see what the response would be. When his reply was surprisingly calm and accepting, she decided to go for it. Now, she owns four goats.
“I didn’t expect that to happen, now my family thinks I’m really weird! I do things really spontaneously,” she says. “I just go with what works.”
This is Collins' first Atlin Arts and Music Festival as a local, but she says it won’t be her last.