The inaugural Limestone Art Show was cancelled days before it was set to open on Friday.
The event was to include 55 art vendors from across Ontario inside the Kingston sports dome, but on Wednesday, each vendor received an email from the organizers saying that the City of Kingston refused the event’s business licence.
“Everything was fine, and we had no inkling that anything was going to be an issue, and then we get a call and email from the City saying it won’t go through citing zoning and fire regulations,” said Trevor Prevost and Michael Deyell, the two men organizing the show.
According to a letter from the City to the organizers, their business licence was denied for the following two reasons — the planning department found the dome is not zoned to hold a trade show, and Kingston Fire and Rescue said the facility was not designed for the hazards that come with an exhibition.
The dome has played host to several trade shows in the past, such as the Christmas Artfest, held in December 2018.
“We are zoned and are approved,” Prevost and Deyell said in a letter to all of the vendors. “The City has recently taken an illegal position in order to bolster its trade show revenue at city-owned facilities.”
When Global News asked why this particular application was denied, the City said that the matter may be in front of the court and that they could not provide a comment.
The City’s letter also said the Limestone Art Show organizers have 15 days to appeal the decision, and if they appealed, they would have to fill out an application for a hearing and pay a fee of $136.
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For many vendors, the Limestone Arts Show was the first of the season, where they would generate revenue to kick-start the summer trade shows.
“We are currently working out of our apartment and we use a shop in downtown Kingston where we construct the custom wood pieces for our customers,” said Grace Sylvester, co-owner of Curae.
Sylvester and her boyfriend Robin Saunders quit their day jobs to focus on their lake-inspired wooden pieces that feature hand-drawn bathymetry (the underwater version of topography), with accurate bathymetric data, which is then carved into a piece of art.
“For a lot of artists, these types of festivals can make or break a small company,” said Saunders.
The couple had been preparing for the Limestone Art Show for months, creating pieces that were specifically made for their target demographic that would be attending the event.
The pieces included a slab of wood with the bathymetry of Devil Lake, Lake Ontario, and other local lakes that are frequented by Kingstonians.
Sylvester and Saunders told Global News that even though they are still searching for answers from both the organizers and the City, they have reserved a table at a local boat show this weekend to sell their pieces.