LOLA director engages students, Londoners

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009


Western grad Andrew Francis is the mastermind behind the London Ontario Arts Festival (LOLA).

A lover of art and music, as well as a local business owner (Francis opened The Alex P. Keaton a few years ago with friends), Francis found an opportunity to create LOLA last year.

Francis felt by combining his entrepreneurial skills with his love of the arts, he could reach Londoners who also love visual art and music.

“Ultimately ... I found that there were a lot of people that were interested in getting to know about art and progressive new music,” Francis explains, “And they just didn’t have a way to reconcile that with their day-to-day lives.

“So I thought, what better way than to create an accessible forum for creative expression that would allow artists to articulate themselves the way they want to, and allow people who want to experience these artists to really see them doing their thing unfettered and unmuzzled.”

Francis believes LOLA provides a middle ground for many different types of organizations.

“Building bridges is the theme behind LOLA, between the business and the arts community, between artists locally and internationally,” Francis says.

“I think it’s the type of program … that can really work with other organizations to get everyone together towards supporting a good cause.”

With the success of last year’s festival, Francis and his team increased the scale of LOLA from a day-long show to a weekend-long celebration.

“We felt we put together a very compelling package for corporate, government and private sponsors,” Francis says. “And they answered by stepping up to the plate with more funding.

“And by the way, I planned LOLA last year in six weeks from start to finish. I had six months this year.”

London Arts Council executive director, Andrea Halwa, believes part of LOLA’s success is due to Francis’ ability to connect with London’s large student body.

“I think Andrew has been very successful with engaging the university student population, I also think that his approach is really dynamic,” Halwa explains. “I mean, he makes you want to be a part of it. He makes you want to be excited about it.

“And I love that he wants to bring new elements to London and have people engage in different areas of public art.”

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