Fernie Art Streak 2021

My extended family has always been a wordy bunch. In one memorable Scrabble game my grandfather—an editorial writer for the Calgary Herald, played ‘GRANGERS’ on a triple word score for 129 points in a single word. As the second wave of COVID constricts, our little household has been shoring up and looking for ways to pass the time together and still lounge on the couch. We’ve now entered a new phase of existence where we play games against each other online. On the couch. At the same time—the Hephers have now somewhat grudgingly stepped into the present. 

Scrabble Go is our prime choice because we can play with grandparents and cousins. Scrabble is a classic game with such a legendary game-board that you just can’t mess with. As such, the company that owns that copyright (remember Hasbro?) decided to go a different direction: to clutter the interface with so many distractions that it’s difficult to get to playing a game. There are points to win, and tile ‘skins’ to upgrade to, and random people constantly challenging you to a game. It’s like they buried the simple and beautiful word game in the middle of an overgrown jungle. The game is still fun, and even though I love to play against my family, I am beginning to resent the application that props it up. 

The underlying rationale behind the development of this multi-layered, multi-faceted app is to attempt to make a simple (read: boring) game more interesting to a mobile generation. There is the constant dopamine rush of ‘leveling up’ and shiny animated transitions that take you from one screen to the next. I can understand the psychology behind giving people a kind of currency they can collect by Submitted Photo logging in regularly, and the developers have certainly spent time and money on the graphics. Any yet—to me it all feels like a bunch of fluff obscuring a time-tested form of entertainment.

I’ve talked before about my personal quest for simplicity, and I know I start to sound cratchety (a purposeful Dickensian pun) when I bemoan the complexity of our lives, but I do so because I know it 
is valuable to continue to press through the chaos of modernity for the nuggets of authenticity. At some level we are allowing ourselves to ‘be entertained’ by movement and flash and bling, instead of finding entertainment in the process of being. Our devices open worlds of possibility to explore, wild new puzzles and graphic worlds, and I have no problem with any of that, but if the core idea is not well-thought or challenging or functional, then what purpose does it serve?

If you want to chase that goal with me, why not try something new? Last year in this column I stripped away all my own clutter (quite literally) for a cause I called the Fernie Arts Streak. The goal of this streak was to encourage people in a sporty town to challenge themselves to create something new every day. Last year we were a small but loyal bunch, and as the world fell apart we gathered and created and forged some new friendships. This year, I’ve handed off the franchise to the Fernie Arts Station who are taking it to the next level in hopes of bringing more people into the #FernieArtStreak. It looks like we’ll be hunkered down for a bit still, so this is something we can all do together in different places. There won’t be table-talk or the gentle razzing that happens when families play games together, but 
to be part of it all you have to do is make something. Simple, right? If you want to take your game to the next level, you can add the following components for a richer experience (maybe one day we’ll make an app for it, too): 

1. Go to the Arts Station website
at theartsstation.com and look for the Art Streak link for more info. They have sketchbooks with all the word prompts available for you! There will also be prizes for those who make it through to the end.
2. Make something every day, or most days, or some days. Use the official 2021 word prompt list on page 45 to inspire.
3. Post it on your social media with the hashtag #fernieArtStreak and tag
4. Have fun. Make art. Stay safe.