Arts council accelerates into 2018
By Jenn Watt
Published Jan. 30, 2018
In the ebb and flow of the 15-year history of the arts council, the organization is in the midst of “an incredible flow” said Jim Blake at this year’s annual general meeting Wednesday evening.
Blake has been active with the Arts Council ~ Haliburton Highlands since the beginning and he told the group of members assembled at the Haliburton Highlands Museum that he was impressed with the accomplishments of the arts council and how they are working toward the betterment of the membership.
Over the last year, the arts council has been more publicly active than usual. To mark the municipality of Dysart et al’s sesquicentennial, it created the DysART 150 Trail, featuring 10 artists in nine local venues plus other permanent works such as the murals on the arena. To guide visitors to the art, the PocketSights app was used with photos, descriptions and video. The tour was available from June 26 to Oct. 10 and benefited from funding from the county’s tourism department and Haliburton County Development Corporation.
Fashion Fallies, a wearable art show previously held at the Art Hive, was resurrected on behalf of the arts council on Nov. 10. The sold-out event was popular and ended up bringing in $1,000 when organizers had planned to break even.
“VAAR, the Visual Artists and Artisans Roundtable ... , held an event in May to create interest and provide information to the community about what a wearable art event actually was,” said Erin Lynch, vice-chair of the arts council and a key organizer of Fashion Fallies. The library also held sessions where people could create work for the event.
“Besides a fashion show with over 50 entries, the event also spotlighted a number of other elements of the arts with live music, spoken word and dance,” she said.
Three groups co-ordinated by the arts council also worked to support the local arts community; the previously mentioned VAAR, the Literary Arts Roundable (LAR) and the Performing Arts Roundtable (PAR) each worked to brainstorm how to better support artists.
Renee Woltz, treasurer of the arts council, gave a presentation on the Literary Arts Roundtable.
She said the first meeting of the group in September brought out a host of recommendations including a need for performance artists to read local writers’ works, illustrators needed for books, affordable courses and workshops, the need for feedback and a space to work, among other things.
“One of the ideas was to have a writer in residence,” Woltz said. A proposal is underway for funding to have such a program in 2018.
“Another interesting project is the idea of creating a program on Canoe FM where local performers can read the work of local writers,” she said. Work on that will begin this spring.
Other ideas included a literary festival, a flash fiction contest, putting together a collection of writers’ work and a creative writers’ registry.
The Performing Arts Roundtable, which includes theatre, music, storytelling and others, had a couple of meetings over the last year. They’ve worked on what venues are available with the hope of creating a database of spaces not only for performances, but also for rehearsals.
They’ve also worked on a new calendar initiative. Called OurCalendar.ca, the idea is to have one central calendar for all events in Haliburton County.
“As we all know, this is a very, very busy community,” said arts council chair Kate Butler. “Whenever you try to put something on, whether it’s arts related or any other community event, you find there’s six other things happening at the exact same time.”
This online calendar would allow everyone to put their events into the same space. It would then be shared with any other organizations that post event, online.
“The hope is we’ll be able to create one community calendar, one spot where you can feed in information and populate other calendars,” she said.
Butler said if the calendar proves useful in Haliburton County, it could be offered to outside communities as a solution to what is likely a problem elsewhere. She anticipated this would happen through SPARC, which stands for Supporting Performing Arts in Rural and Remote Communites, and is another of the arts council’s recent success stories.
SPARC is in its second year of a three-year project, which started in Haliburton, but is now a provincial initiative to bring together those in the performing arts to collaborate and share.
“Our goal is to create an online digital network across Ontario for people in the performing arts,” past chair Chris Lynd said.
“Our goal is to reach the people who produce and create and are the animators in the communities ... we want everybody talking and sharing ideas with each other.”
The three-year project is supported through a $530,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. In the midst of the project, SPARC’s co-ordinator Greg Thomas had to leave the organization when he determined that injuries from an accident prohibited him from continuing. Lynd said the organization wished him the best. Rebecca Ballarin has been hired to the position.
“She is doing an amazing job for us,” Lynd said. A second staff was hired on a part-time basis as the northern representative: Chandel Gambles.
“One of our challenges has been to reach out to truly northern organizations in the province,” Lynd said.
SPARC will need to focus on finding sustainable funding sources to continue beyond the Trillium Foundation project dollars. Director Laurie O’Reilly briefed the membership on a juried art show coming up called Brush In Hand. Carole Finn has offered her gallery space in Minden for the show, which is planned for May. The jurors are being brought from outside the community and there will be a special category for emerging artists. March 26 is the entry deadline and more information is on the arts council website.
And collaboration between the arts council and the Rails End Gallery hit is stride in 2017, Laurie Jones, curator of the gallery and a director on the arts council, told the group. The Art Lovers Staycation planned for the end of February has sold out. Among the workshops offered are line dancing, flash fiction, travel journals and finger painting for adults.
A longtime program of the arts council, Artists in the Schools, continued last year.
Local artists visit local elementary schools to put on workshops, introducing young people to various media and providing the artists with an honorarium. Two major donors to the program were noted: Kennisis Lake Cottage Owners Association, which holds Art on the Dock each year to raise money, and Trillium Lakelands District School Board.
The arts council is doing a survey to gauge what the community wants from its arts council. You can find it until early March on the arts council’s website: www.haliburtonarts.on.ca.