Arts Council reflects on year, eyes future
By Darren Lum
The prevailing theme of the Arts Council ~ Haliburton Highlands at this year’s annual general meeting was all about taking steps forward and inspiring others. They discussed the continued success of events such as the perennially sold-out fashion Fallies, the evolution of SPARC (Supporting Performing Arts in Rural and Remote Communities) as it expands across Ontario, promoting the arts to new people through programs such as writers in residence and Artist in the School and Community, and the introduction of new youth membership.
Prompted by Greg Sadlier, who asked about youth opportunities, board chairperson Kate Butler introduced the new youth membership, which will enable high school students and those enrolled at the Haliburton School of Art + Design to join the Arts Council for $15.
Butler said this will give new members an opportunity “to dip their toe in the water a little bit.”
“It will be a slightly modified membership, but we feel it will be a really good way to connect with young artists in the community, who are just establishing themselves and it will also open up further opportunities for mentoring, which is the word of the night,” she said.
Sadlier suggested the Arts Council facilitate a regular meeting for young artists, who can gather to share ideas, socialize, inspire and be inspired, and possibly provide input to the Arts Council.
Butler and other members were open to the concept. She said this and other ideas discussed will be added to the agenda for the next meeting.
Scott Walling’s nomination to sit on the council’s board was confirmed. Laurie O’Reilly, Laurie Jones and Dan Manley have stepped down. Walling said he is joining the board because he wanted to give back to the community and hopes to be part of an effort to ensure youth stay. The Arts Council welcomes members interested in joining the board to fill the vacancies.
Past chairperson and current board member Chris Lynd spoke about the past art show at Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Invited by Sir Sam’s, the Arts Council recognized the weekend was during the Haliburton Highlands Studio Tour, but didn’t want to pass up the opportunity for exposure to some 1,000 people.
The show was an opportunity to educate the public about the Arts Council, to promote the studio tour artists and studios, and the approximate 24 participating artists, who showcased close to 58 pieces.
Sir Sam’s has already reached out for another show this winter, Lynd said.
She added a January date is being deliberated and may include two shows of six weeks each.
“It’s a great location. It’s a lot of people. Again, not everybody there was looking to buy art, but everybody there was [saying], ‘Wow.’ We impressed a few people that didn’t know the quality and calibre of art that is happening in the community so, hopefully, in the end, you know, it’s all about somebody seeing something,” she said.
SPARC is now entering its fourth year.
“We continue to get encouragement for this project [that] says, ‘keep going, keep going. There is a need for what you do,’” Lynd said.
Hiring Jason Manitowabi as the northern outreach co-ordinator, SPARC has established a connection to communities in northern Ontario for the first time. The key aspect to this wasn’t only reaching people and communities, but also maintaining relationships, Lynd clarified.
Barrie Martin said, “One thing it’s done for Haliburton, it’s really raised our reputation as a true arts community. We’re seen as a standard – this happens in other sectors as well, but certainly from a performing arts point of view.”
Some of the $99,000 Canadian Heritage grant, which is being used this year, will help fund the upcoming SPARC Symposium at The Gathering Place by the Grand from May 7 to 10 this spring at Six Nations of the Grand River, in southwestern Ontario.
“This is very big for us to have Canadian Heritage fund us in this way,” Lynd said.
The theme for the first-time symposium is reconciliation and connection.
Programming by SPARC will also benefit from the grant.
Arts Council secretary Renee Woltz said as SPARC continues to progress in its efforts as a mentor organization, there was a consideration to alter the mandate and mission to reflect this.
There was a preliminary discussion at the meeting, which lasted at least several minutes. Members examined the wording and brainstormed about relevant changes to mirror the evolutionary scope of what served the local area and has grown to include communities across Ontario and, hopefully, will include communities across Canada. Butler said more will be talked about at the Arts Council’s next meeting.
The chairperson added SPARC is “a testament to the group in Haliburton that started it, but also to all people around Ontario who are excited about this and want to be part of it. And, as we’ve always said, success for SPARC will be seeing it as a province-wide organization, not purely Haliburton-based, although of course Haliburton is always going to be its birth place,” she said.