By Jenn Watt
Published August 29, 2017
From the vantage point of 2017, the history of Haliburton School of Art and Design seems serendipitous in the way it grew out of the seed of discussion into a major employer and cultural driver in the Highlands.
It’s hard to believe that in 50 years, the discussion of a group of artists dreaming at a dinner party could spawn the momentum to create what today attracts thousands to Haliburton to express their creativity and embrace the landscape.
After experiencing the high calibre instruction and artistic community, many return year after year. It’s common for students and instructors to purchase seasonal and fulltime residences, becoming part of the fabric of Haliburton – making us richer.
Of course it wasn’t serendipity or any magic that made HSAD into the success story it is today. It was many people feeling ownership and love for an institution, which grew because of their effort.
What is most remarkable about HSAD, and the larger Haliburton community in general, is what a big dream it has always been. Its founders imagined a “Banff of the east” and pursued that vision. They took practical steps and slowly started to build. Joined with Fleming College, it grew year over year. Staff aimed for excellence and that’s what they produced.
When it came time to expand in a big way, again, big dreams became reality with a new campus in 2004 to accommodate the ever-growing demand for an arts college in the woods.
All along the way, it has been because people have been willing to dream big and take risks that the college has grown. Had that original crew of artists decided the idea was too absurd the school would never have started. Had staff of the school, government funders, the municipality and the generous community not believed in what the school was capable of achieving, the new campus would never have been built.
HSAD isn’t the only Haliburton institution to demonstrate the power of big dreams powered by the engine of a supportive community. Our two village hospitals, the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion and the elementary school campuses show similar vision.
When the alternate education centre was being renamed for former school board trustee Leonard Salvatori, he told the audience about the risk the board took in buying the land that now connects JDHES, SBES, the alternate ed centre with the high school. An investment at the time ended up creating a large, public property for local children to enjoy, giving the board plenty of room to grow.
It has paid off time and again when this community has decided to embrace big dreams and pool resources for major projects.
Creative thinking and a willingness to take some risk has greatly improved the lives of people in the Highlands and has worked to attract new people to the community.
It is a good lesson as we move forward, planning next phases for the Highlands.
While not every big idea will be a winner, we do need to keep our minds open to taking risks for the betterment of the whole.