SPARC poised to ignite artful ideas
March 25, 2014
By Darren Lum
Just like the prospect of warmer days, the upcoming four-day SPARC (Symposium for Performing Arts in Rural Communities) is being welcomed as the charge forward into a brighter future. Haliburton County is the ideal location because of its organizations’ ability to work together, said project co-ordinator Rachel Gilooly. “Haliburton County and its performing arts organizations are really unique in terms of the level of collaboration and co-operation that go between all of the various organizations,” she said. “Nobody does things alone without a lot of support from other organizations.
” This first-ever four-day event is from April 24 to 27 at the Fleming College Haliburton campus and will bring together creators, producers, presenters and animateurs of theatre, dance, music and media arts. They will discuss the business of performing arts and building place-based culture to develop rural communities with the purpose of providing a forum to inspire, exchange knowledge, learn new skills, network and develop partnerships, according to the event’s website.
“Everybody’s got very different stories to tell, but there is definitely a theme running through the symposium that addresses those issues,” she said. The participants will come mainly from places with a population of 20,000 or less, including small communities within larger areas such as Peterborough. The event features keynote speakers Inga Petri, lead researcher on the Value of Presenting: A study of Arts Presentation in Canada initiative; Steven Thorne, who will speak about “place-based” cultural tourism; and Scott Walters, founder of the Center for Rural Arts Development and Leadership Education (CRADLE) in the U.S. SPARC is the result of a collaboration between the Arts Council–Haliburton Highlands, Conjurors of County Town, Highlands Summer Festival, Dusk Dances Haliburton, Forest Festival, Haliburton County Folk Society, Sticks and Stones Productions and Those Other Movies and the Haliburton School of the Arts–Fleming College Campus. Besides the 75 pre-registered participants from across the country, the majority from Ontario, the symposium has drawn international interest, including The Walking Theatre Company, based in Argyll, Scotland. The college campus venue is a limiting factor to participation with the cutoff at 140. One of the participants is Sheatre, an arts organization based in Kemble, Ont., which will present a photo exhibition from their rural youth project, Be Our Ally.
“The Be Our Ally photo exhibition sheds light on the strength, fragility and resiliency of rural LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer] youth and their allies in our community,” Sheatre artistic director Joan Chandler wrote in an email to SPARC. “It is part of a multi-arts project that partners the arts (theatre, music and photography) and education in an engaging violence prevention program to teach youth about homophobia, inclusion, LGBTQ reality and friendship.
” Organizers welcome other communities to host their own version of SPARC, Gilooly said. “The whole notion of collaborating on a much, much larger scale, exchanging information about resources and if something worked for us here why would you not let somebody else know what it was that worked and do it somewhere else?” she said. There is a hope SPARC or a similar event will be held every two years in Haliburton. Gilooly said this depends on “desire and the whole notion of being able to form a network” or a need to meet about specific challenges.
There are a variety of registration options. This includes student options and a single day registration is available for Friday and Saturday for $125. See www.sparcperformingarts.com for more information.