Starts with a SPARC

EDITORIAL, The Haliburton Echo
By Jenn Watt
Monday, August 5, 2013

It could hardly be said that Haliburton’s performing arts scene is floundering. 
Talk to anyone who keeps up on local events and you’ll hear about the spectacular showing at Dusk Dances, the hilarious comedies at Highlands Summer Festival, or the major talents at the Forest Festival, Bluegrass Festival, Music by the Gull, After the Flood concert … the list goes on.
And yet, for those organizing festivals in rural places across the country, there are real challenges. 
Small towns are out of the way for performers; it costs more to travel to shows and can be inconvenient. Audiences also have farther to come.
Grant money is relatively limited for rural arts versus those in urban settings and there is a dearth of professional supports and few venues to choose from, organizers say.
Despite the strong arts community in Haliburton County, performing arts advocates saw gaps in what exists.
They devised SPARC, the Symposium on Performing Arts in Rural Communities, the first of its kind. 
The conference is happening in Haliburton in April of 2014 and should at the very least get the creative juices flowing regarding the business of performing arts.
The hope is that SPARC will address those issues, which are specific to the rural experience with the end goal of boosting the industry in all small towns, including ours.
Haliburton needs this kind of conference.
While the performing arts industry is robust – setting the standard in many ways for other small towns – believe it or not, there’s not enough of it.
Today’s cottagers and summer tourists are looking for more than just pretty scenery and a day on the dock – increasingly, they want cultural events, good food and experiences they can treasure and remember for years to come.
They are also staying here longer, winterizing their lakeside homes.
The increased population means increased demand.
The arts have become one of the defining characteristics of the Haliburton Highlands; to grow our tourist appeal, we need to grow our most promising industries.
How do performing arts organizations bridge the funding gap? Attract more professionals? Find better venues? Make festivals easier to get to? SPARC is set to address those questions. 
Finding the right answers could mean significant growth, not just for the arts community, but for the Highlands as a whole.


  1. As a freelance actress/performer I was absolutely thrilled to have been a part of this great event ( I danced with Randy Glynn`s Work) Your ” Great Wall” of participants was so inspiring . All these accomplished and dedicated people gathered together the rooms vibrated with creativity and hope Congratulations for such an opportunity for Rural areas to become stronger in the performing arts Rachel and Jim were great ambassadors so welcoming and devoted to the cause Thank you all Andrea

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