Ontario Contact 2018

by Wendy Fairbairn, SPARC Network Steering Committee Member & General Manager of the Orillia Opera House

Every year Ontario Presents produces Ontario Contact in various locations throughout Ontario.  What is Ontario Contact? “An exciting, engaging celebration, Ontario Contact is an opportunity for those working in the performing arts touring and presenting sector to come together to network, and to share information in a three-day conference featuring music, dance, theatre, spoken word, and youth orientated programming.”  And that it is.

As a facility manager and presenter it is great to attend this event, which is so much more than your standard conference. Contact is a convergence of likeminded individuals who work in the fields of art and culture daily; people who are passionate about what they do and how they affect the communities they work in.  I always find myself learning a lot from what others are doing, and am always reminded that we all are on similar path – some more advanced than others – but all working towards the same goal: To support arts and cultural in our cities, towns and regions.

The conference is a four-day event but you don’t need to be present for all four days to gather lots of invaluable information.  There are workshops, showcases, pitch sessions, a trade show (which takes place in the aptly named “Contact Room”), breakfast meetings and breakout sessions.   I was lucky to be asked to sit on the panel for the Prologue for the Performing Arts’ breakfast, where the topic was Children’s/Family programing in rural and remote areas.  This being the last day of a very full conference I was amazed at the number of participates who arrived for the 7:30am panel discussion – the room was full!  Facilitated by the Ontario Arts Council, we discussed challenges that are often faced in rural and remote communities, and also spoke about the unique forms of support these communities receive from municipalities, local businesses, libraries, schools and parents.  We covered all the topics we could in an hour – from the cost of busing to winter weather – and then we were entertained (or rather we were guided) by a Prologue performer who had the room dancing, singing, and smiling.  Following this breakfast were a number of breakout sessions for smaller groups with the Northern Young Audience Volunteer Presenters.

On that note, Ontario Contact provides a number of opportunities for smaller networks of presenters with specific similarities to meet. Those present at this year’s conference included the: Ontario Classical Music Network (contact Stan Passfield – stanpassfield@gmail.com), Northern Young Audience Volunteer Presenters (Ceilidh Wood – ceilidh@ontariopresents.ca), Community Presenters Network (Eric Goudie – egoudie@centrewellington.ca), Northwestern Ontario Volunteer Presenters (Ceilidh Wood – ceilidh@ontariopresents.ca). The only one not present was the Ontario Presenters’ Education Network (Ceilidh Wood – ceilidh@ontariopresents.ca) .   These networks are usually made up of presenters from rural and remote communities who work together on event bookings, marketing, ticketing programs, funding opportunities and so much more.   This is the beauty of Ontario Contact – so many people from some many areas all together in one spot, meeting and sharing face to face.

In the beginning Ontario Contact seemed to be geared to the larger facilities but now I see the volunteer presenters and the smaller facilities attending more and more each year.  I think this is a great starting point for so many of these groups to get together and begin sharing ideas and learning from each other.

And no, I’m not on the Ontario Presents membership committee nor am I making any money to promote them,  I just think they do a wonderful job of bringing people together to celebrate the arts.

If you haven’t visited their website please take a few minutes to view it www.ontariopresents.ca and if you’d like to learn more about the resources they provide, you can watch the Expert Chat that Ceilidh and Natalie did for SPARC back in the spring! I also know that any of their staff members would be happy to chat about what they do to support arts in your community.

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