Community Spaces in Places of Faith Survey

There are 27,000 faith buildings (defined as a church, temple, synagogue, mosque or gurdwara) in Canada.

One third are set to close in the next ten years.

Having visited and worked with many faith communities, Faith & the Common Good postulates that most places of worship are home to at least one not-for-profit organization. Twelve step groups, the foodbank, blood donor clinics, arts groups or community meetings, are all occasionally housed in places of faith. Where will all these activities go in the absence of faith buildings?

Faith & the Common Good has partnered with a number of other organizations, including the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario Not-for-Profit Network, the National Trust, Cardus, the Rural Ontario Institute, ArtsPond, ArtsBuild Ontario – and SPARC! –  to conduct a two year study that aims to enumerate the following:

How many not for profit and community groups currently run programming out of faith buildings?

If you, or a group you know, conducts activities out of a place of faith please complete the ten minute survey by going to  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/communityspacesinfaithplaces . We appreciate your help in this endeavour to strengthen the not for profit community and save our affordable spaces.

 

The Rivers Speak Story: A Community-Created Documentary Film

Thinking Rock Community Arts is receiving support for their documentary film project through SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives program. This project has a longer timeline than some of the others that have received support, so instead of only writing an end-of-project reflection post, Miranda is updating the SPARC community partway through…


By Miranda Bouchard (Acting Artistic Director)

For the past several months, Thinking Rock Community Arts has been working on a documentary film-based legacy project to celebrate and commemorate the Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak project. What is this project, you ask? And what is Thinking Rock Community Arts?

 

 

About Thinking Rock Community Arts

We’re a nonprofit community arts organization – and SPARC member – based in Thessalon, Ontario that creates art with and for the people living along the North Shore of Lake Huron, from Spanish to Sault Ste. Marie and all points in between. We invite people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to join us in playing, making and dreaming about this special place we call home – as it was, as it is, and as it might be. Our governance, staff and artistic teams represent professional established and emerging rural artists of First Nations, Métis and Settler descent who share a burning desire to explore how we can together begin to create spaces for dialogue and mutual understanding through multidisciplinary, multi-generational, cross-cultural community-engaged art projects.

About the Rivers Speak Project and the Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak Community Play

Between 2013 and 2017, Thinking Rock engaged more than 3,000 people in the multi-year process of co-creating and presenting a participatory, cross-culturally collaborative community-engaged play – Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak. The culminating performance was presented in September 2017 at the Mississaugi First Nation Pow Wow Grounds by a cast of over 40 Anishinaabe and Settler community members aged four to eighty, and led by a team of 20 professional Indigenous and Settler artists (musicians, dancers, theatre and visual artists) from Algoma and beyond. The play was developed in partnership with local Anishinaabe Elders, knowledge holders, youth and community partners, and was performed in Anishnaabemowin, French and English. It combined art forms, stories and histories from local Anishinaabe and Settler traditions, welcomed over 600 audience members from local towns and reserves, and was performed to much local media acclaim.

Following the play, Thinking Rock launched three projects to document and celebrate the legacy of the Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak Community Play – including the Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak Community Play Mini Documentary Film, which received support from SPARC’s Community Initiatives Fund, as well as the Ontario Arts Council’s Northern Arts program.

About the Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak Community Play Mini Documentary Film (so far!)

The Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak Community Play Mini Documentary Film is a crucial legacy component of the Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak Community Play, in that it will provide an invaluable audio-visual record of the dynamic, multi-faceted, cross-cultural, intergenerational, multi-year community-engaged art making process that was the Rivers Speak. The project left in its wake a vibrant array of new relationships, experiences, memories and impacts for individuals, communities and partners who participated in it – including Mississauga First Nation, Blind River, Elliot Lake, Serpent River First Nation, AlgomaTrad, Timber Village Museum, SKETCH Working Arts and Jumblies Theatre. Through its production and distribution, this film will capture and share those experiences with a much wider audience than the play itself could have hoped to reach, and potentially inspire other similar projects in other communities.

The Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak Community Play Mini Documentary Film is being led by Thinking Rock’s professional artistic team, which includes local media company Village Electric, professional musicians from AlgomaTrad (both fellow SPARC members) and Jon Cada – SPARC youth delegation member, resident of Mississauga First Nation, Rivers Speak participant and Thinking Rock Board Member.

Together with Village Electric, we have been working with the partners, community participants and volunteers who have been involved in the Rivers Speak project since 2013 to create a professionally-produced documentary film short that tells the project’s story from conception to completion: how it came about, the process of its making, the relationships created, the challenges and joys encountered on the way.

The film will explore this journey by incorporating amateur in-house footage and photos we’ve gathered throughout all five years of the community-engaged process leading to the final Rivers Speak production – including Elders’ sharing circles, community art-making and skill-building workshops, community outreach sessions, casting and rehearsals. It will blend this amateur footage with professional documentary footage of the play itself shot by Village Electric, as well as interviews they conducted with key artists and community participants about their experience taking part in the project. Finally, it will incorporate professional footage of our other legacy activities related to the project, including the Rivers Speak Evolving Gallery and the Rivers Speak Soundtrack recording project.

The documentary film will also feature a unique component: a professionally recorded, community-generated soundtrack. Concurrent to the Mini Documentary Film Project, during the summer of 2018 we reunited the original Rivers Speak community cast at AlgomaTrad camp and the Mississaugi First Nation Pow Wow Grounds to professionally record the original soundtrack to the play, which featured powerful music – created in collaboration with practising musicians, Anishinaabe traditional singers and community members – that draws on Anishinaabe, Scottish, Irish and French Canadian musical traditions. Last month, key members of the Rivers Speak musical team reunited to mix those recordings and begin the mastering process. Once ready, this original soundtrack will be incorporated into the film.

At Thinking Rock, the use of community-engaged artistic processes to build bridges of understanding and create pathways toward reconciliation is fundamental to our work. The Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak Community Play Mini Documentary Film has allowed us to continue bringing our community participants along that journey with us by co-creating a legacy project that centres their Rivers Speak experience and conveys our shared ownership and pride in what we’ve built over the past five years. Hopefully it will inspire others across Turtle Island to start and continue on their own journeys toward reconciliation.

We look forward to continuing the process and sharing the final outcome of the Gigidoowag Ziibiik: The Rivers Speak Community Play Mini Documentary Film project in the near future!

A Work(shop) In Progress: Skill Building for Our Collective and the Community

by Andy King and Laura Cameron

Five weeks and five events later and our series of capacity building workshops have come to an end. Through the support of SPARC and their Collaborative Community Initiatives program, we were able to gain facilitation experience, create leadership roles, and explore different aspects of what those in the community would be interested in participating in. Collaboration is something that we value at the core of Youth Elevating Youth.

While our collective is still new and there are a few things we’re still working out, there has never been a question of whether or not we should place a heavy focus on creating opportunities for people to collaborate through projects or through skills sharing. So we were happy to receive the support of SPARC in helping to create spaces of capacity building and partnership.

We reached out to local facilitators with varying lived experiences and were lucky that so many creative people were excited to join us. Veanna and Tamer from the Laidlaw Foundation led a workshop on grant writing for us and for people of all ages who were interested in furthering their artistic community-focused endeavours that might require funding or seed money. It was clear that they love inspiring others to make changes in their community through the arts and that is something we will take with us through our process as well. This workshop gave opportunity for participants to share their ideas for the community and it was exciting to see so much passion for change.

We are fortunate to have the support of Sheatre to assist us and were happy to welcome members from their organization to facilitate as well. Joan Chandler led a very meta workshop about leading workshops. She was able to walk us through an uplifting and engaging workshop that conveyed the ins and outs of facilitating and how to structure an event, drawing on her experience. We hope to be able to use this knowledge in our future workshops. Warren Bain, also of Sheatre, led participants through a workshop inspired by Theatre of the Oppressed, Image Theatre, and Theatre for Living. This workshop, Theatre for Conversation, opened an inquisitive dialogue about ourselves and how we communicate with others, effectively or otherwise.

We reached out to Michael O’Connell from Toronto’s Sketch and Winston Boudreau, a community youth mentor for the Saugeen First Nation; both agreed to sit with us to discuss anti-oppression and how it affects each of us, not only within the community but in all facets of life. This workshop was designed to facilitate a healthy dialogue without inadvertently or subconsciously adding to the oppression that marginalized people face daily. This was important to us because we have all seen or felt oppression in one form or another so working together to learn about areas where we, or others, have been hurtful is one step toward putting a stop to it. The process of unlearning can be complicated and isolating but joining others on a similar journey is crucial, and hearing the voices of those who our words have hurt is even more so.

Through this experience, YEY was also able to create facilitation opportunities for local artists who have yet to have that experience. Youth Elevating Youth members Skye Cormier and Maxine Iharosy facilitated a Mindfulness and Intuitive Arts workshop that was fun, inviting, and challenging. Giving space for new facilitators to make their start in sharing their knowledge and particular area of interest, in turn, gave attendees an opportunity to explore their inner selves through meditation, a collage inspired by SoulCollage, and write a poem or prose based on the results. In a survey we created we asked: “What did you take away from this workshop?” and we got some great responses. One respondent said they learned to: “Be more okay with being uncomfortable. Be open to vulnerability,” and another said “Be more thoughtful. Try to realize why you do the things you do.”

Though there were bumps in the road and a couple of dates had to change, we were pleased to see everything run as smoothly as it did. We have learned from this experience and are so grateful to SPARC for the opportunity to create these workshops as spaces for people to learn and gain experience, something that we feel is not offered enough in this area. We hope to continue working with the people and spaces with which we made connections as we grow and expand on our vision to create leadership roles and art projects for the youth in our community.

SPARC At the Folk Alliance International Conference

Folk Alliance International ‘s mission is to serve, strengthen, and engage the global folk music community through preservation, presentation, and promotion. The FAI folk umbrella represents the broadest international iteration of the genre, encompassing a diverse array of music including Appalachian, Americana, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Francophone, Global Roots, Indigenous, Latin, Old-Time, Traditional, Singer-Songwriter, Spoken Word and every imaginable fusion. Each year FAI hosts the world’s largest gathering of the folk music industry and community at their annual conference. This year, the conference returned to Canada, and took place in Montreal from February 13-17.  The conference theme explored the artistic process from inspiration to vocation.

SPARC’s new Northern Outreach Coordinator – Jason Manitowabi –  and SPARC steering committee member David Newland were in attendance at the conference, and they share their experiences below!


 

“What an amazing experience! A newbie to this massive gathering of musical minded groups and individuals and the who’s who of industry was something I will not soon forget. You can be sure I am now hooked and am gearing up for New Orleans 2020! Attending on behalf of the Festival that I present, I was also invited to partake in the International Indigenous Music Summit. Being Odawa from Wiikwemkoong and working for an Indigenous Arts Organization, I was thrilled. We discussed ways to maintain a steady and staring relationship with mainstream within the alliance! I might also add that it was very uplifting to know that, in music and art, it is nearly impossible to see another artist as anything else but an artist first, aside from nationality, race, background or gender. Music and art is a world language! I also had a chance to hear northern artists’ challenges, coincidently enough to my new position at SPARC as the Northern Outreach Coordinator!” — Jason Manitowabi

 

“There was something about having 3000-plus delegates crammed into the Queen Elizabeth  hotel in Montreal for FAI2019 that was almost too much. I did a lot, but I felt I missed more. Between my own private showcases, hosting a showcase for Folk Music Canada, and interviewing members of the Wisdom of the Elders panel, I was busy. I was also a first-timer mentor for two newcomers, Melanie Peterson and Mihi Mihirangi. Add in in the various acts I managed to catch (Digging Roots, Annie Sumi, Benjamin Dakota Rogers, and Madeline Roger were highlights) and it starts to look manic. Still, apart from the frenzy, FAI2019 was positive. The Indigenous Music Summit, not formally a part of FAI but nestled within it was inspiring. While most sessions were closed to non-indigenous delegates, there was a palpable excitement with more than 40 Indigenous acts showcasing throughout the weekend. Buffy Ste. Marie and Tanya Tagaq both contributed tremendously. The Summit’s Summary Circle, convened by ShoShona Kish, included both Indigenous and non-indigenous delegates, and offered clear and useful thoughts for all. That, for me, was the heart and the spirit of FAI 2019.” — David Newland

 

To learn more about Folk Alliance International, visit https://www.folk.org/

SPARC Mini Symposium 2018

The following post was written by Peggy Raftis, one of the organizers of the Mini SPARC Symposium in Harriston. This Mini-Symposium was held on Saturday, October 20th, 2018 and it received support from SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives Program last June. 

The next deadline to apply for support from the Collaborative Community Initiatives Program is Friday, June 28th. For more information about the program email rebecca@sparcperformingarts.com . 


When the idea of exploring what a South Western SPARC hub would look like arose, there was significant interest from many groups. Locations and ideas where discussed and goals were set out.  Numbers dwindled a little and, as a result, a small – but determined! – sub-committee was formed. It was decided, to help gauge whether there was genuine interest, that hosting a ‘mini’ symposium would be a great way of engaging like-minded people and uniting them within this geographical area.

The selection of the time frame and date was difficult as we wanted to compliment what Haliburton was doing and not compete with other events within our own organizations and area.  We decided to host this in October as that would give us enough time to make arrangements such as booking venue, food and most importantly, speakers and attendees.

Three topics were chosen to provide information in three key areas: Audience Development,  Marketing and Promotion, and Grant-Writing. Using many resources such as SPARC, Theatre Ontario, Google searching, and personal connections, invitations were sent to speakers, asking for them to advise on expected remuneration as we need to prepare a cost analysis to determine the budget.  We were able to make this an affordable event thanks to support from SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives program, creating the food budget based on the number of people that actually attended, using donated decorations and securing the support of the local municipality through the Minto Culture Round Table.  Of course, there are always the last minute cancellations and we were fortunate to have talented people within the group that filled programming gaps.  Invitations were sent via email and social media postings were made as well as articles in the county newspaper.

From the moment attendees started to arrive at the Mini Symposium, there was a buzz of enthusiasm and creativity in the air.  Although our group was small, the agenda was full of presenters and speakers that kept the audience engaged. Our sub-committee, a core group of individuals from Minto, Chesley and Elora, managed to pack the day with information on effective grant writing, audience development, engaging youth and marketing and promotion.

We received significant positive feedback from the attendees, indicating the session not only provided tools and information that could be put to use in their own organizations, but also that the networking and contacts made throughout the region would prove to be invaluable. Of course, the biggest hit of the day was the scrumptious food catered for the event!

The purpose of holding the Mini Symposium was to build on what SPARC has started at their biennial symposia; to strengthen the network and encourage communication and collaboration in this area so resources and support could be geographically accessible.  We feel this mandate was met, however, the event could have been more successful if more people attended. Same old story “getting bums in seats!”

11 Days Left to Apply to Host the 2020 Symposium

The SPARC Symposium is a biennial gathering that brings together SPARC members as well as other creators, presenters, producers, community animators and funders involved in the performing arts in rural and remote communities across Ontario. The symposium provides an opportunity for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, networking, and laying the groundwork for future collaborations.

This is one of our favourite activities. There’s an energy in the air at SPARC symposia that’s hard to describe…an electricity, if you will, generated by the excited, thoughtful, inspiring conversations between attendees as they share their passion for animating their communities, and learn more about what others are doing to animate theirs. We are especially excited that the symposium is now moving around the province; after two years in Haliburton, the 2018 symposium was held in Cobalt, Ontario – a tremendous success. Where will it go next? What community will we have the opportunity to work with, learn about, and become immersed in during the 2020 symposium? Could it be yours?

Organizations interested in hosting the 2020 symposium in their community are encouraged to submit a letter of interest by February 25th, 2019.

For more information about what is required of the host community, how they work with the SPARC Network, and what the symposium entails, download the call for proposals here

 

 

To read some reflections on the 2018 symposium in Cobalt, check out these blog posts:

Leaping into Rural Arts – A reflection on the 2018 SPARC Symposium by youth bursary attendee Katy Grabstas

Personal and Interconnected: On Remembering, Keeping Busy, and the SPARC Symposium 2018, Cobalt  – A reflection written by Felicity Buckell, Symposium Coordinator 

 

 

Alchemy Artist Residency

By Claire M Tallarico, Founder | Alchemy Residency

Alchemy provides a safe and vibrant community for artists to live, work and share space, time, food and ideas. Long after they leave our Residency, artists create and participate in collaborative opportunities to make and exhibit work. Making art is often a solitary practice. In contrast, Alchemy’s participants and guest artists connect and become part of the fabric of the rural Ontario community Alchemy calls home. Alchemy’s community roots grow annually through the thoughtful participation of working artists in:

  • Art making
  • Food sharing
  • Garden and land exploration
  • Community engagement

The best way to share the thinking behind Alchemy is to share our story.

Eight summers ago I was at a self directed writer’s residency. To get over what I thought was a case of temporary writer’s block, I flipped through a colourful pile of old magazines in hopes of finding the inspiration to finish a languishing short story. Instead, what began to emerge from that day (and those that followed) was a passion for collage making, mono printing, abstract painting and eco dying. At that same time, I also found a creative outlet as a volunteer on Toronto Island at the Artscape Gibraltar Point‘s (AGP) vegetable garden. The AGP garden, as well as my own small but mighty city-side plot, fed another side of my soul — I am also a trained cook. I began to explore how visual and culinary arts could coexist or, pardon the pun, feed each other.

Combining these interests and sharing them with other like-minded artists, cooks and makers was a most rewarding creative experience.

This evolved into Alchemy: An artist run residency devoted to exploring the synergy between artistic practice and the cooking and sharing of locally cultivated food in a community setting. Participating artists in a variety of mediums (visual arts, sculpture, photography, performance art, writing or video) are inspired by their surroundings and share food, work and ideas in a communal and creative space.

Creating this residency is satisfying and enriching on so many levels; from meeting artists from Canada and abroad and seeing their desire to share ideas about this topic, to being part of some kick ass dinners and discussions.

In five years Alchemy has grown from an eight-day residency for seven artists on Toronto Island to two separate sessions for 2019. We are going back to our Island roots and offering our first spring residency April 15-22 (one spot left as of this writing!) And then our third summer (August 9-20) in Hillier, a town of 100 in a quiet corner of Prince Edward. Our summer home in Hillier is Chef Jamie Kennedy’s farm as well as two adjoining farmhouses. One of the original 2015 alchemists –Tonia di Risio a visual artist from Red Head Gallery is my collaborator, co conspirator and co facilitator.

We are now exploring alternative funding to lower the cost for artists to participate in Alchemy. You will find information about our first bursary this year – for an Ontario based artist in any form of practice. Alchemy is a labour of love — it costs money to house and feed everyone and offer stipends to those who contribute programming. Exploring other ways to finance our hard costs could allow us to offer more artists/ chefs/makers the ability to participate in this unique residency.

By finding new ways to share Alchemy, we hope to also find a way to contribute to a growing body of new creative thought in Canada and beyond about the intersection of food and art in community settings.


Claire M Tallarico is the founder of Alchemy. She is a Toronto based mixed media visual artist and cook. For more information about Alchemy please visit www.makealchemy.com or Alchemy Residency on Instagram

 

Bridge & Falls Creative Residency

TINY STUDIOS making a big splash on the eastern shores of Lake of the Woods, in the small communities of Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls: for artists & idea professionals – residents & visitors, too!

by Denise Lysak, Cultural Officer | Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls

It is fitting to start by raising a glass, to every artist that simply dares to be an artist. To the painters, the writers, the storytellers, the potters, the felters, and the puppet-makers – the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency is for you. Make no mistake about it…

With the full support of Mayor & Council, the Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls continues to support a framework that bridges our natural environs with tiny “built”, dedicated cultural spaces, designed to create connections to nature, a shared history and heritage, and the greater artistic community in rural and remote northwestern Ontario. Since 2016,

The Bridge & Falls Creative Residency has piqued the curiosity of artists, from near and far away. In all four seasons, northwestern Ontario is one of the most beautiful and geographically interesting places on earth. The perfect place for any creative person to get inspired, the rural and remote Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls hosts a programme for artists-in-residence that affords them the time and space to take a deep dive into their artistic practices. The self-directed residency program is open to a variety of artistic and creative disciplines. A small honorarium and stipend are offered to each participant.

What makes the creative residency local and unique to the communities of Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls are three fundamental aspects:

  1.  Tiny day-use studios, purpose-built to be creative spaces: each with their own set of design/build elements that connect the user to nature and vice versa;
  2. Synergistic partnerships that serve to craft a distinctive platform for the residency program;
  3. A juried process with an open call for applications that asks the “artist” how the residency in the wilds of northwestern Ontario will help shapeshift their particular work.

Residencies happen absolutely everywhere. For the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency in Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls we have taken our inspiration from: Fogo Island, Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Ucross Foundation – just to name a few. And, in communities that surround the Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, one can find artist-in-residency programs. There is a specific hope that we can develop a loop: an artist-in-residency trail that promotes and advocates for each and every residency program in this region. So, pull out a map and look up a few of these creative spaces and you will see that the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency is in very good company indeed: Lighthouse Artist in Residence Program in Thunder Bay; Quetico Artist in Residence Program (Quetico Provincial Park); Artist in Residency at the Experimental Lakes Area; and Artist in Residency in Falcon Lake, MB. In the not so distant future, another residency will be offered in the City of Kenora when the construction of the new Arts Centre is complete, later in 2019!

If you are thinking about starting a residency and wondering, “who will care”? Or “am I all alone in the universe?” It is safe to say, you are not. Let’s circle back to the early days of the residency. Our process began with a community consultation to seek out ideas and common interests. From the very beginning – the idea of a residency and “what it might look like” and “how it would shapeshift the communities of Nestor Falls and Sioux Narrows” were big questions with evolving narratives. Narrowing down the potential and the impact was one of our greatest hurdles. For the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency…the three arching goals are: a) to afford the artist the time and space to create; b) to support interactions between visiting artists and the greater artistic community in our region; c) to blaze a trail, for the visiting artist, with a direct roadmap, by land or by water to the natural environs that truly define the eastern shores of Lake of the Woods.

With the Bridge & Falls Creative Residency (BFCR), we have many people to thank including the artists, the sponsors, the supporting partners, and the brave & bold leaders in our community who stepped up to make it all happen. In the first year, the artists certainly took a chance on an unknown residency and are we ever glad that they did. Since 2016, we have invited 15 artists to jump into their artistic practice and they have come from as far south as North Carolina, as far west as Vancouver, BC and as far east as Brooklyn, New York.

The artists have engaged with the artistic community in the Township by hosting artist talkbacks, by opening the doors to the tiny studios for “open houses”, and by sharing conversations by the campfire, on starbright summer nights with people from near and far away.

If it is fitting to start by saluting the artist, then that is where this blog should end. Here is what Terri Gillis, a playwright and author said about her residency in the summer of 2018: On the Rock allowed me the time, space, and opportunity to put bundles of notes, pages, and thoughts in order. While I was there I was able to see what my writing project is and will become and I had hours of solitude to put words on the page. This is an amazing place where silence exists allowing artists to open their voices and hear the story.”

#air #tinystudios #artandarchitecture #livethelakelife #siouxnarrowsnestorfalls

To learn more about the BFCR, please visit createinsnnf.ca

Harriston Mini SPARC Symposium: An Attendee’s Report

The following post was written by Catherine Frid about her experience at the Mini SPARC Symposium in Harriston. This Mini-Symposium received support from SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives Program last June. 

The next deadline to apply for support from the Collaborative Community Initiatives Program is Thursday, February 28th. For more information about the program email rebecca@sparcperformingarts.com . 


The SPARC Mini-Symposium in Harrison was held on Saturday October 20, 2018.

It turned out to be a wonderful opportunity for arts creators, managers, presenters and organizations in the area to meet each other, hear presentations on a wide range of topics and, last but never least, enjoy great food!

After most hospitable greetings from host Gordon Duff (Town of Minto, Minto Arts Council, and Minto Cultural Roundtable) and George Bridge (Mayor, Town of Minto), we dove into our full agenda.

Marilyn Lawrie, digital Media Manager of the Stirling Festival Theatre, spoke about the pros and cons of radio, print and social media advertising, complete with fascinating statistics on demographic usage of various media and their costs. Bottom line: Facebook ‘boosts’ are very cost-effective.

This was followed by a SPARC update by Eric Goudie, including a reminder about the support available through SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives program.

Then Heather Watterworth of Creative Worth Communications and Design gave an entertaining and thorough presentation on branding – what it is, how it works, and how to know if your brand needs a refresh. She also included a detailed Brand Checklist to help assess how a brand is working.

We paused for a gourmet lunch of salmon medallions, Thai chicken and absolutely delicious vegetarian and even vegan options. And of course irresistible desserts.

After this feast we could have all probably napped for half an hour, so it was lucky that Taylor Keunen and Megan Raftis, members of the Minto Youth Action Council, and youth members of the Grey Wellington Theatre Guild were our next presenters on engaging youth volunteers. They divided us into groups and each group made a ‘pitch’ to recruit for a youth volunteer!

Linda Albright of Arts Network for Children & Youth continued the youth theme, with a compelling talk about the need for strategic co-creations as creating places for youth to belong, to be creative, and to work with people who believe in them. She also highlighted the Toronto Spiral Garden, an ongoing youth co-creation.

Next up, Kate Russell of the Municipality of South Huron made a high-energy and detailed presentation on grant writing that included a comprehensive handout on grants that are available in the area. She emphasized that “the story’s the thing” – you need to tell your story effectively in a grant application.

Sandy Irvin, Arts Communicator and Administrator, focused on Promoting the Performing Arts in Rural Areas in yet another excellent presentation. She spoke of the importance of knowing your local market and yourself, and on building a team and partnerships. And she closed with this excellent quote:

“In my opinion, Minto is among the very few rural communities who understands the importance of the creative economy” — Mark Cassidy, Rural Ontario Institute

The day’s closing presenter was Jane Marsland, from Strategic Arts Management, who spoke to audience development.

Thank you Gordon Duff and SPARC for organizing such a great day!

 

Save Picton Town Hall

The following post was written by Sarah Moran about the work being done by the Prince Edward County Arts Council and a grassroots coalition called ‘Save Picton Town Hall‘. This group (and their many collaborators) received support from SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives Program to complete a strategic plan for a proposal to keep their Town Hall in the hands of the community. 

The next deadline to apply for support from the Collaborative Community Initiatives Program is Thursday, February 28th. For more information about the program email rebecca@sparcperformingarts.com . 


 

A story of loss?

credit: Tim Snyder & Wellington Times

This story starts when our community heard that council was thinking of selling our Town Hall, in Picton, Prince Edward County. Its sale would be a huge loss to all the people using it: art exhibitors, dancers, musicians and theatre groups as well as community groups.  It’s an outstanding public space. The heritage property was built on land donated to the community in 1866 for a hall and farmers’ market. The hall is a precious, publicly owned asset: downtown, affordable accessible space. As such, it was also coveted by developers in this newly valuable real estate market of Prince Edward County..

It would be a battle to save our town hall from developers; many believed it to be a lost cause.

But could this be a story of opportunity?

We knew, from a SPARC symposium held in Prince Edward County in 2016, that local performing artists considered space a top priority for the performing arts to thrive. And we knew from council deputations that there was a strong voice in the broader community to save Picton Town Hall. People were excited to learn of its long history, to discover that the upstairs auditorium had been an opera house, a theatre, a concert hall, a dance hall; the downstairs area was recently vacated, with the possibility of more uses for the community.

A coalition of county citizens started on the job. Called “Save Picton Town Hall”, we’re a diverse group of volunteers: ex-councillor, heritage expert and artist, small business owner, community activists, arts council director, entrepreneur consultant, engineers. We all rolled up our sleeves for what turned out to be many, many months of work.

Save Picton Town Hall Headquarters

With no money and not even a space to meet in, headquarters for all this work has been a hair salon, kindly offered by local business owner, Margaret Watson.

It was clear that no single, not-for-profit or arts sector player in a small rural community like ours could go it alone. In order to keep and enhance the space we’d have to build a viable proposal to council that was multi-stakeholder and multi-use. For that complicated beast, we needed a good strategic plan.

With money from SPARC we forged a strategic plan

Strategic plan you say? Yawn you might think. But building the plan has been at the heart of the effort. All important, and hugely inspiring was the community consultation, with 50 people brimming with ideas for creating a vision of the best possible Town Hall. Local artists volunteered to bring these ideas to life with drawings of the many visions. People had so many ideas for arts presentations of all kinds as well as community events and a farmers’ market. There were suggestions for income generating ideas to support the vision like a food co-op and pop-up businesses such as cafes and other tenant options.

Community consultation in Picton Town Hall

Out of our community consultation came the focus: “To preserve this outstanding public space for arts, farmers’ market and multi-use”. This clear focus was key when so many different groups needed to be engaged: council, downtown businesses, potential partners, likely stakeholders, performing arts groups, other arts groups, community groups, local media and county residents at large.

Our lead strategist, (engaged through the assistance of SPARC funding for a strategic plan,) consultant Duncan Moore, set about equipping us with learning from others. Early on it became very clear that for this project to be viable in the eyes of the community and council, the hall would need to be self sustaining, covering its operating costs independently.

We read up on similar projects. We visited the Tett Centre. We created a communications plan. We detailed an activity timeline. Because of our strategic consultant’s expertise in partnership building, as well as his local connections with businesses, …collaborations began to form.

Pulling the plan together with many collaborators

With our priorities front and centre we set about finding partners who could help turn the vision into a reality. By dint of engaging a host of collaborators the strategic plan was developed. In essence, the upstairs auditorium area would deliver enhanced arts activities and community events, downstairs would offer new space for rental and community use and outside would serve the farmers’ market.

Community vision guiding the strategic plan

Upstairs auditorium

Groove Tonic dancing at the Picton Town Hall. Photo: Graham Davies

The upstairs level was envisaged as a space to enhance and grow current uses, in arts activities and community events. Many organizations in the performing arts are already interested in the initiative. For example, The Regent Theatre is keen on renting space in the Town Hall auditorium because it will enable them to work with more artists; they are also offering to share equipment.  PEC Jazz can see the opportunity for their young jazz musician programme using the space in future. A key part of the plan is to install a digitized booking system. This will enable more people to use the space and assist in driving more revenue while keeping the current affordability in place. Also stepping up with letters of support is a great line-up of County Pop Festival, Comedy Country and Sandbanks Music Festival. Staying in the space will be the Scottish Country Dancers, the Pipe Band, Groove Tonic Dance, Line Dancing, Fire Light Lantern Festival and so much more. The Picton Library, the BIA, the Wine Growers’ Association and others want to be involved now.

Ground floor level

The downstairs, vacated of fire engines, will be renovated and provide an opportunity for income to cover operating costs and for expanded community benefit; a key potential tenant with a high level of commitment is an educational organization for adults who want to share co-located working/meeting areas. Arts groups and entrepreneurs need cost efficient space for occasional use and students enrolled here can benefit from work experience with small businesses renting space. There is a strong market for pop-up spaces for incubating businesses, such as artisanal producers and arts entrepreneurs who want to “test” business ideas in a downtown location at low overhead cost. The County Food Hub, for example has expressed interest as it has a farmers’ co-op.

Outside

A farmer’s market proposal is in place for a seasonal market planned in the very space where land was donated for that express purpose in 1866. In addition, plans are stirring for outdoor performance possibilities.

This mix directly reflects the community wishes and also the cultural heritage of this space.

But what about cost?

In order to complete the strategic plan, a business plan was built. We were fortunate to have an ex-councillor on the team with a finance background. Existing operating costs for the Town Hall were audited. Rental rates in the municipality were audited. Tenants were sounded out. Ways to increase uses were created. This enabled the team to put together a financial plan to demonstrate that operating costs could be covered. The intention is that the municipality retain ownership of the building with community management in place and sufficient income generated to cover operating costs.

The last step in building capacity for our community

The last step was to take the draft strategic plan back to the community for a final consultation,

Making lanterns in the Picton Town Hall for for the annual “Firelight Lantern Festival”. Photo: Ramesh Pooran

which we did in September. This meeting was shortly before municipal elections. We had a great turn out from the general public, including many councillors and council candidates. There was a strong endorsement for the plan and excitement grew about the possibility of a busy arts and community hub at the Picton Town Hall. More people stepped up to support and help.

We used that strategic plan for a proposal to council which was submitted in November. We await their decision anxiously! But we are now feeling much more positive about the likely outcome. Little did we imagine we were going to be able to make it this far. Our various performing arts groups and the broader community are hoping for the best…to keep a thriving life of arts and community growing.  

We await the decision of the municipality. You can find out more on our facebook page, @SavePictonTownHall or on our website http://savepictontownhall.ca/

“It has cultural capital that is priceless. As our public spaces, …our community gathering spaces become rare, as our lives becomes more secular, more withdrawn and less public, we’ll need buildings like the Town Hall with its beauty and its history to act as a cornerstone for our community. …My child has just begun to build memories like that: the first Firelight Lantern Festival, plays, dancing, food not bombs dinners, rehearsals for musicalsA quote from a supporter.

And thank you to the many supporters, too many to name, without whom we would not be where we are.

 

Some discoveries and tips:

  • Viability was all important.

This is where the strategic plan really rocked! We discovered that as we made our case stronger and demonstrated the project’s viability people began to realize we had our act together. Then it was amazing how much they were prepared to help. In effect, they’re not going to waste their time on something they think is going nowhere. So it’s simple. Be really well prepared when you go looking for support.

  • Expect things to take longer than expected.

If you’re working with other partners, anyone with their own internal structures to manage, (especially councils,) expect everything to take longer than expected. Fortunately, slower than we thought usually had its benefits!

  • There’s lots of technology that is helpful…go hunting!

Free apps. Lots of free stuff on Google enabling you to share work. Harvest, enabling you to capture volunteer hours easily. Canva, enabling you to make brochures, posters, invites. It also helps to have people on the team who understand the technology and are patient enough to help those who don’t.

  • Communication, communication.

It’s an effort but worth it. There’s no substitute for community support and we all need it, even if it’s a niche community you need. Find out what they’re thinking and be sure to make a connection with your community; in our case through local radio, local media, social media, town hall meetings, one on one interviews. And it’s inspiring to hear back, it really is, creating lots more energy for your project.