Theatre Night in Merrickville’s ‘Theatre in the Making’ : A Collaborative Playwright Journey for the Whole Village

By Tia Lutes

 

Have you considered becoming a playwright or wondered how much love, blood, sweat, and tears go into writing a play? You are a talented actor who enjoys arts and writing so being a playwright should be second nature….right? Wrong! There is so much more to becoming a playwright than meets the eye, and nine budding playwrights in the Ottawa Valley can certainly attest to this.

It all started with a premise, a gathering of artists, and the courage to take a leap of faith!

This journey began in September 2018 for Theatre Night in Merrickville. Brian, one of TNIM’s members, approached the executives about Trafalgar 24; an event he attended and presented as a possible basis for a TNIM production. The premise of Trafalgar 24 was that 6 professional playwrights composed and performed 6 script synopses in 24 hours. The purpose of the event was twofold: fundraising for Driftwood Theatre and allowing the audience to choose which script would be developed into a full play. Brian’s presentation ignited interest and the executive began strategizing how to transform this initiative into something our own restricted resources could support. At the same time, Helen (another TNIM member) and I had the honour of attending a SPARC Community Gathering in Almonte. Here, we were introduced to SPARC and were amazed with the sense of community, networking, and support given to artistic groups within rural areas. We were surrounded by kindred spirits and rejuvenated by the spirit and energy present in the hall. That afternoon, we discovered how we could combine the idea of Trafalgar 24 with the SPARC collaboration initiatives to create a memorable event for everyone.

Utilizing our new found connections, Helen contacted Michael Clipperton of SPARC and Theatre Ontario to ask if he would do us the honour of facilitating a playwright workshop. To our delight he agreed…yahoo! Everything was falling into place as if fate had destined it to be!

Hearing back from Michael we continued planning our journey: A four day playwright workshop in February and March, then periodic write-arama meetings, and finally excerpts from the plays produced in early June in a gala evening. Akin to Trafalgar 24, the winner of our gala, which we titled Theatre in the Making, would be our Theatre Night in Merrickville entry to the Eastern Ontario One Act Festival in November 2019. It was also at this point that we decided this was the ideal time to reach out and form some collaborations with other artistic groups in the surrounding areas. We opened the workshop to other thespian groups as we welcomed both old and new faces to our green room and within our Thespian Tale family. We then reached out to the Merrickville United Arts Centre (the old united church recently restored into an events centre) with the hope of developing a relationship with the owners and using this as our event venue; strengthening our sustainability within the community and forging new relationships that foster a broader sense of community within the village we call home.

The weekend of February 9th-10th we welcomed Michael to our green room to start our writing journey. Nine talented individuals eagerly and enthusiastically gathered around the tables equipped with pen, paper, laptops, and of course cups of coffee/tea and goodies. They all seemed confident in their abilities to be a playwright and excited to commence writing. Nonetheless, as Michael spoke and shared the basics of writing a strong dialogue their sense of confidence began to waiver. Have no fear! Michael presented them with a tool box filled to overflowing with suggestions and tricks of the trade.

Over two weekends, with Michael’s calm and quiet guidance, these playwrights became parents and gave birth to their plays. Subsequently, like parenthood, these playwrights learned that there is no right or wrong way and there are always moments when that blank page stares judgmentally back at you. Then there are the unwelcome visits from Mr. Writer’s Block, Miss Busy Body, and Mother Nature which results in self consciousness and doubt. Nevertheless, no matter what, these playwrights learned the most important lesson, to be tenacious! For that is the true definition of a playwright – or any artist really – someone with tenacity and courage! With those two essentials in one’s tool box anything is possible!

The moment of truth came on June 8th, 2019 when the playwrights took a deep breath and shared their babies with the world in their premier staged readings. In the sanctuary of MUAC, with a sense of tranquility, energy, excitement and anticipation, 21 talented actors ranging in age from 11 to 70 brought the 6 plays to life. The evening was a smashing success as an audience of 88 thespian lovers and aspiring thespians alike engaged to the fullest and the unthinkable happened… a tie for first place! Despite having a winner (or two) each play is deserving of further attention and love as they all hold immeasurable potential!

Through this endeavour, not only did the playwrights learn about tenacity and courage, but so did the Theatre in the Making team. There were many trials and tribulations along the journey, but in the end it was a great initiative that created numerous relationships. These relationships will only grow stronger as we encourage the village and other artistic individuals and groups to join us on future collaborative journeys.

Northern Arts Events Bridge the Gap

By Jason Manitowabi, Northern Outreach Coordinator

This spring, arts events held in Sudbury and North Bay helped to showcase Northern talent across many disciplines, ultimately working to bridge the gap between the higher populated urban areas of the province such as Toronto and Thunder Bay.

The 2019 Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards, produced in association with Music and Film in Motion, offered a 3 day schedule of film, music and nightly showcases in Sudbury, Ontario. Sessions included a Safer Bars & Spaces training program, and workshops on screenwriting, radio and streaming, navigating film funding, and film technologies. There were also short film showcases and a screening of the “Goalie” biopic of goaltender Terry Sawchuck. Nightly music performances by Melody McKiver and Darius Gray, Mclean, Rose-Erin Stokes, Kalle Mattson, Nick Sherman and Rico Littledeer,  Frank Deresti and the Lake Effect, Greyson Gritt, Jennifer Holub, The Honest Heart Collective, MC Silvertongue and TESSA complimented the daytime programming.

Sudbury has a long history of showcasing Northern talent and, at the same time, makes a great stop for high-profile acts that tour through Ontario, including John Fogerty and Snoop Dogg recently. Sitting in the heart of the province, Sudbury offers a convenient link from North to South and is a diverse city of representation and exploration.

North Bay hosted the Cold Waters Media Arts Symposium & Festival on June 12-15. Sessions and workshops took place at Nipissing University and showcases were held in local venues including the Capital Centre and White Water Gallery. Presentations included MANO (Media Arts Network of Ontario) Mornings that featured expert talks on relevant industry topics, such as: Policy, Advocacy, and Strategy in the Arts, Making and Thinking Alongside the North, and Preserving Indigenous Knowledge within the Digital Domain. The Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council had regional representatives lead workshops and offer insight on granting programs. Evening Programming featured Nearly Far Away // Far From Near (by Rihkee Strapp with Tejhler Leadbeater and Jeremy Saya in collaboration with Amanda Lindenbac) and Ways of Listening (with Darren Copeland, Anyse Ducharme, Zoe Gordon & ElizaBeth Hill), which were wonderful compliments to the knowledge-packed daytime presentations.

 

North Bay is conveniently located within 4 hours of Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury and Manitoulin and has a rich Indigenous history of the Anishnabek whom call the area home. Its rich medicine producing grounds have long provided for the people of the land. It was refreshing to see the digital era of art showcased with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous representation, with showings and sharings of medicines, culture and professional artistry.

Scugog Cultural Connections Symposium

The following post was written by Carey Nicholson, a member of the Scugog Cultural Connections Symposium planning committee. This event was held on April 11 & 12, 2019 and it received support from SPARC’s Collaborative Community Initiatives Program in October 2018. 

The next deadline to apply for support from the Collaborative Community Initiatives Program is Friday, June 28th. This will be the final deadline for 2019! For more information about the program email rebecca@sparcperformingarts.com . 


The Scugog Cultural Connections Symposium was held Thursday, April 11 & Friday April 12 at the Wellness and Resource Centre of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation (MSIFN). This first ever multi-arts symposium in Scugog was hosted by the Scugog Council for the Arts (SCA) with the generous support of the MSIFN and SPARC – Supporting Performing Arts in Rural and Remote Communities.

The idea of a multi-disciplinary event developed in mid 2018 as an action to support the SCA’s strategic goal to reanimate the SCA and reconnect the organization with the community and each other. A planning committee was created and included artist and SCA president, Marion Meyers, SCA Board member and Theatre on the Ridge artistic director, Carey Nicholson, arts management consultant, Karin Eaton, Scugog Chamber of Commerce executive director, Kenna Kozak, MSIFN band council member, Della Charles and community representative, Louise Bardswich. Arts administrator, Allena Litherland was engaged as the symposium project co-ordinator. Through conversations and tasks identified in the SCA’s strategic plan, the committee began work in October 2018 and was able to quickly settle on a theme that had universal appeal and value, not only to the local artists and arts organization, but other sectors in Scugog.

The theme of the event was audience building for arts and culture practitioners and organizations, and the overarching message, carried through the event and echoed by all the guest speakers, quickly became apparent – “Engage your heart to inform your mind to build your audience”. And hearts were engaged on the opening Thursday evening of the symposium as 60 plus delegates, representing all facets of the local arts and culture community, were guided through a smudging ceremony and a Talking Feather Circle by MSIFN cultural coordinator Matthew Stevens. Also in attendance were representatives from the local business community and municipal government, including Mayor of Scugog Township, Bobbie Drew.

In the context of the Talking Feather Circle, an activity that could have been a basic networking exercise became a much more meaningful and impactful experience. The Talking Feather Circle gave permission for participants to become present, and enabled them to listen and to share. Scugog artists and community leaders also experienced their community reflected back through the eyes of newcomers and visitors, and were reminded that Scugog has a unique arts community of strength, connection, diversity of interests, and passion. The experience was a gift that reminded attendees that the strengths of Scugog as a community can too easily be taken for granted. Afterwards, there was a collective sense of having slowed down and become aware of the great density and “noise” of our lives and environment that can block our abilities to connect to ourselves, and each other.

The sense of the circle continued on Friday through the symposium presentations and break out sessions, including a keynote speech by Jason Maghanoy (playwright and Director of Membership and Partner Success with Toronto Life Magazine) and panellists Marion Meyers (Scugog Council for the Arts, Artist, Branding Specialist), Kim Blackwell (Managing Artistic Director, 4th Line Theatre), Leslie Hughes (Social Media Guru – PUNCH!MEDIA) and Heather Kanabe (General Manager, Hamilton Fringe Festival).

In every presentation, amidst the vast practical information and expertise shared by the panellists, participants were encouraged to utilize the circle and come back to the heart and truth of their own stories. Time and again, the encouragement and message was to use those stories to speak to audiences through brand messaging, to be genuine and passionate about their work, and remember that relationships built on authentic stories build strong partnerships. The key to connection? We need to know ourselves and our values, and it is through our stories that we speak about our work, our past and our future.

After a day and a half of information, inspiration, new ideas, connections and open hearts the symposium came full circle with a performance of dancing and drumming by the MSIFN, concluding with an intertribal dance inviting all participants to take part and join the circle with the performers.

The success of the symposium was apparent in the conversations at the end of the day on ideas shared, skills to be developed, actions to be taken, and a greater connection with existing and new friends and associations. The symposium also provided the SCA with valuable feedback to fuel new ideas as it moves forward and continues its own revitalization. The SCA will build on the success of this event and plans to bring the community together again in 2021. Until then, the circles created at this inaugural symposium will continue to ripple outwards into the community and beyond.

To learn more about the Scugog Cultural Connections Symposium, future similar events, or to become involved with the SCA, visit www.scugogarts.ca or contact the SCA directly at info@scugogarts.ca.

 

 

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