5 Rural Touring Ideas for Presenters: A Performer’s Perspective

By Trevor Copp, Artistic Director of Tottering Biped Theatre, Performer, Actor, Teacher


I’m writing as a performing artist who’s had a great time touring to some Northern communities and I wanted to share some thoughts on what works best from this end.

I love to get up North because, ironically, I like people. There are millions of people in the GTA, but when I perform down here I really have to work to meet them. I can get out in front of hundreds of people and do a show, then not have a soul to have a drink with when it’s over. Up North it’s the opposite – and that’s exactly what keeps me coming back. Northern presenters have the appeal of being in the hospitable and personable culture of the North – and it’s an advantage that can make all the difference for visiting artists.

So here’s a couple of ideas that aren’t expensive – or actively cheaper – than the charges that often come up for visiting artists. Of course these are my preferences and not every artists’ – but you may be surprised how many take you up on this if given the chance.

1. Billeting over Hotels

I prefer to stay with a friendly little family who’ll take the time to show me around and explain the sights and places I’m at over being in another lovely and empty hotel any day. Yes, a door that locks and an internet signal that works are necessary, but beyond that many would be glad of some company.

2. Family meals over Restaurants

Same idea as above. I am totally “restaurant-ed out” by weeks’ end when I’m on tour.

3. A local host

Even if we billet at one place but have a local with the gift of gab come take me around from another – still works. I love having someone with some local pride introduce me to where I’m at, otherwise I’m liable to miss the place despite having driven or flown such a long ways.

4. Hire the Artist, not just the Art

I think that it’s only with multiple visits that a real sense of a relationship occurs – and it pays dividends in all senses. If you bring in a show that has a good commercial angle to it, I can guarantee you that the artist/company has more shows that are even closer to their heart – and probably stronger work – in their repertoire. So if you’ve had a group in once and you and your audience like what they do, don’t bring back just their next show – market that you’re bringing THEM back, whatever they are doing. If you are always trying to market a show you need to reinvent the wheel every time. However, if you can convince your audience to back artists themselves, then the shows are secondary and will sell themselves. The best stuff out there isn’t the most marketable – and this is a way to get to that work. This allows you to present the stuff that the artists care deeply about, without having to stick to what will seemingly market the most easily.

5. Revolving doors are not as fun as they look

At the end of the day, showing up to a community just in time to leave forever isn’t fun for anyone. We don’t get a real connection to the community and you don’t get a real connection to us as people. It’s a lot of work without the sense of relationship that makes it all worthwhile. If I know that we’re in it together for some kind of longterm (arts development plan) I work very differently – and communities respond the same way. This is the kind of sincere energy you want to work with. You’re out there putting in countless hours in to make this work and this is a way for the work to have a long term pay off that makes all the difference.

As a mime maybe I don’t talk a lot, but the difference it makes when a community responds this way is tremendous – and I am keen to give back when it does.

To connect with Trevor and learn about his work, go to www.totteringbiped.ca .

The Ontario Classical Music Network: Connecting and Supporting Classical Music Presenters

This week’s blog post is a little bit different. It is dedicated to providing information about another network in our province that is working hard to support the performing arts – specifically the presentation of classical music – in rural and remote areas. We hope that this post, which includes content from a blog post written by Natalie Dewan at Ontario Presents and some information from network member Stan Passfield, will provide insight into another form of network and will reach others across the province who may be interested in joining this group! Enjoy! 

The Ontario Classical Music Network (OCMN) began with a meeting at Ontario Contact in October 2006. Approximately 30 presenters, artists and agents took part in this meeting, all with a common concern: Classical music had almost no presence at the conference. Following this initial meeting Warren Garret (Executive Director of Ontario Presents) organized another in April 2007, and invited a group of especially engaged people to begin exploring what could be done to remedy this problem.

Fast forward to almost ten years later. In 2015, the Department of Canadian Heritage funded a series of meetings in Ottawa which enabled the official formation of the OCMN. The network was formed to facilitate information sharing and mutual support among volunteer presenters with a shared commitment to bringing high-quality classical music to their communities. According to network member Stan Passfield: “The key word here is ‘Network’. The real value is that the OCMN  has made it possible for classical presenters to get to know one another and to share ideas and experiences. We now work together instead of all by ourselves.”

As stated in their mission, “The Ontario Classical Music Network exists to help each other survive and thrive in a respectful, caring and sharing environment.”

As well as keeping in touch via email, the OCMN holds frequent conference calls, which provide an opportunity for members to ask questions, air concerns, and share information freely.

OCMN Group Photo- Ottawa 2015

The OCMN currently includes:



All members are volunteer-run groups and all are deeply committed to supporting the presentation of classical music in Ontario.

After the official formation of the network in 2015, Ontario Presents was able to begin providing digital marketing support to five members of the OCMN after the network received further support from the Department of Canadian Heritage. This work, coordinated by Robyn Chan-Kent, has enhanced the member’s ticket sales through new social media, email marketing, and web-based ticketing solutions. Stan says that the group is “now moving toward online ticketing systems for the small presenters. But the main action at this point is to help with web-sites, e-blasts, and social media. Small volunteer operations generally do not have access to digital tech stuff.

When asked about the trends he sees in the presentation of classical music, and why the network’s existence is important at this moment in time, Stan responded

Over that past few years several previously healthy organizations have ceased operations. We are working slowly to try to prevent this as we believe that there is a place and need for this type of music in the smaller, rural centres.

There is a considerable portion of society that understand and value art. Many still admire architecture, sculpture, painting, dance, drama,  literature and music that has been created over many centuries and is still being created today. The arts are the manifestation of the incredible imagination and intellect of human beings. This is being submerged in a world that is focused on materialism and instant gratification. It is important that some are willing to fight to preserve the best of that which represents the finest achievements of mankind.

OCMN Digital Marketing MeetingThe OCMN encourages anyone with an interest in presenting classical music to get in touch with them. The network is happy to support dedicated classical music groups, as well as anyone looking to present classical music, whether through a dedicated series, a one-off concert, or as part of a multi-disciplinary series.

New members and questions are warmly welcomed.

Inquiries can be directed to Stan Passfield at stanpassfield@gmail.com.

All Things Technical: Event support, video production & live streaming of the #Cobalt2018 symposium

By Drew Gauley (Member of the Symposium Planning Committee)


The Kobold: Superstitious miners believed these creatures to be expert metal workers who could be heard constantly drilling, hammering and shoveling. Some stories claim that the kobolds live in the rock, just as human beings live in the air. Legends paint them as the mischievously evil creatures blamed for accidents, cave-ins and rockslides. Other tales make them out to be beneficial creatures, at least if they are treated respectfully.


I see many parallels regarding the challenges of technical requirements awaiting us at the 2018 SPARC symposium. With the mythology of the Kobolds in mind, we venture forward respectfully working with the modern Digi-Kobold. We hope for their blessings or, at the very least, their indifference towards our activities.


As a member of the symposium planning committee for the 2018 SPARC Symposium, I took on the role of both coordinating the event’s audiovisual needs and overseeing the live streaming/video producing of the workshops and presentations. In this blog, I’ll talk a little bit about both of these topics, why they are important, and how we plan to pull it off.

Most performers would agree that the work that happens behind the scenes to prepare a show is as much a part of the production as the performers are. We are keeping this in mind as we coordinate the details for all of the events. The activities during the four day symposium fall under a few main categories, including: live music entertainment, daily plenary sessions, workshops and mobile workshops.

First up on Thursday, May 24, during the evening at the Miner’s Tavern, there will be a performance by guitarist extraordinaire Jamie Dupuis . Jamie grew up in the area prior to pursuing a full seven years of study dedicated to his craft. He is presently based out of Sudbury and performs fairly regularly in the Cobalt area. He has gained some notoriety for his command of the harp guitar, with his YouTube videos regularly surpassing 1 million views (over 1 million EACH that is!). This performance, in a casual local venue, will provide the perfect atmosphere to meet new people, network, enjoy light snacks, and unwind after a presumably long travel day. This is in the realm of a live music venue and the in-house PA system will be more than enough for a sole guitarist with occasional vocals. With Jamie’s permission, we may attempt some live streaming and will also document the performance as we kick off the weekend.


Side note: Rumor has it that “back in the day” a mineshaft was dug which strategically exited in close proximity to the Miner’s tavern. Some miners were known to take advantage of a quick drink or two while they were still on shift.



Friday morning will see us tending to what will become part of a two day routine. (A two day routine…can that be a thing?)

After (if not during) breakfast, there will be one of three plenary sessions in the Cobalt community hall. This is where our major technical coordination will manifest. The plenary sessions will be well attended and will call for an appropriately sized PA system, microphones, and video projection for PowerPoint etc. We are choosing to outfit the room with numerous audio speakers so that all audience members are relatively close to a sound source. This is a trick of the trade that allows audio levels to be lower and more direct, which increases intelligibility while minimizing ear strain during long days.

The plenary sessions may also be recorded using multiple cameras and live streamed to the Internet for those who are not able to attend.

In addition, the video content will be recorded into each camera and transferred into the computer for further editing and refining.

These sessions and any other recorded workshops will be translated into English, French and a First Nations language for their long-term availability on the web. Each finished video will also be “enhanced” with descriptive video – a feature for the visually impaired that describes what is happening during a program. We realize that the information being presented during the symposium will have a “shelf-life”, due to the speed at which information and technology advances. For that reason, we recognize how useful it is to quickly make recorded workshops available to those not in attendance (and to give attendees a taste of other workshops that occurred concurrently). Making these resources available online in numerous languages and accessible for those with visual challenges will hopefully make our resources more helpful throughout our diverse SPARC community.

There are morning and afternoon workshops at various venues in Cobalt on Friday and Saturday morning. These workshops and panel discussions promise to provide various perspectives, insights and opinions from a number of sources, while each session focuses on a singular subject or theme. Throughout the symposium, we will use single cameras with microphone feeds to record many of these workshops.

On Friday night there will be a presentation by Jowi Taylor on the Six String Nation project at the Miner’s Tavern. With Voyageur (the Six String Nation guitar) in hand, Jowi will explain how it was made and the historic significance of where each of the instrument’s pieces came from (it even contains some silver from Cobalt!).

The evening will include video projection and a live performance using the Voyager guitar, followed by some talented local performers and an open mic to finish the day.

Saturday starts bright and early again at the Cobalt Community Hall with breakfast and another plenary session, followed by workshops at various venues in Cobalt. But just when you start thinking that a two day routine can actually be a thing, it all takes a turn…for the better! Our small event’s support and technical crew will be running to keep up with the crowds as we relocate equipment to all new locations for the afternoon workshops. To give attendees a change of scenario, Saturday afternoon workshops will be held at various locations in the Haileybury and Temiskaming Shores locales. (Our lunch will most certainly be “to go” on this day!) Once settled, we will continue to record many of these various offsite workshops.

We have put some feelers out through the Digital Creator North program at our local library, to hopefully connect with youth and employ some assistance. This could be mutually beneficial, as I’m sure we will be run off our feet without them, and this event will supply some very real world experience for the right person. Fingers crossed!

To conclude, we see the importance of ensuring that each and every event is tended to with technical support, a strategically planned setting, and the needs of the live audience and on-line spectator in mind. Our goals include: high-quality presentations that are both easily seen and heard; locations that are comfortable; and thorough coordination with presenters so their information may be received in a positive way. Early set-up and rigorous testing beforehand will hopefully keep the Kobolds at bay. If all goes as planned, perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to impress the Kobolds and share a drink or two with them at the Miner’s one evening…

#Cobalt2018 Symposium: Workshop Announcement!

Excitement has been mounting amongst members of the SPARC team and Symposium Planning Committee as the final few pieces of the workshop schedule have been falling into place. Today we want to share that excitement with you! Instead of a traditional blog post this week we have decided to share 13 of the 22 inspiring, educational, thought-provoking, motivating, all-round-AWESOME workshops that you can attend at this year’s gathering. The full workshop list and schedule will be added to the SPARC website over the next week. Keep checking back or watch our social media platforms for updates! 


Rogues in Partnership

Kate Butler, Co-Founder, Rural Rogues Production; Director, Haliburton Highlands Museum; SPARC Steering Committee member, Haliburton Highlands, Ontario

Michael Clipperton, Co-Founder, Rural Rogues Production; SPARC Outreach Coordinator, Haliburton Highlands, Ontario

In this interactive workshop, participants will have the opportunity to learn about overcoming common challenges of rural performing arts through unconventional partnerships, hear about successful ways in which local stories have been used to engage new audiences, and share ideas about keeping rural theatre relevant and sustainable through diversification.

Collaboration, Communication and Reconciliation through the Performing Arts

Frank Blanchet, Musician, former VP of the Brighton Arts Council, retired Teacher/Facilitator in the Correctional Services of Canada, Brighton, Ontario

John French, Executive Director, Brookside Music Association, Midland, Ontario

During this presentation, Frank will share a collection of stories (some humorous, some not) about his experiences using the arts to break down barriers in order to establish meaningful and productive communication with inmates during his career with Correctional Service of Canada. John will share his experience with the conception, creation, and performance of a musical work that was both historically accurate and culturally sensitive and had an objective of providing hope for reconciliation. The work was commissioned to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Champlain in Huronia.

Organizing for Success

Inga Petri, CMRP – Principal, Strategic Moves, Ottawa, Ontario and Whitehorse, Yukon

A frank discussion on boards, community, leadership, and oversight.

Growing Up Rural: The Importance of the Arts

Alyssa Kostello, Idea Machine (writer, producer, performer, facilitator, event planner, Assistant Manager at SmartyPantz Escape Rooms) and grew up in the Tri-towns!, Vancouver, British Columbia

Exploring personal experiences, participants will be guided to consider what the arts do for human development, particularly in rural and remote communities.

Arts in Education and Community

Linda Albright, founder and Executive Director, Arts Network for Children and Youth, Toronto, Ontario

Jessica Sokolowski, elementary educator, arts-based researcher and PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario

Tiina Kukkonen, artist, arts educator, PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario

In this panel discussion, Linda, Jessica, and Tiina will review research, models, and emerging practices in the ‘children and youth arts and creative sector’ within both the classroom and the community at large.

You Couldn’t Ignore Me if You Tried

Katie Huckson, Digital Creator North Program Lead, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Nathaniel Marchand, Digital Creator North Program Lead, Kenora, Ontario

Steve Kozinski, Digital Creator North Program Lead, Temiskaming Shores, Ontario

Laine Helbling, Digital Creator North Program Lead, Sioux Lookout, Ontario

Brittany Sheridan, Digital Creator North Program Lead, Elliot Lake, Ontario

Tyler Levesque, Digital Creator North Program Lead, Timmins, Ontario

Engaging and motivating teens in a digital world: in this interactive and participatory discussion, we will be guided by the youthful leads of the Digital Creator North Program to reflect upon what it means to be working with young people today.

Poetry, Puppetry, and Performance: Making Theatre Work in Rural Settings

Joshua Bainbridge, Actor, Writer, Director, and Artistic Director, Proscenium Club, North Bay, Ontario

Jay Wilson, Actor, and Director, Pandora’s Sox and Project-to-Project Theatre, Guelph, Ontario

Covering a myriad of topics from low budget marketing in the modern age and how to make the aesthetic of a minimalist set feel boundless, Joshua will present his session ‘Theatre is a Visual Medium: so look like you know what you’re doing’, followed by Jay’s part lecture, part performance deliberations (with the assistance of poetry and a couple of puppets) on making a living in the performing arts in rural communities: ‘It’s a Living, Never Constant: adapting to one’s surroundings.’

The Lollipop Guild Formation: We’re Not Suckers, We Don’t Work for Free

Patricia Fell, Artistic Director, Windsor Feminist Theatre

Patrick Hannon, Navigator, Making Waves

Trevor Malcolm, Professional Composer and Musician

TJ Travis, Executive Director, Bloomfield House

All participate in The Pelee Island Stone & Sky Music & Arts Series in various capacities, and work in the Windsor-Essex Pelee Island region of beautiful south-western Ontario. An open discussion identifying, amongst other realities, the regionally common cultural assumption that artists work for free because ‘we love what we do’, exploring ways in which to alter this misconception through accessible, sustainable, and culturally acceptable models.

Canadian Network for Arts and Learning: Get on the Map!

Jennifer Petrilli, Managing Director, Canadian Network for Arts and Learning/Le Réseau canadien pour les arts et l’apprentissage

The Canadian Network for Arts & Learning / Le Réseau canadien pour les arts et l’apprentissage (CNAL/RCAA) is creating a digital map of arts and learning and we want YOU to help guide the development of this vital tool. In this session, CNAL/RCAA will take you on a tour of the map and lead discussions on this innovative resource for artists, educators, arts organizations, schools and the public. Join this session to get on the map, and to let us know how the map can support the important work that you do in your community.

AfterWhys: Breaking the Silence on Suicide and Seniors

Catherine Frid, Playwright, Puslinch Township, Ontario

Paula Frappier, member of the Suicide Awareness Council of Wellington-Dufferin, Wellington and Dufferin Counties, Ontario

Ross Coulter, Creation Group Member, Guelph, Ontario

This combination panel discussion and theatrical performance will reveal how sharing stories and co-creating a play with rural seniors whose lives have been touched by suicide helps in breaking down the barriers to conversation.

What We Measure Counts, What We Count Matters

Inga Petri, CMRP – Principal, Strategic Moves, Ottawa, Ontario and Whitehorse, Yukon

A practical proposal for meaningful performance measurement for rural, volunteer-driven organizations.

The Power and the Magic of the Mask

Teodoro Dragonieri, Multi-disciplinary Artist and Educator, Toronto, Ontario

In this interactive presentation, attendees will become acquainted with the artistic nature, cultural connections, and universal significance of the mask, gaining insights into ways of utilizing masks in their own communities through theatrical presentations, educational programming, and carnivalesque celebrations.

Which Way Does Your Compass Point?

David Newland, Ambassador, Adventure Canada, Cobourg, Ontario

Heidi Langille, Performer/Presenter, Siqiniup Qilauta (Sunsdrum), Plantagenet, Ontario

Lynda Brown, Performer/Presenter, Siqiniup Qilauta (Sunsdrum), Ottawa, Ontario

Drawing on their experience performing extensively in rural contexts, David, with Heidi and Lynda of Sunsdrum, will explore, through slides and performance featuring both Inuit traditional and contemporary music, lessons they have learned about collaboration and reconciliation, and what it means to be Northern.

Connecting Community Members Through the Arts: The Friendship Project

By Kaitlyn Patience, Arts Coordinator, Arts Milton

In the summer of 2017 Arts Milton became aware of project funding under the Government of Ontario’s Multicultural Community Capacity Grant Program. The motivation to apply for this funding came from a renewed goal to offer greater inclusion in our programming. The timeline of the project fell perfectly between Milton Culture Days in September and our Summer Days musical performance series.

With the goal of capacity building for newcomers in mind, members of the board who were once newcomers themselves – Sanjay and Aparna Rangnekar, and Susana Silva (from India and Colombia) gathered together with Board President Auleen Carson to brainstorm program ideas. Their hope was to bring newcomers into the arts community in Milton – a town which is growing quickly and welcoming new cultures.

From this gathering the concept of the “The Friendship Project” was born. The premise was simple (though the logistics would be a different story!). We planned to connect 30 newcomers to Canada with 30 volunteer hosts from the community, and together they would attend a series of free arts and culture activities. Activities would include dance classes, music lessons, arts and craft workshops, as well as tickets to dance and theatre shows. The objective of the project was to build relationships between newcomers and members of the community through shared arts and culture experiences. Other goals included fostering friendship, increasing intercultural understanding, creating awareness about local recreation activities and businesses, and offering an opportunity to experience some of Milton’s culture first hand.

The grant required that we match the 80% project funding with 20% cash or in-kind from our own organization and local contributions. Arts Milton put forth additional funding for staffing costs and marketing materials, and we partnered with the FirstOntario Arts Centre Milton who provided in-kind meeting space, workshop space and tickets to theatre shows. The role of Coordinator was assigned to me, and my contract extended into the new year.

The first and most important step was outreach to find our newcomer and host participants. As the confirmation of funding was not received until mid-November, the time of year proved difficult for reaching out to local organizations. We approached the Halton Multicultural Council, the Centre for Skills Development & Training, the Milton Community Resource Centre and various elementary schools in the hopes of signing on newcomer families. The final 32 newcomers hailed from a variety of countries including Mexico, Egypt, China, Turkey, Kenya, India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

In future, we would like to advertise host positions and conduct interviews. But for this first iteration of the program we wanted to feel confident that the hosts were outgoing, passionate people with a love for the arts within their community. We sent out invitations to friends of the organization, and Culture Days participants and ended up with 29 hosts. I did my best to match families with children of similar ages. I hoped that doing so would create lasting connections and offer the families a good point of contact within the community.

Each participant was slated to attend three arts activities as either a spectator or participant, followed by a final dinner celebration at the end of the program. I’m a planner and scheduler by nature but the multi-leveled coordination of partner families (each person with their own unique work, school and extracurricular commitments) proved to be a challenge! In addition to this I had to factor in the schedule and availability of show times, instructors and locations. The resulting schedule was beautiful, but precarious. I knew from the beginning that a single case of cancellation, no show, or inclement weather could cause a portion of the planning to collapse. And so, I resolved to relax, and adopt a “deal with it as it comes” attitude. As was expected there were a number of situations that arose: locations were full last minute, activity instructors became ill, participants had other commitments arise, and some families arrived in part not in whole. My goal was to have the integrity of the program remain intact (meaning there was a selection of both hosts and newcomers which met the workshop minimum capacity). In most instances this meant proceeding with the activity, but some had to be rescheduled.

We realized immediately following the first activity that it would be imperative to have some sort of icebreaker for participants. We set about planning one as soon as possible – an afternoon of refreshments and board games. Although it was a last-minute addition to the program, we found it to be one of the most successful components! All generations enjoyed the variety of board games and moved from table to table trying their hand at something new. Like all of the activities it was ideal in that it allowed conversation to flow naturally. One of our volunteer hosts said “We really enjoyed the board game event as it allowed us to spend quality time with our newcomer family and have fun.”

Some activities were larger with up to 30+ participants, others more intimate with just two families of eight people total. There were three activities in which all participants were invited to – the board game afternoon, the final closing dinner, and a Nia body movement class. Of course, not all families were able to attend these three events but they had an excellent turn out. A sampling of the other activities included cooking classes in which students crafted individual cheesecakes and quiche, music exploration that allowed everyone to attempt guitar, ukulele, piano and drums, an exuberant Bollywood dance class, a handmade paper-making workshop, and a theatre show about a travelling family who visited Main Streets all across Canada – A Tale of a Town.

It was difficult to find and plan activities which would appeal to both children and adults but I thought it best to speak to the sensibilities of the younger generation as most of the adults were participating in a family format. We also faced last- minute issues of adult content which we navigated by developing an additional activity for children at the same time, in the same location.

In addition to the success of the group activities and the organic nature of busy hands allowing for easy conversation we have already seen relationships develop! Participants took steps on their own to foster friendship by driving one another home after activities, arranging future play dates, inviting each other to their children’s upcoming sporting events, and attending recreation activities organized by host families.

We hope to run the program again. However, the funding terms and timelines of this particular granter have changed and thus we will need to look elsewhere for the financial support required. We believe the Project was an immense success. And thanks to marketing efforts (magazine and newspaper articles) while the program was in effect, we have received numerous inquiries from willing participants for the next cycle!

SPARC Interviews … Marie Zimmerman about the Guelph Fab 5

The Guelph Fab 5 are five arts festivals in the Guelph area that have formed a unique collaborative model founded on co-presenting and co-producing. Comprised of the Guelph Dance Festival, the Hillside Festival, the Guelph Jazz Festival, Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, and the Guelph Film Festival, the Guelph Fab 5 has been over ten years in the making, has overcome many challenges along the way, and is a great example of the power of true collaboration.  This week Rebecca chats with Marie Zimmerman (current Executive Director of the Hillside Festival) about the evolution of this collaborative model. 



How did the Guelph Fab 5 start?

It happened organically. The managers of all five festivals were all in contact quite a bit, and we thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could do one big festival all together?’ That was too daring a concept, really, and would take a lot of funds and organization, so instead we started talking about doing some marketing together. This was in about 2006. We were all united by the fact that we were promoting contemporary, cutting edge art of some kind; each festival had established itself as a presenter that pushed boundaries. So we started developing a postcard that would tie all five festivals together and establish us as a group: The “Guelph Fab 5”. Once we had designed the postcard (on the front was a poster image from each festival, with each festival’s name, and on the back was a quote or byline from each) we got in touch with a woman who was part of Tourism at the City of Guelph, and she ended up funding the distribution, which meant that the postcard went out to a whole bunch of tourism outlets around Ontario (in addition to local and regional sites). Our first campaign as the Guelph Fab 5 was “a city for all seasons”: Hillside Inside in February, the Dance Festival in May, July is the Hillside Festival and then in September it’s the Writers’ Festival and the Jazz Festival, and in November, the Film Festival.

So it really started as a marketing idea.

How has the collaboration evolved since?

Well, we applied for a Strategic Initiatives grant through Canadian Heritage to support further marketing endeavours. It provided funds for us to hire a consultant – somebody who could work on getting a campaign together – so that’s what we did. With the consultant we developed a sponsorship package for the Fab 5 to use collectively. We faced a lot of challenges with collective sponsorship, however, because different festivals had different policies surrounding promotion at their festivals. So we ran into many different kinds of problems, but the whole experience was really rich for us, educationally. And through all of these efforts to market and secure sponsorships together, we stumbled on co-presenting, which is our current model. Having each festival present acts at the other festivals.

We got funding from Ontario Trillium Foundation to create a manual about our model, and the manual basically condenses ten years of our learning about how to negotiate and operate very smoothly a collective of five imaginative, interesting, opinionated festivals. It’s a bit peculiar perhaps, but we’ve applied it to other festivals that want to partner with us and it works really well.

In brief, the host festival always provides hospitality and technical production support, and the incoming festival pays the artists’ fees. And both festivals are promoting the co-presentation.

Is that manual something that others can access?

Yes. If people are interested in looking at it they can just contact me.

You’ve mentioned some challenges throughout the evolution of the model – I would imagine that others arose because of the different organizational structures of the festivals?

Yes – some came from philosophical differences. Some festivals were more protective than others and that was problematic because we really needed people to be motivated by the bigger picture: We are going to serve our community better if we cooperate. This means we all need to be open and divulge information about how we work, and what we pay and so on. It’s unfortunate that not-for-profit festivals and events see each other as competitors because they are competing for funding. So we had a hard time overcoming that.

Transitions in staffing continue to pose challenges sometimes. If somebody is leaving a festival and has someone succeeding them, they really have to make sure they are passing along the right information about the model and the responsibilities of each festival.

How do you negotiate the co-presentations? What does that process look like?

Ideally, one festival will pick an act that they feel represents their festival and will also work with the infrastructure of another festival. They approach that other festival and present their idea and things move forward from there. Sometimes festivals are approached by artists. For example, Hillside might be contacted by a dancer who wants to perform at our festival. We would then reach out to the Dance Festival and ask if they would like to co-present the dancer at our festival. And then the Dance Festival makes the decision based on the artist and how they align with their mandate, etc.

We negotiate these co-presentations throughout the year. We start talking in September for the months ahead and we have conversations about what we’re doing and ideas that we have.

The important thing with a collaborative model is to keep it all out on the table. All the potentially difficult and awkward conversations – you need to have them.

Are there any plans for new collaborative events or expansions on the current model?

We did try to do a cabaret night where each festival presented something – so five different art forms in one evening. It didn’t really work – I think that was partly the venue and partly the format being so different from what each festival usually does.

Going forward we will be changing our name from the “Guelph Fab 5” to the “Guelph Fab Festivals” to enable us to partner with other festivals that have come to the area. As soon as you announce yourself to be a ‘city of festivals’ you attract people who are in the arts. So now we have a fringe theatre festival, a comedy festival, we’ve got a couple of other music festivals. Festivals are proliferating and we would be happy to co-present things with them.

What are some positive outcomes you’ve seen as a result of the collaboration?

We’ve seen audiences at each festival increase for sure – anywhere from 22-74%.

A smaller festival like the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival has been able to advertise their festival more throughout the entire year–something that they weren’t able to do as much of in the past because of limited resources.

We also did some surveys that looked at the economic impact of the five festivals – how much money we were bringing into the region collectively. Having the quantitative value of the festivals certainly garnered some positive attention.

And what those surveys also revealed was that people were surprised at the beauty and the value of other art forms that they were able to see at other festivals. They felt that that was a real gift.

Are there any tips that you would give to others interested in pursuing a similar kind of collaborative model? What sorts of conversations should be had before they come to you for the manual?

There are a number of principles and practices outlined in the manual itself in terms of where to start and what each festival needs to do (i.e. designate one person who will represent the festival and have the power to make decisions, ensure each festival rep can contribute about 120 hours/year to the partnership etc.).

I would say the most important thing to do when you’re entering into this kind of collaboration is to establish whether or not the collaborators are on the same page philosophically about the value of the arts and about the value of getting their art form in front of new audiences. I know that must sound oxymoronic – when you talk about developing audiences everybody wants to do that – but you have to be willing to collaborate in a really open way. You can’t just try to attract someone else’s audience and not be willing to give back. Everyone has to want to collaborate and share resources and share audiences, and recognize the value in that.


To learn more about the Guelph Fab 5, visit their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, and feel free to get in touch with Marie, at marie@hillsidefestival.ca 


Waiting For It : Exploring Community Outreach through Play Development

By Curtis te Brinke

Waiting For It is a play that began with a surprisingly simple question: What happens when a gay teenager tries to lose his virginity in rural Ontario? The first draft was easy. It stopped being easy right after.

I wrote the play for Theatre Directs First Creators unit, and used it as a chance to write the kind of TYA show I’d loved to see have seen when I was in high school. Something funny and dark and unafraid of the vulgarities of growing up, and ideally I wanted it to reach a high school audience. Theatre Direct was the ideal company to develop the play with, as a theatre for young audiences company that has been dedicated to staging content that could be seen as difficult or controversial for young audiences, yet presenting them in ways that are engaging and palatable for younger folks.

With a first draft in hand the opportunity came to take the month of December to do further research and develop the play. I planned to conduct interviews and immerse myself back in the world I had written it from: my very small and very rural hometown of Clinton, Ontario. I relocated to my parents’ house for the month with the intention of making it up as I went along. The idea was to get my finger on the pulse of the rural queer experience in Huron County, to gain perspectives I didn’t have growing up there, and see how things had changed for queer youth. I wrote press releases, made a poster calling for rural queer perspectives, and emailed all the teachers in the district I could get in touch with. The recently formed Huron County Pride Network reached out enthusiastically, and invited me to host a roundtable discussion at their holiday open house. The public school board welcomed me with open arms.


I was ready for my preconceived notions of rural queerness to be blown out of the water, but wasn’t ready for the reality of what I was exploring. I approached the Catholic school in Clinton and told them I was interested in leading a round table discussion with LGBTQ youth in the school and anyone else who felt like speaking about the subject. I learned quickly that the subject matter was not something they wanted to open up in the confines of their school.

What I discovered upon spending time with the GSA in my old high school was that the notion of queer victimhood via outright bigotry was antiquated (which was the entire reason I had decided to conduct outreach/research on the play in the first place), but not obsolete. This “post-Glee” generation of queers was not immune to the high school bully style of bigotry even with gayness getting a tepid thumbs up from the masses. What I encountered was a more difficult and tangled form of oppression.

Teenagers are smart, in both their politics and their bigotry. They wear their identities and their identity politics on their sleeves. While there was only one boy there who identified as gay, the rest of the room was made up of young women who identify as queer, bi, bi-romantic, or asexual. They could recite to you the specifics of their identifications, and the myriad ways their parents and classmates misunderstood them. It was a far cry from the queer high school experience I grew up with, and that added much needed fuel to my writing process.

What shocked me was how this new form of bigotry was playing out. This GSA had recently begun flying their rainbow pride flag at the front entrance of the school, alongside the many banners and flags that coated the main foyer of the school. The reaction was instant, and aggressive. An Instagram account dedicated to rallying people to rip down the flag popped up almost immediately. The notion that “the flag must be removed now” swept through the school with a fervour only possible in a hotbed of teenage angst and hormones. The hatred continues, organized via social media, and normalized by the threats of violence against the members of the GSA in the hallways. “Curbstomp the GSA” began as a real threat, and continues as an acidic running joke through the school.

It was clear that the new narrative far more tangled than it used to be. I travelled around the county speaking with the young and the not-so-young alike. After each exchange I wrote what I hoped would provide a voice to their experiences. I wasn’t interested in giving any one person a voice over others, but in abstracting and amalgamating their stories into the characters I had created in my first draft.

Theatre is my default discipline when it comes to telling stories, but was also a deliberate choice in this case: I wanted to take the story directly to the people it effects. Once finished, I want to bring the play home and tour it through the high schools in the area. Getting the funding and resources to make this happen will be, as always, a struggle. But the notion of bringing this story directly into these schools remains at the centre of what I’m hoping to do with this project.  If it doesn’t effect change it will at least reflect this community back to itself. Give those kids a little bit of representation.

I am happy those young queers have a place to convene, finally.  That they were smart and artistic and theatrical in their own self-expression. That the art room had become their hideaway from the more corrosive aspects of rural high school life. But they will always need more artistic opportunities. The whole experience left me wondering if it is enough for the young people to be making these spaces and organizations for themselves. I think there’s an obligation from the school boards and the community at large to foster artistic spaces within their own town, and that it shouldn’t be left entirely up to the kids to pull these spaces out of nothing. As someone who cared about little else than artistic spaces like this at that age, the impact is enormous. My entire career has sprung out of it.

I’m going to invest more of my career on places like this. People like those kids. Because I can’t get them out of my head, and want to be the kind of person that excited me when I was their age. The kind of artist that invites you to collaborate, and be yourself, and discover what the hell that even means.

I’m going home this summer to lead the Blyth Festival Young Company. I’m going to do the best I can to bring out the queers and the weirdos and the young people who want to see a little bit of the world outside their home town. Show them what happens when you let a person, and the million different parts of them, take up more space than they’ve ever been allowed to before.


Curtis would like to thank the Ontario Arts Council, The Blyth Festival, Theatre Direct and The Thousand Islands Playhouse for their support. 

To SPARC Your Appetite

By Roger Sumner (Member of the Symposium Planning Committee)

When SPARC’s Symposium Project Coordinator, Felicity Buckell first spelled out the acronym “SPARC,” I heard it as a command:

“Support Performing Artists in Rural Communities!”

…and I thought: what could be simpler? Pay them and feed them.

Performance is hungry work. Creativity craves calories. Spend any amount of time with actors, dancers, musicians and not only will you see some of the most ravenous eaters you’ve ever met, but also some of the pickiest.

And I don’t mean to make fun: picky eating is an essential survival skill in the age of Industrial Food, where everything comes in a box that came in a box of boxes from a pile of boxes at the Big Box that came out of a big box towed by an engine box.

How can we then be expected to think “outside the box” when we eat out of a box?

Luckily, rural performers have one big advantage, in that we’re rural. Some places, there’s nothing much out there other than farms. Some places, the most exciting way to spend a Saturday is at the farmer’s market. That’s where communities are and community is where the arts begin.

But how does art, food and business all actually connect? Let’s count three words, exactly: “Go. To. Market.”

Many summers ago I put on a funny hat and journeyed to the struggling Elora market where I would spend a few hours shouting for tips. “Joke for a Buck! You don’t Laugh, You don’t Pay!” (Just for practice, you understand.) With an audience of under two hundred shoppers a week, I still made enough to buy most of my weekly groceries fresh from the farmers.

I’ve been working markets ever since, on both sides of the table. What better way to get what you need to get through the week? And I’m not only talking about amazing eats, but also the connections to grow your business and build an audience. It’s likely the coolest, most community-oriented folk in your area visit your local market every week, even if they don’t hold down a booth.

 These days, in the Temiskaming Shores area, my partner Marie and I sling “Coffee and TeaMiskaming” at the Riverside Market. (We have just enough raspberry leaves, mint, and other herbs coming out of our small backyard garden to qualify as a local producer.) We sell a few batches of wheat-free cookies and muffins, infused oils, that sort of thing. I am one of those picky eaters myself, so we aim for healthy, special-diet-friendly treats.

Markets are a great place to make contacts. We are honestly not looking for work: Marie’s a professional engineer and I mostly stay at home writing and feeding blueberries to our three-year-old. But just talking to folk at our market table, we’ve fielded regular offers for writing, acting and catering gigs. Markets are goldmines for community awareness, networking, and connecting people to new and innovative projects. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, why not simply tap into these time-honoured networking traditions that naturally bring people together over food? 

And of course our presence at the market has led us to the table for SPARC 2018. We’ve tapped into and expanded upon our market sources for local meat, eggs, dairy, and produce: working directly with local farmers, restaurants, and millers to bring the very best of Timiskaming to your SPARC Symposium plate each morning, noon, and night. The food in the region has uniquely delicious qualities we want to share with others, and doesn’t that link so nicely with art and culture that makes you think, try, and explore new things?

We don’t want to give it all away this early in the game, but think “Canadiana” breakfasts with blueberry buckwheat pancakes, go-for-broke burger barbecue, First Nation’s fare, and old-fashioned pig and lamb roast-out. Pike, perch, and arctic char are all possibilities on the fish front in our region. But fear not: there will be gourmet vegetarian and wheat-free options for all meals. (Please leave a comment if you have any particular dietary requirements.)

We also plan to have all-day snack and sandwich counters at our full-service kitchen in the gorgeous Cobalt Community Hall. Coffee will of course make its appearance, including regular brewed and hot or cold espresso-based treats. Marie will likely keep a pot of chai going alongside a selection of teas and other beverages. We can’t promise kombucha yet, but you can keep your fingers crossed

Also: bacon. We have a line on some bacon that – well, some things just don’t translate to text. But keep your fingers crossed (and get to breakfast early).

Friday night we close the kitchen to prepare for our Saturday feast. This means we shall release you into the wilds of Timiskaming to forage for your own fodder.  (Morels should be up by then, one of the most desired wild mushrooms in the world, so you may desire to go hunting and gathering for them yourselves if you feel adventurous! I recently heard an old prospector swear up and down that he once lived for weeks off boiled birch leaves.)

Or if you prefer to have someone else track your food, you can visit one of our partner restaurants, many of which will be featuring performances by local artists and musicians during the dinner hour.

Are we leaving you hungry? Well: good. Go have a snack and come back to this page later on. You’ll find regular updates on food, performances, workshops and more in our symposium section.

Otherwise, see you at mealtime!

Rebecca Represents SPARC at the N3 Arts Presenters Summit

By Rebecca Ballarin (Network Coordinator)

If you follow us on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen some of my updates from the N3 Arts Presenters Summit in Whitehorse last week. Michele Emslie (who facilitated our 2016 symposium) invited me to attend this gathering alongside several other national delegates, as well as international delegates from Norway, Greenland and Finland. I am so grateful I had this opportunity, both on a personal level (going to the Yukon has been on my traveling “wish list” for a few years) and a professional one. At the summit I met so many incredible people doing incredible things in rural and remote areas. It was inspiring to hear their stories, and I made a number of great connections that I think will be beneficial for SPARC as we continue to build our network. For this blog post I’m going to share some of the activities I participated in and sessions I attended, including as many links as possible for your clicking pleasure!


I joined a group of “non-Yukoners” who were flown in early so that we could do some networking and partake in a culture tour around Whitehorse. On the shuttle we were greeted by Suzanne de la Barre, who presented us with a task that required us to take “field notes” on both our expectations before entering, and experiences after leaving each cultural site. These notes would then be used as part of Suzanne’s Cultural Tourism workshop on Friday. Our journey took us to

With only 17 minutes at each stop, this “sampling” of different locations didn’t allow for deep engagement, but was a great way to introduce tourists to a new city. It encouraged us to explore places we may not have otherwise found, and to support local businesses and organizations during the rest of our trip.


The Summit officially began Thursday evening with a gallery opening at the Yukon Arts Centre (YAC). It was really neat to be included in this event, where I could connect with other summit attendees and members of the local community. A highlight for me was the Youth Gallery, which exhibited a number of works by a seven-year-old artist named Owen. Owen was there for the opening and we had a long discussion about his favourite pieces, how he created them, and why he loves doing art. It was so cool to see local youth showcased in this way!

After spending time at the YAC, we all went to Antoinette’s, an incredible local restaurant, for dinner and networking. It was packed that night as Antoinette (the owner) was also hosting an International Women’s Day event !


The first full day of the conference started with a networking activity and a Yukon First Nations Welcome which included the incredible Elijah Smith Dancers from Elijah Smith Elementary School. (Click here for an article about how culture, traditions and language are shared among Yukon First Nations and non-First Nation students at this school)

This was followed by Pecha Kucha community presentations by students from the School of Visual Arts in Dawson City, Melissa Shaginoff (curator of contemporary Indigenous art and culture at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska), Dennis Shorty and Jennifer Frohling (artists working in Ross River who have  created their own cultural centre in the area), Joonas Martikainen (Managing director of the Silence Festival in Finland), and Ellen Hamilton and Julia Ogina (representing Qaggiavuut, a non-profit society dedicated to strengthening the Nunavut performing arts, and currently campaigning to raise support for the construction of a performing arts centre in Nunavut).  If you aren’t familiar with the Pecha Kucha format, you should click the link above and read more. It offers a neat way to approach presentations that pushes presenters to be precise and image oriented!

Following these presentations we were invited to listen to an artist’s talk with Reneltta Arluk (who you might recognize as one of the keynote speakers for our upcoming SPARC symposium!). Reneltta  discussed her experiences as an Indigenous actress and theatre creator; from the different training programs she completed, to the companies she has worked with across the country.

After an afternoon workshop and discussion on the complexities of cultural tourism, we headed back to the YAC for an artist showcase. Singer-songwriter Lazarus Qattalik opened for Diyet and the Love Soldiers. Lazarus came to the summit from Igloolik, Nunavut, and this showcase was the first time he had performed outside of his home community. It was truly very special to be there in the audience supporting such a talented musician.


If you attended our 2014 symposium, you probably remember Inga Petri and her presentation on the research paper “The Value of Presenting”. Inga led us through a Digital Innovation workshop on Saturday morning, and offered many useful tips to easily improve the information that appears when your organization is “Googled”. She also presented some big ideas about the development of a digital distribution platform for the performing arts in Canada along with plans for a Digital Lab Collaborative in the Yukon.

Before lunch we were treated to four “theatre pitches” by Yukon-based companies: Gwaandak Theatre, Nakai Theatre, Open Pit Theatre, and Ramshackle Theatre.

In the afternoon I acted as “rapporteur” for the Youth Engagement table at the “Knowledge Café”. Two facilitators (in our case Jona Barr and Andrea Simpson-Fowler) led the discussion as different people joined the table intermittently to talk about youth outreach. Some of the key action steps I pulled from our discussions were:

  • Space: Youth need a safe and open space which they can use and make their own.
  • Relationship building: Staff or volunteers working with youth need to love working with them and be dedicated to long-term relationship building. Too often youth outreach involves someone coming to do work and then leaving again. Youth should feel liked and appreciated; when they do, they will stick around.
  • Leadership: Provide opportunities for youth to take on leadership roles. Providing leadership training opportunities for youth who participate in your programming will lead to more well-equipped staff for you to hire in the future! This also encourages youth to give back to the community, and can be inspiring for younger participants to see how they may be able to apply their skills and experience in the future.
  • Partner: If someone is doing youth outreach/programming well – get in touch with them! Partner with them. Collaborate with them. You don’t have to start from scratch.

We had another INCREDIBLE showcase Saturday evening (kudos to Eric Epstein- Artistic Director of the Theatre program at the YAC for putting this one together). The lineup featured The Sweeties, Soda Pony, Leela Gilday, Calla Kinglit, the Dakhká Kwáan Dancers, and Quantum Tangle. This showcase ended with another performance by Lazarus, who was accompanied by Leela and Quantum Tangle for an awesome finale number.


The main focus of this final half-day was action plans and next steps: Asking ourselves what we would be taking away from the summit.

Our two Elder Witnesses gave reports at the beginning of the day, reflecting on what they had witnessed over the weekend. We then had some focused discussions in small groups, looking at the big themes in our action plans (which we had been asked to fill out prior to the last day). We worked together to identify concrete action items that we could pursue upon returning home. I joined a group discussing relationship building with First Nations communities. Witnessing Elder Shirley Adamson, a member of the Wolf Clan and citizen of the Ta’an Kwach’an of the Tagish Kwan, joined us and provided some thoughtful insight about building relationships both with organizations and individual artists. I’m looking forward to receiving a summary of the notes that we handed in at the end of our discussion. I intend to add the action items we brainstormed to my work-plan for the rest of the year.

After these break-out discussions, we all joined a sharing circle for another artists’ talk, this time led by the artists of Quantum Tangle – Tiffany Ayalik and Greyson Gritt. Tiffany and Greyson focused the discussion on the responsibility of presenters to create safe spaces for artists – specifically Indigenous and Two-Spirit artists. They spoke about some of their negative experiences at music festivals – experiencing abuse, experiencing misuse of personal pronouns and experiencing a lack of support and accountability from festival organizers. They offered actions that everyone could implement to create safer spaces. Their honesty made for a very impactful discussion, and I don’t think I’m the only person who left the circle thinking about what I needed to do in advance of our next event.


It’s a few days after the summit has ended, I’ve returned home, and I’m still processing my experiences. After catching up on emails (and publishing this blog post!) I’ll be making time to reflect. To go back through all my notes to find all the places where I jotted down “maybe SPARC could…” or “an opportunity for SPARC to…”. I’ll be putting together a list of follow-up calls and emails to make, organizations to research further, and relationships to build. I’m so grateful to Michele and her amazing team, as well as all the presenters and facilitators, and all the other attendees, for everything they did to make this summit a success. Opportunities to get together and share are so important; they challenge, inspire, and invigorate. I look forward to continuing the discussions had in Whitehorse with the delegates that were there. And I look forward to building on these discussions with the SPARC community and at our symposium in May!

A group of us after returning from a visit to the Takhini Hot Springs on Sunday afternoon. A great way to unwind after the end of an amazing summit!





SPARC Interviews… Steve Kozinski of Temiskaming Shores, ON

For the next interview in SPARC’s new series, Steve Kozinski offers insight about his experience working with youth in one of the Digital Creator North labs in in Northern Ontario. While chatting with Chandel Gambles, Northern Outreach Consultant, he reflects on his experience promoting and developing new projects, engaging with youth, and exploring the many uses of film for networking and arts creation.

C: You are in the Temiskaming area working with youth. Can you tell us where you are from and what brought you here?

S: I’ve been in Temiskaming for just over a year. I am working as the Digital Creator North Program Lead for Temiskaming Shores. It’s a two year initiative that was created by the Near North Mobile Media, a non-profit organization based in North Bay.

I am originally from Russel, Ontario, a place just outside of Ottawa and I’ve always wanted to be in the north. There wasn’t much of a media arts scene in Russel growing up, so as a kid I wasn’t very interested in the arts in general. But I decided to go to school in North Bay at Canadore College and took television, video broadcasting, and cinematography courses. One of the teachers there, Chris Kosloski, invited me to volunteer at an art exhibit that was curated by the Mobile Media. I did some work with them on different occasions, and after I graduated I learned about this new program they planned to launch in six locations across Northern Ontario. I applied and said I would go anywhere in the North, so they sent me to Temiskaming!

You say you weren’t really interested in the arts as a youth. What’s your perspective on drawing in high-school youth compared to young professionals?

I remember being a teen and thinking how it wasn’t “cool to care”. That changes when you head into college, were the coolest thing you can do is care about as much as possible. Youth are keen to do new and exciting projects, but it may not always look that way from the outside.

Offering the youth a designated space to feel comfortable lets them be themselves and explore new ideas alone and in groups. In those spaces, they don’t need to worry about what others think or where they are in their learning process. They can create projects based on their interests. This gives students room to explore and discover new ideas and art they care about. You’re not asking them to care about something you’re interested in. In our lab, their ideas and art lead the projects. Having a designated space for youth is key to making this possible.

Meanwhile, young professionals want to work on creating new and exciting projects, I know I do. They have just graduated and are keen to take on challenges. Young professionals often go where the jobs lead them, and youth migration is a reality. But if you give them chances to help lead on projects while they are around, you can benefit from the skills they have to offer in the short term – it may just inspire them to access those young entrepreneur grants or arts project grants so they can stay in town!

You are working with youth all of the time. Do you have any insight for our members about how we can reach out and connect with them?

When I started working with the youth, I thought that Facebook was one of the best mediums to connect with people. But as I spent time working with the teens, I quickly realized that “Facebook wasn’t cool” and “that’s where parents hangout.” The youth are on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, so those are the media platforms you need to connect with them.

That being said, I’ve found that it’s through word of mouth, school presentations, and one-on-one chats that you actually make the most initial headway encouraging youth to join new initiatives. Its old school, but it works. It starts slow, but once you get a few youth, they bring friends, and then those friends bring their friends. Then you can use the social media tools to maintain those connections and conversations over the long term.

How did you manage to connect with students in the schools and what new opportunities did that outreach lead to?

I spoke to the principal at one school and sent her a bio about myself and the Digital Creator project. She was onboard, and sent the information along to the teachers, who in turn invited me to come in and do presentations. You always say yes to every invitation, because collaboration, help, and interest can turn up in the most unexpected places. For example, some teachers began designing workshops using my skills and resources in their classes, which was really cool. Going into the First Aid class, which you wouldn’t think would be a promotional outlet for a Digital Creator’s workshop, I was asked by the teacher to help students design a 3D trachea that the students then used to practice puncturing holes. You can find connections to art in the strangest ways possible.

If a person wanted to create a popular new program for youth in the area, how would you go about doing that? What would you want to create? How would you then make it financially possible to run that program in the long term?

I think it’s important to consider the needs and interests of your community when developing programs and events. You need to talk with people. In New Liskeard, I like to reach out to the teens and youth and find out what they are interested in. A lot of the youth in this area want to know about video game design.

If I were to create that project, I would find funding to bring up workshop presenters with professional experience on certain topics, like video game design, to work with them. The cost might be expensive if the presenter were only doing a workshop for us. But if I connected with other interested communities along the route here, I bet we could share the cost. That would also allow many more presenters to come to the area. Creating networks and forming presenter circles really allows your money to go further. I’d like to see communities team up to make that possible, like they do for touring theatre productions.

How have you been able to offer such a breadth of resources and workshops in your media lab?

You have to be open to working with other people. Every single collaboration I’ve worked on has come about by sitting down and having a coffee, or meeting with people online. There are some terrific people in the area to work with, and they are keen to share their skills, like Drew at Good Gauley Productions and Alexander Rondeau. Everyone around here is so willing to participate and they have a lot to offer. That lets us do so much more.


And sometimes the specialized topics students want to cover don’t have resources nearby. I’ve found that collaborations can also occur over long distances. We get artists from Toronto to come up north too. Organizations like LIFT, Liaison International Filmmakers of Toronto get grant money to do workshops in remote communities. The Near North Mobile Media Lab reached out to them over the internet, and they said “hey, we like what you’re doing”. I choose the workshops I want to showcase, and they send up the presenters to do it twice a year. LIFT is a great resource. They say “hey we have the resources, we have the money, and we need to spend it by the end of the year.” They offer really unique workshops that you are unlikely to find elsewhere. They have a mandate they need to fill too, and sending people to the north helps them meet those goals. The only trick is, you have to network. You have to ask around. That’s how you make the best connections.

How would you suggest building your own film community, if you don’t have resources or funding like that of the Digital Creator Labs?

Resources aren’t a big blocking point for film creation anymore. You can make movies on your cellphone and access lots of editing tools online. There are movies at the Sundance Festival that have all been shot on a cellphone, like the film Tangerine. That group has a lot of suggestions about tools you can use. So you definitely have the resources in your pocket these days. You can even send your video content across the world to have it edited.

Your biggest hurdle is getting people to get on board with you. You have to meet like-minded people. You might use social media as a start. Make posters. Go to events. Just talk and find out about other people’s interests. Media is great, but human interaction also needs to happen, especially at the beginning. If you can’t meet regularly, send emails, hash out your ideas. Then start meeting over Skype video and keep everything rolling.

Sometimes a person can’t find others to team up with them on a project. Do you have any suggestions on how to use film and media to collaborate on various arts projects?

There are many way to use your networking tools and film resources to create connections across communities. I recall seeing one woman covering songs on Youtube. She worked together with another Youtube presenter and made online duets, where they appeared in a stylized way on shared video screens. They never met each other, but they created work together online, using side by side screens, sharing audio and music files. Their shared screen video creation looked just as smooth as a “regular” video. Entire symphonies have been recorded and shared online with different musicians recording their work at the same time on separate continents. Some musicians even use tools like Jamkazam to connect. You can even do live shows in one area and have it streaming in other remote communities or local care facilities at the same time. The video and media world is filled with resources to help you break barriers and translate your art ideas across your community and beyond. It really is what the SPARC Translations Symposium theme is all about! Video is the medium of networking enthusiasts and community minded presenters.