On the Banks of the Mississippi, a Gathering of SPARCs

By Sandy Irvin, Almonte Ontario

On a bright morning

On the cusp of summer and fall

On the banks of the Mississippi

A gathering of SPARCs occurred!

A few members of the SPARC team dodged thunderstorms (and tornadoes) to spend Saturday, September 22 at the Almonte Old Town Hall. Our town builders had the foresight to leave us a good one. People came from all over Lanark County (Perth, Smiths Falls, Carleton Place, Elphin), and from points beyond the County, including Merrickville, Arnrprior, and Renfrew County. There were a lot of folks from different theatre troupes, a comedian, a storyteller or two, a pianist and composer, a handful of presenters, community animators, a well-behaved dog, and an even better-behaved baby. We even had a couple of municipal leaders join us – and they were only going to stay for a while (it is election season, after all), but they spent the better part of the day with us. And we discovered, to our chagrin, that we had no dancers with us.

A small group of us started the day with a special Zoom video call with SPARC Steering Committee member Jim Blake, who talked to us about the Haliburton County Community Co-op model. We were amazed at the diversity of initiatives (Trails! Sculpture gardens! Festivals! Research!) that the community has been able to start with support from the co-op. As rural organizers, we were also intrigued by the way they share resources and save time for each other. We see a lot of possibilities for community-building through this model. We have some homework to do (some of us will be attending a screening of A Silent Transformation, a film about the co-op movement), and we look forward to following up with Jim.

We then trooped upstairs to join the rest of the attendees in our auditorium. I’m so proud of this hall; I didn’t build it, but I’m part of the team that maintains it. I love seeing people’s jaws drop when they walk in. I love hearing music ring through it, or laughter, or the murmur of quiet conversation. On this day it was filled with all three – as well as beautiful sunlight and lots of people I’d never met before! I was so excited to see new faces. One of the issues we face as an arts community in Lanark County is that we often work in silos. Some of us know each other; we do a lot of really good work as professionals, as volunteers, and as fans, but few of us collaborate. And one of the great lessons of SPARC, one I’ve been trying to bring back home since my first symposium, is the importance of working together. We may not be able to tear down all the silos, but we can at least open a few doors in them.

Chris Lynd leads a session on SPARC in the sun-filled Old Town Hall auditorium. Kismet is snoozing in the foreground.

After some delicious doughnuts (made fresh in town!) and coffee (likewise), we had some fun getting-to-know-you exercises led by Michael Clipperton. We can count to seven, but some of the other steps may confuse us!

Our movers and shakers then broke into two groups to discuss volunteer management and cross-promotion. Each group was led by a SPARC facilitator as well as a guest “expert” (Brigitte Gebauer for volunteer management and Marie Zimmerman for co-promotion)who provided insight on the subject matter. And what was drawn out of the participants in the room was just as important. As I see it, SPARC meetups are all about making connections – between groups and people, and also between ideas. It’s really exciting to be in a room where people hear an idea, relate it to their own experience, and draw something new out of the connection.

We saw more connections happen over lunch. By the end of our meal time, one local theatre group had formed new connections and new ideas for getting set pieces from a local furniture renter, and they had a promise they could borrow a sofa from another troupe if that didn’t pan out. The chesterfield in question is not the issue; it’s the fact that people with common problems got together to solve something. And they will keep doing so.

Our day also included a recap of what SPARC can do, how to join, and why we all want to attend the next SPARC symposium. There were a lot of heads nodding in agreement, and I suspect the Lanark contingent for the next symposium will be a force.

Our final session of the day involved breaking into small groups to talk about ideas near and dear to delegates’ hearts. I sat with a storyteller, to talk about a festival she wants to organize for 2020. Details are under wraps for now, but it sounds really exciting. I can’t wait to help put it on. Another group discussed infrastructure, and yet another discussed producing site specific theatre around Almonte.

So what did we learn after a day together? Here are a few points that stand out from the day:

  • Butter tarts and beer sell well to all demographics; look for pairings in your own community. (Chocolate and theatre, beer and music, bicycles and…?).
  • We have resources and skills; we can share them; we can organize that sharing.
  • When we gather people together for the performing arts, we also build community.
  • When recruiting volunteers, take the time to find a job that suits them; the relationship will last longer.
  • Don’t micromanage; give the volunteers the tools and the time to rise to the occasion. If you can’t be everywhere at once, appoint a team captain to lead a group.
  • Co-promotion can strengthen all participants in a partnership; it works better if you let go of personal goals and take the long view.
  • Look to tourism associations for support in your promotional efforts.

We learned that we have a lot to learn from each other. We’re going to look at setting up a regular roundtable or a brunch session where ideas can flow freely. Thanks to SPARC for getting us started!

Ontario Contact 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Culture Days are Here!

That’s right – Culture Days start tomorrow! From September 28-30 you can enjoy thousands of free, hands-on, interactive activities in communities across Ontario. An opportunity for you to discover the world of artists, creators, heritage experts, architects, curators, designers and other creative professionals in their communities, Culture Days is a collaborative initiative that welcomes public participation. Everyone has a part to play in Culture Days whether you’re already passionate about the arts or interested in discovering something new.

This week we are highlighting three blog posts from the Culture Days blog to excite and inspire you to seek out the events happening near you!

Creating Theatre in the Deep Woods: A reflection on the scenography of R. Murray Schafer’s Patria Cycle

This piece was written by Jerrard Smith, professor, University of Guelph. The piece was not written specifically for the SPARC blog, but rather is a post that we felt would be of interest to the SPARC community. Jerrard has kindly shared it with us to share with you. 

For more information about the Patria cycle you can read this entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia. 


                                    Body casting at Asterion

I am writing this in my tent in rural Ontario, Canada; I was watching the fireflies but the mosquitos finally drove me into this netted enclosure. I have spent the day with a small crew sculpting a form to be cast in concrete and covered with a moss slurry before being placed along a wooded path. Every summer since 2004 I have been coming to this rural field and forest environment to work on the creation of a theatrical labyrinth with a group of students, colleagues and friends. One of these friends is Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer who created the text and concept for this labyrinth and with whom I have had the pleasure of working for some thirty years. This paper is a reflection on those portions of his work that I have been privileged to help realize. Asterion (the labyrinth) is one of a series of music dramas1 Schafer has conceived, all of which speak profoundly to our tenuous relationship with the natural environment. A passion for the wilderness drives these works and demands that the audience put aside some preconceived notions about the nature of theatre and make an effort to engage with the various environments that are both the location and content of the work. Their efforts are often rewarded by a transformative experience.

Theatre begins in the dark

Theatre begins in the dark of night. Musicians and singers are carried by canoe to their positions around the shore of a small lake. Other canoes with actors and dancers set out for their entrance positions. The sounds of warmup are replaced by a deep quiet as the stage manager announces the imminent arrival of the audience along a path illuminated by candles and flashlights. Here in the predawn darkness, the intrepid spectators, having made a kind of pilgrimage to this remote location, are greeted by guides who with a series of simple gestures indicate silence and the direction they should take to find a seat at the edge of the lake where the water laps gently against the shore. As the birds begin to awaken and sing they are joined by the musicians and singers. A light appears from across the lake and as it approaches the audience, it reveals a mysterious figure who begins a tale of myth and ritual. As the story unfolds, the characters described appear out of the dawn mist in large canoes to the accompaniment of the musicians. At the conclusion, all the canoes disappear and the last echoes of song fade into memory, leaving the audience to contemplate the beauty of morning light on the lake which is of course what the work is about.

The forest as locus of enchantment

Earth Mother (Eleanor James) from The Enchanted Forest, Haliburton, 2005

There is a story told in the forest and by the forest; it remains only to bring an audience to hear it. The Enchanted Forest is a quest led by a group of children through the darkness of a forest environment where those willing to make the journey encounter a series of archetypal creatures and characters who provide the threads of narrative that the audience must unravel as they proceed. Active participation on the part of the spectator/participant is an essential element in the realization of these works. The texture of the leaves and twigs that form the forest path and the stars revealed by lack of ambient light from centers of civilization become characters in the drama. Smell and touch become engaged along with sight and hearing, rewarding the members of the audience with an experience which connects them in a very real way to the natural environment through which they travel. On several performance evenings (in the late summer of 2005) the finale, consisting of a costumed singer floating in the centre of a large circle of candles on a lake, was enhanced by a display of aurora borealis playing overhead as if in accompaniment.

Role of creation

The role of the scenographer in realizing this site responsive theatre is one of enhancing, not imposing. We begin with the landscape which often provides a natural point of view as long as we take advantage of it by careful placement of the spectator. Scenographic elements must consider the possibility of extremes of proxemics where the performer may be situated across a wide expanse of terrain or water or conversely be very close to the spectator or even crossing into the audience space.

Often, the works we create involve an ambulatory audience so that the focus is in a perpetual state of disintegration and recombination with the audience immersed in an environment that changes as the narrative unfolds. The experience is perhaps filmic in a way but the enveloping surroundings allow the spectator to readjust her own point of view and control the focus.

There are times of course when the team creating these works must make a concerted effort to maintain the narrative threads in the face of potential distractions. This is ameliorated by noting that the distractions are those of the natural surroundings and it is the appreciation of nature that we are trying to convey thematically through the work. By spending the time working with and within the environment, we can make decisions that will reinforce the spectator’s appreciation of the performance and facilitate the performer’s interactive relationship with the performance space.

These relationships that are established as the performers engage with the audience are tenuous ones that must be negotiated and renegotiated as the spaces of the performance go through their transformations. The notion of stage and audience area is always subject to reevaluation and surprising configurations are possible. The very nature of this questioning of the respective relationships of performer and spectator and the malleability of the performance space provides a theatrical experience that is very much removed from that which occurs within the confines of a theatre building.

Theatre as challenge

As a result of almost thirty years of working toward the realization of these site responsive and environmental works, we are finding new and interesting ways to challenge the audience and performers alike. At times this challenge is simply a shift in the time of day for the performance, whether dawn or midnight. There are works which demand extra effort such as RA, which lasts all night and The Spirit Garden, which engages the audience in actively creating a garden as part of the performance. And presenting work in non-traditional venues is always a challenge for everyone involved.

Creating the floating stage for The Palace of the Cinnabar Pheonix, Haliburton 2006

For those of us involved in preparing the settings, properties, masks, costumes and sometimes puppets, there is the challenge of organization. A team must be assembled of theatre craftspeople who are willing to camp on site for a month, who can build stages with chainsaws and rough lumber and then float them on a lake, who can run cables through the trees to light a variety of unusual performance areas, who can set up and equip tents for workshops, wardrobe and kitchen. Production personnel must plan each step very carefully as a trip to the nearest hardware store, for example, may require a two hour drive. The performers too must be able and willing to walk for long distances to rehearse in all but the most severe weather. The relationship of the performers and production personnel is a very special one under such extraordinary conditions and mutual respect is of the utmost importance as we work toward the common goal of creating art in remote environments. And ultimately, despite the challenges and obstacles, the work of creating art that speaks of our relationship with the natural world in that very environment is a satisfying experience for all concerned. It is that satisfaction that keeps us coming back.

A journey through the labyrinth

So I return to the labyrinth as I have for the past several years. I spend a few weeks every summer developing the labyrinth Asterion. The work involves a relationship with the surroundings that informs every aspect of the work, whether working in harmony with the place, or fighting the difficulties.

Our facilities are acceptable in spite of having to bring in water for both working and drinking, portable toilets, tents and tools. We have a large kitchen tent and a steel shed for workshop and

                                  Sculpture, Asterion 2009

storage and a generator for electricity. We are working toward solar power. Everything is dependent on weather but we are used to that. This summer (I am writing this in July 2009) has been cold, windy and rainy so far, while past years have been unbearably hot. There are times when the weather forces us to stop work as it sometimes forces us to cancel a performance – it is one of the challenges that must be taken into consideration when working out of doors.

On the other hand, camping and working together creates a community of focussed individuals and we have the opportunity to discuss the project activities in the evening around a campfire. We go to sleep to the sounds of frogs or the arguments of coyotes and raccoons instead of traffic.

The team every summer is prepared to take on the daunting task of working to create something vast and monumental – that will be a transformative experience for the audience. The personnel vary and have included students, artists, a few skilled assistants and many volunteers who represent a diversity of backgrounds, practice and experience.

Research

Pathway through cedar forest, Asterion 2006

The process of developing Asterion toward public presentation is a research project, an exploration of the ways in which the configurations of theatrical spaces can create a narrative and just what it is that makes a space theatrical. Over these past six summers, we have cut pathways through dense cedar forest, constructed enclosures of straw, cement and steel, cedar and fabric and have placed large truck trailers and a prefabricated steel building on the site to provide protected dark spaces. We have played with the text in these spaces in order to understand the possibilities for theatrical interaction between one participant and one performer. And now we are beginning to create the installations that will provide most of the narrative content, for while the experience will involve live performers at times, most of the journey will be made by the participant alone and will rely on artifacts within the spaces to provide the narrative thread. For like any labyrinth, there is a route that must be travelled and making the journey is like threading a string through the whorls of a complex shell. The participant or spect-actor becomes an active and engaged player in this drama. They may not be conscious of their performative role but nonetheless it is their response to the environment that creates the story of the journey through the labyrinth.

So each voyage is unique, every story is shaped by the individual’s experience; this is true for every participant who undertakes the journey through the labyrinth and for those of us who are working to form the environment of the experience.

Theatre is unique

The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix, Haliburton 2006

Every piece of live performance is unique; every work of theatre is a tenuous engagement of trust between performer and audience. There are layers of complexity in all performance narratives and each journey creates a new story with innumerable ways to get lost along the way. Site based work such as the music dramas we present in natural settings provides opportunities to add to the complexity, to create stories imbued with the essence of the surroundings. And the process requires the practitioners to adapt, to improvise, to overcome physical barriers, to work with the weather and ultimately to open new avenues down which will be found the treasures of transformation.

 

SPARC Shares…

Sometimes instead of posting our own “SPARC-created” content written by SPARC staff or guest bloggers from the SPARC community, we want to share posts written by other organizations or publications that we feel would be of interest to the SPARC community. In case you missed our Facebook post today or last Thursday, here are the blogs we shared:

Today (September 6, 2018)

A selection of blog posts from Arts for Children and Youth

With students returning to school this week, we want to share a selection of blog posts that focus on children and education through the arts. Arts for Children and Youth is a website that has “tried to create articles with actual examples to guide you in creating your own programs.”

The team behind these blogs firmly believe “in the value of artistic education for children that led us to create this site. Inside you’ll find articles that explore why a love of the arts is important for children and how it can help them grow into mentally healthy adults.The time to establish a love of the arts is as soon as your child is able to communicate in a meaningful way. This is the responsibility of both parents and educators.”

Let’s all start the new school year with a running, dancing, singing, expressively bold start! A new generation of artists and arts enthusiasts are ready to leap into play!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Asking Questions About Mental Health in the Arts” by Jenna Reid for Canadian Art

In this piece Reid reflects on the Workman Arts symposium “#BigFeels: Creating Space for Mental Health in the Arts”. 

Aimed at creating “positive connections in our communities through meaningful conversations, workshops, creative activities and exhibitions”, this event focused on unpacking ideas about mental health, equality, and caring for the well-being of everyone involved in artistic projects. We hope the big ideas help inspire our SPARC community to bring even more mental-health awareness into community activities and team-building practices!

 

SPARC Interviews… Kris Riendeau, Editor and Co-Founder of theHumm

While preparing for the upcoming SPARC event in Almonte, Rebecca (SPARC’s Network Coordinator) was introduced to Kris Riendeau, editor of theHumm: “a free, monthly, independent newspaper covering Arts, Entertainment and Ideas in the small towns and communities of the oVal”. Circulation ranges from 7000-9000 copies and these can be found in Almonte, Perth, Carleton Place, Westport, Pakenham, Carp, Arnprior, Lanark, Smiths Falls, Burnstown, White Lake, Balderson, and Merrickville. Content can also be found on theHumm‘s website, which also hosts a comprehensive community calendar. Last week Rebecca spoke to Kris about the paper; its 20 year evolution, some publishing logistics, the community support it receives and the impacts it has on those communities in return. SPARC can’t wait to visit this vibrant region in September! 


theHumm has been in publication for 20 years now. Why did you decide the start the paper back in 1998?

There were so many events in the area – lots of visual arts, a lot of theatre, classical music concerts – and there wasn’t one place to find out about all of it. So my husband and I, with a couple other people, decided to start the paper. We ran it together for a year and by that point could see that it needed more time to continue growing. The others who were working on it with us weren’t able to give it more time, so my husband and I bought it out and took it over.

Did you have any grants or funding to help you start the paper?

No, not really. We decided early on that if it wasn’t going to be supported by the community we didn’t necessarily want to get into it. There are all sorts of things that can happen with funding; you might get a grant for a year and then it’s gone or you could get a start-up grant and then need more and not get it.

That first year I took on the role of sales person – I had sold one Kirby vacuum cleaner back when I was 18! I sold four businesses three months of quarter-page ads and that gave us enough to pay for our first printing run. My husband had done the layout for his high-school yearbook so he did our layout, and the other two people who were involved were editors; they got a lot of content, wrote articles, got in touch with people running local events etc.

Everything was kind of self-taught. And if you look at an early print version, especially in the first two years, they were not as pretty as what we put out now. It was a steep learning curve!

Once the paper was 7 years old we said ‘Wow we should have started a 7 year old paper!’ because by then it was really entrenched in the community, we weren’t making a full two-person living, but we were making money, and it was growing.

What are some of the key ways in which the paper has evolved over the years?

Getting into social media has been a development over the past couple of years. We put out the print version of the paper and then pretty much any event that is advertised in the paper goes out on Facebook and Instagram as well closer to the event day.

It’s helpful that our social media messages can be varied – ”Go to this event, now go to that event, now go support this thing” – instead of a business that is always posting “Buy my product! Buy my product!”. It’s a lot more work, but helpful in terms of reaching people and adding value for our advertisers. 

Was there always an online component to the paper?

Within the first 5 years we had a website. The calendar was online within the first couple of years because we wanted people to be able to access all those events easily and find out what’s happening in the area.

A lot has changed since 1998 – do you find there’s still a demand for the hard copy?  

There absolutely is! We call ourselves hyper-local; it’s what’s happening this month in these small communities. People use us as a resource and they like to go to the coffee shop or the library and pick up a hard copy and sit around and read it.

The paper has remained free over the years. Are your advertisers still the sole source of income?  

Yes – advertising. And we’re only charging for print advertising right now. Website ads are not a source of revenue for us right now. They should be – and we know they should be – so that will probably be one of our next steps.

We’ve had really strong support from our readers. They go into businesses and say ‘we saw your ad in theHumm!’ – and they seem to understand that that’s what they need to do for us if they want to continue to get a free paper. They know they have to support our advertisers.

In terms of content, it looks like you have a roster of regular columnists?

Yes. That’s been another way that the community has supported us – most of those columnists write without being paid. They write because they love to write or they want to support the arts going on in their community. That’s definitely one of the ways we’ve been able to keep afloat, is by having fairly low overhead.

Other than those regular columnists, do community members also submit pieces or suggestions for pieces?

We get suggestions of what we should cover, and if we can do it ourselves or employ someone to, we try to cover it. If not, we suggest that they send in a press release or an article.

We’ve tried to keep the paper pretty personal. We encourage people to write in the first person and talk about their own experiences if they want to. A lot of the content though is press releases about upcoming events. We had to train the community to get used to our monthly deadline because when we started publishing, every paper in the area was a weekly. Of course over the years those papers were bought up by bigger publishers and consolidated and they took the staff out of those towns and so those papers are not as rooted in the community as they used to be. And in a way that may have worked to our advantage. We don’t run articles that you could see anywhere across Canada – general articles. We’re specific to local events.

It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to maintain that independence and community –focus. Can you tell me a bit about your online calendar and how it is run?

We pay a part time person to work on the calendar because it’s a huge job and a cornerstone of our paper.

You can be listed on the calendar for free – we’ve never monetized it. That was a really tough call. But if you want to be comprehensive, you have to be comprehensive: You have to put everybody on the calendar, and about 80% of groups that aren’t going to pay. We decided to invest in our calendar because it makes us a stronger publication. It makes people want to pick us up and it makes advertisers want to advertise with us.

When we first built the calendar nobody came – seriously, nobody came. We have to go to them, we have to be polite, follow-up and chase people down – all to do them a favour! But people just don’t build it into their way of thinking – and they’re just so busy! So busy doing all the things they do, and that’s why it was important for us to pay someone to do that work.

Our staff person has an email list, and she contacts everyone once a month to remind them of the deadline for submissions. She also goes online and looks on websites because sometimes a one-off show will come and do a performance and they won’t know to reach out to us.

What would you identify as some positive impacts theHumm has had on the communities it serves?

I’ve had people tell me they moved to town because of theHumm. And what that means to me is that they’ve moved to town because they see that there’s so much neat cultural stuff going on and so many interesting things to do; that it’s a vibrant area. So it’s not really “because of” theHumm, it’s because of what’s in theHumm.

There have also been a couple of occasions where we’ve seen a really profound impact on a local artist we’ve profiled. One woman was making jewelry out of her home and after she was profiled in theHumm there was so much interest in her work that she decided to set up a shop! She bought a building in Almonte and she made it into her jewelry design studio. She’s open 5 days a week now and has hired staff. She absolutely credits theHumm for emboldening her to make that leap.

And when we write about an event that’s new – for example a new festival that starts up in the area – we know that more people go if we write about it. So occasionally we’ve helped things get started. We’ll write an article and maybe give them a discount on their first ad and we hope that down the road they might support us in some way.

Are there any new or unique initiatives that have recently started in the area? 

What I’m seeing right now are some changes in some longstanding things that are really interesting. For example, the Crown and Pumpkin Tour (which happens in the fall) used to be an Artists’ studio tour, but now they’ve expanded over the past two years to include food. Now they have a local solar roasted coffee place and micro-breweries that are part of the tour. So you’re getting local arts and local food blended together. And they’re seeing an increase in the number of people doing the tours because they’re expanding their mandate.

People are refreshing cultural institutions and making them new and different. And I find that exciting because those institutions have developed a strong volunteer base over the years, and now they’re figuring out how to reach new supporters and patrons alike.

Are there any common challenges that you see groups encounter across the region?

Volunteers. Not the ‘day-of’ volunteers – the people who show up and work the gate or take tickets – it’s the people who slog it out all year long, trying to figure out which artists are going to perform or where the venues are going to be. The boards – the folks who have to be behind the scenes – all year long to make sure that something like Almonte in Concert, the Studio Theatre in Perth, or the Mississippi Mudds in Carleton Place continue to be healthy. We’ve lost a couple of longstanding organizations – like Perth Performing Arts Committee – over the past few years. There were a lot of factors that played a part in their folding, but a big one is volunteer burnout. You really need the support of the municipality, the larger region, the local businesses, the local volunteers to run something. It’s tricky to keep something going over the years.

Any tips for people in other areas that are running a similar paper or would like to start one (or something similar online etc.)?

We have always felt that when the going gets tough, the tough get good content. That’s why, even if we had to take a hit for a while – pay the person doing the calendar even if we didn’t really have enough money to do so – we invested in getting good content. For us, thankfully, the money has always trickled in afterwards.

I would tell people not to be afraid of print, because having something tangible can make a difference to advertisers. If they see your paper being picked up and dragged around by visitors and residents alike, they’re more likely to have confidence in advertising with you. To do a print publication does require a specialized skillset so you either have to learn it quickly, like we did, or you have to find people who have the skills that you need and partner with them.

But we’ve been amazed by the community support over the last 20 years. It’s not that it hasn’t wavered – we’ve had down years and up years – but in general it’s been really strong. And we’re still doing it!

Growing Together through Intergenerational Arts

By Chandel Gambles, SPARC Northern Outreach Consultant

As arts organizers, we are constantly striving to engage, maintain, and grow our arts communities. To do that we must create unique experiences and opportunities for connections. With so many other options available to community members how can we compete for their free time? One avenue that is ready for development is the creation of a strong intergenerational arts practice!

As our society has developed, it has naturally moved away from a community and family based centre. Intergenerational family homes are less frequently seen and opportunities to converse with those of other ages in public forums are infrequently found as religious gatherings are attended less often.

Although we may bump into older and younger members of our community on a daily basis, what opportunities are provided that may facilitate friendship and bond-forming exchanges? Our daily activities form siloed communities in many ways. Preschoolers go to day care. Kids are in schools. Those in their 20s are in post-secondary schools. 30 – 60 year olds primarily work within businesses with established, age and experience related hierarchies. Stay-at-home parents bond with other stay-at-home parents. And seniors often find time to travel and volunteer in their communities before some move into isolated elder care facilities or seniors only living centres.

When was the last time you attended a dance that didn’t have age restrictions? Outside of church gatherings, when was the last time people of all generations and backgrounds came together to share a potluck meal? When you last hosted an arts performance event, were there any supplementary community building activities geared towards encouraging dialogue or skill building? Or did everyone simply sit in a dark theatre and stare at the performers on stage together?

Fortunately, new intergenerational activities are emerging in many forms. For example, senior’s centres and child care facilities have been opening up all over the world promoting intergenerational day care opportunities. These sorts of cross-demographic programs offer opportunities for members of each community to look at life in a new way. Although most of the currently established programs are created to connect seniors and children, the core intergenerational concept is valuable for uniting groups across any major age range.

The focus of these programs primarily revolves around the active sharing of skills, knowledge, history, cultures, and experiences. These programs can occur at both a small or large scale and can happen in a venue primarily operated for one of the two parties, or at a “neutral” third space that both generations can discover together.

The Manitoba Association of Senior Centres has a list of resource ideas and community activity examples on their website. Videos and images from other projects can also be found on the Intergenerational Manitoba resource page.

One brilliant toolkit to help you plan a new intergenerational project or program is the Creating Caring Communities guide. This document will help you introduce your project team to the big ideas, planning advice and implementation techniques that will speed you through the development stages.

Many great projects have come out of these basic concepts:

Adopt a grandparent/family member: Much like a big sister/big brother program, helping to pair up members of your community to make outings and arts events about connection. Some seniors may wish to go to the theatre but no longer have their license to drive. Meanwhile, some kids may not be allowed to go to a children’s arts performance without supervision. Why not join forces? Consider connecting with your municipality to help discount bus travel for outings or community carpooling options.

Rent a crowd: If all the world is a stage you should be able to perform your art anywhere and everywhere. Bring your art to different groups in the community. You can take one group to the other’s venue (ex. elders to a school) to enjoy a special program or performance, or select an accessible location and build an arts event around it and the community it serves.

Tech Buddies & Tech Classes: Not only can youth educate their elders about using social media and technology, but you can take those devices into the theatrical world. One can teach each other the merits of using different technologies in the theatre. How would lighting be effected using different lighting tools past and present? Have youth help connect seniors to different entertainment systems or explore these systems to share their art live over the internet to destroy accessibility barriers. Just teaching each other the basics of our communication tools past and present truly helps us each learn how we interactive with the world around us. Communication lies at the heart of art in all its forms.

Story, character, and performance creation through research: Have one group learn about the other character’s lives and then portray their stories through songs and performances onstage. They can be directed to learn action, history, cultural practises, and movement from their senior partner. Some examples include:

Workshops and skill building sessions: Music, art, theatre, and dance classes do not have to be limited to certain age groups. Some may find comfort in learning particular styles alone, but there are many training techniques that can be used across age ranges and experience levels. Young People’s Theatre in Toronto has frequently held intergenerational theatre workshops. Puppeteria , featured at the 2014 symposium, has also created workshops to help caregivers, elders, and families communicate with each other through puppetry and play.

As arts organizers, we are the creators of events. Whether it is a volunteer, amateur, or professional activity, the organizers will decide how community oriented an activity will be. It is we who decide how the arts will affect our communities. We know the amazing benefits of intergenerational projects range from new learning opportunities, to emotional support, to socialization, to building a sense of belonging. However, these experiences will not blossom by themselves. We must curate them, grow them, and encourage our community to step beyond the lonely silos we have built for each other. If art is meant to create, then it’s time to create new bonds, new purpose, and a new sense of community through our programming.

 

 

We are where we live…

by Olivia Whiddon. Olivia Whiddon is the artistic director of Kenora Opera Theatre (KOT). She and Ruth Girard, chief advisor, founded the KOT.

Kenora Opera Theatre: “How’s that for a cultural wasteland?”  They may not know it, but our audience created this tagline.  After every concert in Kenora someone always comes up to me and says “How’s that for a cultural wasteland?”

KOT’s inaugural production “Classical Music in a Cultural Wasteland”. From left to right: Olivia Whiddon, Eleanor MacDonell, Wendy Paton and Denique Adams

When I started Kenora Opera Theatre (KOT) I just couldn’t get that phrase out of my head.  Several years ago Kenora, Ontario was given that title by MoneySense Magazine’s Best Places to Live List, not because we don’t have art here, but because of the low number of individuals who make a living at their art.  In reality, we do have a thriving community of artists. However, in a place where hydro prices are the highest in Canada, gas prices sit around 139.9 a litre, and rental costs run up to $900 plus hydro and water for a bachelor apartment, making a living as a “full-time artist” is incredibly difficult here.  Most artists supplement their income by other methods, such as teaching… and that’s where things start to get interesting.

KOT arose from a need to give performance ready students a project and venue to both perform and learn in.  Our teachers are highly trained performers sharing their knowledge with students through workshops and masterclasses, before finishing off their teaching week with performing. Other professional artists also perform with us. This arrangement allows our students to learn not only by participating, but also through observation. Meanwhile, our professional musicians are given more opportunities to share their knowledge and practice their craft.

Eleanor painted sets for a production of Hansel & Gretel

While student tuition fees go towards paying our teachers and pianists, the concert tickets go towards each show’s production costs.  This allows every show to pay for itself.  Initially we tried applying for funding, but we quickly discovered that this was not a practical approach to running our company.  We wanted to create something sustainable that could run on its own legs.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned as a singer is that when it’s show time, the audience is far more important than the performer.  When Kenora Opera Theatre began, many people questioned whether we would find an audience in town.  The answer was an unequivocal YES!

We have learned in this past year that our Kenora audience base is a loyal and supportive one, and they are more interested in seeing local performers than visiting artists.  Perhaps that’s because the person they go to see on stage also happens to be the girl next door. Or maybe it’s because when there is only so much disposable income to go around people will chose to support someone they have a personal connection to, whose quality is equal to any visiting artist. Or maybe it is because we both create and evolve together in our audience-performer relationship. As our singers progress so too does our audience, and as our singers continue to learn our audience can share in the knowledge.

Singer Eleanor MacDonell with Ruth Girard & violinist Jan Boutwell in opening concert.

Our productions are also carefully tailored to suit the needs of our company and our community. Consideration is always given to the singers, audience, performance space and the length of rehearsal time required for each show. For example, our limited (but beautiful) performance venue does not have the capacity for sur or sub titles, but that does not mean we need to perform everything in English.  Some of the ways we have worked around this dilemma is by eliminating recitatives and replacing them with a narrator, storyteller, or master of ceremonies, to give poetic translations during concerts.  We also sometimes shorten lengthy operas into more manageable productions, by eliminating pieces of music and inserting text to preserve the story. These alterations do cause our productions to become more like operettas, but that makes the work more accessible to our singers and more interesting for our listeners.  Our operas may not be for purists, but they are made for the people.  After all, opera was originally written to entertain. That’s one of the best reasons to create with the community in mind.

The Impresario was the pilot project to see if there was a market for opera in Kenora.

Being an opera company “made by the community for the community” means things run a little differently here than in other places.  Diva behaviour is not accepted, nor is backstage drama.  We are a company based on mutual respect and cooperation.  Our leads rotate per show, and they must audition for each and every show. Singers are accepted for roles based on their audition as well as their behaviour in past productions. Upon applying for any role in our productions each student must sign an “etiquette form” detailing unacceptable behaviours. Young students with the Olivia Whiddon Academy of Music (KOT’s parent company) are given stage etiquette lessons as part of their regular voice lessons. Our singers take great pride in their ability to act as professionals and take our mandate very seriously. This makes a safe learning environment for students of all ages.

Our teaching style accepts no nonsense and every student is made to pull their weight and learn about all production elements.  This means students also participate in the backstage portion of the productions, learning how to do stage make-up, build and decorate sets, create and properly store costumes and clean-up.  Leads, small roles, and chorus members all participate in these tasks. Students are generally allowed to take on backstage roles where they are most comfortable. Our chorus often does the set-up for a production while the leads take care of the after clean-up. Adding your own signature to the costumes or set has become a point of pride for many people. In fact, many students volunteer their time and talents long before they are asked. This all-encompassing “community mentality” enhances our artistic skills beyond the opportunity to sing. It also gives participants a knowledge of the backstage workings of a production that many singers often do not have. The shared workload across disciplines reminds our entire team that every aspect of a show is just as integral as the others.

Kenora’s Trylight Theatre Company and the Lake of the Woods Concert Series were both already established before Kenora Opera Theatre began. Not only did they pave the way for us, they supported and assisted us in our first year. In many ways our productions are bigger and better than they could ever be without this amazing community support.

Dancers from Dance Works Kenora with singers from KOT in Hansel & Gretel.

Kenora’s thriving artistic community does not solely consist of classical singers.  In fact, we seem to be a minority here.  That reality has inspired us to regularly collaborate with Dance Works Kenora and numerous local visual artists. This infusion of diversity adds additional elements to our productions.  Many of these collaborative artists are either students or teachers, and they want to create art as much as we do.

So perhaps being a “cultural wasteland” is not such a bad thing. We may not be making money hand over fist, but we are constantly creating sustainable projects that can run for years on the project’s own merit. We enrich the lives of students, teachers and the audience in our very own way. Our culture is one of community creation. It’s a culture Kenora has in spades.

Leaping into Rural Arts

A reflection on the 2018 SPARC Symposium in Cobalt, Ontario by youth bursary attendee Katy Grabstas

On March 21st, my dear friend Chandel Gambles reached out to me over Facebook. “OH! You are into arts promotion and admin. Do you want to apply for a youth bursary to attend the SPARC Symposium in Cobalt? It’s about performing arts in rural and remote communities.” I was intrigued. I asked what I could expect there, and Chandel promised me a diverse gathering of people united by the passion of creating and nurturing the arts in rural Ontario.

I was already typing that I would definitely apply, when she messaged “Also you’ll be the envy of all the kids on your block, because you’ll get to stay in the land of the “Hardy Boys”. 😉 The first ghost author wrote the series from here and used the area for inspiration!” Well, how could I say no now? Also, how could I have ever known that SPARC would become such a formative experience, and that I’d fall in love with the town of Cobalt?

As a former theatre and television actor, now gaining Arts Management certification at the University of Toronto, I had no idea what exactly I was getting into as I made the long drive up north. All I knew was that I had recently become disillusioned with the role that performing arts played in my life. Over the last six years I had become swept up in the “big city’s” desperate goal of monetizing your passion. Much like many artists before me, I discovered that this was an entirely unsustainable way to live (both spiritually and economically) and so I began this new degree in hopes of rekindling my passion and inspiration.

This was my headspace when I entered The Cobalt Community Hall, and put on my nametag. Over the next few days, I felt absolutely welcomed into this new community. I met people from all over Ontario and I heard life stories that were all the more incredible because they were true. Conversations started with ease – after all, even though our lives may be very different, as participants at a performing arts symposium we already had one passion in common!

Each day began with a hearty breakfast coordinated and run by Roger Sumner and Marie Manchester. It showcased the best local food that the Temiskaming District has to offer! I was so impressed that I brought home a bag of buckwheat flour and a bottle of local haskap berry syrup so I could recreate the amazing pancakes at home!

During the days of the symposium, I got to witness and participate in several workshops covering a wide variety of subjects. For example, I enjoyed a talk led by youth leaders from the Digital Creator North Program, who discussed how bringing digital art tools to kids in northern communities has created a safe-space for creative and personal exploration. Then I attended an intimate gathering in a board game coffee shop where Jack Langenhuizen (Motus O Dance Theatre) and Jowi Taylor (Six String Nation Guitar) chatted about using performing arts as a jumping off point to foster community engagement. After this particular workshop, symposium attendees were invited to have their photo taken with the Six String Nation Guitar. This photo session allowed us to become part of the cultural mosaic of 15,000 people who have had their portraits taken with this “instrumental” (see what I did there?) piece of Canadian history.

I do have to take a moment and relive wandering through the streets of Cobalt while I write this. I had heard a lot about how we as Canadians should be proud of our country’s natural beauty and history, but I hadn’t had a picture in my mind’s eye of what that meant until I came here. I kept seeing subtle signs of Cobalt’s rich history, and hints of what it may have been like living here during the silver mining rush at the beginning of the 20th century. Streetcar tracks run through the forest just outside of town, while state-of-the-art (for its time) mining equipment lives by the banks of the lake. Entrances to mining tunnels dot the ridges around Cobalt, hinting at the separate underground world that runs beneath the town.

                                             Photo by Colin Harris

A definite highlight of this region was a guided hike leading through the trails to Devil’s Rock. This sheer cliff face plunges 150 metres down into Lake Temiskaming, with an unforgettable view of the Canadian landscape. Not only did our guides tell us about the local history and ecology of the forest, we were also led through a mindfulness meditation as we sat on the cusp of the cliff’s edge.

While visiting the Temiskaming District, I was struck by how deeply proud the local inhabitants were of their rural town. The natural beauty, the town’s history, and of course the amazing local food all spoke to the unique experience of visiting this corner of Canada. This cohesion across communities (even those separated by long stretches of highway through dense forests) is unlike anything I have experienced during my years in Toronto.

This communal mentality was reflected in the participants at the symposium. Everyone there held similar passions which were simply separated by geography. SPARC provided us with a gathering place to find collaborative partnership and inspiration. I overheard many networking conversations and job proposals during meals. Considering how huge our province is, a gathering place like the one that SPARC created in Cobalt is invaluable for arts workers across Ontario.

During my time at the symposium I recalled my earliest memories of being entranced by performing arts and storytelling. In the push to make my acting career financially stable, I had completely forgotten that my first love was neither television, nor even theatre. As a child I was fascinated by the concept of time travel, and so discovering that there was a community of costumed historical interpreters dedicated to making local histories come alive was a revelation to me. I would not have been reminded of this had I not both participated in the Rogues in Partnership workshop, which talked about producing plays about local history, and witnessed a historical reenactment of voyageur life on the banks of Cobalt Lake.

Besides reaffirming my love for the performing arts, the SPARC Symposium also provided practical opportunities. As I approach graduation, I have begun to watch for where I can best put to use the knowledge I have gained through my program. I am now in contact with several rural arts organizations who are interested in hiring me as a consultant once I graduate, in order to help create a strong administrative foundation for their performing arts companies. I will definitely be recommending this symposium to my classmates!

Although it’s been a few months since the symposium ended, I know I will be carrying the experience with me once I return to classes in the fall. I want to learn more about bringing Canadian history to life by facilitating storytelling events. I also feel more in touch with the performing arts across this wide province. In the coming months I plan to bring that awareness of underrepresented arts groups to fellow students and colleagues. I feel revitalized, and I owe it all to a Facebook message from Chandel and a leap of faith. Sometimes that leap turns out to be a six hour drive north.

                                  Photo by Colin Harris

SPARC Interviews…Mark Oliver, Tamworth Erinsville Community Development Committee Concert Series

Earlier this year, Mark Oliver posted some information in the SPARC Members’ Facebook group about the Tamworth Erinsville Community Development Committee Concert Series. SPARC staff wanted to learn more (and share more!) about this initiative, so Rebecca connected with Mark and they chatted about the roots of the concert series, how it operates today, some of the organizational challenges associated with the series and the positive impact it has had on the community.


You mentioned that you do not have a background in the arts. How did you become engaged with the arts community in Tamworth?

I’ve always been interested in music – through high-school and University, and I’ve owned a restaurant and a bar that hosted musicians – I’ve always dabbled around in that kind of stuff. I began running the concert series because of my involvement with the Tamworth Erinsville Community Development Committee (TECDC).

Back around 2005, like many small towns, our community was feeling the impact of big box stores, so a group of active volunteers started the TECDC. We received a RED (Rural Economic Development) grant through OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs), and to publicly announce that we had received this grant, we decided to hold a concert in the community. We brought in The Good Brothers, and the concert was received very positively in the community. The RED grant was focused on things like physical improvements – parks and gardens – which we needed in our community, but we also started to realize that the arts were as important to community vitality as any of those other things. So, we revisited our mission statement and we included a clause that said we were going to do what we could to support the performing arts.

I’ve been the chair of that community volunteer group since its inception in 2007, so I guess my role would be ‘local arts community supporter’!

Other than the success of that initial concert to announce the grant, were there other reasons why your committee felt a concert series would be a good fit for the community?

We seemed to go with the concert series for a few main reasons:

  1. It was something that I could do- that I had the skills to orchestrate. We have a small group of volunteers, so the project needed to be manageable.
  2. It was something we could accommodate. We use the Legion hall, which seats 120 people. It doesn’t have facilities that lend themselves to full theatrical productions – it’s really ideal for this sort of thing.

The concert series itself, how has it evolved over the years?

We’ve definitely learned some things.

One is that we’re a really small community – we might have 500 people living here if you count all the dogs and cats – so we can’t ‘go to the well’ too often. I think there was a year when we had a few extra events (before it was a clearly defined series we were just producing events as opportunities arose) and we saw that impact our numbers. Now we consistently schedule 6 shows every year; that seems to be the number that doesn’t let the shine wear off the nickel. We stay away from the summer because it’s hard to keep the hall cool, and it’s busy – it’s festival season.

We’ve also created a subscription option – people can buy season tickets if they want to. And that’s been really interesting. Our strategy has been that if you purchase season tickets, you receive a public thank you and a saved seat. There’s no discount; there’s no space in the ticket price we charge to discount. Ticket prices are based on selling out 120 seats to a show, and the proceeds cover the artists’ fees, the venue cost, advertising costs, and hospitality costs – there’s no profit.

It looks like there are also a lot of sponsors within the community.

I think there are about 20 or 21 right now. They pay $50 to be a sponsor, and they’re required to buy two seasons’ passes. For the extra $50 they get their logo on our poster, in our print ads, and in a PowerPoint presentation that I run prior to every concert.

We’re not very flashy and we try to be transparent about where all the money is going, and I think that helps.

Do you do outreach to secure sponsors, or are they primarily subscribers who own businesses and come to you wanting to support the series? 

It’s both right now. I send out an information package to the existing sponsors and the existing season ticket holders about ten days before the next season goes public. They have those ten days to tell me if they are interested in securing their place for next season or not. If not, I’ve got room for additional sponsors and can sell to incoming people. If I can’t fill the vacancies it’s not the end of the world, but it sure is nice to have over 50% of the house sold for every show!

Your RED grant ended around 2011. Do you receive any other funding for the series now?

Yes, we receive CAPF (Canadian Arts Presentation Fund) funding now through Canadian Heritage. I first approached them around 5 years ago, and David Barnard was so supportive. He was so interested in helping us out because of our rural location. It’s absolutely a joy to continue working with him.

And what is that funding used for?

We’ve received around $5000 a year for a few years now, and that just goes into the talent pool to help us pay artists’ fees. We’ve also received a grant from the SOCAN Foundation, which is also for artists’ fees.

Who organizes the concerts?

My wife and I do. We pick the artists, we pick the dates based on what we think would work well with the calendar, I write all the grant applications, we do the printing of the tickets and posters, we arrange everything – and we’re both volunteers at the legion now, so we’re often the ones there cleaning up before and after. I provide the PA and the lights. It’s a pretty small operation!

Small maybe, but a lot of work and big outcomes! Do you have a consistent team of volunteers?  

We have a core group of 6 people between the legion volunteers and our TECDC. And that’s all we need. We can run the show with 6 volunteers.

What have been some of the challenges of organizing the series ?

 There are definitely a few. One has to do with the urban centric focus of the music business. Some agents would rather have young artists play two nights a week in Toronto for free beer than to risk sending them out to a place like Tamworth. That’s how it seems to me sometimes.

Along with that, there are issues with communication sometimes. When I make an offer to an agent or an artist I send along a four-page document that spells out everything that we can do for them. It includes what we do for meals, what we have for PA, what we have for accommodations – I put the financial details on there – and I would bet that quite often the artists or managers never get a chance to look at that. So suddenly, a month before the show, I get calls asking for things I can’t provide.

So communication within the industry has been a big issue. Making sure the artists understand why we can only provide what we offer in the contract; that we aren’t making a profit – everything is calculated to the last dollar.

I think it’s way better to get all that stuff worked out before you have a signed contract, instead of having an artist showing up and getting something they weren’t anticipating or not getting something they were anticipating. This year I’ve been trying my best to contact performers directly to try to help improve this communication piece.

Other than that, just convincing artists to come out to our community can be a challenge sometimes. For the 8 years we’ve been doing this we have the artists back to our place to eat, and we understand that they’re working and we’ll give them quiet space. But that’s something that I think some artists are uncomfortable with or just aren’t used to doing.

What about positive outcomes? How has the concert series positively impacted the community?

It’s hard to quantify, but it’s interesting when you get into larger, neighbouring communities and you bump into people and they say: “Oh there’s interesting stuff going on back in little Tamworth!” We’ve had people come from quite a long way away to take in shows –  from London, New Jersey – and I know they’re often coming here to visit people as well, but it’s making the community members think ‘Hey, there’s something special going on’. Seeing the number of community members who are bringing friends out is great. Any kind of traffic you can get coming to and through a small community, I think, is good.

One of my other observations about things like this is that they always seem to need to be started by a group of people that have some sort of burning desire to make something happen. And then, hopefully, somebody will pick it up and run with it after they burn out. That’s the struggle here. There are islands of energy where groups of people will come together and really make something sparkle for a while; the tricky thing is to get somebody to come in and not be intimidated by what came before but to put their own spin on it and keep it going. That will definitely be the case with the concert series.

Do you have any tips for people who want to start a similar initiative in their community?

Don’t plan on it being a fundraiser. If you make money at it, bonus. But I think that’s the magic. When we started, my wife and I put our own money on the line. After 8 years I bet we are plus or minus $400. And that sucks if you’re trying to make an income off of that. But if you’re not, it doesn’t matter. It’s just about developing the performing arts community, or your own residential community, and it’s okay to do it that way.