11 Days Left to Apply to Host the 2020 Symposium

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



Alchemy Artist Residency

By Claire M Tallarico, Founder | Alchemy Residency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bridge & Falls Creative Residency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#air #tinystudios #artandarchitecture #livethelakelife #siouxnarrowsnestorfalls

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

Harriston Mini SPARC Symposium: An Attendee’s Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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