The SPARC team currently consists of one staff member (a Network Coordinator), and a dedicated group of volunteers that form the SPARC Network Steering Committee.

Members of the steering committee belong to a number of working groups, three of which were created at the Network Summit in 2014:

Outreach working group: to create a vibrant network for the performing arts in rural and remote communities that is accessible, sustainable, easy to manage and a vital resource. Outreach Working Group – Terms of Reference

Symposium working group: to bring together rural and remote communities, regionally and nationally, to interact, share and collaborate, and to promote community health and wellbeing through the performing arts. (Specifically, to plan and promote the 2016 Symposium with a view to fulfilling this SPARC Objective.) Symposium Working Group – Terms of Reference

Communications working groupto sustain an on-going process of identifying and sharing key challenges, innovations and opportunities that impact the performing arts in rural and remote communities. Communications Working Group – Terms of Reference

An additional working group was later formed and is responsible for Monitoring and Evaluation of the organization.




Rachel Marks – Network Coordinator

Photo of Rachel Marks








Jason Manitowabi – Northern Outreach Coordinator 

Photo of Jason ManitowabiAs a lifelong arts advocate and musician in and around his First Nation community of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, Jason is excited to join the team to help extend the arm of SPARC into the northern regions of Ontario.

From early ages taking lead roles in school plays, to warming up the stage for Buffy Sainte-Marie as a teen, to his current position as the recording technician and Music and Audio Department Lead at the Debajehmujig Creation Centre, Jason has remained true to his passion for the steady promotion and support for the arts. Attending school for Audio Engineering and Recorded Music Production, Jason has also developed programming that interweaves music, culture, language and expression into community creation projects. He is also a Presenter, planner and coordinator and team leader of the Wiikwemkoong Arts and Music Festival. He has been a recipient of several grants over the years as an applicant and grant writer for his company and also receiving as a professional artist from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, where, on 2 occasions, he travelled to Nashville TN to complete Career Development training.


Jim Blake – Network Steering Committee (Finances, Monitoring & Evaluation)

Photo of Jim BlakeJim resides in Haliburton, Ontario where he works as a facilitator, consultant, project manager and educator. He is a Consultant for the Haliburton County Development Corporation, Curator of the Haliburton Sculpture Forest and a part-time faculty member at the Fleming College, Haliburton Campus. Jim also works as a facilitator and consultant for organizations and businesses throughout Ontario. He was involved in the cultural plans for the four lower tier municipalities in Haliburton County and serves on two municipal Cultural Resources Committees.

As a community volunteer, Jim is the president and co-founder of the Haliburton County Community-Co-operative, co-chair and co-founder of the U-Links Centre for Community-Based Research, board member of the Trent Community Research Centre, treasurer and co-founder of the SPARC Network, chair of Dance Happens Here Haliburton, chair of the Glebe Park and Museum committee of the Municipality of Dysart et al, co-founder of the Arts Council~Haliburton Highlands and serves on various committees of not-for-profit organizations.

In 2007, Jim was awarded the Fleming College Fellowship in Applied Education, in 2014 the Paul Harris Rotary Fellowship Award and the Fleming College Brian L. Desbien Community Service Award and in 2015 the Highlander of the Year awarded by the Chamber of Commerce for community service.

Through his company Haliburton Associates, Jim Blake has been providing consulting services for businesses and not-for-profit organizations since 1993.

This work has included facilitation, project management, business planning, event planning, strategic planning and training for provincial, regional and local businesses and organizations. Over the past fifteen years he has worked closely with the Haliburton County Development Corporation assisting them with the establishment systems and protocols for the delivery of the Eastern Ontario Development Program, providing expertise in the area of community economic development, providing project development and management for economic development initiatives and facilitating strategic planning.

From 1977 to 1992 Jim was a manager of recreation and social services and of camping, outdoor and environmental education facilities in Ontario and British Columbia and was active on provincial boards in both provinces.

Jim is a professional storyteller who, over the past thirty years, has performed at festivals and events across Canada. He studied fine art at University of Guelph, York University and the New School of Art and exhibited his work as a visual artist from 1976 to 1984.

Jim holds degrees in Psychology and Education from York University.

Felicity Buckell – Network Steering Committe, previous Symposium Coordinator (2018)Photo of Felicity Buckell

Felicity Buckell grew up in Toronto but made the move to Northern Ontario over 20 years ago.  She now resides just outside of Haileybury, with her youngest son, two cats, nine chickens, and four beehives.  When not busy organizing the Symposium, caring for bees and chickens, digging in her garden, or visiting her other three children (all of whom attend university in Toronto), Felicity works with various community organizations and is currently employed part-time with le Conseil des arts Temiskaming Arts Council and the Cobalt Mining Museum, and is curating a retrospective exhibition of the life and work of artist Benjamin Chee Chee with the Temiskaming Art Gallery.  Felicity is involved with SPARC because she is passionate about the arts, her community, and facilitating connections amongst like-minded groups and individuals.

Kate Butler – Network Steering Committee

Photo of Kate ButlerKate Butler hails originally from Toronto, but these days makes her home in Haliburton, Ontario, after spending time living in Ireland, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. A folklorist by training, she has worked at the National Museum of Ireland and for the Heritage Division of the Irish Office of Public Works, as well as teaching at both Memorial University of Newfoundland and Cape Breton University. Kate has been Director of the Haliburton Highlands Museum since 2013 and also chairs the Arts Council Haliburton Highlands. She sits on the SPARC Network Steering Committee and was involved in the organization of the 2016 SPARC Symposium. Kate has also recently returned to the stage after several years away and is one of the founding members of Rural Rogues Productions, a theatre troupe dedicated to telling stories rooted in our local history, culture and landscape. Kate became involved with SPARC because sometime persuaded her to join yet another committee – just kidding! In reality, she is extremely excited about the richness and diversity of our rural performing arts scene, as well as the larger topic of our intangible cultural heritage. A network like SPARC can build amazing connections and open up a wide range of opportunities for those involved – we’re stronger together!

Michael Clipperton – Network Steering Committee (Outreach, Monitoring & Evaluation)

Photo of Michael ClippertonIn a career that spans more years than he cares to remember, Michael has been a director, playwright, actor, singer, designer, producer, teacher, adjudicator, workshop leader and university lecturer. He holds an Honours Degree in Theatre (York), a B.Ed. in Drama (UofT), and an MA in Drama (UofT). He was a high school Drama Teacher with the Simcoe County District School Board for 26 years, and is now on Faculty at Lakehead University (Orillia campus), where he teaches Drama and Dance to teacher-candidates. Michael has taught workshops throughout Ontario in acting, directing, stage combat, playwriting, and musical theatre. Michael has directed dozens of shows throughout Central Ontario. Some highlights include The Importance of Being Earnest (OnStage Uxbridge), Vanya & Sonya & Masha & Spike (Mariposa Arts Theatre), Company (South Simcoe Theatre), Anne of Green Gables (Coldwater Village Players), Jitters (Theatre Aurora), Guys and Dolls (Georgetown Globe Productions), Hard As Steele (Sunshine Festival Theatre), Romeo and Juliet (Theatre Cobourg), and The Affections of May (Double R Productions). As a playwright, Michael has written numerous murder mystery-thrillers, as well as several historical works including Eight Short Plays About Mary McKay; They Didn’t Even Ask Us, and ReGeneration: A Haliburton Tale. He is a resident of Haliburton County and is a member of the SPARC Steering Committee. Michael is also a member of the Theatre Ontario Talent Bank.

Eric Goudie – Network Steering Committee (Outreach, Communications)

Photo of Eric GoudieEric Goudie is a genre-blending artisan enjoying a rich, diverse and fulfilling career in the creative and performing arts. He is a poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, blogger and copywriter. He is a graphic designer, audio engineer, arts consultant, editor, academic, dramaturg and teacher. He is a producer, director, designer, stage manager, stagehand and actor. He is a farmer, gardener, entrepreneur, woodworker, outdoorsman, volunteer and husband.

Eric began his complex and lifelong love affairs with writing and the theatre during his days in public school, when he had a poem published through the Poetry Institute of Canada, a play produced at the Sears Drama Festival, and won the Dorothy Shoemaker Literary Award for Fiction. Since then he has gone on to author no fewer than 40 stage plays, as well as many other works of poetry and prose. He authored of over 400 articles and How-to Guides on a wide variety of subject matter for, and was a member of the site’s Channel Managing, editorial and title-seeding teams for many years. In recent years Eric has turned his attention back to his first love, creative writing.

In the theatre half of his world Eric has worked as a professional designer, stage manager and technician, and has produced and directed over 70 different plays through Grinder Productions, his own live theatre company. Other production credits include shows with Touchmark Theatre, Bluewater Summer Playhouse, Theatre on the Grand, Elora Community Theatre, Wellington-Waterloo Playhouse, Guelph Little Theatre, CC Entertainment, the Kaufman Arts Studio and many others.

In 2013 Eric became the Theatre Coordinator of the Fergus Grand Theatre, fulfilling a lifelong dream. In 2017 he joined forces with a group of like-minded performing arts professionals to create the Community Presenters’ Network, a resource-sharing and block-booking network of small and medium-sized performing arts centres from across Ontario. Later that year he was also invited to join the SPARC team, where he sits on the Outreach, Communications and Monitoring and Evaluation committees. Eric’s love of all things SPARC stems from a firm belief that artistic excellence can come from anywhere, big or small, from anything, be it expensive or cheap, and by anyone, be they professionally-accredited or not.

Eric lives in a 150 year-old log home on his family-owned goat farm just outside of Fergus Ontario, with two cats and Julie, the inspiration and love of his life.

Find Eric here:

Harold Hess – Network Steering Committee (Outreach)

Photo of Harold HessHarold is a life -long community based singer, actor and advocate for all forms of art in his community, volunteering on many community development and arts focused, non-profit Boards. Harold is currently a Board member of the Brockville based Youth Opportunities in the Arts, providing opportunities for youth who may not find arts opportunities in their schools. He believes the Arts can provide youth with opportunities to be leaders in their communities. As a retired secondary and elementary teacher, Vice Principal and Principal, Harold believes in supporting and investing time in his community as a volunteer. With experience as a long -time community volunteer and fundraiser, he now is the Manager of the Volunteer Centre of St. Lawrence-Rideau. Harold believes in the collaborative investing of time and community resources in building strong and healthy communities where the “arts experience” can be accessible to all.

Sandy Irvin – Network Steering Committee 

Photo of Sandy Irvin


Sandy Irvin is a longtime arts volunteer and community advocate. She’s the new English Program Director for MASC (Multicultural Arts in Schools and Communities), serving Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. She is also the Artistic Director for Folkus Concert Series in Almonte.



Chris Lynd – Network Steering Committee (Chair, Outreach, Communications, Membership)


Barrie Martin – Network Steering Committee

Photo of Barrie MartinAs President of Haliburton County Folk Society, member of the Performing Arts Round Table and a founding member of the SPARC steering committee, Barrie Martin has been active helping to shape the music scene in the Haliburton Highlands.  The Folk Society presents a concert series in venues through the County, house concerts, monthly open stages, and a Winter Folk Camp.  The Society supports local musicians by providing them with opportunities to perform, selling their music, offering recording subsidies, scholarships for youth, producing  compilation CDs, and promoting the talents of local artists.   Barrie owns and operates Yours Outdoors, a company that specializes in experiential tourism to create unique adventures in art, culture and nature that often include the performing arts.  He also provides consulting services in environmental education, outdoor recreation, tourism, and community development.


David Newland – Network Steering Committee

Photo of David NewlandWriter, musician, photographer and speaker David Newland was named a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2015, a distinction that reflects a lifelong passion for exploring Canadian landscapes and stories. David earned a scholarship to Lester B Pearson United World College as a teen. He graduated with distinction from Concordia University’s Fine Arts program, majoring in photography. David was raised in rural Ontario, north of Parry Sound, and is now raising growing family in small-town Cobourg. David has received Ontario Arts council grants for both writing, and music projects. A veteran performer on the Canadian folk music scene, and an expedition host with Adventure Canada, David travels widely from coast, to coast, to coast. His current project, Northbound: The Northwest Passage in Story and Song reconsiders the Canadian fascination with the North.

Tammy Rea – Network Steering Committee (Communications)



Rebecca Ballarin – Network Coordinator (Nov 2017 – March 2020)

Photo of Rebecca BallarinOriginally from Peterborough, Ontario, Rebecca grew up with many opportunities to explore the performing arts; taking Highland Dance lessons, singing in the Peterborough Children’s Chorus, taking flute lessons, participating in community theatre, and attending high-school at PCVS in the Integrated Arts Program. She began living in Toronto – where she is currently based – while attending University, studying theatre. Since completing her undergraduate degree, Rebecca has been working as an independent director and producer in Toronto. She has worked with Alumnae Theatre, Hart House Theatre, and on a number of indie productions including a few productions in the SummerWorks Performance Festival, and shows in various Fringe Festivals. She has also held a number of administrative positions, most recently working as the Professional Theatre and Education Manager at Theatre Ontario, and previously spending a summer as the Youth and Community Outreach Coordinator at Canadian Stage.

Rebecca’s first introduction to SPARC was as a member of the youth caucus at the 2014 Symposium. Sitting on Theatre Ontario’s Youth Advisory committee at the time, she learned a great deal about youth-oriented initiatives across the province, and the range of barriers to access youth in rural and remote communities face. It was such an enriching experience that she also attended the second symposium in 2016 as an independent theatre artist. She was inspired again by the community-engaged, collaborative, and cross-disciplinary initiatives spearheaded by those in attendance, and by everyone’s desire to connect, communicate and work together. Rebecca is so excited to now have the opportunity to work with SPARC!

Chandel Gambles – Northern Outreach Consultant (Nov 2017-Sept 2018)

Photo of Chandel GamblesOriginally born in Haileybury, Chandel has returned to the Temiskaming Shores area to help prepare SPARC for the upcoming Cobalt Symposium and head northern outreach initiatives. Stationing herself in this beautiful area allows her to balance both SPARC outreach and event plans equally. Chandel’s nomadic lifestyle has brought her to many communities across Canada and overseas. However she continues to return to Ottawa, where she has performed with daring, eclectic, and multidisciplinary theatre companies and has taught theatre. Chandel has worked both onstage and behind the scenes on many productions, and continues to enjoy writing and developing new plays. Within the Cobalt area, she has enjoyed working with the Pied Piper Kidshows, as they bring high-caliber children’s performances and workshops to family audiences. She also currently enjoys staying in touch with her agricultural roots by acting as an Associate Director of Photography and Media for the New Liskeard Fall Fair. Chandel is pleased to be working for SPARC as the Northern Outreach Consultant, to help create a more vibrant and supportive arts scene across Ontario’s many communities.

Michael Martyn – Network Steering Committee (Symposium, Monitoring & Evaluation)

Photo of Michael MartynOriginally from Peterborough, Ontario, Michael has worked in the cultural sector for almost 30 years, including time in Banff, Vancouver, and Melbourne, Australia. Currently based in Orillia, Ontario, Michael serves as General Manager of the Huronia Cultural Campus. With an MBA from Schulich School of Business, Michael is committed to developing long term career prospects for cultural sector workers who live in regional and rural areas.

Michael serves on the Evaluation Committee for SPARC. Outside of his administration work Michael also works as a performing singer/songwriter. His third solo album, ‘Rude Mechanicals’, is due out in April 2018. Michael lives in Orillia with his wife, two sons, golden retriever, bunny, and something that’s wintering in the attic.

Drew Gauley – Network Steering Committee (Symposium, 2018)

Photo of Drew GauleyDrew Gauley is a full-time filmmaker and media artist residing in beautiful Temiskaming Shores in northern Ontario. Having grown up in the suburbs of the GTA before living in downtown Toronto while working at the ROM for 10+ years, he is happy to consider himself a northerner now. In addition to providing commercial video services through his company Good Gauley Productions, Drew produces collaborative arts projects, documentary films and offers media instruction. With a guiding belief of the societal benefits associated with arts related pursuits, Drew is active on many boards and works tires tirelessly to support and promote arts, culture and heritage. He is a valuable member of the 2018 SPARC symposium working group providing his expertise towards all things video, event support and long-term documentation. He believes that the work of the SPARC organization and in particular, the 2018 symposium in Cobalt will bring about positive change in support of arts, culture and heritage to rural Ontario.

Wendy Fairbairn – Network Steering Committee (Membership)

Photo of Wendy FairbairnWendy Fairbairn has worked at a number of theatres over the last 30 years including the Toronto Performing Arts Centre, Meadowvale Theatre and The Rose Theatre as front of house manager; at the Pantages, the Assembly Hall and Meadowvale Theatre as arts administrator and as general manager for the Red Barn Theatre, Huntsville Algonquin Theatre, Vaughan City Playhouse and now the Orillia Opera house.

Wendy married into the theatre. Her husband is a dancer, actor, singer, director and choreographer. So to see a bit of him, she started to work with him for a number of community theatre groups in Mississauga.  Wendy has done everything from costumes to sets, sound to lighting, production to a member of their broads.  The only thing she wouldn’t do is perform.

She is happy to be part of SPARC and looks forward to seeing it continue to grow strong ties within the rural and remote communities.