By John Swartz
The Orillia Museum of Art and History celebrated its 20th birthday Friday morning. About 40 people were on hand for speeches and cake to mark the occasion.
Without drama, Ninette Gyorody, OMAH’s executive director, announced the admission policy is changing, those under the age of 25 will not be charged admission to the museum
“OMAH is an agent of social change as we choose to work with the community to address what matters to people,” she told the audience. “We want to provide positive choices for our youth and help them in any way we can navigate the path into adult life.”
After the speeches, Gyorody told SUNonline/Orillia the strategy behind the plan.
“I think it will boost the attendance of under 25s. We know we have a steady, solid crowd of retirees. We’re starting to see a trend towards families and those who are still working, who have to make certain choices in their lives, they’re busy with their lives and running around and working, if we bring them in when they’re younger, they’ll stick around. As they age, and ideally they stay in our community, we want them to come,” she said.
The museum already offers a strong workshop program for all ages and there are numerous programs for young people to learn how to make art and about art, but they observed a disconnect between taking a class and enjoying the exhibits.
“We find they come in for programs, then they don’t come back until the program runs again, so maybe this is an opportunity to bring them back more. We put on 18 to 20 exhibitions a year, we don’t want to see them once, we want to come back 18 to 20 times,” she said.
During the remarks, Ted Duncan, the recently elected chair of the board, gave appreciation to the City of Orillia for their financial support. Ted Emond, representing Mayor Steve Clarke, followed up remarking that council didn’t just approve the annual grant to OMAH this year, they committed to annual grants for the remainder of council’s term. He also recognized the museum’s other fundraising was accounting for a larger chunk of revenue and on a percentage basis the City’s grant was becoming a smaller portion of total revenues.
“This is something that we would like all of the agencies we support to emulate,” Emond said.
The history side of the gallery’s function has been improving. Aside from the number of exhibits increasing, the monthly speaker’s series is becoming a hot ticket with several events reaching capacity attendance.
“This year we had to lock people out, we were beyond capacity on the third floor,” said the past chair of the historical committee, Dorothy MacDonald.
Jean Sarjeant has served many capacities with the museum, right from day one, and further back. She said she was involved over 20 years prior with the historical society, making 40 years of service, but her main job at the party was to recognize Sue Mulcahy’s contribution.
“It gives me great pleasure to award Sue with the OMAH History Legacy Award,” said Sarjeant. “Sue has always been there helping out in many, many ways, but always in the background.”
“We are so fortunate to have her as one of our main supporters over the last 20 years. I cannot imagine where we would be without her outstanding assistance in so many ways. Her encouragement, her words of wisdom, her knowledge of this area is priceless.”
Mulcahy offered up space in her Peter Street storefront where her insurance agency had been located to the Sir Sam Steele Gallery and the historical society to store the collection before and during the renovation to the Sir Sam Steele Memorial Building, and has come to the aid of the museum many other times since.
In 20 years OMAH has become much more than just another gallery and a group of people keen to preserve Orillia’s history, and as Duncan said, “OMAH has become an anchor, not only for our Arts District, but also for cultural facilities and programs in our community.”
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)