This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

With apologies to all the musicians who have been doing their thing online since March.


We have an event to go to. Yes, it’s true. Saturday at 4 p.m. there is a reason to go outside to entertain yourself. And you can do it in your own little bubble, your car (or you can walk) and not have to interact closely with anyone – or even talk to anyone.

Wait. Cue sound of tires squealing…

Make that June 20 (I couldn’t bring myself to delete a really snappy start to this column).

The National Arts Drive was originally scheduled for this Saturday, but because so many cities who had groups scheduled to participate are also going to have protests on Saturday, the organizer nationally, Raw Artists realized it wasn’t going to work.

For the first time in months, I was excited about something. It felt strange too, to be excited an event was happening

“We sort of got into this at the last minute. We found out about it from Marg (Gurr). We decided we were going give it a run and see if we could pull something together. I know it’s going to be difficult because normally people need a lot of time to think about this stuff,” said Christine Hager, secretary/treasurer of the Orillia District Arts Council.

In conversation earlier this week she said they had more than 20 artists and musicians lined up for the about-town tour and were pushing to have 50 involved. Now they have a little more time to organize.

Raw Artists is an organization with international reach. They were founded in 2009 by artists for artists and operate independently from other groups or government organizations. They have a collection of visual artists, filmmakers, fashion and accessories designers, musicians, performance artists, and beauty, crafts, tech, and photography types in the membership and provide a range of opportunities from education, to advocacy and events. They had 10 major Canadian cities on board  for the National Arts Drive – plus Orillia.

The way to participate as a patron is to go to the website and register. It’s basically like signing up to an email list – just like signing up for email notification of SUNonline/Orillia story notifications  – at no cost. You’ll get a confirmation email you are on the list. On the day of, you’ll be emailed a map showing the locations of participating artists.

On the same page is a button for artists to sign up. That task is a little more involved. You get to include some biographical info, examples of your work and so on just like you would do for a group show. Musicians don’t normally do all that, so if you know one, help walk them through it, especially if a bass player is the marketing genius for the band.

Two More Cancellations

The Coldwater Fall Fair announced earlier this week they were cancelling the fair, and now it’s the Orillia Fall Fair. It would have been the 170th one too. Not to worry, next year’s will still be the 170th version, it will just be the 2.0 version, so hold on to that celebration.

I had a long chat with ODAS president Chad Cooke about reaching a decision. They are understandably disappointed, but at the same time know they had no choice in the matter, except when to notify the public.

He told me their whole operation is shut down and they depend on rentals of their hall for dances and other functions for income and not just the fair. I’m sure they are on it, but as I type I thought there must be some kind of subsidy they can apply for while the government(s) are sending out cheques to all others.

Our discussion turned to events months from now and the likelihood of much else happening. My contention is it will be well into next year before events will get a green light to proceed. If I were involved with any groups, and I am not other than the cultural roundtable, I would be getting things ready to spring into action in 2021 instead of waiting for some kind of official word. You don’t need to publicize what your group is doing, in case the timing and stars don’t align, to avoid further disappointment, but if there ‘s a chance to go ahead everyone will need restart time and you don’t want to miss your opportunity for your late spring, early summer event.

In The Summer Time

Depending on whether the protests happening around the country derail all our effort to limit transmission of the coronavirus, we should be able to have some semblance of an outdoor season, which means going downtown.

I thought a moment could be taken to tell you about an idea I had to create a pedestrian mall downtown all weekend, every weekend during the warm weather, possibly through to Thanksgiving.

I have two reasons why this is a fantastically great idea. Well, more actually, but two main ones.

First we, and the merchants need to have people with reasons to go downtown. Lots of people are getting the hang of buying online who never did so before. The downtown has been closed essentially, so other new habits and preferences have gained a foothold.

When we resume, restaurants will not be able to serve you as they did before, at least in numbers. They might be limited to 50% capacity, or less, or more, but not full. Closing the street for an extend period say Friday 5 p.m. to Sunday 11:59 p.m. will allow them, and any other retailer to take over the street, increasing capacity.

The other reason is musicians need work. They won’t be working in any kind of decent fashion until well into next year, if by summer at all. Restaurants hire musicians, but still won’t be able to with reduced revenue. So this is where the City steps in with a small fraction of their $1 million budget for emergency economic recovery (which looks more and more like they won’t be tapping into it nearly as much as they thought). The city has hired bands and entertainment before, they know how to do it, and could hire bands to perform at key spots on the street just like is done for the DOMB’s summertime street festivals.

Everybody wins. I put this in a letter a month ago to the economic recovery committee, and I understand some preliminary investigation of my idea has been done. There may be some low hanging fruit their, just waiting to be picked.

When I was much younger I managed the family retail business. It was a jewellery  store located in the heart of a downtown business area just like Orillia’s. I would have killed for an idea like this. Any idea that is going to substantially increase walk by traffic, especially for a business like I was involved with, which depends on walk-by traffic every month of the year but December, is an idea no one would have to explain to me.

This city needs a strong downtown. We need to support the downtown. The best way to do that is to spend money there when we have to spend money (Jeff Bezos has enough money already). And, life would be incredibly boring without our musicians – and artists, who also stand to benefit from this idea too – and I believe the small amount of money it will take in proportion to the totality of what the City originally anticipated they might spend is money well spent.

Whether you think this is a genius idea or not, you need to have a conversation with your councillors. There’s a lot more to this idea, and more benefit than I will bore you with here, but if you must, you can always contact me to discuss it. Either way, some kind of action needs to happen before the end of June, or just don’t bother because then it will be late July before a plan like this can happen.

The Shorts

*  Creative Nomad Studios’s 2020 Unlimited art exhibit is up a ready for you to stroll by at their Mississaga Street location (across form the Orillia Public Library). If you see something you like, you can buy it online.

QuarARTtine Art

*  OMAH has an online fundraiser, an auction of 6×6 inch art called QuarARTtine. Twenty new pieces for each round of the auction. View and participate here.

*   The McLaren Art Gallery published a story about Bewabon Shilling you might want to read.

*  Nate Mills, our favourite Run With the Kittens band member,  has been busy, He has a new website for you to check out.

*  Check out a video of Orillia as seen from a drone. It’s mostly the waterfront and I thought it was interesting to see how this old place looks from the air.

*  If you missed Portage Creative’s (Cole and Lydia Bennett) Mini Film Festival, the good news is you can watch the films submitted here. It’s a series of shorts which lasts about an hour.

*  The Orillia Public Library has a number of things you can do online through their website. They have games and programs to participate in as individuals or in groups. You can download music, movies and audiobooks. You can also take online courses.

*  Shawn William Clarke has a new album, Spectral Acoustics Vol 1, and you can listen to it on Bandcamp – you can buy it there too.

*   VK and the Legends of the Deep have a new video, It’s Smelling Like Roses from the Charm album.

* Here is a list of musicians (in no particular order) who have been doing concerts online.

Essential Concert Series  Thursdays, 8 p.m. Reay’s Sean and Bayze Murray perform tonight.

Steven Henry, Saturday’s, 8 p.m.

Bleeker, Facebook, Sundays, 6 p.m.

Bleeker, Instagram, Thursdays, 8 p.m.

(Photos Submitted)

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