This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

I’ve said many times the Orillia and District Arts Council is one of the most valuable, though underutilized, organizations we have.

Often I hear, but what do they do? This is fair, if the activity level of the last 3 or 4 years is the measure. But, if one looks at their entire 15 year history, they have done quite a lot. They originated the Culture Days festival, had a store front office downtown for many years and helped a number of artists get their careers off the ground. They have participated in many cultural roundtable forums – and as drivers, one which lead to the creation a municipal pubic art policy and a second to update the policy. There’s been more.

The thing I keep stressing is ODAC can be what you want it to be, but you have to participate. One of the things I keep throwing out is liability insurance; a group policy individual artists can participate in is a lot cheaper than carrying your own (which is exactly why Streets Alive became affiliated with ODAC).

How about grant writing? Coordinating more art festivals, working with the DOMB more closely when there events happening downtown? The list is only as short as the imaginations contributing to the list.

And, the nominations are open for this year’s 2020 Orillia Regional Arts & Heritage Awards. More on this next week.

One of the things the 7 member board is concentrating on is adding heft to the board, which will eventually lead to a membership drive. So this week, they announced Peter Stranks and Dennis Rizzo have been added to the board.

“I think people need to know what ODAC does and what they contribute. I was with OMAH for a while, I was with Zephyr (Gallery) and it’s clear cut what they do, but I don’t think people are really aware what ODAC does. It needs to be more clear to the public, they do contribute, so what is it they contribute and why do you want to be involved with ODAC,” Peter said.

Because the prime participants over the years have been the visual artists, it’s not a surprise people generally think it’s another painter’s club, which ODAC was never meant to be.

“They want to expand beyond visual arts into performing arts and written arts,” Dennis said. Dennis is no stranger to public life here, so inviting him into the fold brings a more well known community figure to the organization with his political and issue advocacy, a musician, author of A Short History of Orillia and as co-editor of Mariposa Exposed anthology. “I guess I am, by default because I can’t keep my mouth shut, so by default I guess I am involved in the community.”

Peter is a photographer by trade, you have seen his work, might even have a DVD movie dust cover or poster he shot hanging around. He is also an award winning photography artist.

“Everybody owns a camera, so they just assume that everybody’s a photographer. When people think about photography then it’s either you’re a working photographer or you’re a camera club type photographer and I think you can go beyond that in the same way a visual artist working with paint or sculpture or mixed media, they’re expressing themselves. They’re not just recording what’s in front of them, they’re working stuff out and I think people need to know photography is also viable for that,” Peter said. This is why he was targeted as a board member.

“Because ODAC is looking at all disciplines of arts my goal was, what they asked me to come in for is because I’m photographer, they were saying – you can bring awareness, hopefully, to the community that photography is here and it’s not just recording what’s in front of you, it’s a form of expression. They’re hoping that’s sort of what I can highlight and bring to the forefront. ODAC is not just painters. It’s also dance and music, it’s all arts, that’s their goal, right?”

Dennis hopes to create some capacity to help those in his disciplines, which in turn could create the interest for musicians and writers to become members. He has some ideas how to accomplish this.

“I really think there needs to be more local music downtown. There needs to be more venues, or opportunities for up and coming musicians to do things. The Brownstone does this to some extent, the Hog ‘N Penny does it to some extent, but they are limited venues. The other venues need to take on more responsibility for that,” Dennis said.

“Secondly, there’s the writing part of town. There was something that John Forrest used to do. John Forrest used to print stories about Christmas and he was a great story teller. We don’t have a paper anymore, but it might be of value for a medium, for people to put their own stories out there.”

Of course there are several groups of associated artists in town. They all have their own interests of primary focus, but there are times, and could be more times, when an umbrella group like ODAC can serve them, as they serve ODAC.

“I agree. That’s sort of what I hoped. I think that’s the goal. If there is that umbrella then there’s strength. It also allows you to go out beyond Orillia to a bigger pool of artists in Ontario and Canada,” said Peter.

So, welcome and good luck to all the members of the board in the quest o raise the arts community to greater heights.

Oh, while I’m on the subject of ODAC, they signed up the community for the National Arts Drive  happening Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. It’s organized by Raw Artists, and all the major cities in Canada are participating – plus Orillia.

The concept is artists will be set up curbside at locations of their choosing, you register and a map will be provided by email Saturday.

Go to the website linked above and register. It’s like signing up to an email list. You’ll get a confirmation email you are on the list. On the same page is a button for artists of all kinds (tooters, strummers and whackers included) to sign up. You get to include some biographical info, examples of your work and so on just like you would do for a group show.

New Book
Part 2 Coming

While speaking with Dennis, I asked about the next version of Mariposa Exposed.

“The book is coming along fine. We’re running into a couple of small glitches at the moment, not of our making. We have our printer all set up, we have our layout all set up. We have more stories than we know what to do with at this point, so we are debating about whether to cut back, or do two books,” Dennis said.

“We’re still shooting for an October release. The stories are great. They’re right along the same lines as the first one, some happy, some sad, some poignant, but all stories about the average person here in town. From a historian’s point of view that’s always been my look at things. I know about the Samuel Champlains and the Leacocks. I want to know about the John Whites.”

There are also some stories about our unplanned long vacations because of the pandemic and more.

“We’ve got a number of Hap Parrnaby stories, a number of John Smith stories. The names have been left out to protect the guilty.”

for delivery to your fridge, They still have to get some artwork and illustrations to include and Dennis thinks once that is laid out they will have no choice, “I think we’ll be doing a third volume.”

Stage 2, Part 2

I took a tour of Arts District galleries and studios on the weekend. Check out the web pages for them (Hibernation Art’s Peter Street Fine Arts The Shadowbox Three Crows Speak Le Petit Chapeau and Stuffed) for opening times. Here’s a gallery of their re-opened galleries.

Brian Tosh of Peter Street Fine Arts Gallery

Image 1 of 5

The Shorts

*  I am happy to report, wait a sec… the new Mariposa Folk Festival Sun beer made by Sawdust City Brewing Company tastes great. Get some online for delivery to your fridge, or you can pick some up at the brewery’s store in Gravenhurst.

Zain Campbell just signed a recording deal with the label No Limit Of The North. The company is one of the fastest growing music companies in Canada and is getting a reputation for their live concert endeavours and is growing a stable of recording acts. Congrats Zain.

*  Live music on the web –

*  Creative Nomad Studios 2020 Unlimited art exhibit is up a ready for you to stroll by at their Mississaga Street location (across from the Orillia Public Library) or visit on National Arts Drive this Saturday. If you see something you like, you can buy it online.

2020 Unlimited at Creative Nomad Studios

*  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.

*  OMAH has the second lot of their online fundraiser QuarARTtine  going online Saturday.  It’s an auction of 6×6 inch art. Most of the first lot of 20 pieces sold and you can view the art and participate here.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Images Supplied) Main: Bailey Brant of Stuffed in the Arts District is ready to take your order.

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