This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Saturday afternoon the National Arts Drive happened in town. I stopped at 3 of the 10 places taking part, saw work from 5, one either didn’t end up participating or packed up before I got there.

I did start later than the 4 p.m. front end, and come to think of it, I ended well past the 7 p.m. close. If I wasn’t tardy (I had a good excuse) I would have got out into the country side to see the three locations in Oro-Medonte.

Molly Farquharson was all set in her new Arts District location (where Art & Home Studios was) and it looked all organized, which impressed me (I still have stuff in boxes form my last move and I’ve been here for a couple decades).

She still has a couple bare areas on the walls, big enough for guest artists to hang some stuff and a spot for the Orillia Fine Arts Association to hang member works. Mary Jo Pollak and her art were also at Hibernation Arts.

In Molly’s old Arts District place, Patti Agapi had a large piece in the window, but she wasn’t around. The idea of the event was for artists to set stuff up so the rest of us could see the stuff in a drive by.

I was out on Lewis Drive where Hobo Jam was playing in Dennis Rizzo’s driveway. He’s been entertaining the neighbors for several weeks now –none of them have moved away that I can tell – and it looked like most of the people on the street were enjoying the great evening, weather wise, and the music. The neighbouring lawns on both sides of the road had chairs set out, and people in them.

I stayed to hear the band for quite a while because I haven’t heard anything live for 4 months, nor been able to shout at friends from 6 feet away, haven’t really seen anybody to have an elevated conversation with for that matter. I was going to hit the road when the band took a break, but Meredith Warboys was in the neighbourhood and asked to sing a couple tunes. Last I saw her was when she sang backup at Reay’s concert at the Geneva back in March – which coincidentally was the last public event I was at.

Meredith Warboys
Meredith Warboys

My last stop was planned to be at Paul Baxter’s because I haven’t had a chance to laugh in the presence of others for a while and he’s always good for a few. As I rolled up the first thing I noticed was how he set up. It was like I had imagined everyone would set up (that’s the banner photo).

I ended up catching up from 6 feet away long past time for the mosquito army to arrive. On the whole it was a good night. Thanks to ODAC for seeing an opportunity and encouraging people to take part as artists and drivers (passengers too). It’s a little disappointing more artists didn’t take part, but with everything being upside down right now, it’s possible the resources to pull it off weren’t available.

Paul told me that there were people from the National Arts Drive in town to check things out. He said they stopped, took photos and did a temperature check with him about how he felt things went. On that count, all I spoke with said there were many people who did the run and gun side and were pleased with how it turned out.

They Said: Show Me The Money, So They Did

ODAC has landed a $5,000 grant from the Emergency Community Support Fund and the Community Foundations of Canada. The $350 million federal program was set up to, “improve the ability of community organizations to serve vulnerable Canadians during the COVID-19 crisis. Lynn Fisher, the president of ODAC, figured out a way to snag some of the money for an arts program, which is not one of the things listed as the target organizations the fund will help.

Lynn Fisher

“This one was kind of like a last resort because we didn’t really fit into any of them (other emergency programs). I think it’s difficult for any arts organizations to access funds and this one came late in the game,” she said.

The ODAC program, called Discovering the Artist Within: Arts Education for Vulnerable Women, will be a kind of learn to do art for women who are being served by agencies like Green Haven and Couchiching Jubilee House.

“It’s just always been in my mind and I think it’s a good fit for ODAC because we can do two things at the same time. We can hire artists and we can help vulnerable women,” she said.

“I came up with the program a couple years ago and it just didn’t go anywhere. At that time I was working with Couchiching Jubilee House and was trying to form a partnership with ODAC to deliver a program to vulnerable women. “

As readers are aware, I have been writing about the fact artists, particularly visual, musicians and actors, are going to be hamstrung for earning a living for a long while – and will likely not be able to work until after a vaccine is created. So things like this, and hopefully the City Of Orillia coming through in a couple weeks with a program to put entertainers to work downtown, are not are not the total answer, but it’s better than nothing at all.

And while ideas I, and others have put forward to the City to help downtown merchants are being taken seriously, Fisher is seeing others who are off the radar.

“That part was probably important (putting artists back to work) and also just assisting vulnerable women who perhaps have more anxiety and stress during this time of COVID too. They don’t have access to as many programs or services as we as individuals do.”

The program may start soon, or may start later.

“We haven’t really decided on that. We’re hoping to put this towards another grant we have in waiting. We’re waiting to hear if we are successful with the Ontario Arts Council, so this will be, hopefully, part of a bigger project.”

“The project is a little bigger than $5,000. We can still do it for that, but we might as well wait to we see if we can get something else going as well.” Fisher doesn’t think there will be any news on a provincial grant until late August.

“I don’t really see the project going until 2021, as long as these other grants fall into place. If not then we’ll re-think that and deliver a smaller program before the end of the year.”

She said the goal is to have a 6 week program, with a class each week. It’s well documented artistic outlets are great for people who have too many worries to deal with. It give people an opportunity to engage a different part of the brain and relieve stress.

“There’s a way of expressing yourself in art that really doesn’t concentrate on the finished project as much as the process of creating it and that’s kind of where we are focusing.”

“It’s not just to paint,” she said, “It’s to give them tools they could use if they are suffering high anxiety or stress in their day to day lives.”

The Award Goes To

More ODAC, with a little Orillia Museum of Art and History for good measure – nominations are open for this year’s Orillia Regional Arts & Heritage Awards.

As with last year the categories Education in Arts, Culture and Heritage; Emerging Artist; Heritage: Restoration, Renovation and Publication; Event in Arts, Culture and Heritage; and Qennefer Browne Achievement Award are the same.

What is different is all nominations are to be done online. You can go here, to see the criteria and start assembling your nominating material. Nominations close October 2, and unlike last year, everyone has enough time to think about who they could nominate, so there should be plenty. Also different this year is there is a nominating committee.

That was my idea because every year there are deserving people and groups I think should be nominated and duke it out with the others for the awards. I felt bad for some who didn’t get a nomination and we all know being nominated for something like this is almost as good as winning. The idea is a committee, which is formed now, and I’m not on it, would be charged with paying attention all year so extraordinary events or performances don’t get missed. It’s not a stacking of the deck thing either, I believe committee nominations aren’t going to get any more weight than yours when it comes to creating a short list or deciding an award. I’ll get back to you on this point, just to be sure.

I suppose the other thing different this year is we lost 4 months and counting of events and performances. Not totally, though, there has been online activity from quite a few people and organizations. I’ll be dropping hints, or reminders, of those along the way, so get your keyboard cleaned up, unstick the keys, and get ready to nominate someone.

The ceremony is usually in late November and the audience has grown over two years from the 40 or 50 as usual, to 180 last year. I’m not sure how that can be topped this time around, but this is an arts thing, someone will come up with an idea that fits whatever rules are in place.

The Shorts

*  I’m not done with ODAC. For those who keep asking what does ODAC do? As you’ve read, I got an entire column out things they are up to.

OMAH QuarARTtine 

*  OMAH has the second lot of their online fundraiser QuarARTtine  going online. 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.

*  The Mariposa Folk Festival is going online June 28 at 8 p.m.  – with concerts. It will be doled out in episodes over the summer and you can watch it on the festival’s Facebook page.  First up is Gordon Lightfoot and Dala. Can’t watch it then? Catch it later on their website.

*  Live music on the web –

*  If you ever wondered how a guy like Nate Mills is coping with the stay at home thing, wonder no more.

*  Creative Nomad Studios 2020 Unlimited art exhibit at their Mississaga Street location (across from the Orillia Public Library) was part of the National Arts Drive. It’s still up. If you see something you like, you can buy it online.

*  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.

*  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.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Images Supplied) Main: Paul Baxter’s National Arts Drive curbside exhibit.

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