This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

The 2nd annual Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards are done.  This year things were different. Instead of the public event it normally is, the announcement of the category winners went underground.

Tyler Knight videotaped presentations and acceptance speeches at the Leacock Museum over a number of days because nominees couldn’t even be together in the same place. You can watch the video on the OMAH Youtube page or you can read on to find out who are this year’s winners.

Education in the Arts, Culture, and Heritage Award

There were two nominees Stacey Schat and Doug Ironside who created the Old Dance Hall Players and brought improv comedy to town, and Travis Shilling and Naomi Woodman who opened the Otter Art Club a few years ago. Both are vital. People we know get on stage and make us laugh, and children learn to express themselves artistically.

Travis Shilling and Naomi Woodman

The Otter Art Club got the award. Travis and Naomi don’t just teach drawing and painting like one would think a kid’s art program would do. They bring the world into their classroom for the kids. Travis is exceptional at drawing connections of the environment we are in to ideas. He put it in perspective with his acceptance of the award.

“We’d like to do is dedicate this award to our dear friend who passed away earlier this year, Jeff Miller,” Travis said. “He taught us about how important it is to get back to nature, get out to nature and make things.”

He said more about Jeff than he did about what he and Naomi do, and it’s fitting. Jeff was not just a painter, he was a great conversationalist and one often left the barstool next to him at Brewery Bay Food Company more knowledgeable.

Emerging Artist Award

For this one, a nominee doesn’t have to wet behind the ears, with obvious talent but room to grow when it comes to art. Artists here can be decades into their craft, but just new to the Orillia community. There were four nominees – Norman Robert Catchpole, Chief Lady Bird, Marta Solek, and MaryJo Pollak.

Marta Solek

That’s three visual artists and a musician, and the musician, Marta, received the award. She’s been involved from the get go since arriving on the shores of Lake Couchiching just as Champlain did in his canoe more than 400 years ago (rumoured and unfounded, he came from the other direction, Warminster). I’ve seen her perform many times in concert with several different groups.

In her list of people to thank, Marta, who is an immigrant from Poland, went beyond the people and performing groups. “I also want to thank the beautiful community of Orillia,” Marta said. “From the first day I moved here, I was so much welcomed and I am so grateful and happy to be part of this beautiful artistic community.”

Heritage: Restoration, Renovation and Publication

This category is about history, sometimes in the making. Carolyn Leclair of Elite Printing, Sarah Pickard of The Sawbones Society (loosely affiliated with the Coldwater Steampunk Festival and the Canadiana Museum in Coldwater), Marcel Rousseau, Ron and Ann Harrison (historians of the Underground Railroad and Black history in Simcoe County) and Dave Town were the nominees. Dave has written a number of books about Orillia and Carolyn prints many of the books people write about Orillia.

Sarah Pickard

Sarah got the award. She was the head chef for a video series called The Sawbones Society, which was shot at the Canadiana Museum and is a period piece which relied on costumes the Steampunk group helped with.

She thanked both organizations for getting behind the project, and her sizeable cast and crew. Reflective of the state of dramatic production in Canada she also said:

“What we have accomplished with no budget and no time is truly remarkable.”

Event in the Arts, Culture and Heritage Award

One would think this award would have few nominees choices since there was little in the way of events this year. However, there were three important nominations. The Essential Concert Series which Michael Martyn came up with and drafted Dave Shaw and Anitta Hamming into producing just at the time when most of us had exhausted all the videos Youtube has to offer (actually they were very early adopting live performance online many others were slow to catch on to).

Dick Johnston was nominated for the Take A Vet To Dinner annual event. He was one of the people who came up with the idea (he says it was the other two, they say it was him) and it has become an institutional event. Kevin Gangloff was the other nominee. There seems to be no end to event she comes with to raise funds for the Orillia Youth Centre, one of which is Roots North Revisited, which happens –even this year – every fall and raised about $15,000 annual for the kids.

Kevin Gangloff

Kevin got the award. He thanked Mark Webster who makes the concerts sound really good and Ethan Mask who helps organize. He also had a lot to say about Steve Orr, who is the person who puts his wallet into sponsorships for the concert series and many other youth center fundraisers.

“Without Steve this doesn’t happen,” Kevin said. The money raised from fundraisers goes all in to providing opportunities for kids using the youth center, a good portion of which is arts activities.

Qennefer Browne Achievement Award

This award is intended to recognize a body of work or arts activism which could be in any medium. Will McGarvey has been involved in so many things as a committee member it’s difficult to enumerate them here without dwarfing the accomplishments of others.

Roy Menagh has been waving his arms around in front of musicians for about 20 years and he uses that position to also create fundraisers which over time have raised certainly more than $200,000, probably closer to $300,000 for charities and non-profits.

Rusty Draper is no stranger to those over a certain age, having been a staple of CFOR listeners. Of course any form of performance involves artistry, even reading commercial copy. He’s also just published a memoir, Put the Kettle on Honey I’m Coming Home, which necessarily tells stories about his connection to Orillia and vice versa.

Molly Farquharson and Phil Jackman came here in retirement. Ha! Both have dived into the arts community, Molly with her many ideas to promote the Arts District, and Phil in making OMAH’s online presence one of the best anywhere. Gaia Orion is one of the few visual artists here who can boast her work is international in scope with many exhibits across the pond and North America.

Roy Menagh

Roy received the award. “This is a surreal moment for me. I am overwhelmed to be honoured in this way,” Roy said. “We are living in interesting times when almost all performing arts are shut down.”

Something Completely Different

The selection panel decided this year there should be a special award because of, well, circumstances. They came up with the Pivot Award to recognize a group or individual who took advantage of the times to create something different to serve the community. As I listened to Jacqueline Surette talk about the things the committee felt were criteria for getting the award I thought, this is going to either OMAH or the Essential Concert Series. Surprise, they gave it to the Orillia Public Library and the Ramara Public Library.

I didn’t see that one coming. When you think about it, our libraries do what they do best, come up with ways to reach people and give opportunities for education and enlightenment. That they didn’t let the shut down in the spring, and the limited ability to serve the public recently, slow themselves down is remarkable, but as the former chair of the Orillia library board I can say – par for the course. This is the one institution that we kind of just expect to be there and really don’t think about what the staff has to do to keep up with expectations.

They both quickly went online. Sure they were already on line, but they had to think of ways to do things digitally which were normally done face to face. They came up with ways to keep patrons connected to the library and to each other since many programs are group affairs. They also waived fines, and for once an institution did something which had no affect on me because for once I didn’t owe any fines.

Congrats to the committee for coming up with the plan and then realizing the libraries are central to our arts, culture and heritage, and to the libraries for responding to the times so quickly and so well.

The photography of the presentation by Tyler was outstanding. It really looks great. Craig Mainprize served as the envelope deliverer and a bit of comic relief. He also composed a tune, Life On Fire, which served as the intro and credits music. By the way, I want o hear the whole thing Craig.

The Geneva

The Geneva Event Centre is where the awards presentation program has been held twice, and Don Porter has been working away at transforming the facade. It’s been a long process he started last year. This week he installed a new marquee sign. It doesn’t seem to have quite the profile hanging over the sidewalk as the old one, but it does have one distinct advantage over the old.

“No more climbing an aluminum ladder in the middle of winter to try and spell out the name of some band that decided to use all the letters in the alphabet at least once when deciding what to call themselves” he said about the electronic sign he can change from his cellphone.

More Craig Mainprize
Craig Mainprize Talking Art.

Last Saturday Craig Mainprize had an artist’s talk for his show, Wind, at Creative Nomad Studios. I find these things interesting because despite what I think I have for a critical eye, I always learn something, which once pointed out seems so obvious, but I didn’t catch previously.

For example, I never really noticed Craig used to outline with black marker the boundaries from one colour to another in his earlier paintings. In this show you can see he transitions away from the technique. Some paintings have some outlining, while the newest ones have none.

There were 20 people on hand and they had many questions which Craig answered. Since the exhibit has been up, he’s sold 6 paintings, which is better for sales from an exhibition than galleries expect, even in normal times.

The Shorts

*  Norm Foster’s The Christmas Tree runs to Dec. 6 at the Opera House. It’s a joint production with Mariposa Arts Theatre and has Gayle Carlyle and John Challis – and Stacey and Doug Ironside on stage (two casts). It’s funny (in my review last week I forgot to say that). Get tickets online, audience size is limited and your seats will be separated from others. The bar won’t be open, but you can bring your own drink (coffee, water, but not alcohol) and you can bring a bag of Reece’s Pieces or whatever makes you happy.

*  Zachary Lucky has two online shows coming up Dec. 6 and 13. The first will be country classics and the second songs from the Canadian Songbook (this will be interesting in light of the prevalence of what is referred to as the American Songbook we are familiar with by osmosis). Both start at 8 p.m. and you can watch them here.

*  Streets Alive annual Merry Streets Alive Christmas event is on hiatus this year. The annual get a Christmas ornament painted by artists and a pic taken by Deb Halbot happens Dec. 5 at Eclectic Café from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 in the Arts District.

*  Storytelling Orillia has an event happening Nov. 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. at OMAH. The Legendary Kitchen Party has Betty Bennett as the featured speaker and Sharon Langfield and Peter Cox providing music. In the main gallery see the 19th annual Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition and upstairs it’s an historical look at women’s hockey with She Shoots… She Scores.  While the museum is open, you need to make an appointment to browse, call 705-326-2159. You can watch videos at home to pass time away, including one about Franklin Carmichael here. And finally, the QuarARTine auction is still happening with new pieces, which you can view and bid on here.

*  The 2nd volume of Mariposa Exposed is out. There are 96 short stories, some by familiar writers and some from people who just have a good story to tell. I’ve enjoyed reading it. You can get a copy at Manticore Books.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Supplied)

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