This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Jeff Miller was an interesting guy and an interesting artist. Every once in a while I’d bump into him at Brewery Bay Food Company and we’d sit and have a drink and talk about this and that.

They were informative discussions about art and life and the intersection between the two. He always seemed to have something to say about seeing the things right in view, but largely ignored. He drew your attention to details. Not just visual details. The environment the details were in or came from were important to him. I never left feeling I didn’t learn something from Jeff.

He was very enthusiastic about everyone else’s art, more so than his own. Sure he’d also tell me about exhibitions he was having, almost always north of Orillia in Hunstville or Algonquin Park.

He was always interested in new artists and what they were doing, and especially young artists who were still developing.  He made up a little watercolour painting kit called Look See Paint. Robert Bateman said, “Look See Paint is a brilliant idea whose time is come.”

It was little kit. All the stuff needed to paint a small scene came inside a plastic box the size of a VHS container. It had an instruction book and was designed for learners to discover painting on their own without the aid of a teacher.

I’ll never forget when he discovered my youngest son was developing drawing skills and Jeff, without missing a beat, told me to take the kit on hand to give as a Christmas gift. Of course, that didn’t help with my oldest, so he got another one out for him. Jeff wouldn’t take any money from me for them. He just was happy to discover another young artist and wanted to help the process along.

City Vibes, Jeff Miller

Many artists in town looked up to Jeff. I don’t know all of them, but I find out who they are from time to time. One is Craig Mainprize. It was at Craig’s Creative Nomad artist talk for his Wind exhibit almost 2 weeks ago I found out he was a fan. Craig referred to Jeff relating to some aspect of his own painting and added Jeff died earlier this year.

You could have knocked me off the chair with that news. It turns out, at the time the news was dominated by the COVID emergency declarations here and provincially and that’s when Jeff died, March 24 to be exact. Jeff was upstaged by a pandemic.

Later the same day I watched the Orillia Regional Arts & Heritage Awards video and in Naomi Woodman and Travis Shilling’s acceptance of their award Travis talked about Jeff. Yeah, Jeff made a mark.

The folks in Huntsville think so too. The Muskoka Conservancy posthumously gave Jeff the Wayland Drew Natural Heritage Award. There is a nice story about it here.

I hope some group or person comes up with a way to recognize Jeff’s contribution to arts here in Orillia because he deserves it.

Hold Your Ire

Recently there has been some talk and some words typed regarding the Factor grant of $90,000 given to Grimes. She is Claire Boucher of Vancouver, a popular singer and partner of Elon Musk.

Musk is the second richest person in the world, on paper – of those who get counted (never seem to see any Rothschild’s on any lists – Putin or any Saudis for that matter). Quite a few people, including some journalists, had an issue with Grimes getting such a grant, all things considered. Most of the people commenting really don’t know what the heck they are talking about. There’s nothing new there.

Factor has been around for eons, granting money to musicians to make music. It started in 1982 (first money out the door was in 1986) by radio broadcasters and record producers to fund Canadian artists’s recordings. It wasn’t until 1986 Factor took on administering the Canadian government’s Sound Recording Development Program. In the last year they received $14.5 million from the government and $16.3 from broadcasters and paid out $25.2 million. The organization’s administration runs on about $2.5 million annually.

The goal is fund projects which have the best chance of commercial success. While many of the grants (there are 10 categories) are awarded in an artist’s name, most often the cash goes directly to companies who in turn spend it on marketing, travel, and recording.

A lot of industry people get a paycheque because of these grants, all the people who have a hand in making a record on the other side of the microphone. The artist really doesn’t get any of it. Unfortunately, some of the cash, and I haven’t been able to determine how much, goes into the pockets of the suits who we all know contribute very little to the creative process.

So, how is it Grimes got a grant? If you asked her, I’m pretty sure she didn’t know she got one until it became news, or even an application in her name was made. The company managing her, Crystal Math Music, has a bunch of artists it takes care of (Metric, Half Moon Run, Purity Ring and others), and they are also a label. Crystal Math got the money.

It is a grant under the Comprehensive Music Company category (which is for funding support to help Canadian music companies subsidize the production, acquisition or marketing and promotion of a new, unreleased full-length sound recordings), and the money was for, “Sound Recording, Marketing, Showcase, Tour Support, Video, and Radio Marketing.”

Less than a hundred grand isn’t going to go far for all that. In fact the grants are meant to supplement other money spent in those areas. And, Crystal Math applied for similar grants in the names of its other artists and got $197, 000 (Half Moon Run accounted for $111,000).

Yeah, it doesn’t look good when a billionaire’s partner gets a grant, but you have to keep in mind a lot of talented schlubs doing the grunt work to put an album on the rack at Walmart got to buy pizza for dinner, rather than she got another bauble to throw on the pile. Looking over the list of grant winners, there are plenty of names of lesser known bands (and many who have played here in Orillia) who got some kind of grant.

For the overwhelming majority of recipients, this money makes a huge difference to them, and to us because if we have to listen to radio music of suspect worthiness, it might as well be our own instead of from south of the border.

I’m not going to fault Crystal Math for applying for a grant for one of their artists, as they did for several of them. They rolled the dice according to the criteria – those which have the best chance of success – and you have to admit Grimes has a pretty good chance on that count.

For every musician who ‘made it’ there are a hundred who also made it, but have to work a second job to afford the music habit. Its funny the people at the heart, ground zero, making the music pay everyone from the recording studio on up the chain. At least the people on stage get the accolades.

If there is an argument to be made, it’s about the application and granting criteria. The point where the deciders say, “thanks for your application, but it seems you are doing pretty well without our help,” is a bar which may need to be lifted a bit.

The Shorts

*  The Orillia District and Arts Council has snagged two Master Class Online memberships. Some of the folks who are lecturing are, Steve Martin, Martin Scorsese, Judd Apatow, Hans Zimmer and way too many others to list further. ODAC is donating one membership to the Orillia Youth Centre and is deciding how to use the other one. ODAC also wants people to know the Canadian government has expanded funding for performing arts. There will be $181,500,000 for live and digital events. For details visit the Canada Arts Council and Heritage Canada (different programs).

*  Orillia Secondary School music students have an online Christmas concert happening Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. Check their Facebook page for links to watch.

*  The Orillia Concert Band has a fundraiser happening by way of their Facebook page. They still have insurance, instrument storage fees and other expenses to pay for and as you know there have been no concerts to generate money for those things. They have a goal of $5,000 and 100% of your donation goes to the band.

Zain Campbell

* Zain Campbell has a new tune to hear. It’s a tribute to his friends who have left the planet and to bring attention to the Valis Sound Studio at the Orillia Youth Centre.

*  Kevin Gangloff was on The CBC’s Ontario Morning Wednesday to talk about the Valis Sound Studio, the inspiration behind it (Nelson Bell) and other young musicians.

*  Galleries in the Arts District are having their annual art sales geared to gift giving. Tiffin’s Creative Center has their Walls of Smalls (works by Gayle Schofield, Catherine Cadieux, Judy Suggg, Jean Sanders, Pat Beecham, Beverly Pearl and Marlene Bulas) all under $100; Peter Street Fine Arts has their 6×6 Christmas show up; Hibernation Arts always has small pieces mixed in with the bigger stuff, but hey, it’s Christmas so expect some themed art; Lee Contemporary has If Only I’d Received Art For Christmas with works by several artists.

*  Zachary Lucky has an online show Sunday playing songs from the Canadian Songbook. It starts at 8 p.m. and you can watch here.

*  Streets Alive’s annual Merry Streets Alive Christmas event is Saturday from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Arts District.Get an ornament painted by artists and a pic taken by Deb Halbot.

QuarARTine Auction Item

*  OMAH has something completely different for you. Holidate is not exactly the same as going to the rodeo or a Motorhead concert, but still.  Pick a day, Dec. 11, 12, 18 or 19 and chill with some art, make some art, and have a drink and some munchies. Rogister by calling 705-326-2159 . Also see the 19th annual Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition downstairs 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.

*  Congrats to Travis Shilling. The Art Gallery of Ontario just added two of his paintings to their collection. Also, he’s raising money for the Otter Art Club’s new online art program. He needs supplies for 150 students. You can donate by e-transfer to and donations of $500 or more come with a 16×16 limited edition print.

*  Do kids still listen and watch Sharon Lois and Bram? More like, do parents still expose the little angels to them? Well, Sharon and her daughter, Randi have Skinnamarink with Sharon & Randi and Friends online Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. Visit their website to get tickets ($15) for the Zoom concert.

(Images Supplied) Main: Jeff Miller and his painting, Log Jam.

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