This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Somehow saying, or writing, Happy New Year has a hollow ring. After what we’ve been through and the prospect this isn’t ending anytime soon it’s hard to be optimistic.

But we are human and if we can’t be optimistic we have a problem. Through all the tribulations many of us endured, other epidemics, wars, recessions, social troubles and political incompetence we had hope, and we celebrate when strife ends.

So, I expect sometime in 2021 we’ll be celebrating.

Well, most of us. The scars for many will be without end having lost loved ones and not getting to say goodbye and knowing many passings didn’t have to happen if not for bad decisions by our governments.

We need to make some resolutions. Like many January resolutions we don’t have to act on them – right away. I’m thinking of some resolutions to note and put into action once the gates on society are opened again.

Resolve to eat at a restaurant once a week at minimum. It would be nice to head downtown and support those who had greater logistical obstacles to overcome in order to remain open, but even the chains are owned by local people, so they count too.

On a similar note, resolve to shop downtown, or at locally owned business. The Walton family and Jeff Bezos have enough already. None of that money stays in the community and many local businesses support arts endeavors and other social agencies. I can’t recall Walmart or Amazon chipping in for anything around here.

Council has extended the pedestrian mall concept into next summer, so there’s incentive to do both the above.

And when it comes to shopping for things that aren’t necessities, like gifts, buy art. It can be a painting, as many of you will first think of, but it could be a book or music. There are so many options of good quality produced by local artists to buy and I guarantee giving art is something the recipient will remember you for far longer than a gizmo from the dollar store or some other thing bought online.

I could also say resolve to start exercising. It’s an old saw and everyone pays lip service to the idea annually. I could, and I will. Here’s why.

When the Orillia Rec Centre opened I was in line early to get a pass and start hitting the gym and I did almost every weekday in November and December. I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting for it to open because while we’ve all been sitting on our butts this year, I have been for a longer period of time since Rogers closed the Orillia office and the Packet abandoned us all. I was paying attention to the deteriorating state of my body, followed closely behind by my mind, but the idea of doing something at home didn’t excite me as much as going to the gym.

In two months of walking the track and lifting weights I have become another person. Relax, my mind is still out in left field.

The extent of how quickly things bounced back to some semblance of a working body took me by surprise. The benefit has been a sense of optimism, a bit of ‘can’t wait until things become normal again’ has replaced the depressive outlook and worry. When things open up again, I’ll be back in the gym.

I mention this because I think we all could use some physical exertion. We’ve all tried the diet thing, or at least said we would. Well, working out means you will at minimum use up the extra weight inducing properties of the food you eat now and eventually start on the stuff you’ve been carrying – and still eat ice-cream, pizza, and other foods that are good, but not so good for us. And it will help you out of the mental doldrums. What’s the point of being allowed to go off the block again if your mind is not into it?

You’ll feel like you want to go to the park on a Sunday evening to hear the concerts, or during holidays and festivals. You’ll want to take a Saturday afternoon and visit all the galleries. You may even feel like cranking up the Van Halen and work in the garden. Whatever it is, you need to get your head on straight and your body up to the task.

So, Happy New Year. May it turn out to be better than you expect.

CERB Uncertainty

I suspect many artists took advantage of the CERB program. I also suspect many believed the government when they told you the rules. I’m pretty sure many of you are angry and panicking because the rules changed after you spent the money.

Well CARFAC, the national association of visual artists, along with other arts groups met with government officials and came away with some information you might find useful and give you a reason to not have so much anxiety.

The arts groups didn’t get a commitment on eligibility or repayment policy change, but they did find out:

• Canadians should know that the CRA letter is not a determination of eligibility, rather it was an early warning sign that the government did not yet have enough information to confirm their eligibility for CERB.

• The government always said that recipient’s eligibility would be verified after the program’s conclusion. CRA is at the beginning of this process, which will unfold over the coming months.

• Recipients who received the CRA letter may be eligible for the CERB, and in fact 2020 tax return information will help determine eligibility in many cases, but the CRA has not yet received that information.

• The CRA issued the letters to allow recipients an opportunity to return amounts in case they find themselves ineligible for one or more CERB periods for which they received the benefit.

• The timing of the letter and the December 31, 2020, target for returning funds were chosen to prevent impacts on 2020 tax returns and on other benefits such as the Child Care Benefit or GST/HST tax credit. It is not a repayment deadline.

(Image Supplied)

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