This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz


We have a new art gallery. Mark Fletcher and his son Blake announced the opening of Cloud Gallery. It’s on Mississaga Street right across from the Orillia Public Library – and conveniently in Creative Nomad Studios.

They have the work of 25 artists, 60 pieces, up right now. There are 150 pieces in the collection, most of which have been uploaded to their website. If the studio is closed, which as a commercial/retail establishment it may not be, you can see many of the pieces through the windows. You can send email to to see if they are open, or arrange an appointment.

Mark is the former co-chair of the Orillia Museum of Art and History. He’s worked in big business and marketing and now teaches entrepreneurship and investing at Georgian College. Considering the shape of things the last year, and for the next 4 weeks, he may also be nuts to be starting a gallery right now.

“Yeah, I’m crazy. But my spirit tells me whenever people say you’re crazy that means you’re usually on to something that’s going to be OK,” Mark said. “Owning an art gallery anytime is not easy. We’re going to do things different and we got off to a great start.”

They have 350 followers on Instagram and they’ve only been on the platform 6 days.

“We’ve already sold 4 or 5 pieces and we’re not officially open.”

If there’s one thing I’ve said many times, here and to artists, its find someone who knows business and appreciates art and partner up. This is exactly what is happening here. Mark has a history of hosting retreats for artists, providing the setting and atmosphere to be creative. He can’t draw a straight line with a ruler (join the club, I’m president) and doesn’t claim to have any other artistic pursuits, but he does appreciate art. He owns 70 pieces, many of which he bought from local artists who have been to his retreats.

Mark and Blake Fletcher
Mark and Blake Fletcher

Blake is a software engineer and a freelance web designer. Part of the mission of Cloud Gallery is to join the physical aspect, the work and gallery, to the digital world for marketing and sales.

Blake was the one with the idea. He wanted to start a business with his dad. Not knowing exactly what business, they both gave it a week of thought and Blake came up with the art gallery idea.

The artists they have in the gallery were independently chosen, as in they each came up with a list of artists and those who appeared on each other’s lists were targeted for the gallery. They got almost all the ones they wanted and still have a couple they’re working on.

“We had great success getting the artists we wanted.”

Art by Catherine Cadieux
Art by Catherine Cadieux

Not all the artists represented are local. Several live elsewhere in Ontario. The locals are Liz Schamehorn, Craig Mainprize, Catherine Cadieux, Dave Beckett, Jan Wheeler, Miriam Slan, and Melody Madden.

“We didn’t start by saying you have to be from the Orillia area. We started by saying you have to have great art. The good news is there’s lots of great artists in Orillia.”

Originally the thought was to stay online because their research showed most art sales are happening online. However, that’s not the same as seeing the art in living technicolor.

“We decided we’re going to need a space as well as an online presence. I just walked in here and sat down with her (Anitta Hamming) and started talking and very quickly we realized this was a really good match for both of us.”

And Now, For Something Different

While everyone is staying at home, again (except for those who can go to work, or shop, or travel, or whatever is an excuse) you might be wondering, “what can I do? I’ve read the internet, I’ve watch all the Youtube videos (read to the bottom, come back, click the link, enjoy. You’re welcome) there are, I’ve purged Facebook of all the people I didn’t know can’t think straight and the ones left are boring, I’ve listened to every CD/music file, watched every movie – and darn it, I’m not reading War and Peace again.”

Leave to the French to save the day. Specifically, the good folks at the Louvre. This week they announced they have 482,000 items from their collection and that of the Delacroix Museum, plus images of sculptures from the Tuileries Gardens on line. The collection includes art recovered from WW2 Germany they are still trying to find the rightful owners of.

This is where you find all of it. Go nuts.

While we are on the subject of art, something called non-fungible tokens, or NFTs for short, have been in the news a lot lately. There have been reports of people paying millions to own the first digital images of pieces of art and other claptrap found on the internet (Tweets. Really? Yes.).

Of course, when you see stuff on your computer, or phone, it’s an exact copy of the original file, so some people with more money than brains figure it’s a good investment to own the original file. I can think of a few, well many, OK thousands of ways to take the money and run – and apparently I’m not the only one.

This poor fellow coughed up only $500 for an NFT and then found out there wasn’t anything there when he went to view it.

The thing is, none of these people are actually buying the original digital file (of art or whatever), they are buying an token on the blockchain which points to an address to where what they ‘bought’ is located. You can see the problem, can’t you? Seems those addresses can change, or disappear altogether, just like their money.

On top of that, some people are selling art they don’t own or have rights to. It’s almost like buying Florida real estate. PT Barnum was born in the wrong era.

Suds & Stuff(ing)

The Orillia Scottish Festival and Couchiching Craft Brewing Company have a fundraiser April 6 at 7 p.m., and round 2 on April 9 at 7:30 p.m (sold out). It’s online.

The deal is you order a specially put together package of 3 cans of beer, all different tastes, and some food from the folks at Couchiching. It will cost you $45. You take it home and fire up the internet and surf to the live stream (link provided with your pick up) and follow along with the program.

When you go to the website to buy a ticket, you’ll also see a link to donate $20 directly to the festival, which might be handy if you are too late to get one of the 10 tickets left for April 6. Couchiching Brewery is sharing part of the proceeds with the festival from the $45 tickets.

Summer Theater

If we move into and orange or better COVID status there will be a summer theater program at the Opera House. It will open with a new Norm Foster play, Come Down From Up River (June 30 to July 16), followed by Driving Miss Daisy (July 21 to August 13) and then another Foster play, Jonas & Barry In the Home (August 18 to September 3). Get tickets online and there’s a deal for multiple tickets.

Not at the Opera House, but the Opera House gets a cut if you buy tickets for virtual concerts by Molly Johnson (April 17) or Whitehorse (May 8) – but you have to use the sale code ORILLIA when you buy.

Music and Other Stuff

Downtown Orillia Management Board’s Easter Scavenger Hunt is going online. Check out their Facebook page at 9:30 a.m. April 3 to get a list of questions about downtown businesses. The first 10 people to submit answers by email to or as a Facebook message to all the questions will win Downtown Dollars and probably something chocolaty.

Lance Anderson has two things happening online soon. April 7 Lance and Jenie Thai are online with a concert as part of the Southside Shuffle Festival. Jenie was with Downchild Blues Band for about 8 shows on their 50th anniversary tour. Lance said the concert is a bit of a tribute to Downchild’s pianist, Michael Fonfara who died in January. See it here. April 10 he’s got The Last Waltz from Hugh’s Room. Tickets to watch online are $15, and if you want, for another 10 bucks you can stick around for a Q&A with the band.

UPDATE: Overlooked is an event at the Orillia Museum of Art and History. A history speaker’s night is being presented online April 14 at 7 p.m. Dave Town will tell the tale of a silver smelter done in by a dead cow in 1912. To see this Zoom presentation email or call 705-326-2159 and you’ll be sent as link. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

The Roots North Music Festival is postponed. It will however have a concert on YoutubeFacebook and possibly Rogers TV featuring an all local line up. That happens April 23.

Tammy Robinson

Peter Street Fine Arts has new art by Tammy Robinson up. Hibernation Arts has the work of guest artist Renee van der Putten.

Steven Henry takes requests Saturday nights at 8 p.m. here. It’s good way to spend two hours.

Joe Huron plays jazz guitar Sunday’s at noon on Facebook.  Catch him here.

Through the Farmers’ Market, artists have another online avenue to sell their work. Check it out here. Saturday you can shop in person at the market from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Leacock Associate’s annual student writing competition is open to high school and college students aged 14 to 19. There are prizes of $1,000, $700 and $300. Entry details are here, you have until April 15. Email for more details or questions.

(Photo By Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Images Supplied)

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