This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

One of the trees on the Mississaga Street side of the Opera House has fallen down. It was the one closest to the library. When the stump fell it basically shattered into splinters.

You will recall I did a story with Jimi McKee about his efforts to preserve the stumps which he carved images into. The one which is no more had an image he called The Ribbon Dancer on it. The other had the Happy/Sad theater masks. Jimi has cut out those carvings for preservation, but that stump is going to be no more soon as well.

The City OK’d a budget to beautify the corner of Mississaga and West Streets and work will happen this summer if pandemic rules allow. Jacqueline Surette, whose culture department is in charge of the project, told me they haven’t decided yet what to do with the remaining carving, or if it will be some part of the beautification project.

Jimi McKee and The Ribbon Dancer, November 2020

Meanwhile, Opera House GM, Wendy Fairbairn said they are still planning to have a summer theater season. Of course it all depends on what the province says can happen, but it’s looking like there will be some opportunity to do plays.

Two Norm Foster plays bookend the season – a new one, Come Down From Up River (June 30 – July 16) and Old Love (Aug. 18 to Sept. 3). In between is Driving Miss Daisy. You can get tickets now, and if the first one gets delayed or cancelled you swing your seats over to the other plays (or any Opera House produced event). There are also a few things happening in the fall, and Wendy says there’s more they are working on making happen.

Before moving to other things, there’s one more item related to the City. The Art in Public Places committee has an online survey about public art. They’d like to get opinions about what kind, where and how to fund these types of things. You have until June 7 to do it, and if you don’t do online stuff well, you can get a paper version by emailing to make arrangements to get and return it.

More Jimi

Jimi McKee is opening a gallery the moment we are all allowed to go out and play, which could be in June. It will be in the train station.

That’s right. The owners of the Front Street property, which will have some kind of residential development on it, are keeping the train station. I spoke with one of the partners a couple months ago and they want to create a train museum.

They have a property manager, and things are being assembled for the museum. I was told if anyone in town has railroad memorabilia they’d be happy to include those items. Triple C Collectibles (a new trading card and comic store) is also going to have space in the building and they are managing the museum side too. You can find their contact info on their Facebook page to work out details for loaning or donating rail stuff.

There’s more. On weekends there will be a Flea Market outdoors. Again, the contact is Triple C.

People We’ve Lost

I learned Helen Perry died May 4. She was such a great promoter of events and concerts, which happened mostly at St. James’ Anglican Church, but also at the Leacock Museum. She worked tirelessly on the first version of the Christmas Market that happened in December 2019 at St. James’.

She worked for 25 years for the CNIB and eventually became the executive director of the CNIB National Library – of which talking books was her project.

She also was at the door greeting people for many events, and often said to me, “I have a seat for you at my table.” Or if I was is early, she would sometimes sit with me. Failing that, intermission was always a time to say hello and she always asked about my boys and other things going on in my life. She was very good company at these things. The cultural community lost an important dynamo and I will miss her.

While I was looking up information about Helen, I found out Reid Asselstine died March 10. Reid was instrumental in getting the Mariposa Arts Theater off the ground. He was also one of the key people organizing the Rotary Festival of Trees, a seasonal institution in town while it lasted. Many people don’t know in 1988  his home was used as a set for the movie Welcome Home starring Kris Kristofferson, JoBeth Williams, Sam Waterston and Brian Keith.

I also found out Louis Brestovansky died April 12. Louis was the husband of Marta (one of Orillia’s best-known artists) and he was a member of the jazz band, Men In Black . He and Marta escaped Czechoslovakia ahead of the Russian tanks, ending up in Canada. Marta told me when the immigration officer wanted to know where they were going to live they chose Orillia because they were fans of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. Louis trained in opera, but worked as an electrician. He always had a smile and liked to laugh.

And this past Saturday Eileen McGarvey died. She was the quiet half of the marriage with Pete. She let me into their home whenever I went by on business or just to say hello, which was my bit of luck. I think I’m on good ground saying without Eileen, Pete wouldn’t have had the illustrious career in broadcasting she let him have.

Condolences to the families of these pillars of our community.

Online Distracters

The City is still taking applications for artists and for businesses to make music and art this summer at the pedestrian mall and other locations in town.

Congratulations to Ty Arends the first recipient of the Nelson’s Gift Bursary. The bursary was set up to honor Nelson Bell, who died in a car accident in 2018 and was a very active Orillia Youth Centre regular.]The $500 cheque was presented May 8, the anniversary of Nelson’s birthday.

Mary Ann Tully’s Hope and Irony

And congratulations to Mary Ann Tully. She won the first installment of Sustainable Orillia’s art contest. There will be other rounds for artists to enter environmentally themed work. Mary Ann got a $75 prize.

The Orillia Museum of Art and History has a fundraiser for their programming and endowment funds happening in June. Check their website for opening of registrations June 1 for the Spring Back With OMAH and Charles Pachter Art Auction. Charles is donating prints and paintings and past auctions of his works have raised tens of thousands of dollars. Also, the history side has another Speaker’s Night happening online June 16 at 7 p.m. on Zoom. Cathy Walton is going to speak about barns (still standing, and long gone) and the families connected to them. Register at 705-326-2159 or use the email above, to get the login info for the free presentation.

Hobo Jam is itching to set up in their driveway and do some weekend concerts the moment things open up. In the meantime they have posted some tunes on Youtube to enjoy. Band member Dennis Rizzo also posted a few of the stories from Mariposa Exposed II on the channel. He says the band would be happy to play other driveways (until they can get back into venues) and you can contact them on Facebook (and get the address for live gigs)

Travis Shilling has a limited edition print of his We Are Always Together for sale and all proceeds go to creating scholarships for kids to take part in the Otter Art Club.

Jimmy Johnston has a new music available on all streaming services. He also had a new tune out last summer called Low and you can see the video on his Youtube channel.  He’s making some changes so search for him as James Johnston, or Just James.

The folks at the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen have a fundraiser coming up. May 27 to 29. It’s  an online student art and woodworking auction. Students from Orillia Secondary and Patrick Fogarty are participating, and all students can donate artwork to auction. They want to raise $50,000, which will give the students organizing the event the ability to name the youth wing of the facility. The same people who provided the final $14.5 million building fundraising push, the James A. Burton & Family Foundation, are going to match bids 3 to 1, so winning auction bids in total only have to hit $12,500. If you go to the link above and scroll down you’ll see how to get in on the bidding, or to donate artwork

Zachary Luck has another concert online June 13 at 3 p.m. It’s live on Youtube.

Orillia Secondary School music students have their annual spring concert happening June 9 at 7 p.m. It will be online.

The Orillia & District Arts Council’s Mother’s Day video is still up if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s an hour of music and art with Marta Solek, Gaia Orion and the Orillia Storytellers, and Mother’s Day messages from people in the community.

Watch the Roots North Music Festival hour-long video concert featuring Alex Andrews and Marta Solek, Craig Mainprize, Darrin Davis and Amy Jefferies, Sam Johnston, Sean Patrick, and Zachary Lucky. You can watch other Roots North videos on their channel too, and if you visit their website and have a few bucks you can hit the donate button to support the continuation of the festival next April.

Entries for the Leacock Museum’s K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry Contest are open to June 30.  Each category has three cash awards ranging from the $750 top prize in the adult category to $25 for third in the elementary school-age children category. Go here to find out more details and get entry forms.

Aaron Mangoff has put out 5 EP’s and 3 singles in the last year and you can hear them here.

Nate Mills has a new video installment. I guarantee if you watch, you’ll feel a lot better about your own state of affairs being stuck at home.

Check out Steve Caston’s videos on his Facebook page. The artist, musician and humourist has some new stuff to see regularly.

Max Metcalf  and his band John’s Cottage have some tunes and made some videos to enjoy.

If you like Bluegrass music, Mitch Ducharme (formerly of Terry Savage and the Wonky Honkees) has a new band, Avery Drive, and some new videos.

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.

Creative Nomad Studios has a bunch of online art workshops happening. Find out more here.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Min: Jimi McKee’s Ribbon Dancer carving at the Opera House (center) is lost. The others have been removed for restoration.

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