This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Downtown is looking great. There are lots of new stores and places to eat, Matchedash Lofts looks impressive now the street is open and cleaned up. The trees are all full, with light poles flying banners and Peace Symbols.

The Hippy Vans are all over the place. Some were installed after last week’s column and I didn’t get photos, but really folks, did I miss the call when imagination was handed out? You people really outdid yourselves this year. Some of them have designs I never would have come up with, while others look exactly like you’d expect because it’s about the 60s and, well, you know.

Throw in some of the leftovers from others years, chairs, letters, doors, etc. (you forgot the sailboats), oh yeah, the sailboats at the waterfront parks, and it’s like everywhere you look something from a Streets Alive sculpture project is in view.

When I first started calling Orillia home, I was impressed with the downtown, the way it looked and felt. Then the merchants through the DOMB and the City decided to lay down some simple and easy to abide by rules for exterior treatments to restore some of the hidden beauty of the buildings – and prevent some from doing something to wreck the continuity of the look of downtown, like modern (for the day) red panels as exterior cladding (you’d think with billion dollar quarterly profits some establishments might take it upon themselves not to stick out like a sore thumb in the midst of an otherwise cohesive look). And let’s not forget the sign making contributions of Ron Schell.

Soon building owners, often also the business owners, as they remodeled joined the movement. Some griped about the colour plan, but you know what, you all look really good next to each other and there isn’t the same kind of sameness you find like in new residential subdivisions.

Then 10 years ago Streets Alive came along. Our downtown looks nothing like the downtown of 30 years ago, yet it’s almost the same. It’s kind of like adding a new shirt, tie and shoes to go with the suit. It’s the same suit, but it all looks different.

There are some who don’t think downtown is happening. Hambly’s has glasses cleaning solution and cleaning cloths, you should get some because our downtown is fantastic. Could it be more fantastic? Of course it can, but there isn’t much more room for improvement.

There are also people everywhere. The one thing I can’t get over is the amount of people on the streets at anytime of the day. For a city of this size we are like a bunch of bees on a field of flowers. There are no other towns or cities in this county (including Barrie), and many other parts of Ontario with our kind of activity.

Starting July 2 you can go downtown Fridays and have dinner in the evening , do some shopping (hint, shop first because some stores don’t stay open, which I can’t figure out because in my youth all the stores in my old hometown of roughly the same size stayed open Friday nights). Saturday evenings too. Mississaga Street will be closed to cars those nights until after Labour Day weekend.

There will be music to enjoy too. If you are a musician, the City is still hiring so go to the online application and get some work. Businesses can apply for some funds to help cover the cost of hiring any of the great musicians we have here.

I may not have the healthiest bank account, but I’m rich in so many ways just because I live here.

Youth Center Concert

The Orillia Youth Centre is not open, yet. Kevin Gangloff told me they have outdoor activities (ever tell a kid to take a hike, they have a program for that), and they will be continuing them for some time because they want to make absolutely sure it’s safe to open the center for indoor stuff.

But they are planning and scheming. One of the plans is to have their annual late summer fundraising concert. They have a headliner and a couple supporting acts lined up, but no matter how much I begged, Kevin wouldn’t tell me who they are until the ink is dry on the contracts. As soon as I can, I’ll have more.

The concert will be September 25 at ODAS Park. They’ve already lined up use of the Mariposa pub tent, the older, smaller one, which is still pretty big, Eclectic Café is on board for munchies (you can order dinner when you get tickets) and Couchiching Brewery is going to bring the road pops. Steve Orr of Dapper Depot is once again on the hook as a sponsor. Kevin said based on current rule projections they are only selling 100 tickets, but they will be ready if things change and they can sell more. I hear there’s room at ODAS Park for that.

And Marci Csumrik’s tooth care fundraiser is still going. She came into possession of a number of old vinyl records (a mix of bands and singers from Mel Torme to the Bee Gees) and is selling them on her Facebook page. All the money is going into the Youth Centre’s dental care fund so kids from families which can’t afford proper care can get it. This is a good thing, considering our federal government just couldn’t see themselves clear yesterday to support a non-binding NDP resolution to include dental care for federal finding.

You’ve Got Mail

The Canadian Music Centre has an award called the Beckwith Award, named for composer John Beckwith who was a founding member of the CMC. The award is given to educators and organizations who are innovating music education. Laura Lee Matthie was one of three teachers who got it for 2021. This is not the kind of thing you apply for, you have to be nominated, and Laura told me she has no idea who nominated her.

She got it in January and they said – you know, we’d love to give it to you in person, but circumstance being what they are, we’ll mail it to you. Well she got it recently and posted a photo of it. The first comment was from another music teacher from Orillia, Dan Austin. He teaches at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute and he just had to put up a picture of the very same award – but for 2020. In fact he was the first winner of this new award. Congrats to Laura, and sorry I missed the news last year Dan and belated congrats.

It turns out Dan and Laura Lee are not the only people from Orillia who got the award, or a piece of it. The Kingston Symphony got the same award for 2021 and Park Street grad Andrea Haughton is the GM of the symphony.

Speaking of school, Laura Lee and Laura Christie’s Orillia Secondary School students did their spring concert online. There are several instrumental and vocal ensembles and soloists performing and I really liked the first jazz band’s performance of Strike Up The Band. The video is just over an hour, so have a listen.

All About That Bass

One of the best bass players to perform in Orillia, Stuart Steinhart, has a new album out. I listened to it and as a jazz album it ticks all the boxes, especially good writing and playing. Stuart is usually seen here playing in Joe Huron’s band.

He set it free in the world on Monday, the anniversary of the start of his 40-year music career. He’s gone down the numerology rabbit hole.  He started recording it December 12, 2020 (20+20=40). Recorded a song a day over 12 days (are you seeing a pattern here?), “one for each month of the year, hour on the clock and note in a chromatic scale,” he said. He only picked 7 for the album because there’s only 7 days in a week. He spent 6 months on the mixing (1/2 a year as he said, beating that 1&2 combination like a rug). If you guessed he calls the album It’s About Time, you’re smarter than you look.

Stuart played all the instruments with the exception Richard Jackson played drums. The melody guitar parts are actually played on his bass. The only thing I missed from his rundown of interesting album peculiarities is he didn’t do each tune in a different time signature (i.e. 4/4 – which is 1 – 2/4, ¾, 6/4 – a really odd one, but can play like quarter note triplets over 4 beats – 5/4/, 6/8 and so on through to 12/8.). You can listen, and buy, it on Bandcamp.

Has Anyone Seen Art, He Was Just Here A Minute Ago

Cloud Gallery is open and has The Simcoe Summer Show exhibit starting Friday. The artists in the show are Catherine Cadieux, Dave Beckett, Amanda Christina, Melody Madden, Miriam Slan Liz Schamehorne and Sue Miller. Cloud Gallery is in Creative Nomad Studios.

Catherine Cadieux @ Cloud Gallery

Hibernation Arts has lots of her own textile art and the work of many others to see, including this month’s guest artist Mike Sallows’s work. He’ll be at the gallery Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.

Peter Street Fine Arts has some new stuff up and the guest artist is Al Manseau. Three Crows Gallery is also open weekends.

Everybody in the Arts District is looking forward to being outdoors for the pedestrian mall every Friday this summer (the artists will be there from 6 to 9 p.m.). ODAC is planning to be present too and they have an opportunity for ODAC members to show their art. Email for details and to become a member.

Jimi McKee has a gallery. It’s at the old train station on Front Street (former chamber of commerce and vehicle licensing offices). He’s there most days, but there are other vendors in the building so someone is always there during business hours. See a story about Jimi and cohorts Friday.

Jimi McKee

The Orillia Museum of Art and History can’t open yet, but has some outside things, a Saints and Sinners tour  (all the bars and hotels that used to be the main attraction in downtown Orillia), a tour for families is being developed, and day camp programs are being readied.

There are also two other online events happening. June 23 at 7 p.m. Will McGarvey will be doing a tour of his show Stick and Stones. You can find the link to register here, and also see some of the pieces in the show. Jill Price’s Fur is also having an online event. She’ll be doing it with John Savage, who is a Gaudaur descendant, talking about fur trade. At the same link you can register for some workshops Jill will lead.

Online Distracters

Not really online, but you can get your tickets online for the Opera House summer theater. Norm Foster’s Come Down From Up River opens June 30/July 2. The other plays are Driving Miss Daisy (July 21 – Aug. 13) and Foster’s Old Love (Aug. 18 – Sept. 3). You can get tickets now. Get the Flex package and you can then pick your show when things open up. Any tickets can be exchanged for other Opera House produced shows, if things don’t happen according to plan.

Artistically inclined fans of Rush should be able to get excited about Sustainable Orillia’s second round of their year-long effort to inspire artists to make environmentally themed work and to have a chance to get a $75 prize. The theme is Trees.  Visit their website to enter.

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.

Creative Nomad is looking for artists to take part in summer pedestrian mall activities. July 2nd they need 4 artists for Shifted 3 –  paint like crazy for 20 minutes, get a new canvas and start another. August 13 they need 8 artists for Into The Light –no time limit, paint to the theme. Email And check out Creative Nomad Studios Facebook page for three video tours of the facilities. There are some tutorial videos on the Youtube page too. And they have a bunch of online art workshops happening. Find out more here.

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

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

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

Joe Huron will continue playing jazz guitar Sunday’s at noon on Facebook until we get to Stage 3.

One of the people who does a lot to inform people about what goes on in Orillia with several Orillia oriented Facebook groups, Joe Cornelisse, lost his mother, Sheila, earlier this week. For those who haven’t gone past this mark in life it doesn’t matter how old you are, when your mother dies its rough. Condolences to Joe and his son Ben.

(Photos By Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied)

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