This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

For the last year and a half or more, many of our arts groups have been drifting. Some have tried to keep things going online, which works for some groups, but not others – having a music rehearsal online can be done, but it’s a chore. People are losing touch with their extra-curricular activities and their chops.

It’s a personal challenge to be ready to play music with your peers, to put together a visual idea into a series of paintings for an exhibition when there won’t be an exhibition. The phrase, “Dance like nobody is watching,” was coined for the pandemic. About the only people able to keep up with things are those who write and do photography.

Now that things are looking a bit better, some groups are looking toward what comes next, rebooting, retooling. In the case of the Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture it looks like reinventing. The organization was formed in 2014 with an idea to turn the Huronia Regional Centre into an arts magnet along the line of the Banff Centre or Tanglewood.

For some reason the Ontario government dragged its feet doing anything with the place, then carved out the best parts for itself and let it be known the rest was up for grabs. And yet, nothing. Well, except for the OPP has moved into a good part of it.

The Orillia Centre still put together a number of events which went over very well. This happened as a way of showing the province and various other sources of funding that the groups was serious and had the means to organize events.

Last year Kate Hilliard took over as the creative director and she’s been knocking on doors at the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council, The Canada Arts Presentation Fund and anywhere she can smell money. She also struck a deal with the Simcoe County Board of Education and created some educational programs.

Last August the board decided it was time to take stock and they went through a strategy exercise to reinvent the organization, a kind of second coming out. It looks like a name change and new branding is in the works. I notice from their list of items they want to achieve the Huronia Regional Centre is missing and the purpose for being the Orillia Centre may take a turn.

What that new look will be is yet to come, but I’m a little disappointed they seem to be ready to move away from creating a home for arts out on Memorial Avenue. Once again, the government has taken the enthusiasm, initiative and creativity of a great idea and let it wither.

The idea of a regional, or national place to showcase the best of all arts here in Orillia was maybe too big an idea for many to grasp. It’s kind of like the folks who proposed building the Colosseum, or the Pyramids or even the Louvre not finding the right ears and eyes to share the vision. Sometimes being a king or emperor has its upside. I guess when you are talking to people whose leader is a sticky label salesman you can’t expect much. Nobody with tunnel vision ever built anything of worth, except for the guy who built the first underwater rail tunnel in the world in Sarnia – he had vision; and yet we keep giving the reins of the carriage team to them.

The disappointment doesn’t stop with higher levels of government. There was enough skepticism right here in Orillia for the idea, and enough of those skeptics were on council. Its good thing nobody is trying to sell making a wheel as an idea, I’m afraid of what we’d end up with.

Looking down below, the example of the Mariposa Folk Festival fits here. A lot of people thought bringing it home was too big an idea and it wouldn’t get past the year 2000, if it happened at all. Their saving grace was having two councillors on the committee to bring it back to Orillia. I think after 20 years there ought to be a few people in town who should have amnesia about their view of the validity of what this city and the corporation could do to ensure its success. Maybe that’s the ticket for the Orillia Centre, recruit some councillors.

Right now the planning is ongoing with a road trip to the various arts groups in town, the schools, City Hall – and you. Brian Alger is the point person for the plan and if you have thoughts you can email him at

The Orillia Centre board gets the first look at a new strategic plan in December and in the New Year the rest of us will too. Good luck folks, keep the faith on a big vision for arts, we need it.


The folks behind one of the most original arts events this city has seen, the Somniatis Wearable Art Show, have come to the realization it’s not going to happen again this year. Well, at least not going to happen as we expect it might.

Photo by Deb Halbot

Ron Hill, a drummer, and a hair stylist, is also a darn good photographer and Photoshop artist; he’s also a bass player (the list is not in order of importance, except for being a drummer and a bass player). The funny thing about being really good at one or two artforms is, when many people try something else they are good at that too.

Check out the video he made about the ongoing effort to keep their creative team active. It’s shot very well, and the editing is great. Usually those two functions are served by different people and the latter can ruin the former’s work – or sometimes work magic with it. The idea of editing one’s own work sounds like an easy concept to understand, but it can lead to madness.

Who do you blame when the shot isn’t long enough to fit the creative idea the flow of editing suggests? Who do you blame when a great shot gets chopped up or out? So, congrats to Ron for doing both jobs and making something worth watching.

Somniatis was always a fundraiser. It sold out every year it ran. In 2019 they raised over $12,000 for mental health programs at Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. They would like the community not to get out of the habit of contributing, so in lieu of a show this year, go watch the video, know they are scheming for something big next year, and toss a few bucks into their 2021 fundraiser for mental health programs in. Wouldn’t it be incredible if they met or beat 2019 in an off year?

Mariposa Concerts

The Mariposa Folk Festival has 6 concerts scheduled for October 23. They call it the Satellite Concerts, because the tickets are going faster than a Saturn V rocket to the moon. Two of the concerts sold out in a few days.

You can get tickets at the Opera House box office. Here’s what you get to choose from (not in appearance order):

  • Mariposa Inn – Amanda Rheaume, James Gray, Kaia Kater and the Doozies
  • ODAS Park – Danny Michel, Jay Stiles, the Connors Brothers, the Honeyrunners SOLD OUT
  • Opera House – Angelique Francis, Coco Love Alcorn, Lydia Persaud
  • Braestone Farm – Ariko, Mimi O’Bonsawin, Rick Fines, Terra Lightfoot SOLD OUT
  • St. Paul’s Centre – Birds of Bellwoods, Kyla Charter, Suzie Vinnick, Zachary Lucky

They all start at 1 p.m., except Saturday evening’s at 7:30 p.m. at the Opera House with Donovan Woods, Evangeline Gentle and Shakura S’Aida.

Imagines Studio Tour This Weekend
Kindred Nuzzle by Derek Wicks

You’ve been itching to get out of town because you haven’t seen anything south of the 14th Line since two Marches ago. Sure, you’ve been telling relatives you didn’t want to see anyway it doesn’t make sense to travel right now, but here’s something you can do and no one will tell on you. Check out the Images Studio Tour this weekend. There are 30 artists participating at 20 galleries/studios. Six studios have more than one artist showing their work.

This is the perfect way to remind yourself what the hills of Medonte look like (many of the galleries/studios are in the township). Don’t go without your camera. I mean it. If you come back kicking yourself because you saw the most excellent view and you forgot your camera, don’t come boo-hooing to me. The galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day of the weekend. You can download a tour map here.

Orillia Jazz Festival

Toward the middle of October the Orillia Jazz Festival is happening. The Opera House has three gigs starting Friday, October 15 with the Laila Biali Trio. Biali’s newest album, Out of Dust is nominated for a Juno, which if she wins will go nice with the one she won in 2019 for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. That self-titled album beat Holly Cole, Diana Krall AND Tony Bennett’s album, and herself for a duet album with bassist Jodi Proznick. She is the host of the CBC’s Saturday Night Jazz program and has toured with Sting, Suzanne Vega, Paula Cole and Chris Botti. She also bumped into some guy schlepping a cello (in a case) on a New York City street, took his advice, and eventually played Carnegie Hall.

Jazzamatazz – Brian Pretty, Deb Halbot, Christine Bosco, Ian Munday

It looks to me like the concert is great for a return of the festival. The next night, Brassworks does their annual concert at which they involve high school music students. This time it won’t be entire bands, but soloists Grace Locker (Orillia Secondary School), Zach Zirger (Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School) and Laurel Van Pypen (Twin Lakes Secondary School) will be playing along.  They also have former members of Jazzamatazz in to do some tunes.

Sunday, October 17 Lance Anderson is doing his Oscar Peterson show with Russ Boswell. Of all Lance’s homage’s to musicians, I think this one is his best because you have to have some serious chops to play Oscar’s music the way Oscar played it, and Lance tells several stories about Oscar (he knew Oscar). Get tickets for all three concerts online. And, Will Davis will be at Apple Annie’s Cafe on Saturday, October 16 from noon to 3 p.m.

A little extra Lance; You’ve Got To Funkifize may have been a Tower of Power tune, but I think Emilio and Doc took the words out of Sly Stone’s mouth. Before Sly and the Family Stone there was music, but there wasn’t funk. Lance has a new band together to do the music in a show called Everyday People. It’s presented under the Hugh’s Room Live banner and you can get tickets to watch it online October 9. It will stream for 48 hours.

Hey, You Got Your Arts Award Tangled In My Heritage Award

Time is running out to nominate someone or some group for an Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Award. The Orillia and District Arts Council and the Orillia Museum of Art and History combined their respective awards three years ago. You can find out how to nominate a person or group online.

You can nominate your favourite artist in one of these five categories:

  • Education in Arts, Culture and Heritage (does not need to be a professional teacher, but whose knowledge and teaching skills inspiring others to pursue their interest in the arts and heritage.)
  • Emerging Artist (anyone in the early stages, less than 5 years, of establishing themselves as an artist in any genre – that means musicians and writers qualify too).
  • Heritage: Restoration, Renovation and Publication (for individuals and groups)
  • Event in Arts, Culture and Heritage (could be a one-off, series, or annual event)
  • Qennefer Browne Achievement Award (individual or group who have made an outstanding contribution to the cultural life of the community – can be life’s work, or something really big in the last year)

You can look at the last four weeks columns for some ideas and reminders of who you can nominate.

Culture Days

Culture Days has been happening for the last two weeks, and there’s still stuff to take part in. The idea is to get people who aren’t involved in arts to dip a toe in the riptide and familiarize themselves with the community’s arts groups, or maybe find something they would like to do – and do it for free. You can watch a video of artwork created by young people. Every Friday for the month you can visit The Meeting Place, 28 West Street North, from noon to 4 p.m. to indulge your creative side by colouring, painting, drawing and singing.

The Ronnie Douglas Blues Band is having a concert, with Alex Rabbitson opening, at St. James’ Anglican Church October 23 at 8 p.m. You need to get a ticket (they’re free).

Short Takes

Art By Kristine Drummond

At the Galleries… Kristine Drummond’s art is at Peter Street Fine Arts for the month… not every piece submitted for the Carmichael Landscape Show at OMAH gets accepted, Hibernation Arts wants to have a show, Call For Carmichael Too, for those pieces; contact Molly Farquharson to get yours included; Hibernation’s guest artist for the month is Natasha Genevieve… Miriam Slan has a solo show at Cloud Gallery from October 15 to 24… keep November 5 free, OMAH is opening the Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition: Tradition Transformed and an exhibit called We Are Still Here, works by D. Ahsén:nase Douglas; the annual Carmichael Lecture is online this year and it’s with Anna Hudson of York University on November 17 and the topic is The Legacy of the Group of Seven and you can register here. You can still see Welcome Home to Orillia and Will McGarvey’s, Sticks and Stones until the end of the month… Murray Van Halem has a show at Double Door Studio in Anten Mills from October 2 to 12.

Steven Henry lost his internet connection, so he’s taking his act live. Steven kept many of us sane through most of 2020 and until spring this year playing every Saturday night on Facebook. Friday, October 22 he’s playing at Quayle’s Brewery (12th Line of Oro-Medonte just off Mt. St. Louis Road) from 112:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. It’s a farm, you can enjoy a beer and watch the next one grow; they planted their own hops on the back 40.

The Leacock Museum has the dining facilities in Swanmore Hall up for lease. You can find the details and application forms online.

Creative Nomad Studios is having a Holiday Market November 27 and 28. Now is the time to apply to be a vendor. You can find the details online.

Glen Robertson has another new tune out to listen to and watch on Youtube. It’s called Breakin’ Down and you can watch his other videos here.

Sustainable Orillia is starting the third in a series of art contests ($75 prize for the winner) on the theme of Housing. Make submissions here by October 31.

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

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