Spring is on the way and even though we may still be sporting long johns under our jeans, we know that micro-organisms are percolating beneath 4 feet of snow, birds are making a little more racket than usual, squirrel tails are twitching provocatively and the maple sap is starting to run.
It is the most seemingly impossible and yet oddly reliable force there is: nature’s drive – our drive – to create.
I find it fascinating that the arts periodically tap into some sort of collective consciousness. Suddenly, local as well as international culture shifts forward exponentially, breaking out of a shell of convention and propelling us into the future.
Most of the work of an artist is a solitary struggle, but when artists come together to create institutions, they leave a significant legacy for the community. Take Black Mountain College which for 2 decades brought together and nurtured such unlikely minds as those of John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Josef and Anni Albers, Robert Motherwell and Buckminster Fuller on an almost non-existent budget. Or internationally known events such as Burning Man, Caribana or Nuit Blanche, mounted often for free by teams of artists, which have considerable and ongoing social and economic benefits, though not necessarily for the artists who conceived them.
Peterborough is no exception. Local art legend David Bierk was the catalyst for Artspace, now in its 40th year. The Union Theatre continues to spawn multiple spinoffs and performance spaces. The Peterborough Symphony Orchestra, the Peterborough Pop Ensemble, the Kawartha Youth Orchestra, the Peterborough Children’s Chorus, Curtis Driedger’s Zippity Doo Dah Community Soul Choristers, the Mandolin Society, the Convivio Chorus and the Peterborough Singers consist almost entirely of unpaid, though not necessarily amateur, artists.
Artists often need the infrastructure and support of individuals and organizations to provide start-up funds, access to tools, affordable emerging and mid-career education and gathering places to build upon. The economic value of investing in the arts is a no-brainer – theatre attracts more than twice as many tourists to the UK as sporting events, according to new research published by VisitBritain, and the average theatre-goer also spends more money. And it’s not just about making our quality of life better – arts and culture represent a significant portion of the economy and create jobs, as this recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) reveals.
I’m gonna to say it again – the arts create jobs and that is something everyone says that Peterborough needs.
So I think it’s time for a roundup of a few of the new and some not-so-new grass-roots initiatives which are aspiring to build a strong, inclusive, cultural foundation for our community.
All over town, in meetings after work, in galleries and cafés, the Peterborough arts community is coming to life. There are groups hashing out their visions, writing grants, scouting spaces, filling in the gaps. It seems like we’ve been dozing artistically for some time, but we’re coming to life in a multiplicity of enterprises, many of them arm in arm with social responsibility. As usual the creative community is kicking in, tired of waiting and being pushed to the margins, and ready to roll up their sleeves to make it happen.
Whatever the outcome, the existence of these entities is a call to action for investment in the arts and large scale, multi-purpose creative spaces in our city; and most of all, it is a remarkable expression of the ready, willing and able creative human capital that may well be Peterborough’s most valuable asset.
The Darkroom Project »
Located in Peterborough’s historic Roy Studio building, and part of Elizabeth Fennell’s 3rd floor Gallery in the Attic, The Darkroom Project is a unique, publicly accessible, membership-based, analog darkroom in Canada’s longest operating photography studio.
Electric City Culture Council »
EC3 grew out the City of Peterborough’s Cultural Plan in consultation with the public over the last couple of years. As a non-profit, arms length, community-led organization, its mandate is to steward diverse and sustainable culture in the city and surrounding region. With a dynamic new board, it is still in a somewhat organic phase as it begins to secure funding and further define its immediate goals.
Electric City Live »
Writer Gabe Pollock almost single-handedly does an incredible job of keeping us apprised of and promoting the Peterborough music scene. With detailed weekly listings as well in depth reviews of shows and new releases by local musicians, the ECL website is chock full of links to band sites, videos and music clips. There is even a free event submission form. If you can’t find it here, I don’t where you can find such comprehensive information about what’s happening musically in this town.
Evans Contemporary »
Painter Paolo Fortin’s home-based gallery has only been open for a year, but it is clearly having an artistic influence as well as introducing a rather daring new organizational template to the community – neither exclusively for- or not-for-profit. Fortin’s curatorial eye is well honed from the numerous international residencies he has attended and the gallery breathes fresh air and educational value into our art scene. His openings are satisfying community events – usually attended by a fine mix of the senior arts community, local collectors and some neighbourhood kids for good measure.
Hatch was, well, hatched from the Community Opportunity & Innovation Network (COIN) with a nod to Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation. Its vision is “to provide a dynamic community space for creative, social and entrepreneurial engagement.” Young at heart, inclusive and based out of the beautifully renovated cupola of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, it offers co-working space, events and workshops for all sectors of the community.
Kawartha Potters Guild »
In 2012, the KPG teamed up with Park Street Pottery and renovated a facility at 993 Talwood Drive. In addition to classes, studio space and a gallery, the guild partners with the Kawartha Woodturners’ Guild and the Peterborough Handweavers’ and Spinners’ Guild. Rumour has it they are planning to evolve into a long overdue Artisans Centre with facilities to serve artisans of all stripes in the area.
Makerspace Peterborough »
As near as I can tell, Makerspace Peterborough was ignited by a Hatch Peterborough innovation talk and a mysterious guy named Kris Konstable. Currently in development, and hoping to secure a large space and funding that would allow community access to tools and skills, the group is loosely comprised of representatives from GreenUp, Hatch, the Endeavour Centre, B!KE and the artisan and arts community. It welcomes newcomers. Several subgroups have already begun to meet on a regular basis:
Sew-cial Sundays 12-5pm at GreenUp (they’ve scored a serger!)
Electric City (EC) Power Plant microcontroller group Tuesdays 7-9pm at GreenUp
Ideas Peterborough meets fairly regularly at the Spill
Media Arts Peterborough »
M.A.P. aims to build the film making and media arts capacity of Peterborough. Currently operating out of the Artspace Media Lab under the direction of filmmaker Lester Alfonso, it offers the mentorship and equipment to generate a community film and post-production crew.
The Mount Community Centre/Erring on the Mount »
The former convent has been procured by the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network (PPRN), with an eye to provide affordable housing and other community space. Before the serious renovations begin Public Energy will be installing a multidisciplinary arts festival throughout building, entitled Erring on the Mount. Its namesake, Erring I, was originally produced in 1995 by members of the Union Theatre in vacant apartments above The Only Café that were being demolished to make way for The Gordon Best Theatre. Could this be the start of something big? At the site visit last fall, it was a beautiful thing to watch the arts community explore the massive space, enthralled by the possibilities…
Music Peterborough »
Anyone will tell you that music is one of our strongest suits. With a goal of promoting our music scene, not too much has come out of this organization yet, and their website is under development, so I can’t tell you where it’s heading. There is still hope with Managing Director Nick Ferrio at the helm, who in addition to a residency in the Yukon and a busy touring schedule, is also Artistic Director of this year’s Peterborough Folk Festival.
Sadleir House »
Since 2004, historic Sadleir House has been owned and operated as a non-profit by Peter Robinson Community & Student Association (PRCSA) with a mandate to serve as a non-profit, cultural and educational student facility. It has a low profile, but its doors are open to the community for gallery, performance, workshop and rehearsal space.
Seeds of Change »
Dedicated to creating a centre for spirituality, social justice and the arts for Peterborough in partnership with other local organizations, Seeds of Change is located in the George Street United Church. It currently offers yoga and Muscle/Bone Mind/Body classes with choreographer Bill James, a drum circle, a Friday music jam, and occasional master arts classes as well as many other empowering enterprises.
The Theatre on King »
TTOK has joined forces with The Peterborough Academy of Performing Arts (PAPA) and Theatre Trent to establish an intimate 30 – 40 seat black box theatre and picks up where the Union Theatre left off. Workshops, experimental performance and music events are the ticket and artists perform frequently to sold out houses.