Arts and Cultural Council celebrates first anniversary

MACC members proudly hold up a fabric map of Manitoulin Island that had been used during the symposium held at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre last year. Each artist was asked to indicate the location of their studio or business which completely covered the map. From left is Kate Thompson (author, fibre crafter and educator), Maja Mielonen (School of Dance, and MICA), Alex Baran (musician and singer), Leslie Morin (painter), Petra Wall (writer, painter and photographer) and Helen Siksek (artist). photo by Sharon Jackson

by Sharon Jackson

KAGAWONG— Artists from numerous backgrounds came together to recognize the one year anniversary of the creation of the Manitoulin Arts and Cultural Council (MACC). The purpose of the gathering was to provide an opportunity for those who attended the original meeting to be briefed on what has been accomplished to date, as well as learn about some important possibilities for Manitoulin.

After introducing himself and providing an outline of the afternoon’s program, which included presentations by fellow MACC member Kate Thompson and LAMBAC’s Maureen Strickland, spokesperson Alex Baran welcomed everyone to the event by asking “what have we done this year?”

One of things checked off the list was to re-apply for funding to the Ontario Arts Council in the form of a grant to be used to offer a conference of workshops to include performance arts, knitters, writers, singers and musicians, to name a few. The application was sent in May, and hopefully by September the group will have good news in the form of a successful bid for grant monies.

The original grant application was ‘almost’ successful in that they missed the cut off line for funding, Mr. Baran explained. There is only so much money to be allotted, and MACC missed it simply because the money ran out before their name came to the top of the list.

Ms. Thompson, a published author, fibre crafter and educator who has been involved with MACC since its inception, informed the audience about a second grant application, also through the Ontario Arts Council, to bring author Joan Galat (writer of ‘Dot to Dot in the Sky’ among others) to the Island. It is proposed that Ms. Galat would speak at several venues including the Manitowaning Library, Gordon’s Park, Providence House and (a yet to be announced location) in Kagawong in the month of August.

Science North has also come on board to be included in Ms. Galat’s speaking engagements.

Since the original concept to form MACC, two ‘action day’ gatherings were held and from it, the 40 artists and interested people brainstormed about what they wanted to see come out of it. One of the things was to hold creative gatherings at different people’s homes. Ms. Thompson noted they have had as few as three and as many as 14 attend. It is an informal environment where ideas are shared and successes celebrated.

Ms. Thompson added that the gatherings are “rich, fun and interesting” and encourage the continuation of networking to bring artists from all genres together.

Two artists were featured in a video presentation: Anong Beam and Mark Seabrook. Ms. Beam has an art supply store in Kagawong called Art Candy and Mr. Seabrook’s new works will be featured at 4elements Living Arts Studio (located at 91 Main Street in Kagawong) opening on June 25 from 7 to 9 pm.

Each artist spoke passionately about those who influenced and encouraged them throughout their early years and showcased many of their pieces of art.

Ms. Beam is the daughter of renowned artists Ann Beam and the late Carl Beam whose advice to think of your everyday life and how being an artist fits into it stuck in her mind and still holds true today.

Mr. Seabrook’s parents were the late Jack and Marian Seabrook who encouraged their son to pursue his dream. Drawing since he was in second grade, artists like Ivan Wheale became a mentor who taught him about sketching, shade and composition. High school art teacher Jacqueline Gordon also played a “big part in encouraging me to be an artist” and maintained a portfolio of Mr. Seabrook’s artwork throughout his five years at Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS).

Ms. Strickland, Loans and Business Development Officer for LAMBAC based in Gore Bay, spoke about two exciting opportunities for artists. One being a three-year (FedNor) pilot project: the Artist Investment Program (AIT), which is going into its second year and the other aimed to introduce artists, and other entrepreneurs to co-operatives as an option to create, build or grow their business.

AIT funding is based on eligibility, projects, criteria and has terms and conditions which must be met to be approved for a loan of up to $10,000 over a period of three to five years.

The program is open to residents of Manitoulin Island and LaCloche who are individuals, a for profit business (sole proprietorship or partnership) an incorporated not for profit or an unincorporated organization (special conditions only).

Projects should be entrepreneurial in nature, generate revenue directly and/or contribute to the development of the applicant’s skills and lastly they should enhance the applicant’s ability to earn income from their cultural activity.

Criteria includes artistic and business development, the ability to engage their local community and increase consumer choice, product diversification, stimulate competitiveness and develop new methods of promotion, sales and marketing.

Co-operatives, shared Ms. Strickland, are a huge topic on their own that would require a whole day to talk about.

The key points, explained Ms. Strickland, are to create a business model which will meet community or member’s needs. A co-operative is made up of five people who are the decision makers in this democratic program.

Getting something like this off the ground is quite a venture, continued Ms. Strickland and “I can help you with that.”

Co-operatives, shared Ms. Strickland, “are huge in Europe and Quebec and are growing in Ontario.” People who are actively involved in co-operatives, love to help each other in meeting a community need, she added.

They identify a need that is not being met. It is a great way to build volunteers in a community as an economic development tool, explained Ms. Strickland.

When a member of the audience asked Ms. Thompson, “What is MACC and how do I become a member?” the question was posed to Mr. Baran and other members who were a part of its inception and growth.

Mr. Baran noted that MACC has been responsible for some projects that have been submitted for funding over the past year, creative gatherings, a website and Facebook page which has 249 ‘likes’ as of Sunday, June 21.

Artist Helen Siksek, owner of Fish Point Studio, whose work is available at Susan’s in Gore Bay, shared that there are many smaller groups of artists who come together to create a larger network on the Island in the form of the monthly creative gatherings. At times it is can be challenging due to logistics and winter road conditions.

Ms. Thompson feels the gatherings encourage and celebrate individuals such as Ms. Siksek who are both “helpful and powerful to the artistic community.”