GORE BAY—A one-stop shop for all things cultural on Manitoulin is coming closer to reality with the official launch by LAMBAC of a website that seeks to catalogue the Island’s cultural offerings—but it needs the assistance of writers, dancers, singers, artists, storytellers, poets and everyone else who considers themselves to be part of what makes up the pattern of Manitoulin’s cultural mosaic in order to be successful.
The website is just one facet of a multi-step project to quantify and assess the economic impact and potential of the cultural sector on the Island and LaCloche areas.
“Step one was to get as many cultural stakeholders on the list as we could,” said LAMBAC General Manager Mary Nelder. “We knew when we started out that it wouldn’t be as complete as we wanted it to be—for instance you guys weren’t on it (The Expositor)—but what we did end up with was a list of about 165 discrete individuals and organizations in the cultural sector. If there was a magic way to get it perfect right off the bat that would be great, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get it close if we can just get people to log on and add themselves and/or their organization.”
In fact, the last facet of the website that needed to be incorporated was a ‘gadget’ that would allow cultural providers to add themselves to the inventory. “If you go to the interactive map you will see a button that you can click to go to a form and instructions on how to add your information to the map.”
If you or your organization are currently on the site, Ms. Nelder suggests double-checking the information to ensure accuracy and if you find anything out of sorts, to send in a correction as soon as possible.
As the website unfolds, the next step in the project is almost complete. “There will be a written report that will summarize all of the economic impact data,” said Ms. Nelder. “Our consultants are putting that together now, in fact it should be just about complete.”
Once the report has been received, LAMBAC will be sharing the report with their municipal partner the Township of Billings and the other Island municipalities that helped to fund the project.
The project includes the formation of an action plan to enhance and support the cultural sector on Manitoulin and to leverage that sector to help boost the local economy. “That marks the end of the official planning, stage one, for which we received funding from the province,” said Ms. Nelder.
The second stage of the project is ongoing, with four committees formed during the day of action meeting working on their sectors. “That part should be completing fairly soon as well,” she said.
Those committees are organizational and planning, marketing, coordination and new initiatives.
The organizational planning committee, chaired by Alex Baran, is looking into hiring a cultural coordinator, continuing the building of an accurate inventory, seeking funding dollars through strategic partnerships, creating a central cultural organization, working on economic impact, and creating one-year, three-year and five-year business plans.
The marketing committee, chaired by Ashley Whyte, is seeking to “educate how to sell ourselves,” promote the Island as a cultural package, promote the uniqueness of the Island’s geographical location, create video images/TV commercials to capture the Island’s identity, a year-long calendar of cultural experiences, revitalizing the Manitoulin brand to include education, co-ordination, communication, community and sustainability, reinstate the ambassador position on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry, put accommodation links on the website, advertise the website, engage municipalities to use summer students to promote culture and the creation of a free cultural map to put on the ferry and tourism booths and outlets.
The coordination committee, co-chaired by Margo Little and Kate Thompson, is planning for quarterly sessions for cultural community, continuing cross-pollination actively to connect artists and communities all across the Island, to actively engage the aboriginal community, and to conduct a symposium once a year and to build bridges to the younger generations.
The new initiatives committee, chaired by Ms. Nelder, will seek to create experiential cultural tourism products, open a co-op gallery in Little Current, improve infrastructure, demonstrate ‘what is in it for me,’ create cultural products that the MTA and GSCT can sell and to provide affordable spaces for creative workers.
Two of the committees have met, the marketing and organization and planning groups, with the others hoping to gather to work on their areas over the next month or two.
Those interested in being part of the process can still get involved. “The committees are largely made up of the people who came out on the day of action meetings, but we know there are always people who couldn’t make it out to that meeting,” said Ms. Nelder. “If people are interested in getting involved in the committees, I would recommend getting in touch with the committee chairs and letting them know.”
The next stage in the project will be focussing on implementation of some of the plans, for which there are some funds available in the project funding. “Hopefully we will be able to combine some of those federal dollars with some provincial funding,” said Ms. Nelder. “But we need to know what the priorities are—what the Island’s cultural sector would like to see developed over the next five years to address sustainability and collaboration in the cultural community.”