Arts and Culture Takes Centre Stage

Culture has become a big part of the conversation in Collingwood. Arts and Culture growth took centre stage during a PRC Masterplan presentation to Collingwood Council.

Simcoe Street Theatre and Town of Collingwood create partnership
The new partnership between the Town and the Simcoe Theatre is seen as a positive development in the arts and culture component of Parks, Recreation and Culture.

The PRC (Parks, Recreation and Culture) Masterplan will provide a vision for the development of parks, trails and harbor, urban forestry, recreation facilities, arts & culture, and open spaces in Collingwood.

A PRC Masterplan Consultation with council was held on Monday January 15th to share preliminary findings and trends, to discuss strengths, assets and challenges to PRC, and to share next steps in the process.

Parks, Recreation and Culture Director Dean Collver saw this as a great opportunity for everybody to be all together at once to participate in the very important PRC program.

“It has been almost six months since we began. This is a very comprehensive masterplan from the standpoint that it touches all of our departments as well as taking a special look at a culture plan for our community. “

Collver said the department is under an operational review as a part of the process.

“It allows us to take a look at what we are doing currently, what current expectations are, how we are able to deliver them and whether our resources are being appropriately distributed to meet those expectations. “

Arts, Cultural and Heritage specialist Jon Linton of TCI Management Consultants led the presentation to council.

“We are looking at the full set of parks, recreation and culture assets.”

Many times during his presentation he made mention of how impressed he was with the active arts and culture community that has developed in Collingwood.

“I must say as a general comment, I do a lot of cultural planning with communities from across Canada and for a community your size, what you are doing is pretty spectacular, so we only want to build up from there but we have a pretty enviable starting point in a lot of ways.”

He said the impressive participation in the process by Collingwood residents shows the population puts parks, recreation and culture in high regard in the community.

“We do a lot of surveys in a lot of communities and the fact that you got 440 responses to the community survey, and it’s growing every day, is phenomenal. It really does demonstrate a commitment to and a large interest in public consultation.“

Councillor Kevin Lloyd said the arts and culture scene in Collingwood has shown substantial growth over the past decade.

“I think culturally, if you see the list of cultural amenities in this community it has grown and flourished over the past ten or fifteen years to a point where we are really, really I think one of the regional hubs of art, creativity and that sort of thing. I think what is possibly the future of that is we sure could use a cultural centre.”

Councillor Deb Doherty agrees that the arts and culture aspect of the PRC Masterplan is of great interest to Collingwood residents.

“Our interest and participation in arts and culture has grown exponentially since I have lived in this community and we continue to be very innovative as an example with the partnership we are undertaking with one of our smaller theatres.”

Councillor Tim Fryer points to staff as being a great strength of the Parks, Recreation and Culture Department, now, and in the future.

“I guess what I would look at as a major asset is our staff. Without question they are the ones who make our cultural events so successful, and they are the reason our parks are kept up to date and are safe, and without that underpinning I think we would be in a struggle. “

Mayor Sandra Cooper agrees that staff is one of the greatest strengths of Collingwood’s Parks, Recreation and Culture department. She also looked to the recent partnership the Town of Collingwood has entered into with the Simcoe Street Theatre as being an important cultural development in the community. The mayor is looking to partnerships to help with future staffing situations.

“We see a lot of arts and culture in our community and we have municipal staff that are directed for that task however for the public we have various theatre groups. Can we combine into one? That is a challenge for our future.”

Mayor Cooper also looked at the town’s partnership with the BIA as being a positive, ongoing relationship.

“The training and experience they have is essential in allowing them to be able to take on new challenges.”

Councillor Cam Ecclestone said he continues to hear that people want to see a covered outdoor amphitheatre to host music events, plays and other cultural events. He also wanted to see a large splash pad with adjoining trails to entertain our youth in a parkland setting.

Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson highlighted the number and reach of our self-governing volunteer groups in sport, recreation and culture as being a great strength.

“We look to our minor sports whether it be baseball, hockey or soccer, there’s an incredible network of volunteers that contribute to making that a reality, and that goes for recreation, look at our trails committee and other self-supporting groups as well as our culture.

Saunderson said the arts and culture community in Collingwood continues to flourish.

“The cultural groups, the cinema club, Theatre Collingwood, the Lexes over in the Simcoe Street area, have all done tremendous work. I see a real strength in our community being the volunteer sector that has arisen to foster and develop these programs.”

Councillor Mike Edwards agreed with Saunderson, citing partnerships between groups as being a major strength in our community.

“A good example of that is the curling club, and maintaining a cultural or heritage facility which has paid dividends to the town. A lot of that is due to volunteerism. That is a huge factor in our community. Also the organization that is provided by staff, because you can’t run all of these facilities and events without organization.”

Councillor Kathy Jeffery likes what has already been done in Collingwood in terms of public consultation.

“I think one of the keys was developing a staffing strategy specifically on arts and culture. I think that has worked very well for us. I think now staff, the community and council for sure understand the link between arts and culture and recreation with economic development in that those departments all need to work together.”

Councillor Jeffery would like to see better financial aid directed to arts and culture.

“Another gap is a funding mechanism to develop more art and culture in terms of public art. I know we have a great way of funding some things through develop through development charges but arts and culture doesn’t seem to be one so I think we need to find some kind of mechanism.”

Councillor Bob Madigan said Collingwood benefits greatly from its geographic location.

“You can go out and ask many people who have chosen to live here and ask what brings you here. And the overwhelming answer is lifestyle. I think we stand above any other community of our size in Ontario and in Canada. We have wonderful partners to the east and west. People come to the region to Wasaga Beach to swim and to the Blue Mountains to ski and hike, but they come to live in Collingwood.”

Culture Days in 2012 saw Simcoe Street come alive with music, arts and crafts and good food. The arts and culture community continues to grow in Collingwood

The historic Gayety Theatre has recently been renovated and continues to host a full lineup of cultural events throughout the year

The PRC Framework survey is available online or at all PRC facilities until February 28, and the next public open house will be held in April. The public was also reminded that everyone who completes the survey will be entered for a chance to win a $500 gift certificate.

CLICK HERE to return to News Headlines