She has a mischievous eye; one that catches your glance and also catches the light and images she puts on paper.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 8, 2011  – Repairing the roads is important; developing a Strategic Plan and coming out with a budget that provides the services needed at a tax rate residents can live with is all part of what makes a city “work” – but it is the arts that give a city its colour, vivaciousness and puts a beat in its heart.


Getting your art on the walls of the Office of the Mayor is impressive; does it count if you're married to him?

That art comes from the people that live in the city; the people who take the pictures that are posted on web site; that put brush to canvas and paper to produce the paintings that get sold at silent auctions.  These are the people who came up with the designs for the bicycle racks that dot the downtown streets.  Art extends into the 26 dance studios in this city, the student theatre and the bands that play in the clubs downtown or the jazz sessions at the Lowville Bistro. Burlington has grown culturally to the point where it now has a Performing Arts Centre along with an Arts Centre and a museum in the downtown core.

But behind all the structures there have to be artists who “do art”.

Chickadees have always been an attraction for Cheryl Goldring who uses watercolour frequently.

One of the more public art viewings is the Art in Action event that just completed it’s ninth year and near record public participation.  One of the 27 artists that took place in that event was Cheryl Miles Goldring who works with watercolour and acrylic paint. “The acrylics are a little forgiving” explains Goldring, who yes, happens the be the wife of the Mayor but she doesn’t let that get in the way of her life as an artist and an author.

Goldring, who was raised in Quebec and has some of the culture and appreciation for things artistic that are part of the fabric of that province and which the very uptight Ontario types can’t seem to handle, brings a mischievous view to much of what she sees.  That ability to see things others often miss is layered into a strong steak of compassion that comes from her work as a nurse where she spent many years in the emergency department. “it’s a tough place to be and the people in those rooms are often in desperate straits and need everything anyone can give them.”

Every artist likes to have their work on a wall somewhere and if there is someone who wants to purchase a piece of art – Goldring is a willing seller.  Her art manages to go a little further than most artists because it first graces the walls of the Mayor’s office and is used as a gift to visiting dignitaries.

“I donate the art and the city has it framed and used as a presentation piece given to visitors.  My favourite is the chickadees I seem to be able to capture on paper.”

Simple fence post - forbidding clouds - Goldring

Goldring has written two books.  “One of my books is in the hands of a publisher and I’m talking to another publisher at the same time” says Goldring.  This lady clearly means business and that comes through in the art we see.  Some are very strong and direct and others, with the chickadees being the best example, are soft, almost delicate.

Goldring however doesn’t have the fingers of a painter; they are shortish, strong – the kind of fingers you would expect from a potter or perhaps someone who sculpts.   The woman is to some degree a collection of contradictions – with eyes that are bright, enquiring and have  just that interesting little bit of mischief in them.  She works out regularly, stays in shape and slips away to the family cottage as often as she can.  No word yet on when we might hear a book publishing announcement – it will be interesting to hear what she has to say.


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It could have very easily turned into a really great party, – the weather, the people and the talent made it that kind of event.

By Pepper Parr and Pia Simms.

BURLINGTON, ON  November 7, 2011  – The only thing wrong the weekend of the 5th and 6th was that there was barely enough time to take in both the Burlington Art Centre Wearable Arts Sale and the 9th Annual Art in Action studio tour that saw eight different studios around the city opened on two days for visitors.  If you hustled around you could just make all nine locations.  We hustled.

Each studio had three to four different artists displaying their work.  Most had a mix of mediums except for a residence on Ross Street where Dan Jones, Glen Jones and Fred Oliver displayed their photographs.  We made our rounds on the Saturday and by mid-afternoon this Studio had logged more than two hundred visits.

The Studio Teresa Seaton set up shop in had very close to 500 people pass through. "We worked like dogs to make this event happen said Seaton, one of four people that bring Art in Action to Burlington annually.

While the art work at each studio was different so was the atmosphere.  One studio in Hidden Valley had what amounted to almost a tour guide at the door to greet each visitor and explain what each artist was doing and where they were located on the property which, in this instance, amounted to the house and then a small dwelling in the back yard that served as a studio and a display room.  You could hear the sounds of the small but robust stream in the background and at the same time be very aware that you were in the bottom of a small valley with slopes rising, quite steeply on one side and less so on the other.

Perhaps it was the locale or maybe it was the people but the Hidden Valley Studio was the kind of place that had we had two bottles of wine in the car we would have stayed and become part of the party.  We had just the one studio left on our tour – and were very glad that we pressed on.  At the studio on

Cheryl Laakes stands proudly before a piece of jewelry she had on display. Her fabric work was particularly good as well.

Lemmonville Road we came across George Wilkinson a wood turner who has worked with wood all his life; met with a former Sheridan College Dean of Arts and Cheryl Laake, a lovely fabric artist who turned demurely away from the camera before we took our pictures, to “make sure the girls were all right” as she adjusted her sweater and blouse.

One of the things that happens on these tours is you bump into people whose path you crossed somewhere else along the way and with some you strike up friendships.  We watched a young woman of about 25 purchase a painting from an artist and when the artist asked what it was she liked about his work her answer kind of stunned him.   He just didn’t see what she saw in the work – which is the magic of the visual arts – the beauty and life is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

We listened to Nebojsa Jovanovic explain his work to a woman who wanted him to do a private commission with the finished work to be a very specific dimension.  The artist had that look in his eye that left you wondering – was the client buying something to fill some space on a wall or was she buying art that appealed to her.  Whichever, the sale was made.

An artist at one studio looked up in surprise to see a former student walk into the house with her very young daughter in tow.  The pleasure shared by all – perhaps not the daughter, she kept glancing cautiously at the artist.

This work was a favourite, while according to the artist, it is not yet complete, I liked the rabbit just as he was with his grumpy look.

Teresa Seaton, co-chair of the Art in Action event and a stained glass artist, explained that the group had learned to keep the number of studios down to less than ten – which allowed people to get to every studio.  It was difficult to know what you wanted to take in from the brochure – there was nothing wrong with the document – but you had to be in the houses to get a sense of the artist and both hear and feel the passion they have for their work.

The thinking behind the creation and development of the Art in Action Studio Tour is to bring close to 50% new talent each year so that the public gets to see fresh talent and artists get a good run and then can take some time out to refresh their offerings.

I have been to a number of Art Studio Tours; the one in the Toronto Beach community is touted as being on of the best there is in the GTA – the talent in Burlington was every bit as good and in many cases much better than the work on display in the Beach in Toronto..

The only noticeable difference was that there was more jewelry on display in Burlington, which one artist suggested was a bit of a fad.

Geore Wilkinson's wife shows some of his work while he stayed in the garage turning his lathe.

A number of artists worked in more than one medium.  Some was more craft than art and while many might describe the wood that George Wilkinson turns on his lathe as “craft” it made no difference to George what you called it.  But as you watched his hands handle the tools he used and looked at his fingers as he ran them over the curve of a piece of wood – you knew you were watching an artist.

Except for the one Studio all were in private homes and while each had to get creative to make the space work – one had black plastic garbage bags over windows to keep the sunlight out, the homes were by far the nicest spots to look at the art work and talk with the artists.  The commercial location in the Village Square left one feeling you were just in another store.

Artist Nebojsa Jovanovic explains his approach to his art to an interested client.. She bought.

Most places had coffee or cider and cookies.  Some went the full, really nice cheese and crackers route, and at one that we won’t forget had wine for their individual appreciation – and they shared.  The Art in Action people deserve great credit for the excellent signage.  Visitors were driving to private homes in residential neighbourhoods, to streets they may never have heard of never mind been to before, saw good signs at each intersection pointing the way.  The signage was better than it is in elections.

One artist, Peter Schlotthauer, worked with metal and was negotiating a bench the client wanted to have made as a memorial.  While he wasn’t able to give an “exact” price,  the $800. he mentioned was a darn sight better than the $2,000. the city wants, to put up a memorial bench in one of the parks.

Don Graves talks about a piece of art bought by a patron.

The Art in Action people had near perfect weather for both days, always a bit chancy when you hold your event in early November. “We had absolutely glorious weather” said Teresa Seaton “and the traffic was very good. We got very close to 500 people at our studio”.

We spent the best part of a day touring the eight studios and had the time of our lives.  Saw parts of the city we’d not seen before, met some people we hope to meet again, saw and appreciated some art that we would like to acquire for our own collection.  Yes, we did see some art that had us both totally bamboozled – we had no idea what the artist was trying to say.  It didn’t matter.

Next year will be the 10th annual Art in Action studio tour.  We hope the committee that makes this event happen doesn’t decide to do something that is over the top to celebrate ten years of success.  The eight studios were just fine – mix up the artists a bit and always bring in fresh talent.  But don’t try to make it something it isn’t.  A little less jewelry perhaps but my co-writer probably doesn’t agree with me – she is into jewelry.

It’s an event you want to mark down in your calendar – first weekend in November.

One added benefit – we didn’t see one, not a single politician of any political stripe in our tour.

We managed to spend an hour at the Wearable Art Show at the Burlington Art Centre.  There was lots of traffic when we were there and it was a good spot to have a sandwich and a sit down – and the parking was free.


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Cover eight art studios in a single day, get to parts of the city you might not have seen before.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 2, 2011

The Art in Action celebrates it’s 9th  all day event (10:00 am to 5:00 pm) showing the work of accomplished artisans who have gathered in eight different studios about the city where their work can be viewed and if you’re taken with something, purchased.

Art in Action is an Non Profit organization created to assists artists as entrepreneurs and help them become self-sustaining.  The organization does this by encouraging a social community for artists within Burlington and the surrounding area. It provides an opportunity for artists to engage the wider community, as well as to provide exposure for the artists within the  community.

A piece of stained glass done by Teresa Seaton, one of the artists showing on the weekend.

A segmented wooden bowl done by George Wilkinson

The organization does this by organizing and promoting a weekend event within the community where participants can showcase their skills and work to the public in their own studio locations. The organization invites artists living and working in the community and surrounding areas to participate in this event for an annual fee.

Art in Action was started nine years ago by Peter Rose who at the time had a Bed&Breakfast on Plains Rd.  Peter has since moved to the Maritime’s but his idea held and today there is an organization that serves as a showcase for some very talented artists.  Co-chair Teresa Seaton commented that “we work like dogs to get this event and it works for both the community and the artists.

During their busiest year there were 36 artists showing at 12 locations but MS Seaton explains the Board decided to cut that back to never more than ten locations. “There just wasn’t enough time for a person to get to all of the locations – so we are holding at ten each year.


Eight locations to visit.. All within a very short drive.

The event gives you a chance to see the art work and talk to the artists.  The location of the studios can be found on the map.

Studio 1 will feature George Wilkinson, Wood Turner, Cheryl Laakes, Fibre Artist,, Don Graves, Fine Artist, .

Studio 2 is where you will be able to see the work of: Edward Robin Hoyer, Fine Artist, Heather Moore, Painter , Jeweller,,  Kristina Kirkwood, Sculptor,

Studio 3 will show the work of Helen Griffiths,  Fine Artist,   Silvana Terry, Jeweller,, Teresa Seaton,  Stained Glass Artist, Don Dunnington, Photographer,

Studio 4 will feature photography done by Dan Jones, Fred Oliver and Glen Jones.

Studio 5 will feature Aubry Denomy, Sculptor,, and Nebojsa Jovanovic,  Fine Artist ,

Studio 6 will show the works of  Peter Schlotthauer , Artist Blacksmith,, Kristian Nesbitt, Printmaker,  Sue Gunter,  Painter / Jeweller ,

Studio 7 will feature Cheryl Miles Goldring,  Watercolourist,  905 632 1903.  Dave Lawson,  Photographer,  Julie Vanvugt,  Jeweller,, Tammy Hext, Fne Artist,,

Studio 8 will have work by Ian Cowling, Photographer –, Leanne Miller, Goldsmith,  Nancy McLean,  Fine Artist,, and Takanya Marsh, Textile Artist,

The weekend weather looks promising, the fall foliage has already delivered.  Map out your day and enjoy..


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Not on the auction block yet. Paletta Mansion is going to be given a new business model to stop the financial bleeding.

By Staff

It`s still there –and we`re still losing money on the place. There have been responses to the document the city put out asking for Expressions of Interest on the Paletta Mansion site off Lakeshore Road in the eastern part of the city.

The arrangement the city had for the operation of the site, a location for small conferences and weddings, was less than an ideal situation for the city.  On a closer look at the financial reports, the city found that Geraldo’s, at the LaSalle Pavilion, was making a profit but that Paletta was losing money.  However, because of the way the financial reports were put out the loss of one operation was buried in the numbers.  With those numbers now shown separately, the city realized that something had to be done at Paletta, and that resulted in advertisements asking for expressions of interest on what to do with the place.

It took time and a lot of money to get the property back to its original sate. It is now one of the most impressive examples of its era - and it's losing money every month.

Dating back to 1806 the land was owned by Canadian legend Laura Secord. The British Government in a lottery awarded her the land. Secord later sold the property and may not have even visited the site.  It is not clear what the lottery was and if it had any connection with Laura Secord`s heroic trek through woods at Queenstown to warn the British of an impending American plan to attack at Beaver Dam.  With the warning the British were able to repel the attack.  Laura Secord never actually did anything with the property, she may never have even visited the site.

Between the years of 1810 through 1912 the land changed hands many times until in 1912 two men bought it by the names of Cyrus Albert Birge and William Delos Flatt.  Birge was a  renowned industrialist, who played a large role in the industrial development of Hamilton as it moved to becoming a major North American steel producing city.  Birge’s company, Canadian Screw Company, was one of the five merged in 1910 to form steel giant Stelco.

Cyrus had a daughter named Edythe Merriam Birge. It was Edythe that built the house somewhere between 1929 and 1931, after her father had passed on.  That would have been in the middle of the Depression when all kinds of labour would have been available and building supplies on the market at very advantageous process.  This suggests there was a very sizable Birge estate.

It was Paletta family money that made it possible for the city to purchase the property and renovate it to its original state.

Edythe married a man by the name of James John MacKay and together they had a daughter who they named Dorothy. James died in 1959 and not to long after in 1960 Edythe also passed on leaving the house and the grounds to their daughter Dorothy who married a man by the name of John Wallace McNichol. This is why it was known for many years as the McNichol Estate.

Burlington and Hamilton had a strong connection dating back to the early 1900’s, when Burlington was the summer destination for many affluent citizens of Hamilton. Birge and his friends used the property to hunt on.  It wasn`t until Birge`s estate passed into the hands of his daughter that any development was done on the property.  The daughter Dorothy made up for lost time by building a sprawling four storey mansion.

The MacKay’s originally used the estate as their summer home. It stands on an exquisite 14 acre lakefront property rightly called “the jewel in the crown” of the Burlington waterfront.  .  Dorothy passed away in 1987 and her children sold the property to the city 1990.

By that time the property was in a sad state of disrepair and was boarded up.

There was a time when the mansion had to be boarded up while waiting for renovations to be made to a site that was much in need of repairs.

It took a number of years for the city to figure out what they wanted to do with the property – the purchase at the time was to keep it out of the hands of developers.  At one point it looked as if the city was going to put together an agreement with the Niagara Institute, which at that time was in the business of offering corporate executive development courses to senior executives.  The city wasn`t able to conclude an agreement.  With the property deteriorating the city turned to a wealthy benefactor Pat Paletta who wrote what is believed to be a $2 million cheque that paid for the costs of the renovations with the provison that the name Paletta be put on the property.

The city clearly didn`t have the financial smarts the Paletta`s have and is now looking for someone willing to take on the location and make it a paying proposition.

The site  is the only truly historic property left in Burlington and owned by the city to which the public has access.  The bird watching people maintain that Paletta is one of the best sites in the city.

As nice as it is – no one has yet been able to find a niche for the place.  The park has four heritage buildings (the Mansion, the Orientation Centre and Loft, the Art and Environment Study Centre, and the Dollhouse) on the property.

The property’s mansion ranks among the finest representations of great estate homes designed and built in Burlington in the two decades between 1912 and 1932, and was the last of its kind and quality to be built in Burlington.

The sun room at the rear of the building was in terrible shape - it took significant private money to get the building to where it was in its prime. Renovations were completed in 2000.

The 10 acre Discovery Trail features a flood plain that is one of the only natural areas of its kind remaining along the Halton shoreline of Lake Ontario. The wetland area on the park attracts migratory birds because of the protection, cover and food supply provided.

The gatehouse has been magnificently restored as The Art and Environment Study Centre. The centre boasts a welcome centre, a community gallery space and a studio loft. Currently, selected prints of world renowned environmental artist Robert Bateman are on display. The loft, an open concept studio space, provides a classroom venue for an array of program activities.

The property began to get very run down and with no one using it – plywood was placed over the windows and rot began to set in.  Restoration on the mansion began in April 2000.

The site features three other buildings: a gatehouse built circa 1912 which has been redesigned to serve as a small art studio and display area; a dollhouse, the only known heritage children’s playhouse in Burlington; and one of the last remaining stables in urban Burlington. The two-storey barn and stable has been converted into an educational loft. Youth camps, art classes and environmental workshops will be held here.

Preserving the natural habitat and landscape was a top priority for the city and the residents in the immediate community.  Shoreacres Creek runs through the 14-acre property, featuring a flood plain that is one of the only natural areas of its kind remaining along the Halton shoreline of Lake Ontario.

As rich as the pedigree of the property is – the city decided it couldn’t just let the place continue to lose money and provide little value to the taxpayers who foot the bill for the property.  The property needs a new mission and a new vision – the city is now going through the expressions of interest to see just what might be possible.

Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Glenn said at a recent council committee meeting that no one proposal offered a solution, but that amongst the proposals there appeared to be enough to cobble together a purpose for the site that would stop the financial hemorrhaging.

Burlington now has two historical sites to deal with: The Paletta Mansion and the Freeman Station.  There is every possibility that the Paletta gift has some codicils in it that prevent the city from doing anything they want with the site.

Perhaps the city will find itself having to develop a program for preserving and maintaining historic sites in the city.  At a public meeting, scheduled for November 19th at Mainway Arena, the city will attempt to answer the very real and noisy concerns of property owners who don`t want the historic site designations that have been placed on their houses.

Why does Burlington have this aversion to recognizing its history?


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City turns the Performing Arts Centre over to the community and serves cupcakes to keep everyone happy.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 23, 2012   It was a lovely fall afternoon; people were out and about – and hundreds, close to 1000 actually gathered at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre to walk around the place and kick the tires and look into every nook and cranny they could find.  Few if any were disappointed.

The Burlington Teen Tour Band took over the Family Room of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre the day the city turned the building over to the community.

There was a festive sense to the day – all the politicians were there but all they were able to do was say hello to people they knew and to people who wanted to know them.

Mayor Rick Goldring was very much the man of the moment even though the building that was being handed over symbolically to the Burlington Theatre Board got its genesis from two men who asked the right question and motivated people to begin something that resulted in the building we have today that sits on a site that used to house the city`s police station.

Babies and politicians - something magnetic about the two. Here Burlington MP Mike Wallace greets a little one. Some day that child will vote..

One citizen, pushing his Mother in a wheelchair wanted to say hello to the Mayor and did so – the Mother had a shamrock pin in the lapel of her jacket which the Mayor picked up on and asked is she was Irish – she was Irish and the conversation was amiable, the kind of thing that takes place at events like this – and then they asked – when the Pier was going to open – the Mayor just can`t get away from that one.  He now has an answer – sometime in 2013.

One couple mentioned that a restaurant north of the Centre was sold to the current owners by her Father. `That used to be where our orchard was`, she commented and her husband added Ì used to come to the police station that was on this site for my papers to be a volunteer.

Actors from Burlington Student Theatre were on hand for the turning over of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

Everyone had a comment, hundreds picked up a cup cake or a cup of coffee and just milled around until the Burlington Teen Tour Band marched into the building through glass doors on the east side that opened up fully to the plaza.  And in they came – all the redcoats you would ever want to see in one place.  They played a couple of tunes and marched smartly out the building.  The Main Theatre has great sound and we now know that the Family Room has even greater sound.  The sound from those drums reverberated off the walls and just filled the large hall.

David Vollick, the Town Crier for Burlington did his first official gig for the city and read out the proclamation that had the symbolic key to the building placed in the hands of the Burlington Theatre Board president Allan Pearson.  Didn’t see Pearson turn over the $1. annual rent to the city – perhaps that cheque is in the mail.

Our Town Crier was at his very best – a full force voice boomed out as he read the proclamation.

“Oyez, Oyez, Oyez” he began.

“Citizens of Burlington draw near and bear witness to an historic event in the growth of our fair city.

Today we celebrate the beginning of a new era for comedy, tragedy, aye for theater in all its forms in our newest and most favourably furnished facility –

The Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

It was a proud day for former Mayor Walter Mulkewich, standing center with his hands in his pockets. The Centre has been a gleam in his eye for more than 20 years.

Mayor Goldring and his wife look on as the Burlington Teen Tour Band entertains hundreds in the family Room of the Centre.

The centre is a gift from the City of Burlington to all the citizens of our fair city. It will encourage local talent of both our performers and our technical producers and will draw performers from across the great Country of Canada, and also from the world at large — to grace its stage.

To mark the significance of this occasion His Worship –

Rick Goldring – The Mayor of Burlington, will present the Symbolic Key to the Performing Arts Center to Mr. Allan Pearson — Chairman of the Board of Directors.

I call forth His Worship Mayor Goldring”

And with that the Mayor came on stage and the transfer and presentation of the key began.  The building was now in the hands of the Burlington Theatre Board which is the organization that oversees the working of the staff at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.  But the building is still very much a people place..  With the Burlington Teen Tour Band having sort of blessed the place with its sound people were milling about as if they were on a village square meeting friends and chatting away.  The chatter and the exchanging of gossip was all part of the day.  Our Theatre had been launched and the people of the city were there to witness the event.

Sometime in December there will be a very fancy $400. a ticket event and then the Centre will move into its Christmas Season program.  The Nutcracker Suite has been sold out.  Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Café was sold out and – an additional performance added and it too was sold out.  Both are tried and true events.  As we move into 2012 the staff at the Centre can begin to bring in more innovative programs and begin to stretch the artistic imaginations of the community.  Expect some birth pangs.

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Great deal for children on HALOWEEN – Ireland House is going to become creepy

BURLINGTON, ON October 20, 2011 – Halloween can break the bank and there is more taking on the part of the kids than giving.  Burlington’s Ireland House has revived a program that is intended for smaller children and their families.

Takes place Sunday October 30st – beginning at noon and running through to 4 pm.  Small fee of $5. For the children and $2. for the adults.   Thrown in to make it a real deal is a pumpkin for everyone for as long as supplies last.

Lots of activities and crafts for children and adults! Pumpkin carving and painting! Make a magic potion, see special amulets and learn about herbs with The Witch (La Bonne Sorciere) in her creepy cabin!


Goblins and ghosts and the scary cabin at Ireland House - great entertainment for the young ones

Put on a brave face and find your way through our haunted woodshed!  March in a costume parade!  Enter our costume contest and win prizes! Make some supernatural creations with Mad Science!  See a breathtaking fire & ice show!  Have you fortune read in a crystal ball! Sink your fangs into delicious barbeque refreshments! Take in carnival style games & a Giant Maze! Live entertainment for children and adults including costumed belly-dancing instructions with Belly-up Dance Studio and other special attractions!

 Looks like a fun program:

 Storytelling with Child Proof: 12:30

Mad Science Fire & Ice Show: 1:15

Belly-Dancing Demonstrations & Lessons: 2:30

Costume Parade & Contest: 3:15

Crafts, activities, tours and other attractions all day!

 The house itself will be decorated for the Halloween season with a woodshed being set up for a special surprise as well as the cabin being put to interesting use.  We are told there will be “belly dancers” on the premises – that should ensure that Dad comes along with the kids for this event.

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On the second date she still looked good but I noticed she wasn’t exactly perfect. Would she mind if I commented?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 16, 2011  A second look at the newest gem in the city – the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.  We are all agog about the place and Our Burling has certainly been a big and consistent supporters.

Having attended the Royal Wood performance and noting that it wasn’t sold out, we didn’t bother going on line to order tickets to the Jacob Moon event – just drove downtown and expected to walk up to the box office and buy a pair of tickets.  SOLD OUT – which is great but we missed out on a performance the Missus wanted to take in and she wanted to see the place I was talking about so much.

Jacob Moon - SOLD OUT at the Performing Arts Centre

I had checked in on the web site and there was no mention there that the event was sold out – I didn’t think Moon would fill the 718 seat Main Theatre.  Nowhere on the first level of the web site was there a note that this was a Studio Theatre event. The start time was there and that’s  what I was after.  I think if I’d know that I would have gone on line and ordered.

So, to the folks in the marketing department, which I assume is responsible for the box office and the web site – tighten things up over there a bit please.  Use the technology to be instant – when the last ticket sells get the words SOLD OUT (which you just have to love) up on the web site pronto.

The Centre is one of the best people watching places in the city, especially if you get up into the second level where you can look down into the Family Room.  With no tickets available, the Misses and I decided to have a glass of wine and just enjoy the space.

“It’s bare”, said the Missus. “There are no plants, no colour – it’s a cold room – can’t call a cold room a Family Room.”  I’d not looked at the space quite that way, but the Missus was right.  There is no colour unless you are sitting in the Main Theatre and you see that gorgeous, magnificent, crimson  red, velour curtain that rises so elegantly.

The walls have no art on them.  There isn’t a picture montage telling the story of what the site looked like when it was the local police station and then pictures of the various construction stages it went through.  There are places on some of the pillars where luscious green plants could be placed.

The Family Room and the upper level could use a little more furniture – kind of bare except for the two very comfortable chairs on the upper level.  The square upholstered benches don’t support your back when you’re sitting .

The Family Room would be a great place for a huge Christmas Tree - all that space and to be able to see it from the street lit up at night. Will wee see something like that this year.

And what are they going to do around the 10th of December?  Will there be a humungous Christmas tree erected smack in the middle of the Family Room and will there be a community event to decorate the tree?  Maybe Carollers in costume walking about as people take part in the decorating of the tree.  So many opportunities to brighten up the place – not that it is dour or dull – but now that it is open and done “on time and under budget” as well – let’s make it look  lived in.

The bar has potential.  It’s long, approaching twenty feet is my guess, and the prices are manageable.  $8.00 for a very decent 7 ounces of a good Chardonnay.  Friendly staff with a mobile bar up on the second level.  And even though the crowd for the Jacob Moon performance was small – they were using the Studio Theatre, there were quite a few people bellying up to the bar for some libation.

Now, Centre staff will ask for some time to get all these little things done – they don’t get the time.  This is a “community” theatre and every one of us are landlords and we want to see that place just hum.  The Jacob Moon event was, we are told, one of the first events, where a performer rented the space and put on his own show.  Moon has a significant following with the Christian evangelical crowd and they were out there supporting his music.

The Stewart McLean Vinyl Café performance has been extended to include a Matinee – the evening performance was SOLD OUT.  We’re doing something right – but let us not rest on our laurels.


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Show time for the Mayor and an interesting approach to fund raising for the city.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON October 15, 2011 – The Mayor has gotten into show business and in the process changed one of the major fund raising events in Burlington.  Traditionally the Mayor has held an annual Gala to raise funds for projects the Mayor feels will advance the development of the city.

The city has not held a Mayor’s Gala for a number of years.  Former Mayor Cam Jackson didn’t hold a Gala during his last year in office.

Current Mayor Rick Goldring hasn’t been in office for a full year yet and he has put forward his approach to Gala’s.  When asked where the idea for his approach came from he responds with: “I had the idea before there was a stick in the ground and I just grew it”.

Burlington's Top Talent will take to the stage - Sound of Music will screen the performers.

So what is the Mayor going to be doing?  The Mayor’s Cabaret – and it will take place February 24,  2012  What’s a Cabaret?  A night of local talent on the biggest stage in town.

Here’s how it is going to happen.  The Mayor has partnered with the Sound of Music people to choose who will take part in the Cabaret.  The Sound of Music people certainly know something about show business and by having them do the selection takes any favouritism out of the Mayor’s office.

There will be ten acts and tickets to the event will be priced in the $100. range.  That plus some corporate sponsorships and the mayor thinks he can raise upwards of $100,000. During the first year those funds will go to the Performing Arts Centre.  Where will funds go after that?  Mayor Goldring isn’t sure yet but with seven more years in office – expect this man to come up with some interesting ideas and know that the environment will be in there somewhere.

Goldring Galas for the next seven years?  You thought the Mayor was elected for just four years – true – but do you really think anyone is going to manage to challenge a Mayor who has brought tranquillity to a council that was torn with division ?  Burlington has a council that is focused, about to release a Strategic Plan that is significantly different than anything else this city has seen.  There is going to be a very different approach to developing the budget as well and a demand that staff report on the city’s financial affairs in a more timely manner.  The city will never see a surprise surpl

The Mayor won't be dancing.

us of more than $9 million again and the significant infrastructure (road repairs) deficit will get whittled down over time.  You can expect much sounder civic direction from this council.

The city will see long range plans that address vital issues coming forward in the next six to nine months and a significantly different environment that has the potential to create a more engaged and responsive senior civic administration.  Staff are now working with a council that appreciates the contribution they make and the intellectual energy they bring to their jobs.

Sometime in the very near future a new city manager will be hired who will tighten up the team that leads the city day to day.  While morale isn’t bad the new city manager will mould the seniors manager into a team that works with council.  We will get away from the distancing that ruled in the past and we should see a much tighter working relationship between senior management and council.  It will be a healthier place for everyone.

What we won’t apparently see is a mayor wearing tap dancing shoes the opening night of the Cabaret.  The Mayor doesn’t dance.

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Mayor spreading his wings and getting into show business; about to become an Impresario.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  October 7, 2011  – Well, talk about being proactive and putting your money where your mouth is – Mayor Rick Goldring has cast a new image for himself and is about to become an Impresario.  He is going into show business and has announced that he is putting on a Cabaret, with the tag line “Life is a Cabaret my friends….come to the Cabaret!”

His Worship is going to dance before the bright lights. Will we lose him to Broadway?

The event will take place February 24, 2012 at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. It will be a variety show featuring acts in a many genres – from musicians to dancers to magicians to comedy. This is sure to be a spectacular evening with a focus on local talent.

Funds raised from the event will benefit the Burlington Performing Arts Centre and the Sound of Music Festival.

Tickets will be available through the box office beginning November 1, 2011.

In addition to a wonderful show, there will be a cocktail reception and silent and live auctions.  The Mayor`s Cabaret is open to submissions from entertainers. More detail on the submission process will be posted very soon.

Kudo`s to the Mayor for this one.


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Tickets sales up , Centre is working but the relationship between the city and the BPAC Board needs some work.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 5, 2011  –  It was going to be all nicey, nicey; they were going to be friends and everyone would be happy and that is the way Burlington`s Budget and Corporate Services Committee started out earlier this week.  Acting General Manager, Development and Infrastructure Division, Steve Zorbas explained that this was his 73rd and last  report to Council from the Project Management Team that oversaw the construction of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.  Besides thanking everyone for their contribution, and that list was long, Zorbas informed Council that the phrase “on time and on budget“ had to be revised to “on time and under budget“  – the project team was able to say there was $75,000 left in the bank account.

True, but Zorbas didn`t mention that the Project had been given a contingency amount of $3.5 million to complete the project which Zorbas managed to neglect.  At a council meeting Zorbas asked if the Management Team could hang onto the funds that remained at the time,  rather than have to go back to Council to get each item approved.

Councillor Taylor had major misgivings about the way the capital levy for the Burlington Performing Arts Centre was going to be used and made it clear he didn't thunk the ticket surcharge was high enough and voted against the Relationship Agreement that was being discussed..

Council was listening to General Manager Budget and Corporate Services, Kim Phillips report on just where things were.  Phillips was quite chirpy and talked about what she saw as a good working relationship with both BPAC and the Theatre Board.  But beneath the pleasant demeanour one could sense the gimlet eye of an accountant who knew how to count the pennies.

Councillor Taylor was not as confident as Phillips and he asked why there was so much uncertainty around the capital maintenance charges.  Phillips said that no one had given that aspect all that much attention.  The BPAC people and the Theatre Board were focused on fund raising and getting the building completed and ready for the opening day.

The city thought the capital levy on each ticket sold, would flow into the city`s coffers and the Centre people thought it would flow into their bank account – not wanting to be difficult with each other the city and the Centre decided to make it a 50/50 split.  Councillor Lancaster wanted to know what criteria was used to arrive at the 50/50 arrangement and was told that there really wasn`t a criteria – it was just what was done.  You could almost feel the shiver go through council members over what Councillor Sharman called “”tin cup” accounting.

Staff had developed a chart that set out all the items that came under capital costs – and realized when they were in discussions with the Centre staff that there was significant difference between who was going to pay for what.  Staff had used the word “doing“ in the document to set out who would be doing what and Centre people took that to mean paying – and that certainly wasn`t the case.  Of such misunderstandings are interesting court cases made.

Concerns over capital expenditures and the cost of replacing and upgrading features over the projected 50 year life of the building is still an outstanding issue. The city has one view as to who was going to pay for what and the Theatre Board and the BPAC people had another view.  Much of the capital related costs are supposed to be covered by that capital surcharge that appears on every ticket purchased.  It was to be between $1.00 and a $1.50 – and there is already talk of increasing that amount.

Phillips made is clkear to council that absolute clarity was needed by both staff and the BPAC administration on what was meant by "sustainability".

To be fair – Phillips came onto this file in May of this year and there was a lot of catching up to do.  Vacations and a bunch of other issues plus the fact that she will serve as the Acting city manager for November and December is keeping Phillips very busy.

It`s all a bit arcane but come the day when the roof has to be repaired it`s better to know now just who is going to pay for that replacing.  Phillips had a document that set all the things that were capital related and indicated who would `do`the work involved and who would `pay`for the work that would have to be done.   Exactly who would do and who would pay was not clear during the early discussions between the BPAC people and the city, which is a major concern for the city.  They want to have a policy that applies to every joint ventures group in the city.  The Burlington Gymnastic Club has a roof repair problem and the city wants to make sure that the same policy applies to everyone and that the money to implement the policy is in the budget.

The city is currently short many millions on road replacement work – the money to pay for it doesn`t exist – and they don`t want to find themselves in the same situation with the performing arts centre.  This is the time to do the haggling.

Several council members were disturbed that this level of detail had not already been worked out – staff came back with their being focused on getting the construction of the building completed and they didn`t feel it was useful to get into details that were perhaps a phase 8 task when everyone was focused on tasks 1 and 2. Council made it clear that they wanted to be fully aware of just what the financial ramifications were to the decisions they were making.

It was clear that there is a different financial accountability environment on the council side of the horseshoe they all gather around.  This council doesn`t want any surprises and they are not yet confident that the staff in place fully understands the new accountability regime. There have in the past year been a number of surprises that council feels could have been avoided if staff had been more forthcoming.  The city is in the process of hiring a new city manager.  You can be certain that the new CM will be someone who will be diligent and thorough when it comes to reporting to council.  One can also expect to see much shorter reporting financial reporting cycles in 2012.  The city uses some of the best accounting software available and council expect staff to use all the features – faster reporter being one of them.

Council wants to be sure they don`t get blind-sided again the way they did with the losses that were being experienced at the Paletta Mansion – the place was losing a ton of money and council didn`t know that.  That`s why the city is asking for expressions of interest from anyone who might have some ideas for that  place.

One of the concerns that got expressed was when the city would learn if things did go bad and they found they had to or wanted to exercise the 20 day option they have to ask the Theatre Board and BPAC to give the keys back.  At this point BPAC doesn`t really own the keys they use  – the building belongs to the city and once the lease is signed plans are in place to turn them over to BPAC on October 23rd at a formal public ceremony.

It was emphasized throughout the meeting that while the city owned the property BPAC runs the show.  BPAC`s policy is to have commercial shows in that make money for the Centre.  There will be programs put on by not for profit groups and prices for the use of the building will be lower.  The Centre will also develop a program of its own that will over time develop an appreciation for different art forms: dance, music, drama – trust Executive Director Brenda Heatherington to do what she did so well in St. Albert, Alberta in developing a taste for art forms that the city has not experienced in the past.

Councillors Meed Ward and Sharman weren't in agreement on very much during the Performing Arts discussion. This photograph was taken at a Strategic Planning session - they didn't agree much there either.

While everyone else was consistent in saying that the Centre would never be self-sustaining; that it would always need some form of subsidy from the city.   Mead Ward however said that she believed that entertainment can be made to pay and one got the impression she felt that the place could be made self-sustaining.  Phillips was experiencing small conniptions when she heard that for she is very firm on the need for clarity when the city sets out the relationship and the expectations it has of both the Theatre Board and the hard working folks at BPAC.  As Phillips put it when she said: `We need absolute clarity on this`, she said.  You will not make any money from this facility.  That didn`t stop Meed Ward from saying she felt the city portion of the operating expense would lessen over time.  Meed Ward countered with the bar is very low for sustainability.

The number floating around was about $350,000 a year to cover operating losses that will be experienced.  What had Taylor losing his normal smile and adding to his level of heartburn was the sneaky feeling that the city might at some point in the future be looking at as much as $500,000 more to cover capital replacement costs.  And he wanted those numbers fleshed out now before the lease is signed and the keys turned over.  But the hard number crunching that is needed hasn`t been done.

Taylor estimates that the capital surcharge of $1.50 will provide less than half of what is going to be needed.  Problems is if the BPAC loads on too big a surcharge they will become uncompetitive.

Your council then went back to one of its old habits and moved into closed session to talk about the specifics of the Relationship Agreement with the Theatre Board.  There was nothing in those discussions that had to be kept from the eyes of the public – if anything council should have wanted the public to know everything they possibly could about the largest capital expenditure the city has ever made.  Council members can and should get their views on the public record so that if there is ever a day when the city has to pull the plug and take back the building, which it owns, then the views and concerns of the council members were publicly known.  Not a particularly great start in terms of relationship building.

Councillor Taylor has always had concerns about the financial side of facilities that are tied to entertainment and show business.  He will point time and again to the Hamilton problems with their HEC5 operation. It is not that Taylor has a bias against entertainment – this is a guy who bought tickets to the Jersey Boys production and they weren`t for his children.  His concern is the ability of the Centre to bring in enough revenue so that the city is not on the hook for expenses it has made no allowances for in its longer term budget.

After more than an hour of closed session discussion council then voted on the Relationship Agreement and the Lease that will be in place.  Taylor didn`t vote for the agreements but the rest of council seemed to be comfortable – however you will never know because you didn`t get a chance to hear what was said – the session was closed.

Several changes were made to the Relationship Agreement as well as a few changes to clauses in the lease.  Mention was made of a change to clause 1601 B – which would presume there is a clause 1601 and therefore also a clause 1 – that would amount to a mighty long, complex document.  The Project Management Team also advised council that there were no liens on the property.

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More than $37 million later and there is a performer on the stage and wine and cheese in the BPAC Family Room.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 2, 2011  The opening piece made you feel like taking the missus into your arms and dancing away.  Royal Wood had that ability to create a mood and keep you with him as he performed exquisitely on the keyboard and moved from number to number during the opening performance at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre on Saturday October 1, 2011

The evening the city had been waiting for actually began back in August – on the 20th, when people lined up around the block to buy tickets at the then newly opened box office – the Centre was open for business.  “There were people who brought lawn chairs to sit on that Saturday, while they waited in line”, exclaimed Hilary Sadler, Marketing Manager for the Centre,  who then told the opening night audience that 6500 tickets had been sold in the six weeks since the Centre opened and that there were already several sold out events.  The Centre had a promotion for the early tickets buyers and “when we went to put all the entries into the draw barrel we had to stuff them into the container we had – there was hardly enough room” but Brenda Heatherington was still able to reach in and draw out the name of Robin Summers as the winner

The sound was just a tad too loud for me – but the piano work was exceptional.  Royal Wood has been at a keyboard since the age of four – and it showed.  He has his fan base and there were many of them in the audience Saturday night .  There were also a lot of people who may not have seen themselves as Royal followers –they just wanted to be in the audience opening night. The event wasn’t sold out but the hall was at least four fifths full – with people in the prime box seats as well.

An interesting and somewhat ironic observation.  Two of the people who were on the ground and in the trenches during the very early days of the drive to bring a performing arts centre to Burlington – then city council member Mike Wallace and bookkeeper Deb Tymstra were in the audience.  Mike was in one of the box seats while Tymstra sat with the regular crowd.  Wallace is now the MPP for the city and Tymstra now runs her own bookkeeping business and had to recently announce that Creative Burlington, the organization she ran to promote the arts and create something of a marketing base of those commercial and artistic organizations had to cease operations for lack of funding.  Life at times appears unfair – but Ms Tymstra, the opera is not over until the fat lady sings; you know that.

Royal Wood signing CD's after the first commercial event at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. They loved him.

Royal Wood moved from number to number and on several occasions you could sense that he was going to let himself go just a bit more and each time he did that – the sound was grand but there was the sense that there was even more voice within this artist.  We have not seen the best of Royal Wood yet.

The piano work touched the very edges of a nice jazz sound and then seemed to get just a little honkey tonk, but Wood always came back to strong, solid keyboard work.

The evening started off with a video on the upcoming programmes which was interesting,  but all that information was in the promotional literature; we were in our comfortable seats and just wanted to get on with the show.  The introduction  ran just a little on the long side as well.  Wood moved from the grand piano (and it indeed is grand) to the microphone where he played his guitar with the back up of three musicians.  From time to time he would engage in light chatter with the audience and we got to see a side of this man that isn’t always noticed.  He talked about teen suicide – not a subject that was sure to endear him to an audience, and said that he didn’t want to be preachy or be “Bono” but he didn’t understand why all teens were not full of life and love and then quietly added that one had to “wait it out .. wait it out.

The concert – more of a performance actually was working towards its last coupe of pieces and when Wood announced that “this will be the last piece this evening” then the sly fox in him added that if the audience insisted he had a couple of others in his bag.   And the audience of course brought him back several times.

During the performance Graham Frampton, Manager, Operations and Facility Sales,  was seen scooting up and down an aisle – whispering a few words into the ears of the technicians handling the sound.  Technically the place works.  The sight lines are perfect and the Main Hall has a comfortable feeling to it – nothing fancy.  Executive Director Brenda Heatherington sat on the edge of her seat for part of the performance – you could almost hear her saying – it’s working.

First two people to enter the theatre with tickets in hand.

Given that this was the first night ever for the Centre, someone sprung for the cost of a wine and cheese reception.  Nice to be able to saunter over to the bar and pick up a glass of wine and then another if you chose and not have to pick up the tab.

People hung around for at least a full hour after the performance, talking in small groups.  Some gathered in the balcony that surrounds the Family room, that is huge lobby area right outside the theatre.  The place works – and it gave Royal Wood, its opening night performer, the “royal” treatment.

Tuesday of this week, the hard financial side of operating the Centre comes before a committee of city council that will receive a report setting out what is left of the $3,439,300 the Centre was given as contingency funds.  There is $74,297 left in that contingency account.

Those behind the development of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre speak regularly about the project being on time and on budget – welcome words to the ears of citizens who have heard nothing but grief about the Pier and, even though a contractor is in place to complete the Pier, there are still many who think the city should have walked away from the project and just blown the whole thing up.


The capital cost for the Burlington Performance Arts Centre has amounted to $37.2 million which includes the close to $3.5 contingency.  The city owns the building and is in the process of completing both a Lease Agreement and a Relationship Agreement with the independent arm’s length Board that governs the Centre.  That Board, a non profit corporation will operate what we know as the Burlington Performing  Arts Centre.  The corporation that oversees the Centre staff and its operations as well as representing the interest of the citizens, is known as the Burlington Theatre Board Inc.

So we have the Theatre Board operating the Performing Arts Centre which is owned by the city.  We will get back to you on how the Theatre Board is organized and what role the average citizen can play in the operation of the Centre.  At the Invitation Only event for the donours Vice Chair Rick Burgess explained very briefly that the role of the Theatre Board was one of oversight for the citizens of the city.

Oversight is certainly in order because the city will be giving the Centre $480,700. each year to go towards the cost of operating the organization.  An additional $262,800 was made available to the Centre as one time funding for the opening year.  The city owns the building and is therefore responsible for the upkeep and maintenance which will require the creation of a reserve fund.

The Relationship Agreement sets out the ability of the Theatre Board to make application for financial assistance through the city’s annual budget process.  The Staff report that is going to Council committee emphasizes that the Centre is not expected to be a fully self-sustaining facility.

There is a program in place; it’s called a Capital Surcharge that has an amount of between $1.00 and $1.50 added to the price of every ticket sold.  That surcharge is shown as a separate line on every ticket sold.  At the moment that surcharge amount to $1.70 (HST snuck in there somewhere).  The surcharge proceeds are divided  on a 50/50 basis between the city and the Centre.

Six thousand five hundred tickets for performances at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre have been sold. More than 550 were used on the first night.

The city’s Corporate Strategic Initiatives run by Allan Magi will have input on the capital plant, which means the building and the things actually attached to it and the stuff that is inside the building is the responsibility of the Centre staff.  Tables, chairs, the seats in the theatre – that kind of thing.

The Lease Agreement (which has yet to be made public) and the Relationship Agreement get a thorough going over at council committee.  The nature of the relationship between the City and the Board has more than enough clauses in it to protect the city.  Try this one on for size.  “The city may terminate this agreement by written notice … in any of the following circumstances and then goes on to list the events that would be defined as a default in the agreement.  But here is the killer: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Agreement, the city may, in its sole and absolute discretion, terminate this agreement on 20 business days.  The city may exercise such right arbitrarily…”  That’s a pretty tough clause.  The city owns the building and if they don’t like the way things are being done they can cancel the agreement with 20 days’ notice.

The trade mark “Burlington Performing Arts Centre” is owned by the city and is licensed to the Centre.  The Board of the Centre cannot approve an expenditure of more than $1,000,000 until it has been approved by Council

The relationship between the city, the Centre’s Board of Directors and the staff at the Centre have been remarkably positive.  The city has council member, Rick Craven along with the Mayor, sitting on the Board of the non-profit corporation that runs the theatre as well as a staff member; Steve Zorbas, Acting General Manager Development and Infrastructure.

Volunteers are a large part of what makes the Centre work. Patrons will meet friendly ushers like these two gents.

The city provided the telephone system the Centre uses but doesn’t pay the telephone bill.  The city was involved in the setting up of the web site but doesn’t provide ongoing technical support.  The Centre staff will get paid through the city’s payroll service.

Except for a bit of a flap over the bricks that were to be used on the building the project was completed to the satisfaction of just about everyone.  The city took possession of the building from the contractors on September 13th and, believe it or not, there is a one year warranty on the place.

All however, is not sweetness and light between the city and the Theatre and its Board of Directors.  Staff is providing verbal updates at the committee meeting “so that committee members are clear about the few remaining areas of difference between the parties.”

Will it work, can it work?  There are a number of very positive signs that it will work but show business has never been easy and the entertainment business is fickle at the best of times.  Brenda Heatherington and her crew have their work cut out for them as they not only fine tune the building but also get the full measure of the community and figure out what we want and at the same time discern where the community can be taken.

The Board that provides the oversight is going to have to be both vigilant and supportive and give the staff the room they need to develop the business and at the same time be fiscally responsible.  This isn’t an 18 month undertaking; this is a three year exercise at a minimum and the Centre needs to develop a relationship with the citizens of the city that is strong enough to allow that amount of time.  That isn’t going to be the easiest thing to do in a city that had people who wanted the Pier torn down.

And if the Board and the Centre staff can’t do that – well the Centre could become, as one city hall wag put it, an All Elvis location.

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Popular jazz vocalist at the Alexander Barn of the Halton Museum in Kelso. Take in the fall colours as well.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON September 29, 2011  Gary Carr, the Chief Cheese over at the Region wants you to know that  “Fall is the perfect time to visit the Halton Region Museum in Kelso, you can take in the fall colours, the beautiful views and round it out with a top notch performance from two well-seasoned and soulful jazz/blues musicians, Terry Blankley and Al Matthews.”

Cool, quiet jazz vocals in a fall colour setting.

The Chair is absolutely right on this one.  The Jazz at the Museum program is great entertainment and very good value.  It would be nice to see the Chair at one of these events – he could use a little R&R and the Missus would probably like a chance to get out of the house.

Artist/composer Terry Blankley will draw you in and warm your spirits on October the 9th.   Described as a cross between Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits, Terry has been a regular at the grand Old Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.  Whether singing Billie Holiday’s classic, “Don’t explain” or the Ray Charles hit, “Hallelujah, how I love her so,” or songs from his latest CD, Cold Weather Blues Blankley is fine entertainment.  Terry will be joined at the Museum by Al Matthews, whose brilliant musical styling’s  and vocals are matched by a wicked sense of humour.

Sunday, October 9th – great way to spend an afternoon – take friends.  Limited tickets are available at the door for $20 per person and include light refreshments. The performance  takes place in the Hearth Room in the Museum’s historic Alexander Barn from 2 to 4 p.m. Doors open at 1:30 p.m.  You can reserve a ticket by calling 905-875-2200, ext. 27


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City hall staff romp on Brant Street, raise $3300. of their $60,000 target for United Way.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  September 23, 2010  The city kicked off it’s part of the United Way

Campaign with a great romp out on Burlington Street while they enjoyed a BBQ on the plaza –

and in the process sold 450 hamburgers at $5.00 a pop to put $2250. into the pot that is holding

the money staff will raise for the 2011 United Way Campaign.  The target for 2011 is $60,000


Corporate giving is a large, large part of what the United Way needs to raise each year.  Burlington’s city hall staff show how it can be done by giving it more than the old heave ho – this year different city hall departments took turns pulling a water truck down Brant street for a stretch.  Some of the times were impressive and while many think the fireman would have made a slam dunk of this – turns out the Roads and Parks Maintenance turned in a slightly better time.  Fire Chief  Shane Mintz will be getting his people into the exercise room a little more often.

The competition came down to rivals Roads and Park Maintenance and Fire. Fire clocked in at 11.something-very-fast, and then RPM clocked in at 11.something-even-faster. It was literally 4/10 ths of a second difference. So RPM wheeled away with baked goods and bragging rights, while a smoldering crew from Fire vows to really bring on the heat next year… or some clunky thing

There were nine teams out on the street pulling the water truck – and each team put up $150. Of their own money just to be in the event.  Some might mutter that – is that all they have time to do – play games on the main street – but this isn’t game playing.  City hall staff have committed themselves to raising $65,000 in 2011.  The target for the 2010 campaign was $60,000 and they came within $500. of achieving their target.

When the final numbers are tallied, yesterday’s event will have raised approximately $3,300 dollars for an incredibly good cause. And by the time the campaign is finished Chair Tracy Burrows feels certain they will reach the  $60,000. goal

The 2010 campaign was successful in raising funds for United Way.

Employee donations:              $49,110.00 – 297 pledges

Special Events:                        $10,388.10

Grand Total:                                        $59,498.10

The 2011 campaign has set the same target as 2010 – to bring in $60,00.  This year the campaign is being led by Tracey Burrows, Chair of the employee United Way Campaign committee. Food for the Kick off BBQ event was  provided by Recreation Leisure Services Ltd. & Sysco Food Supplies, refreshments provided by Pepsi, and BBQ provided by Pat’s Party Rentals.

The campaign slogan for 2011 is – Change Starts Here.  From Poverty to possibility – Healthy People, strong communities, and all that kids can be.

There are more than 50,000 families are at risk of becoming homeless or are homeless due to limited or no income.  The United Way supports the basic needs to improve people’s emotional and physical well-being, moving them from crisis to stability, enabling them to achieve their potential.  Over 10,000 people receive professional social work services and more than 12,000 seniors have accessed United Ways programs and supports.  These services recognize and build on individual strength – the foundations required for independent, healthy living.

More than 77,000 children and youth accessed the United Ways programs allowing children and youth to engage is safe and supportive environments – overcoming barriers and build positive relationships and develop skills for life.  Last year alone over 218,000 people in our region accessed one or more of the 133 United Way funded programs.


Clerks give everyone that funny look all the time - and take best costume prize during the 2011 United Way fund raising event. Lee Oliver, lead scribe is on the right.

The campaign team for 2011 consists of: Chair: Tracey Burrows, Planning and Building, Vice-Chair: Joanne Hyde, Clerks, Kim Phillips, General Managers Office, Andrew Maas, Corporate Strategic Initiatives, Wanda Tolone, Clerks, Bryan Hermans, Finance, Lynn Williams, Human Resources, Steve Fyfe, Information Technology Services, Michelle Walsh, Legal/POA, Ashley McCallum, Engineering, Marg Lambert, Parks and Recreation, Brian Adriaans, Roads and Parks Maintenance, Louise Allard, Transit, Greg Grison, Fire, Kathy Pavlou, Building, Be Nguyen, Planning, Leah Bisutti City Manager’s Office. Other staff assisting:  Jewel McCabe, Parks and Recreation

City Hall staff have chosen the United Way as their charity of choice because they feel the work of the United Way is grounded on an in-depth knowledge and understanding of our

Community.  This is reflected in the three investment priorities of the United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton:

  • From poverty to possibility
  • Healthy People, strong communities
  • All that kids can be

When you give to United Way, you are helping to support a network of health and social service agencies throughout our city. Our community agencies provide vital services to thousands of people. It is a funding source for 133 programs and services in Greater Hamilton and Burlington, delivered by 73 agencies. At work across our city every day, they understand how to meet the urgent needs of the local community. Your gift to United Way provides core funding and program support to those agencies, giving them the flexibility they need to respond effectively and ensuring that your donation gets to where it is needed most.

Eighty cents (80 percent) of every dollar committed to the 2011 United Way campaign will go directly to local community building initiatives and program supports, including what United Way uses for its community building activities.

As well, employees who choose to participate in the United Way payroll deduction program may direct their contribution through United Way to any Canadian registered charity of their choice.

United Way reduces costly and time-consuming fundraising efforts for agencies so their time can be spent helping others. The United Way raises funds far more cost efficiently than most agencies can for themselves. United Way analyzes community needs and invests for impact. When the City of Burlington chooses United Way, we are choosing to help the entire community.

This year we are again seeking support from Senior Management for the Early Bird Draw event that the committee has planned.  In past years, Directors, General Managers and the Office of the City Manager have supplied draw prizes for employees who submit their completed contribution form by a specified date.  The Early Bird Draw is a great way to entice donors to have their forms in early. It is our hope that Senior Management will be leaders when approached by department representatives.

The committee has planed the following events for 2011 with all proceeds going to the United Way.

Clothing Drive – Between October 2 and October 14, 2011 inclusive
Pizza Days – October 13, November 10, December 8, 2011Art Sale – November 17, 2011
Gift Basket Silent Auction – December 1, 2011
Early Bird Incentive Draw -TBD
Dress Down Days – last Friday of each month
Kernels Popcorn Sale –TBDRaffles – TBD

Many staff donated their service award dollars to the United Way and there are donations from  NFL Football Pool.  How do people who aren’t on the city payroll get in on that football pool?

What does it all mean?  Staff at city hall are leading and showing the private sector what can be done if you really put your shoulder to the wheel –which is what nine city hall departments did on Brant Street last Thursday afternoon.

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It was part of the soft opening of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre – however, nothing soft about the applause.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON   September 23, 2011  And there it was, a theatre slowly filling up with people and dead ahead a rich, crimson red velour curtain.  It was kind of enchanting.  It wasn’t LaScala in Rome or the Metropolitan Opera in New York – but it was the Burlington Performing Arts Centre and it was about to hold its first public event.  Well not quite public – this was an Invitation Only event for the hundreds of people who wrote cheques that amounted to more than $11 million dollars.

The first person to ever take the stage before an audience was Denise Walker, chief fund raiser for the Centre who gracefully thanked the audience for the support that was given before there were shovels in the ground and before the city had given its consent and support for the project.

A short piece of entertainment was put on – nice and light – more of a reminder that you were in a theatre and that there was much, much more to come.

The event Thursday evening was the first of two such “Thank You Very Much” events.  The first layer of donours filled the Family Room.  Theatre management wanted a relaxed evening for the donours so split the event into two parts.  The second group will attend on Saturday and they too will appreciate the 25 foot bar on the south side of the Family Room.  This is a decent place to get a drink.

The Family Room is spacious and it was full – not packed to the walls, but you did have to work your way through groups of people.  Small tables had been set up throughout the room – they were like ‘talking stations’ you went from table to table and talked with friends.

The Burlington Performing Arts Centre on the Thank You All Very Much event.

The real show gets on the road October 1st when Royal Wood will take to the stage but Thursday and Saturday were events for the people who made it happen.  Seen in the crowd were former Mayor Walter Mulkewich and Deb Tymstra, two people who were there at the beginning and involved in the fund raising.  The irony of the evening could not have been lost on Deb Tymstra who was a little more than a week away from closing the doors to Creative Burlington, an organization that was originally known as “Performing Arts”.  They were the people that tilled the soil and advocated for a performing arts centre.

There were speeches – three and all were mercifully short.  The triumvirate that currently serves as “the city Manager” Scott Stewart, Kim Phillips and Steve Zorbas were on hand.  Zorbas sits on the BPAC board and we wondered if he was on hand to pick up the rent cheque but it turns out the lease between the city and the non-profit corporation that runs the BPAC hasn’t been completed – looks like they are in there rent free.


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Performing Arts Centre donours to be recognized at two seperate events. Invitation Only for very special people.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON September 20, 2011 The folks that put up the big bucks – and there were $11 million of those dollars put on the table – are going to be recognized and celebrated on September 22, and on September 24th. Why two dates – because there are so many donours that all of them couldn’t get a seat if everything was done on the one night.

When BPAC Executive Director Brenda Heatherington talks to you – you get every bit of her attention.  This woman focuses on everything she does – the results of that focus can now be seen on Locust Street

When BPAC Executive Director Brenda Heatherington talks to you – you get every bit of her attention. This woman focuses on everything she does – the results of that focus can now be seen on Locust Street

So it’s a two night set up with Take Your Seat and the Keys to the Future donors being recognized and feted on the Saturday and the others on the Thursday

This is a By Invitation Only event. It’s a big deal – without those donations this city would not have the Burlington Performing Arts Centre it has today.

The event takes place from 7:00 pm to 9:30 with speeches from Denise Wallace Chair of the Fund Raising Committee, Mike Wallace on behalf of the Federal government, Rick Goldring on behalf of the city, Rick Burgess speaking for the Board of Directors and Brenda Hetherington speaking for the people that run the place. Count em, five speakers, and Denise Walker who is going to front the whole thing tells me that the speeches – from five people – will not go beyond a total of 15 minutes. That will be something to hear – short, short speeches. You know they’re not going to make it.

She got called the bag lady because she made telephone calls asking people for money and she was incredibly successful at getting donours.  Thursday and Saturday she will be part of a private program – By Invitation Only that will fete and thank the very generous donours.

She got called the bag lady because she made telephone calls asking people for money and she was incredibly successful at getting donours. Thursday and Saturday she will be part of a private program – By Invitation Only that will fete and thank the very generous donours.

When asked if she had bought a new dress for the occasion Walker responded: “I haven’t had time.” But she did say there would be a drink for each donour and some special entertainment for the evening.

This is an occasion to recognize the people who put up the money to make it happen. Everyone assumes that rich people just write cheques – and they do but the not so rich people write cheques too – and all deserve recognition and the kind of applause that a grateful community can give.

The very first live performance will take place October 1st – when Royal Wood will appear on stage. Burlington will hear the man who was named iTunes Songwriter of the Year in 2010.

When it came to getting the building built – once the jabbering about the bricks was over – it was Keith Strong who put his shoulder to the wheel and made sure the place was built on time and on budget.

When it came to getting the building built – once the jabbering about the bricks was over – it was Keith Strong who put his shoulder to the wheel and made sure the place was built on time and on budget.

The City of Burlington, which actually owns the building, will celebrate The Centre’s completion with a free family event on Sunday, Oct. 23 from 2 to 4 p.m., featuring entertainment, refreshments and tours of The Centre. These are your tax dollars at work – get in and take a peek at the place.

The fences around the site are down, the Box Office is open and they are open for business with the first live performance on October 1 – Royal Wood will take to the stage.

The fences around the site are down, the Box Office is open and they are open for business with the first live performance on October 1 – Royal Wood will take to the stage.

The Performing Arts Centre is made up of three principal rooms. The Main Stage, which seats 720. The Family Room which is a combination lobby, open area and a great place to hold events that are free form. Seating can be set up in the Family Room but basically it is just a wide5,000 square foot space that has a very high ceiling and is looked out over from the second level balcony that has glass partitions that serve as a railing and give a sense of openness. You’ve got to see it to fully understand how the place is going to work. The third space is the Community Studio Theatre that is multi-purpose in terms of design and can be used for a dinner party or a small production.




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What have we been up to? Growing like crazy and adding contributors. Casey Cosgrove starts later this week.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 19, 2011 We will soon have a year of operation under our belts – time to bring you up to date on who reads us, how often they read us and what we are adding to the menu.

We went live last October, the 19th to be exact and in the last six months have published more than 350 stories. More than half a million pages (504,278 to be exact) have been read by the more than 27,000 people who have come to the web site. Those 27,000 people visited the web site more than 68,500 times in the last six months. The average reader looks at between 3.5 and 7.5 pages.

When the city did it’s semi-annual survey of how satisfied people were with the quality of service the city delivers they were asked where they got their information – 28% of the people who answered the survey listed Our Burlington as one of their sources of information and 25% said they get some of their information from Cogeco Cable. Just 33% said they get their information from City Talk, the newspaper the city publishes and distributes to every residence within the city.

Our Burlington was less than six months old when this survey was done.  The numbers speak for themselves.  One of the major advantages of an electronic media – or a newspaper on a web site – is that you can go in and search everything we have ever written.  Everything stays on the web site.  Ouch!, some might say.

Our Burlington was less than six months old when this survey was done. The numbers speak for themselves. One of the major advantages of an electronic media – or a newspaper on a web site – is that you can go in and search everything we have ever written. Everything stays on the web site. Ouch!, some might say.

Experience in the political trenches and a life-long Burlington resident Casey Cosgrove will bring a viewpoint with a bit of an edge.  His focus will be on community and leadership – especially making leadership accountable to the community.

Experience in the political trenches and a life-long Burlington resident Casey Cosgrove will bring a viewpoint with a bit of an edge. His focus will be on community and leadership – especially making leadership accountable to the community.

Two new regular contributors are joining our ranks this month.  Casey Cosgrove is going to write regularly on community and the leadership communities need to prosper.  His column will be Casey on Community.  Casey, who was a candidate for Ward 5 during the 2006 election and came in second – losing to current Mayor Rick Goldring by less than 500 votes.  Many are convinced that has Casey had another week of campaigning he could have beaten Goldring – who would then not have been the Ward Councillor nor gone on to defeat Cam Jackson in the 2010 election.  There are those who are grateful Casey lost.

Besides writing for Our Burlington, Casey is an avid hockey coach and is in the arena with sons Jack and Evan almost every day and on the road with them close to every second weekend.  He is currently on leave from his job as Director of the Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy (CCFL).  He teaches leadership at the University of Guelph.  He is married to Bryna who also teaches business at both Seneca and Sheridan College.  The family includes daughter Kate.  All were seen in the Terry Fox run last Sunday.

The CCFL was created to build and develop financial literacy among low-income Canadians. It works with governments, businesses and communities to help people save and invest wisely.  Launched in 2008, the Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy (CCFL) is a division of the national, charitable organization SEDI. The CCFL is the first of its kind in the country. It is the only Canadian centre that delivers easy-to-use money management training to low-income groups. It works through partnerships with community-based social agencies in an effort to effect positive change.

The goal is to educate Canadians to make informed decisions about their money and the financial resources available to them. To achieve this goal, the CCFL aims to combine efforts with governments, businesses and community organizations. Casey, who is frequently quoted in the national news media has been involved in improving the financial literacy of low income families for more than 15 years.  He is currently on leave from CCFL.

Everything in the Cosgrove household is family focused.  We don’t think Bryna play goalie (yet?) but everyone works for the team.  The whole family of five took part in the Terry Fox run last Sunday.

Everything in the Cosgrove household is family focused. We don’t think Bryna play goalie (yet?) but everyone works for the team. The whole family of five took part in the Terry Fox run last Sunday.

Social and Enterprise Development Innovations (SEDI), the parent organization, is a Canadian national charity which has been at the forefront of initiatives that enable people to save and invest wisely and participate in the economic mainstream. The organization’s work focuses on three areas: financial literacy, asset building and entrepreneurship. Since its founding in 1986, SEDI has helped shape significant social policies in Canada by conducting market and policy research and by acting as a knowledge broker between communities and governments.

Later in the week we will be introducing a well-known, nationally we might add, blogger who has a strong Conservative and conservative streak to him. He can be positively acidic with some of his comments. Russ Campbell will be more fully introduced later in the week.

We had an unfortunate hiccup with our service last February but we recovered and settled the differences that brought about the disruption of service.

Since then we made significant revision to the look and feel of the web site and will introduce many more in the weeks ahead.. We originally allowed for immediate comment and feedback but had to disable that feature because we were getting literally thousands of comments most of which were nonsense spam. We have figured out how to eliminate the spam and the ability to comment will be back in place by the end of the week. We look forward to whatever you have to say. We will be tweeting anyone who wants our 140 characters of comment.

For a period of time someone at City Hall put a block in place and people at Brant Street weren’t able to read us. That got lifted – we still don’t know exactly who put the block in place but it has been lifted. At some point we will get to the bottom of that.

Since our arrival the number of media covering city hall committees has increased – on occasion there are four media people at council meetings. We were the only media organization that covered all nine sessions of the Strategic Planning meeting. We are about to publish several articles on that exercise. Your city council and city hall staff learned a lot about themselves and the city they work for during the Strategic Planning Sessions. One of our early stories on the Strategic Plan is at this link..

We are not giving Education or Sports the attention they deserve nor are we adequately covering entertainment and culture effectively. Now that we know the business model we have is sustainable we can invest more into the organization and begin adding full time staff.

We think we have reduced the information deficit just a little and hope that we have entertained as well.




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Creative Burlington runs out of options and decides to cease operations.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON September 8, 2011 An organization that has fostered, nurtured and developed creative talent in Burlington announced yesterday that it will cease operation at the end of September. This is not good news for Burlington.

Creative Burlington, an organization that has struggled since its very inception but nevertheless managed to make huge strides in the development of the arts community in Burlington and was a leader in the campaign to develop the Burlington Performing Arts Centre that opened its doors less than a month ago. A sad, painful irony for the people that were in the trenches when an arts centre wasn’t much more than a gleam in the eyes of many.

In an announcement Board president Paul Mitchell said: “We reached the decision with great reluctance and regret but knew we could not continue without long-term financial support. We have concluded that the financial stability of the organization is too uncertain despite our efforts to obtain sustainable funding through events, programs and other vehicles, including a request to the City of Burlington.”

Mitchell took the opportunity to” thank the many people who have supported us over the years, including our generous corporate partners, our 400 plus members and our dedicated staff. We are proud of our highly successful programs to promote arts and culture in Burlington, including the Arts Recognition Awards held last February, our magazine Artworks and various festivals and events. It would be a shame if these initiatives disappear, but we are not in a position to continue them.” Mitchell said.

Deb Tymstra was both all business and all about the performing arts and a large part of the reason we have a Burlington Performing Arts Centre is because she was in the trenches more than ten years ago developing the idea and raising money.

Deb Tymstra was both all business and all about the performing arts and a large part of the reason we have a Burlington Performing Arts Centre is because she was in the trenches more than ten years ago developing the idea and raising money.

Deb Tymstra, Executive Director, said the decision to cease operations was especially regrettable because of the demonstrable need to promote and support the arts in Burlington. “We have been advocating for the City of Burlington to give significant recognition and support to arts and culture in its new Strategic Plan, including the establishment of a Burlington Arts Council.

Arts and culture are vital to a successful, creative and inclusive community. We believe the City must be a leader in supporting this important sector,” Tymstra said.

Creative Burlington began in 2000 as Performing Arts Burlington, a community-based group to advocate for a performing arts centre. It raised $64,000 for the facility and provided experts to help design the centre and serve on the Project Management Team.

Passionate about everything she does Deb Tymstra put her heart into what is now Creative Burlington. But the support she needed from within the community just wasn’t there and the city was not about to offer any ongoing funding.

Passionate about everything she does Deb Tymstra put her heart into what is now Creative Burlington. But the support she needed from within the community just wasn’t there and the city was not about to offer any ongoing funding.

At the same time the organization provided programs and events to strengthen the recognition of the performing arts in Burlington. It later expanded its mandate to include all art forms and was renamed Creative Burlington in 2010.



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