The smaller, local cultural scene grew this year - there is hope - now to give them decent funding.

artsblue 100x100By Pepper Parr

September 5, 2016


In September there will be two cultural events that will spell the end of the summer season on the community based cultural scene.

Frozen Goose cover

While yet to take place the Premiere of The Frozen Goose adds to the film work being done in the city –

MoonGlade will be the fourth No Vacancy event and well known artist Margaret Lindsay Holton will premiere her latest short film – The Frozen Goose

Burlington has a Performing Arts Centre and an Art Gallery plus a Museum that are handsomely funded by the municipality.
There are dozens of other small groups whose performances get done because committed volunteers make them happen.
These small groups struggle to stay alive financially – but stay alive they did.

Debra Pickfield sponsored a Shakespeare production at her ThinkSpot location in Lowville.

KooGle cast

Traditional summer theatre fare – that turned out to be a hoot. Kudos to KooGle for putting this one on.

The KooGle Company put on the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Performing Arts Centre; where despite precious little marketing and promotion support from BPAC they had two sold out performances and more than respectful audiences during the two week run.

The Lowville Festival did their thing for the second year and are convinced that what they set out to do last year has legs and are planning for a third year.

Crowded and noisy Midsummer

Trevor’s Copps production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was perhaps the most ambitious and successful summer theatre event – despite what the weather tried to do to him.

Trevor Copp spent a number of years convincing the Royal Botanical Gardens that the grounds were a great place to hold an outdoor theatre production; August saw a two week run of A Midsummer Night’s dream – despite weather that just didn’t want to co-operate. The venue, which started with 220 seats and was able to ramp it up to 270 – it was a sterling event – well worth doing next year.

Has the city reached a tipping point – a time when there are enough well run events to draw visitors to the city?

Are we at the point where smaller tour operators can fill a bus and bring them to the city to take part in a cultural event? Not quite – but there is movement.

What is needed to grow ourselves culturally to the next level? Anyone with any experience in the cultural field will tell you that events bring in people – the Sound of Music draws thousands of people who are not Burlingtonians. They are also comfortably funded by the city.  RibFest does the same thing.

The Art Gallery runs its programs throughout the year and draws a lot of traffic during the summer.

The Performing Arts Centre has yet to come up with a theme that can get bums into seats during the summer. There are many opportunities to develop programs or partner with other groups to put the venue to good use.

Barbara Lica JAzz BPAC A

Barbara Lica gave the city a taste of some really pleasant contemporary jazz on the Plaza at the Performing Arts Centre – it was part of their August program.

The Centre does have to be given credit for the excellent Jazz on the Plaza program it offered last year and continued this year and also for adding events on Tuesday’s for younger people.

Trevor Copp and his Tottering Bipod Theatre looks as if he is going to be able to put on another production next summer – by the time the Café will, hopefully have its liquor license so patrons can enjoy a glass of wine at the end of a show – perhaps even during intermission.

Jude Johnson #2

Jude Johnson singing Forever Young – she had them standing on their feet.

The Lowville Festival people are looking for a way to make use of the grounds at Lowville Park – they really like the idea of using the outdoors – with maybe a large tent as a theatre.

Rob Missen waxed eloquently as he spoke of “the sound of Bronte creek” bubbling away serving as a back drop for the musicians or the actors. Getting outdoors would allow them to attract larger audiences; the church halls in rural Burlington do have their limitations

There is a much healthier local culture scene; the arts have become a hive of activity – but they still need help. All the city departments have submitted their core budget and the hinted 3.5% plus tax increase might mean there isn’t all that much cash to spare.

AGB - Vanpresentation

Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon managed to get the Art Gallery the funds to pay for the van that will be in the field taking art to the community.

The artists have decided to be more proactive and formed an Arts council that they hope will allow them to get a little more from the city (good luck on that one) and be in a position to get funding from the province.

Burlington’s MPP is now a cabinet minister heading up the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport; she will do as much as she can for the home team – let’s hope that she remembers the little guys and doesn’t shower the Art Gallery, Museum and Performing Arts centre with provincial money.

It has been a good season – there is hope.getting new - yellow

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4 comments to The smaller, local cultural scene grew this year – there is hope – now to give them decent funding.

  • tenni

    It is my opinion that it is the attitude of the population and not population size, citizens’ race, age, religion etc. that tips a community to enrich their arts cultural lives. Progressive rather than retrogressive actions tip a community towards forward thinking that supports creativity and innovations.

    Oakville has a similar population size to Burlington but Oakville has had an arts council and a Performing Arts Centre nearly forty years ahead of Burlington.

    The City Council of Oakville supports the Oakville Arts Council with more grant money than Hamilton city council supports their arts council.

    Oakville’s arts council has an arts services budget equal to Hamilton’s arts council. (about $175, 000).

    London, ON has a population smaller than Hamilton but larger than Burlington/Oakville. London has an arts council budget over a million dollars.

  • Thanks for this article.

    In my opinion, here are two things that seem to influence whether we are at a ‘tipping point’ or not, 1) population/demographics, and 2), power.

    In regards to Point 1. Consider that Burlington has a population of less then 180,000 people. There is no way to parallel our current cultural development with larger more culturally diverse cities, such as Hamilton or Toronto. Within Burlington’s population, the median age is 40+, the mother tongue is 91% English, and the predominate religion is Christian (78%). Those things constitute what is HERE & NOW, (based on Census Data from 2011 –,_Ontario)

    The City of Burlington is currently reflecting & responding to this citizenry’s dreams, hopes & ambitions, from an arts & cultural point of view, by serving up an engaging programming through Parks & Recreation, the Library, the AGB and other ‘outreach’ programmes. In the main, I’d say they are doing a pretty good job of it. Programming is ‘citizen friendly’, designed for families, seniors, and the very young. All good. (That said, some gaffs continue, like City handing over the implementation & management of the ‘public arts’ programme to a cultural node outside of the city.)

    One area not well served by the City of Burlington is ‘experimental’ arts projects. But, worth asking, is that the ROLE of the City of Burlington? Is that their MANDATE? I don’t really think it is, or ought to be. City officials are the controllers of the public purse. Their primary ROLE is to always satisfy the needs, wants & desires of the tax-paying electorate first, not the aspirations of ‘high risk’ artistic endeavours.

    Point 2) – power. It’s not about WHAT you know, it’s about WHO you know. Artists are, by definition, creative individuals who seek expression of their innate talent. Within the arts community of Burlington, there are varying degrees of talent. We are a small but highly individualistic community and we seek expression in a variety of different ways: some large, some small. Likewise, some are better connected to the larger community then others. (This is called ‘networking’.) Collectively, there is no ONE voice that ‘represents’ the ENTIRE arts & cultural community active in Burlington, and, frankly, there should not be.

    What IS needed is an ‘open & receptive ear’ from those in power – to those without the power. In this instance, power IS the money.

    What is at issue are ‘granting agencies’.

    Financing existing cultural institutions with tax-payers dollars makes sense for the City of Burlington, but so too does investing in both emerging and established creative individuals FROM the community. Thus, it also makes sense to set-up accountable ‘seed grants’ to foster local cultural development – as long as, very important point, those grants reflect varying levels of engagement within the larger community.

    To be truly successful, this would ideally be done with an ‘arms length’ approach. Creative talent cannot, and will not, flourish if arts or cultural production can ONLY occur under the ‘strategic cultural mandate’ of City Hall and/or a ‘Arts Council’. For truly original work to erupt from within the limits of the City of Burlington, artists NEED the FREEDOM to CREATE.

    It’s up to the artists themselves whether they want to respond & reflect the demographics and population of the City. Some will hit ‘pay dirt’ and be successful, while others will ‘hit the wall’ and fail. City can and should support with ‘seed grants’, but it should not over-extend itself on projects that do not respond to the community at large. This just makes sense.

    ‘High risk’ artists should not expect grants from the government, or any other ‘governing’ agency, if they are not willing to ‘play along’ with the mandates of those financing agencies. Most artists are well aware that their financing wont come from tax-paying ‘granting’ sources. It is more likely to come, instead, from interested arts patrons who recognize unique talent and invest in it.

    Certainly, there has been more vocal activity in and around the local arts community over the past few years. But maintaining any momentum in that quarter will depend a great deal on those artists who actively seek to live, work and play here – in combination with those willing to invest in the creative career of those artists. And THAT is dependent on the larger community’s interest and support of the arts in general. And THAT is dependent on the existing demographics.

    Realistically, some artists will flourish, others will struggle, still others will drift off to environments that are more responsive to their creative expressions.

    When artists do leave the City of Burlington, (as they have done and will continue to do), so too goes their creative energy and talent. Does it make sense, as example, that an artist who specializes in dub poetry REMAIN in Burlington when the demographics & population are what they are today? It would be artistic suicide. One way to SURVIVE as a dub poet in Burlington would be at the taxpayer’s expense through ‘grants’. But is that a good investment of tax-payers money by the City of Burlington or any other local cultural agency to make vis a vis the EXISTING demographics & population?

    Tipping point? No, not really. In the simplest of terms, we are just too small. Stellar talents will emerge, and have emerged. But because we ARE small, those talents, unwilling to be shills for ANY agency, will continue to leave for larger culturally diverse environments responsive to their particular creative expressions in order to survive.

    So ever thus.

    To create a more culturally diverse environment, the demographics of the city will have to change. This will happen, eventually. For now though, we have to work with what we’ve got – a predominately Caucasian, middle-class, middle-aged, English-speaking community, that loves calling the safety & security offered by the City of Burlington, home.

    That’s not such a ‘bad thing’.
    Is it?

  • tenni

    It is a possible there is an emerging trend but not the tipping point for arts and culture in Burlington.

    Does the reporter know that Barbara Lica is a Toronto based jazz artist? Jude Johnson is a Hamilton based jazz artist who runs a kids arts programme in Hamilton? (not in Burlington)

    I am in favour if a mix of Burlington and external artists being presented in Burlington.  I believe that an unknown amount of external stimulus can increase creativity in Burlington Culture makers rather than stifle it due to a lack of access.

    Still while discussing a “tipping point” this may play a factor in sustaining (paying) Burlington artists.

    The isolation that Burlington based artists have experienced since I arrived sixteen years ago is beginning to have its curtain raised but not yet a tipping point of creative stimulation and financial support. There is much more room for support and nurturing an arts community of Cultural Workers and audience.

    What percentage of AGB and BPAC’s programming budget line goes to Burlington artists vs external artists? Points to examine. Funding for Burlington’s cultural venues are funded from multi sources with varying jurying criteria when it comes to standards etc.

    I see craft and particularly ceramics being increasingly profiled promoted at the AGB. The majority of guilds are craft based excluding photography and fine art. How many crafters are paid to exhibit? How many sell their work in Burlington? Which venues exist outside of the AGB for crafters? Good signs of professional galleries is showing with Gallery2 and Teresa Seaton Studio and Gallery emerging over the past few years.

    Burlington is still quite far behind other city governments (Oakville, Hamilton etc.) in designating city staff for arts and culture. Recently Burlington’s short lived Department of Arts and Culture was removed and staff placed elsewhere but still doing support for arts and culture.

    Where are Burlington’s song writers, literary artists, professional dancers etc.? Their voices need more support. How many have witnessed the Slam Poetry at he Black Bull?

    Burlington culture needs more adventurous cultural workers to create new events that are bold and daring.

  • Thanks for drawing all these events together in one place. The people of this City are ready for more culture – let’s see if the Council will step up as well. Looking forward to next summer.