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COLUMN: Orillia's arts community springing back to life

Lifting of restrictions has opened the floodgates for local cultural institutions and others in arts community, says arts and entertainment columnist
Stephen Robbins with Ruth Germain, founder of Somniatis (1)
Stephen Robbins, shown with Ruth Germain, founder of Somniatis, passed away in January. He will be missed by many, says arts columnist Anna Proctor.

Well Ontario has reopened, and it looks like Orillia cultural institutions are wasting no time to get right back in the swing of things. So many events have been announced in the last few days it is making my head spin.

Let’s hope we can, as they say, learn to live with COVID-19, without stressing our health-care capacity to the max, so we can keep things open and have some fun out there!

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I wanted to say a few words about Stephen Robbins, who passed away on Jan. 20. Stephen and his late wife Wendi were relative newcomers to Orillia, but quickly became immersed in arts, culture, and volunteering here, and had a broad circle of friends in no time.

They both were very involved in Somniatis, and Stephen was the MC for the Stained Glass version of that show, which he did with inimitable style and grace. Stephen will be missed by many. Thank you, Stephen, for all that you did.

The Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH) reopened on Feb. 1 and there is a lot going on there. There are three new exhibits to see, and here are OMAH’s descriptions of them, from the Facebook page:

“Colour with a U is a travelling exhibition of 42 contemporary quilt and fibre works from members of the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). Artworks range from large ten-foot by ten-foot quilts to smaller fabric sculptures.

“Regional artist Amy Bagshaw also installed one of four site-specific Art Interruptions using cotton thread and tacks in our main stairwell. From February through May, her Art Interruptions Project will be animating transitional and unique spaces at OMAH to highlight and engage with aspects of space and place.

“From Marbles to Minecraft: A Century of Childhood is also open in our second-floor gallery.”

In addition to the above exhibits, D. Ahsén:nase Douglas: We Are Still Here, an exhibition of paintings by D. Ahsén:nase Douglas, a Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) painter, children’s storybook author, educator, and urban NDN with roots in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory, is still on until April 16.

Got The Time? An exhibition about all things clocks, including the famous OMAH clock tower, is on until April 14. Do come out and see these fantastic exhibits, now that they are reopened! OMAH is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Also on the OMAH event list, the virtual History Speaker series this month is in honour of February being Black History Month. Local historian Fred Blair will speak on Black Veterans of the War of 1812, with special attention paid to those in our neck of the woods. The talk is Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. on Zoom and you can sign up, for free, by emailing

The Orillia Public Library (OPL) is another local cultural institution that is reopening with a bang! First off, the OPL is going fine free…permanently! Good news for all of us who couldn’t use our cards because of outstanding fines. Come on back to the library and enjoy everything it has to offer, no penalties.

And it is offering a lot!

Want to make some beautiful heart shaped bird feeders to help our feathered friends during this cold winter? Register now for the latest Take & Make kit. Hurry, quantities are limited, register here.

The OPL is also doing several Black History Month events, including a virtual panel discussion featuring keynote speaker Rita Deverell, and other local panelists, including local musician Zain Campbell. The Zoom event is on Feb. 12 at 1:30 p.m. and you need to register here to attend.

Teens, sign up for the virtual Teen Book Club and Banter and Brain Games: Charming Edition. Featuring the book, Charming As a Verb. This event is Feb. 10 at 3:30 p.m., register here to attend.


Lots more going on in the OPL and on Zoom through the OPL, so go to the website today to see what you would be into, and go grab your library card, in person!

Another local cultural spot which has jumped right into planning events is Creative Nomad Studios (CNS). CNS has a series of art workshops for kids, for ages 6-8 and for ages 9-11, for $160. Run by Steph Whalen, this is a nine-week course which will have your kiddos trying all manner of media and having a ball! Check it all out here. The series starts March 1.

CNS also has a soap-making workshop and a vegetarian freezer meals workshop, March 5 and 6, respectively. Personally, I want to try them both! Check here for these and other great workshops from CNS.

Peter Street Fine Arts has a new guest artist for February: local abstract artist Jennifer Drake. Drop into the gallery Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to check out Jennifer’s colourful abstract paintings.

There is even live music happening in this crazy reopening time! Local banjo strummer Sean Patrick and his brother are playing this Sunday at PICNIC Tapas and Wine Bar, downtown, from 2 to 4 p.m. Come on down and check out this amazing duo, named Scotch Patricks.

And the Mariposa Folk Festival really is full steam ahead. Mariposa is accepting applications for its Showcase auditions, now until April 11. This is for emerging musicians only and applicants must be available to audition in person, if picked, on May 1 at St. Paul’s Centre. For all the details, including how to apply, click here.

Last but not least, the Orillia District Arts Council (ODAC) is funding a four-part webinar series geared to helping artist enhance their business presence, marketing and online sales of their work. This will be free to ODAC members but there will be limited space for non-members at a cost of $20 per person for the professionally developed program. If you would like to sign up, please contact Mike Bailey directly at for additional information.

Enjoy the reopening and stay safe!

If you have arts news, send it to by Tuesday at noon to be included.