Skip to content

COLUMN: Tribute to beloved volunteer shows art of generosity

In the pandemic, it was like arts and culture was blocked and now it's bubbling to the surface, explains arts and entertainment columnist
Sharon Bellchambers with Doug Bunker and Paul Baxter
Local artist Paul Baxter painted a likeness of beloved community volunteer Chris Bellchambers and, to raise money for his family, sold T-shirts adorned with vthe likeness. Baxter, far right, recently donated the proceeds to Sharon Bellchambers, Chris's mom, who is shown with Doug Bunker of the Orillia and District Chamber of Commerce, who helped facilitate the sales.

Lots of bits and bobs and lots of planning ahead going on in our cultural world these days, which is so wonderful to see. It’s like everything was blocked and now it’s all bubbling up to the surface.

First off, I want to remind everyone that the deadline for nominations for the Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards is Monday, Oct. 18. There are five awards categories, including emerging artist, heritage, education, event, and the Qennefer Browne Achievement Award for someone who is a real champion of arts or heritage in our region.

The nomination process is all online and is easy to do. Please take the time to nominate someone today; it is a real honour and will mean a lot. You can find out more and nominate someone here.

Secondly, something really special happened recently that was a little under the radar. Local artist Paul Baxter did a painting during the See You on the Patio event in the summer.

He painted Chris Bellchambers, beloved volunteer and friend to many, who passed away tragically this summer in an accident. Baxter painted this life-like portrait, live, on the back of the Downtown Orillia Management Board truck…which has a mural on it that Baxter had also painted.

Baxter wanted the painting to have meaning, and wanted to help Bellchambers' family out, so, with the help of Chamber of Commerce events coordinator Doug Bunker, Artech, and Hartley Haus here in Orillia, t-shirts were made and sold with Baxter’s image of Chris Bellchambers on the front.

A presentation of funds from the sales, t-shirts, flowers, and the original portrait was made to Chris Bellchambers’ mom, Sharon, last week, by Bunker and Baxter. It was an emotion-filled moment, captured beautifully by local photographer Deb Halbot. These are the moments and people that make Orillia a wonderful place to live. Thanks for giving, Chris.

Now for lots of bits and bobs:

This weekend is Orillia Jazz Festival weekend! And thanks to the Ontario government lifting capacity restrictions on theatres and concert spaces, there are a few more tickets available for some events, including Lance Anderson’s Oscar Peterson The Jazz Legend and The Man I Knew. Check out all the shows here or grab your tickets here.

This Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., Cloud Gallery, located in Creative Nomad Studios, is having an opening reception for a solo show of artist Miriam Slan’s work. You must grab a free ticket to attend, and you can pick one up here.

This Saturday, artist Murray Van Halem is running a workshop on painting urban landscapes at Creative Nomad Studios, click here for all the details and to register.

On Saturday, Oct. 23, Mariposa Folk Festival is running five satellite concerts throughout Orillia, to give us a taste of Mariposa after two sad Mariposa-less summers. There are afternoon shows at St. Paul’s, Braestone Farm, ODAS Park, the Best Western, and the Orillia Opera House, featuring lots of Mariposa faves, including The Doozies, Danny Michel, Coco Love Alcorn, Suzie Vinnick, and so many more. For all the details and to grab tickets, click here.

Oct. 23 is also the first concert in the Orillia Concert Association’s 2021/22 season, and it is virtual! Sinfonia Toronto, an incredible 16-piece ensemble of string instruments, will wow you with its artistry and precision in this special show.

When you buy tickets for the Orillia Concert Association, you buy them for the whole series, which also includes a virtual show by clarinet virtuoso Peter Stoll on Nov. 28, and in-person shows with Sonic Escape, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, and the Toronto All-Star Big Band, all in 2022. For more information and to grab a subscription, click here.

The Orillia District Arts Council (ODAC) has been busy during Culture Days, which runs this year from September 24 to October 24. There have been several in-person and virtual events already, and you can find the virtual ones, including a tour of the Streets Alive hippie vans, on the website here.

ODAC will finish off Culture Days with a FREE concert with the Ronnie Douglas Blues Band, at St. James' Anglican Church, on Oct. 23 at 8 p.m., and you can grab your tickets here.

And finally, on Oct. 30, Jacquie Dancyger Arnold and Hugh Coleman, along with special guests Laura Aylan-Parker, Ross Arnold, and Gail Spencer, are putting on a fundraising concert for the Orillia Museum of Art and History, aptly titled, Music for the Museum. There are two shows at St. Paul’s Centre, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased at the museum in person, or picked up here.

There is lots more coming up in November, but we will save that for a future column! Enjoy Jazz Fest weekend!

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