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Let's celebrate local artists and the Christmas season

Columnist shines spotlight on recent award winners and offers suggestions for festive fun
2020-12-02 Dale Duncan
Dale Duncan will be hosting a paint night next Tuesday at Creative Nomad Studios. Marianne Braid/Supplied photo

First off in this column, I want to congratulate all the nominees — 20 of them —and award recipients in this year’s Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards. In this strange year like no other, it was wonderful to see people step right up and nominate a record-breaking number of people, and it was an honour to be able to recognize them in a virtual awards show.

Congratulations to Otter Art Club, Travis Shilling and Naomi Woodman, for their win in the Education in Arts and Heritage category. Otter Art Club has been a godsend to so many families. Check out the club’s online art series, coming in January.

Congratulations to Marta Solek for being the recipient of the award in the Emerging Artist category. Marta is an accomplished musician, a recent immigrant from Poland, who has immersed herself in the local music scene and is a teacher at the Orillia Music Centre.

Congratulations to Kevin Gangloff for all his work in so many events, for being the winner in the Event Category. Typically, Kevin used his acceptance speech to highlight all the people who help with everything he does. But Kevin, we wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for you!

Congratulations to Sarah Pickard and the Sawbones Society for their win in the Heritage category. Check out their hilarious video series, which was part of the Coldwater Steampunk virtual festival, here. All episodes are filmed at the Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum.

Congratulations to Roy Menagh for being the recipient of the Qennefer Browne Award, for all that he has done for art and culture in Orillia and area. Roy was the instigator and artistic director of many performing arts shows over the years, with many different performers, to raise money for many different causes.

He also was co-chair of St. Paul’s successful fundraising, which culminated in the opening of St. Paul’s Centre, one of the best venues for performing arts in the area. Roy was also co-lead of Orillia’s Cultural Forum, part of the Huronia Cultural Centre, and the list goes on. The award was very well deserved.

Finally, a special award was given to two organizations that, the committee felt, pivoted strongly during this pandemic year. The Pivot Award was handed out to the Orillia and Ramara public libraries. Both libraries pivoted quickly to online programming, curbside pickup, communicating with their readers through every means available, and were innovative in so many ways.

Congratulations to all the nominees and award recipients. If you missed the awards ceremony, you can find it here.

Moving on to current events, it is still all things holiday and Christmas, of course. This weekend is the last chance to go see Norm Foster’s The Christmas Tree, presented by Mariposa Arts Theatre and the Orillia Opera House.

There are two two-person casts performing: John Challis and Gayle Carlisle, and Stacey Schat and Doug Ironside. Both casts are exemplary actors, and the show will give you all the Christmas feels and some laughs, too. You can get tickets here.

Merry Streets Alive Christmas is hosting two events where you can enjoy some socially distanced Christmas cheer, have your Christmas photo taken, and take home a special hand-painted ornament. The first one is this Saturday in front of Eclectic Café from 1 to 2:30 p.m., with treats and hot drinks supplied by Eclectic Café. The second is Dec. 12 in the Peter Street Arts District.

Speaking of the arts district, the Orillia Fine Arts Association (OFAA) is running a fundraiser at Hibernation Arts this Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can buy any postcard-sized piece of art there painted by OFAA members for only $15 and the proceeds will go to the Mary Rose High School Bursary Fund, to support a student studying fine arts.

Hibernation Arts at 17 Peter St. S. also has many other works of art there and photos of Lake Couchiching in all seasons, the work of December guest artist MJ Pollak. While you are on Peter Street, nip into all the galleries there to buy some art and other wonderful things for Christmas and support our local artisans. They won’t be here if we don’t support them!

Rustica Pizza Vino’s first of two outdoor markets is this Friday, 4:30 to 9 p.m., on the restaurant’s patio. Lots of great vendors of Christmas goodies, handcrafts and treats, so make sure you go check it out. Dress warmly!

Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., local artist Dale Duncan is hosting a paint night at Creative Nomad Studios. Even if you aren’t artsy at all, you will take home a beautiful painting, painted by yourself, titled A Frosty Eve. Click here to find out more and to register.

I also wanted to take a minute and note that the podcast, Stage Whispers, about all things theatre in central Ontario, is still going great guns and has interesting and relevant content for all you theatre lovers out there. Check it out here.

Finally, local artist Meg Leslie is doing an ongoing collection of gently used or new art supplies as a safe drop-off to the black box on her front porch. All materials are being re-gifted at her other part-time job at the Orillia Lighthouse shelter. She puts together arts/crafts kits for those in quarantine or others in need of creativity or self-expression. Ongoing. Please reach out to Meg for more details. Call 519-501-0680 or email

Enjoy the seasonal application of Christmas cheer in the form of snow, and don’t forget to send your arts news, by Tuesday at noon, to to be included in this column.