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Local artists working hard to adapt amid pandemic-induced changes

'Art is not a distraction, art is survival, art is necessary,' says Naomi Woodman; Creativity is the key, local artists say, while vowing to 'make the best of things'
Local artists Sylvia Tesori and Patti Agapi in simpler times, with a collaborative piece in the Peter Street Arts District. credit Patti Agapi
Local artists Sylvia Tesori and Patti Agapi in simpler times, with a collaborative piece in the Peter Street Arts District. Patti Agapi photo

HI folks, welcome to another day of this surreal thing that is our lives right now. I hope you are all doing OK and remembering to stay in, only socialize virtually and stay six feet away from everyone when you go out walking.

First off, here are some more postponements and closures I have been notified of this week. Orillia Concert Association is letting go of the rest of the season and hoping to restart in the fall. Ditto The Cellar Singers. Mariposa Arts Theatre is postponing its show, Rabbit Hole, originally scheduled for April, to be its November show at the Orillia Opera House.

Mariposa Arts Theatre film nights likewise are done for the season and hope to restart in the fall. At this point, the Orillia Opera House has rescheduled everything for after April 30, but things change daily so look here or on their website for more updates. Gravenhurst Opera House is also closed; no shows scheduled until May 9, but again, we shall see.

Casino Rama is closed indefinitely and has cancelled or postponed all concerts up to and including one on May 8. Of course, all bars and restaurants that had live music are closed, with restaurants being able to offer take-out or delivery only since the province declared a state of emergency on March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roots North Music Festival, which is scheduled to take place April 23-25, will in all likelihood be postponed, but no official word as yet. Stay tuned for announcements from the little festival that could.

Musicians and venues are being extremely creative, posting online shows either previously recorded or live in their living rooms.

As well, isolated citizens are being treated to online video tours of the Palace of Versailles, various museums, art galleries, shows from Stratford, London’s West End, Broadway, the Paris Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and so much more.

How are galleries and artists faring in Orillia, in this hub of arts and culture? Of course, all the galleries are closed, with the resultant lack of buyers, browsers and supporters, but artists are staying busy and productive.

Local woodturner Xavier Fernandes said, “No one is buying but I am trying to entertain and inform people by posting my daily woodturning projects on Instagram and Facebook. I know people are inside and thought I could entertain them as well as keep my online profile up.”

Check out his videos and pictures on Instagram at @x.fernandes_artist or on Facebook.

Otter Art Club’s Travis Shilling and Naomi Woodman told me, “After two years of hard work Otter Art Club was exactly where we hoped it would be. A waiting list for our studio time and workshops booked with local schools almost everyday.

“After this hit, we went from wondering how we would manage getting a day off, to a completely empty calendar, but we will be OK. We are creative thinkers and always have multiple projects in the works," said Woodman. 

"We will adapt to our new situation and make the best of things. It’s not ourselves that we worry about right now, it’s our students. We want to make sure they still have access to art supplies because one of the most important things they can do right now is create. Art is not a distraction, art is survival, art is necessary," Woodman explained.

“We are doing a draw April 25 for a chance to win Icehuts in the Distance, a 9 x12 oil on linen, by Travis Shilling. Tickets are $20 each and all proceeds help support the club by providing our students with free art supplies during this challenging time.”

Please follow Otter Art Club on Instagram @otterartclub and on Facebook. To enter the draw, send an estransfer to and you will be sent a photo of your ballot before the etransfer is accepted.

The Orillia Museum of Art and History is closed indefinitely but, as executive director Ninette Gyorody told me, “…there is a lot of activity behind the scenes. While some staff are actively tackling administrative tasks, our goals over the next while are to connect with our members virtually by sharing OMAH Shop updates (a catalogue is in the works), exhibition research and development (David Hawke is a guest curator this spring/summer), and our favourite moments from the past, as we plan our future.”

Follow OMAH on Instagram at @orilliamuseum and on Facebook.

Molly Farquharson at Hibernation Arts had some thoughts to share.

“I am working on projects at home and negotiating with the landlord," said Farquharson. "I am posting things online and strongly suggesting people start hoarding art. I am not charging my guest artists at this point as I don’t feel that would be fair, with the doors shut. I have been in limbo before and am hoping this will not last too long.

"Not sure what else to do, other than post online and hope for the best," she said. Follow Hibernation Arts @hibernationartsorillia on Instagram and on Facebook.

Patti Agapi and Sylvia Tesori from Three Crows Speak and Mad with Rapture Studios are also adapting to the new reality.

Three Crows Speak and Mad with Rapture Studios are currently offering gift certificates through their social media accounts. Both artists are currently working from home in preparation for when they will be given the green light to reopen. They are both taking commissions. Check in with them for delivery/mail options.

Follow these studios at @madwithrapturestudio and @three_crows_speak_studio on Instagram and and on Facebook.

These are hard times for literally everyone in our fair town and around the world. Please be kind, support each other in the ways that you can, and keep your physical distance. This will end one day and the only way to get through it, is by being together…while being apart.

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