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Orillia's iconic cultural centres adapt to weather pandemic storm

Orillia Museum of Art & History puts spotlight on 'furry art' in unique new exhibit that can be enjoyed virtually, says arts and entertainment columnist
Mixed Media Artist Jill Price has a new exhibit at OMAH credit Jill Price
Mixed Media Artist Jill Price has a new exhibit at OMAH.

As we head into the next longest month…is it still March 2020? It feels like it! Let’s take a moment and be grateful for so many people: all the front-line workers, including healthcare, retail, restaurants, truckers, everyone working so hard to keep everything going…and our creatives, whose industry has literally been stopped in its tracks for over a year now, with no signs of starting up again.

Our iconic cultural centres here in O-Town have been hit hard. The Orillia Opera House is shuttered for the foreseeable future, although it did have a small run last later summer/fall.

The Stephen Leacock Museum is closed to the public for now. St. Paul’s Centre was the host for the Roots North virtual fest this year, but otherwise has had no events since last March.

The Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH) is also closed but is still curating and hanging exhibits and planning virtual event programming, even in these challenging and so uncertain times.

New OMAH programming coordinator Tanya Cunnington reached out to tell me about the latest exhibit at OMAH, UNFURLED: A brief look into a furry art installation by Canadian artist Jill Price.

According to Cunnington, “Price has combined her experience as a researcher, curator, and educator with dark humour to 'unsettle the archive from a more-than-human perspective' and speculate on how animals might choose to engage with, frame, label and question the colonial histories embedded within the material objects, imagery and documents held in museums.”

Price, a multidisciplinary artist, shared, “I began working with crafters' fur coats during my MFA at OCAD University. Now researching the importance of unsettling and methods of unmaking for disrupting ecological and social trauma, I felt both privileged and dismayed to work with the collection of furs and animal artifacts held within the OMAH collection.

“By pulling out mink stoles, beaver hats, animal bones and other fur objects, one begins to see how these objects are still very much charged with haunting energies and stories of their own; energies and stories that deserve space and respect.”

The result is a 19th century parlour, recreated in the Franklin Carmichael room, and graced with period pieces, including many objects made out of fur, from OMAH’s collections. Playful use of titles such as FURniture and FURnishings, make light of and point out the colonial history of the fur industry and our past.

UNFURLED is on exhibit at OMAH from May 20 until August 14. For programming associated with it, reach out to Tanya Cunnington at artscoordinator@orilliamuseum.org or 705-326-2159 ext. 109 or stay tuned for more information here.

Currently, OMAH also has on exhibit The History of Medicine in Orillia, and Views from a Canoe, both of which run until June 25. An exhibit of local artist Will McGarvey’s paintings is upcoming from May 20 to July 24.

OMAH’s History Speakers Series is virtual again. Next Wednesday, May 12 at 7 p.m. features local historian Bruce McCrae speaking on Sculptors of the Great War: Statuary in Central Ontario and Beyond. This promises to be an entertaining and informative lecture, melding art and history, as OMAH so ably does. To register for the talk, email visitors@orilliamuseum.org.

Finally on all things OMAH, famed Toronto and Orillia artist Charles Pachter is stepping up to give OMAH a helping hand, and donating some of his pieces for an auction to support OMAH.

The auction will be held from June 1-11, and should be quite an event, with more local partners being added daily. This will be a major fundraiser for OMAH and an exciting chance to perhaps add to your own art collection. More details will be announced soon!

Bits and bobs: Creative Nomad Studios’ Steph Whalen is teaching a free watercolour class May 5 at 7 p.m. Click here to check it out.

Also, Creative Nomad’s art kits are currently buy one, get the second for half price, for Mother’s Day, click here to purchase. One for you, one for mom!

Local fave, Old Man Luedecke, is doing a virtual concert, Old Man Luedecke - 'Beyond his Bubble', on May 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 to $30 and are available here. The show will be live from his home in Nova Scotia. Enjoy!

Stay home, stay safe, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the peeps doing the mom stuff out there!

If you have arts news, send it to annaproctor111@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon to be included.