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Pandemic continues to cast long shadow over local festivals

While festivals remain on hold, there are still many virtual opportunities to enjoy the arts and culture scene, says arts columnist

Well, it’s February and we might be opening up a bit soon, kind of, sort of, maybe, in some sort of way that might be explained at some point, possibly.

And it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend! So, grab some take-out from your favourite restaurant and curbside pick up some gifts from your favourite small business or gallery here in O-Town. Let’s make sure they are all here when we do get back.

In the meantime, some arts news and some virtual events. Let’s embrace virtual events, they are awesome and the safest thing going for now.

Under the arts news department, some sad but smart news: Mariposa Folk Festival 2021 is not happening. We all knew this cancellation was likely, but it’s still a disheartening piece of information for so many of us, for whom Mariposa weekend is the highlight of the summer. Let’s face it, pandemic Mariposa weekend is not the same thing, and so the organizers made the difficult but intelligent decision to wait for 2022.

Music festivals have been among the hardest hit in this pandemic, as all will likely lose two years, due to the nature of the event. Let’s hope they will survive, they are a huge source of income for musicians and all the other people associated: sound techs, backstage builders, promoters, etc. If you can, hold onto your 2021 ticket for next year, this will help Mariposa with money in the bank to come back in 2022.

Another sad loss is the announcement, last week, that The Brownstone, a music venue and bar in downtown Orillia, is closing and giving up its space. The Brownstone was the late-night venue for the Roots North Music Festival (another festival that is losing two years due to this pandemic).

It was also well-known as a music venue, and, especially in its early days, brought in some great acts from all over the province. Those days of squeezing into a bar to listen to live music with a bunch of strangers might never come back, I am glad I got to be part of it when it was a thing! RIP Brownstone, you will be missed. 

In other, more positive news, Mariposa Arts Theatre is forging ahead and planning TWO events for the coming spring and summer. They are looking for help in putting these events on. The first is a spring production of Love, Loss and What I Wore, to be either livestreamed or in person at the Orillia Opera House, in April. MAT is looking for both a producer and a director for this event. Those interested need to email before Feb. 15.

For summer 2021, MAT is looking for people who are interested in directing Shakespeare in the Park! Ideas for small cast, suitable for outdoors plays are welcome, and can be shared also by emailing Hopefully, both of these events will come to fruition and be something to look forward to.

Speaking of looking forward, there are several virtual arts events coming up that I know people are going to enjoy. Creative Nomad Studios is hosting two virtual events this week, one on Thurs. Feb. 11 and one on Fri. Feb. 12.

Thursday, Anitta Hamming will be hosting ABT2 CRe8 Part 2, live, at 1 p.m. This painting tutorial will take 1.5 to 2 hours, and will cover how to paint a realistic water splash in acrylic. For the materials list and to set a reminder, go here. This tutorial is free.

Friday, Steph Whalen will be hosting a $10 virtual paint night, starting at 7 p.m. This is a beginner-friendly paint night, where you will be painting a cheerful springtime picture of magnolias. You can also buy the materials for this class through Creative Nomad Studios.

To register and pay for this class, click here. To buy the paint kit (curbside pick up) click here.

If you are a poet or love poetry, you can sign up to participate in, or watch, Shouting Into The Void Volume Two, this Saturday at 8 p.m. This will be a Facebook Live event featuring poetry and poets. For more information and to get involved, click here.

Do you have littles or not-so-littles at home, who are looking for a creative outlet? Otter Art Club is free to join, for encouragement and helpful tips and fun. Or, Otter Art Club’s virtual art workshop on watercolour painting is starting Feb. 21 and running for four weeks.

Run by Travis Shilling and Naomi Woodman, there are two age groups, ages 7-13, and 14-21. Cost is $80 and this includes online watercolour instruction and conversations. For lots more information, and to register, click here.

Heartworks Children’s Studio offers sensory and art kits for young kids with lots of different themes and materials. These kits are perfect for gifts or just to get through this long pandemic winter.

There are Easter-themed kits, spring themed, magic wand making, you name it, there is something for every kid you know. To check out all these great kits, click here. Safe curbside pick up is available.

Keep an eye out for the Orillia Museum of Art and History’s kids’ kit as well, it should be out shortly and will be a historic games-themed kit, with old-fashioned games such as hoops, marbles, jacks and more. To keep an eye on that release, like and follow the OMAH’s Facebook page here.

If you are a creative, check out the Orillia District Arts Council’s Facebook page for information on pandemic-related funding and opportunities. Ontario Trillium Foundation and Ontario Arts Council both have new monies for creatives, which will be announced soon. Keep up to date through ODAC’s page, here.

And finally, with small businesses being able to reopen next Tuesday in some form or another, keep an eye out for your favourite galleries reopening as well. Please get in there and support your local artists by buying a piece of art for yourself or a loved one. There are beautiful pieces at all price points. Let’s not lose any more precious creative spaces in O-town.

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