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There's an 'art' to staying creative, busy during pandemic

There is no need to be a couch potato, notes arts columnist, adding there are multiple opportunities available for local artists and art lovers

And just like that, we are halfway through April and halfway through a bit of a soggy spring break for school kids in Ontario. And only a few days left for parents to figure out childcare/work from home yet again in this seemingly unending pandemic. Good luck parents, you’ve got this!

Once again, we are in a state of stay-at-home, lockdown, grey plus or whatever you would like to call it. Time to embrace our couches and our internet and see what it has to offer these days, other than binge watching Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

But wait! If you are an artist or a creative person, you don’t have to become a couch potato! There are a couple of artist call outs currently that might be tailor-made for you.

The first artist call out is from Sustainable Orillia (SO) and the deadline is April 30. SO is looking for artistic expressions of the theme of RENEWAL.

These can be in the form of artwork of any kind, writing, or music…anything creative, really. SO has realized that data has limits in terms of motivating people to change, and that art and story can motivate so much more, hence, the call out.

From the SO website: “Sustainable Orillia recognizes and appreciates the power of art to reach people at an emotional level. Words, data charts, science and educational information have clearly not been enough to change attitudes and behaviours – to move people to action – in the diminishing time that remains to heal our ailing planet and the needs of our community.”

Sustainable Orillia is "seeking the powerful portrayal of your deep connection to the theme of renewal using visual art, songs and/or stories. Your submission must connect the urgency of the theme to the heart of the beholder.”

Images of the art, along with a brief statement about the piece and how it relates to the theme, and an artist bio, can be emailed to before April 30. A $75 honorarium will be paid for each successful submission. This call out will be repeated regularly throughout the year, with different themes. Good luck!

If you are a student artist, there is a call out for your work as well, to help with a local, very special cause. The Students of Hope group is planning to donate $50,000 toward building a Youth Room in the new Lighthouse shelter. They are halfway to their goal already, and they plan to raise the other $25,000 through a student art auction, and leveraging the funds raised through the James Burton 3:1 challenge.

The auction will be online from 7 p.m. May 27 to May 29 at midnight. The group is looking for submissions to be donated to the auction, and they are looking for a wide variety and range of submissions, as long as it is student art.

Music, video, visual art, or even services can be donated. The goal is to promote student art, as well as raise funds for the project.

“We are looking for student art donations from anything like student-made paintings, clothing (masks!), jewelry, soap and photography to firepits and chairs," said Student of Hope ambassador Meghan Sawatsky. "We are open to any artistic submission; we would love to see many creative donations.”

Students outside of Orillia are able to donate as well; it's open to anyone from elementary to post-secondary students. The donations deadline is May 21 and they can be dropped off at the closest Orillia high school between May 24-26 (time slots and location will be emailed to donors by May 22).”

For more information about how to submit, or to be a sponsor, please contact or or see the Instagram or Facebook page @studentsof.hope. Thanks for contributing!

If you are a wanna-be artist, don’t despair, no never-ending nights of Netflix for you either. Thanks to Creative Nomad Studios (CNS), you can spend the night of April 14 (tonight) in a fun virtual paint night, for free.

Hosted by Orillia artist Michele Sharpe, this two-hour class will guide you in painting a sunset pine tree painting. The class is free, and if you have no supplies, you can buy and pick them up curbside through CNS.

For more information and to register, click here.

If you haven’t participated in the CNS virtual paint nights before, there are two other classes which you can buy and participate in, at any time…so, there you go, three nights off the couch, having fun creating!

If you don’t consider yourself an artist, are not a wanna-be artist, but enjoy art…you can still stay off the couch, thanks to the Orillia Museum of Art and History’s Quarantours, each Saturday at 1 p.m. These virtual Zoom-led tours take a look at exhibits and artifacts in the museum and are a fun way to see and learn during these pandemic times.

Beginning this Saturday, OMAH has a new exhibit of paintings by Will McGarvey, titled Sticks and Stones. Here is the artist’s statement about this body of work:

“The bones of the earth,

The elements of our environment,

The building blocks of our world.

Primitive weapons.

Sticks and stones,

Said to break our bones.”

He adds: "On my canvas, natural forms are broken down into shape, colour and texture. Images emerge, interpreting themes currently challenging society and the environment. When painting, I celebrate the energy felt when beholding the intrinsic beauty of our world, no matter how ugly or scary," says McGarvey. 

"Art engages and transforms me. Landscape, politics, culture and the environment are just a few topics of exploration in Sticks and Stones, a body of work that I have been focused on for the past four years.”

So please enjoy this work, virtually for now, and hopefully in person later, as the show runs until July 24.

What if you are a musician, sadly sitting on the couch, all alone? There is a virtual-for-now group for you, too! Local musicians Peter Light and Wendy Whelan are joining forces to form a Songwriters Association of Canada ( local Orillia songwriters group. The best part is there is no cost to join!

The group will meet on the first Tuesday of the month beginning May 4 from 7 to 9 p.m. The aim is for each participant to write one new song a month and participate in providing positive feedback and suggestions for other songwriters to mull over and improve their songs.  A Facebook account is necessary. For more information, please email Peter at or Wendy at Enjoy and create!

And finally, don’t forget about your faithful and fun Orillia Public Library. Still offering curbside pick up, and lots of help with virtual events, video loans, book loans and more, our local library has really shone during this pandemic. Check out your books and library events here.

One other quick note…local author Jessica Hamilton has just released her debut novel, What You Never Knew, described as an “emotional, atmospheric, cleverly plotted mystery about loss, grief, and the secrets families bury.” (Samantha M. Bailey, USA Today). This book sounds like a perfect way to while away the end of the pandemic. You can pick it up through the website here

Have a fun and interactive-at-home week, and don’t forget to send your arts news to by Tuesday at noon to be included.