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Orillia celebrates art and heritage at gala (8 photos)

'I’ve discovered that there are many very fine musicians, people who love music, and people who want to become better at it,' says Doreen Uren Simmons of Orillia

Orillia's artists, creators, musicians, and historians were celebrated Wednesday night at a gala at the Orillia Opera House.

The fourth annual Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage (ORAH) Awards were presented by the Orillia and District Arts Council (ODAC), the Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH), and the City of Orillia's Department of Culture.

Anna Proctor, a passionate volunteer and organizer of the event, says the gala brings together everybody from the local arts and heritage sector to celebrate those deserving of awards in five different categories.

Proctor says winning an ORAH Award helps local artists establish themselves in the community.

“It brings more awareness to them,” she said. “I know it brings them a big boost of self-confidence and a feeling that somebody noticed that they’ve been working away and have talent.”

Proctor encourages the community to support the ORAH Awards each year and to nominate deserving candidates for recognition.

This year, the Education in the Arts, Culture and Heritage Award, which recognizes an educator — not necessarily a teacher by profession — whose knowledge and teaching skills inspire others to pursue their interest in the arts and heritage, was awarded to Kate Hilliard and Jayne Poolton-Turvey.

Hilliard, the artistic director with Arts Orillia, was recognized for preparing and presenting art programming in 15 local schools and engaging more than 800 children.

“I left home to be in the arts,” Hillard explained. “It was a huge honour to come back and have a group of people and board of directors with Arts Orillia, both past and present members, folks who have served for the organization, to say 'hey, come work in our community and be a part of this wonderful thing we are trying to do.'”

Poolton-Turvey, the community services coordinator for the Orillia Public Library, was recognized for organizing the library’s award-winning Remembrance Day event since 2014. Poolton-Turvey wasn’t present at Wednesday’s event, but Proctor read a statement on her behalf.

“This means so much to me,” Poolton-Turvey said in her statement. “One of the main goals of the (remembrance) event is to ensure that Orillia’s incredible wartime stories are told.”

The Emerging Artist Award, which recognizes an individual of any age who is in the early years of launching a career in the arts, went to tattoo artist Jordyn Nancy Greer.

“To me, tattooing is so much more than just putting artwork on the skin,” she said. “it’s encompassing the meaning and sentimental value behind each piece forever on that individual.”

The Heritage: Restoration, Renovation and Publication Award, which recognizes an individual or group who brought to life regional history through a physical restoration or creation of a permanent public record, was presented to the Orillia Heritage Centre, which owns and displays a number of vintage automobiles and artifacts. On hand to accept the award was president John Smith.

“This is a real honour,” he said. “We appreciate being nominated, and the fact that we won an award is really gratifying.”

Smith says the Orillia Heritage Centre will continue to keep Orillia’s industrial heritage alive and well.

The Event in the Arts, Culture and Heritage Award, which recognizes an individual, organization, or corporation for their part in organizing a single or annual event that showcases the region’s creative talent or cultural heritage, was awarded to the Mariposa Folk Festival. On hand to accept the award were president Pam Carter and manager Chris Hazel.

“Without the support of the community, Mariposa would not be what it is today,” Carter said.

Hazel says the 2022 Mariposa Folk Festival was truly magical for a number of reasons.

“Maybe the biggest one was the sense of community of us getting back together in person after three years,” he said. “Mariposa is a big part of Orillia and Orillia is a big part of Mariposa, and it felt really great to be back with you guys and back with our Mariposa family.”

The final award of the evening, the Qennefer Browne Achievement Award, recognizes an individual or group of individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the cultural life of their community. This year, it was awarded to pianist, organizer of music events at St. Paul's Centre, and vocal coordinator with the Kiwanis Music Festival, Doreen Uren Simmons.

“When I first came to Orillia in 1996, it was from a need after 40 years to get out of Toronto and because my grandchildren were here and still are,” she explained. “I’ve discovered that there are many very fine musicians, people who love music, and people who want to become better at it.”

Simmons says Orillia is a very encouraging and supportive community.

“I’m very grateful to the people who worked and made music along with me for those 16 years,” she said. “If my circumstances change, I’ll be back because Orillia is not only beautiful, but it is nurturing.”

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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