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'Really exciting': Citizens weigh in on the future of public art

'I think we're at a really exciting moment in the city right now ... this couldn't be more timely,' said a resident about the city's unfolding Art in Public Places Strategic Plan

Local artists and residents weighed in on the city’s unfolding public art strategy at a public forum Thursday evening.

Close to 20 people gathered at Creative Nomad Studios to hear updates on the city’s in-progress Art in Public Places Strategic Plan and to share their hopes and ideas for the future of public art in the municipality.

Consultant Cobalt Connects gathered input from the public on behalf of the city and the Orillia Museum of Art and History.

Consultant Jeremy Freiburger said Cobalt Connects has reviewed applicable legislation in Orillia and other municipalities, and begun gathering feedback from residents, students, and local businesses.

“We start by diving into … what has this community already done?” Freiburger said. “We go through your Official Plan, we go through building codes, we go through corporate plans and neighbourhood development plans – all sorts of documents that cities churn out to talk about who you are and how you're going to deal with your physical space.”

Freiburger said Orillia, when compared to similar communities. has several pieces of legislation that make the city a conducive environment for public art.

“Not many that have this robust list of documents that specifically talk about art and culture, so I would say that your municipality is about this more than other cities like (it),” he said. “Your community is able and willing to talk about public art in a sophisticated way. That's good for you.”

Freiburger laid out several ways public art projects could be funded moving forward.

“There's a handful of ways of doing it. The first one is an annual allocation from the city budget, so every year the culture department (might get) $50,000 to make public art happen,” he said.

He also said a portion of development charges might be used towards public art, or proceeds from the municipal accommodation tax could be pooled into a fund for public art projects.

“What we're doing is we're cobbling together bits and pieces (of funding) instead of going to council and saying we want $100,000 for public art,” Freiburger said.

Freiburger then led a feedback session where residents shared their thoughts on Orillia’s local talent pool, possible tactics for implementing public art, and existing community assets and resources.

Participants shared a wide variety of ideas, ranging from making the application process for public art projects more accessible, trying to incorporate aspects of Orillia’s growing diversity of cultures into public art, and more.

Orillia & District Arts Council’s Christine Hager said she hopes local artists will be given extra consideration during the future selection process for public works of art.

“One of the things that we're hoping for is transparency … in how they actually determine what art is selected,” Hager told OrilliaMatters. “Maybe they should be giving extra points on local (artists). We should be given a little bit of a jump up.”

Kate Hilliard from Arts Orillia said the public art strategy “couldn’t be more timely” as a number of local arts groups are beginning to collaborate in various ways.

“I think we're at a really exciting moment in the city right now because there are a number of arts not-for-profits that are coming together and working together in a really collaborative way,” she told OrilliaMatters. “There are a couple of really specific interests that those groups share: youth, seniors, generational bridging, sustainable practices for gathering, so this couldn't be more timely.”

Frieburger said Cobalt Connects will complete its report by the end of March, which will then go to city staff and the art in public places committee.

The strategic plan is anticipated to be complete by late spring.


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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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