The Board members of the Orillia Centre for Arts + Culture recently decided to enter a four-month period of strategic planning to update the organization and ensure that, going forward, we project a dynamic and progressive vision—and branding—of what our organization does for the arts in our community and in the larger creative community in Ontario and beyond.
The purpose of this article is to clarify the events that have created the need to re-imagine the organization. It concludes with a description of the work ahead and an invitation to contribute your ideas and help us find the way forward.
The Original Mission
In 2014 a group of Orillia residents came together to pursue a vision first expressed by artist Charles Pachter—namely, to turn the Huronia Regional Centre (HRC) property in Orillia into a “Banff Centre East,” a place for artists to live and work, a place where, on the shores of Lake Simcoe, members of the public could come for performances by the best talent in Canada and the world.
For 3-4 years, the group, incorporated in 2015 as the Huronia Cultural Campus (HCC) and granted charitable status in 2016, worked alongside the City of Orillia to persuade the Ontario government that the HRC site, officially closed in 2009, should become a new entity devoted to cultural activity. After the province settled a lawsuit alleging suffering by former residents and issued an apology, the idea of creating a new identity for the site appeared to be no longer welcome to the government. In 2018, a new government decided not to put the HRC site up for sale. Currently, it appears that the property will be maintained for provincial use, and the original goal of the Huronia Cultural Campus has become improbable.
An Intermediate Step
In 2019, the organization announced to the public that it had taken a new name—The Orillia Centre for Arts + Culture (OC)—to better reflect the reality that, given the HRC property was not available, the organization would focus its activities on venues within the city itself, with the hope that, at some point, a home for the organization could be established.
From 2017 to 2019, with the assistance of a major Trillium grant from the provincial government, the HCC/Orillia Centre became an organization focusing mainly on presenting a variety of cutting edge entertainments—everything from Maqueque’s Cuban musicians and sound to Tessa Kuz’s urban dance workshop to a unique-to-Ontario presentation of First Nations’ Stories and Storytellers. 2019 saw a total of seven presentations over the year.
In 2020 the COIVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Live performances were no longer possible. The entertainment world and the arts world seemed to shut down all over the world. The idea of pursuing a physical space as the focus for the organization became untenable.
The Emergence of a New Direction
In 2020, Kate Hilliard became the Creative Director of the OC. She hosted artists during the pandemic, while also persuading granting organizations—the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council, the Canada Arts Presentation Fund, and others—that support for artists to work in Orillia made artistic and economic sense. She formed partnerships with Simcoe County School Board and local venues like the Orillia Opera House and St. Paul’s Centre to create educational experiences for students and young artists in the area. Through her initiatives, a new focus on creative programming emerged.
Where Are We Now?
During 2020-2021 the Board of Directors of the Orillia Centre realized that its mandate no longer matched the future direction of the organization. In August 2021, the Board asked one of its members, Brian Alger, to lead a process to reinvent the organization’s mandate and purpose. This work includes:
· Identifying a new name and new branding to carry the organization into the future.
· Creating a board of directors who are stewards of a new vision and strategic direction.
· Identifying sustainable strategies for funding and improving the financial stability of the operational side of the organization.
· Ensuring diversity and intergenerational representation throughout the organization.
· Integrating new operational ideas including collaborative leadership, networked interaction, and engaged participation.
· Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the Creative Director, our creative programming, the integration of cultural issues, and the role of artists.
· A comprehensive approach to media and communications.
· Strategies for developing a network of volunteers, stakeholders, alliances, partnerships, government agencies, and business connections.
The Board of Directors has set an aggressive timetable. The goal is to present a strategic plan to the Board on December 10, 2021.
The Work Ahead
A critical aspect of the strategic planning process is to obtain input from outside sources. Given the short timeline, this will be a challenge. We will attempt to include ideas from:
· Current and past Board members and members of the Programming Committee.
· Representatives of local Orillia arts groups (e.g. ODAC, Mariposa Folk Festival, Mariposa Arts Theatre, Concert Association).
· The business community.
· The education community.
· The City of Orillia and its cultural facilities (Orillia Opera House, Orillia Museum of Art and History, Leacock Home)
The Strategic Planning Committee is determined to shape the future of the organization into an effective, well-managed, and well-funded arts organization that makes a valued contribution to cultural life, provides opportunities for artist to engage in creative programming, and enhances the wellbeing of the greater society.
Will You Help Us?
We welcome your ideas and thoughts on how this organization can both meet these needs and, at the same time, serve our community and the artistic talent that has for so long been a hallmark of this area.
We have entered a period of transformation that will determine the future of our organization. We value your ideas. If you wish to contribute your ideas and help us re-imagine our organization, please contact Kate Hilliard (Creative Director) at Kate.Hilliard@orilliacentre.com.