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Summit harvests ideas on future of the arts in Elliot Lake

Arts and Culture Round Table in Elliot Lake (ARIEL) holds brainstorming event

An art summit held in Elliot Lake on Sunday put together ideas on how the local arts community can recover from the loss of its civic centre facilities in 2019.

The Arts and Culture Round Table in Elliot Lake (ARIEL), which managed arts events in the former Lester B. Pearson civic centre prior to its roof collapse and demolition, held the event to assess where arts community representatives would like to see the city headed when it comes to the preservation and growth of art.

“The arts community is strong and vocal in Elliot Lake. Frequently, however, the concerns communicated are specific to a discipline. The city is too small to act in separate silos. We must come together to solve problems that will benefit the entire arts community. That means compromise,” ARIEL president Prisca Campbell told ElliotLakeToday.

“Not every problem will be solved immediately. Setting priorities is essential. The Arts Summit of Oct. 22, 2023, was a tool for identifying what the community needed, and what the priorities should be.” 

About 50 people from the city’s diverse arts community attended the summit. They were asked to share their own thoughts about how the arts should be regrouped for the future after the civic centre collapse that saw the loss of studio space and a gallery to sell art.

Attempts to get grants to build a new arts centre have failed, leaving the arts community in limbo.

Sunday’s summit was meant to get ideas from local artists about what the city can do for the arts community and how those ideas might fit in with the recent purchase of the Holy Trinity United Church at Spruce and Hillside across from city hall.

The city is assessing what the building can be used for. Uses that have been considered include a performing arts concert space on the main floor and a museum on the ground floor.

ARIEL’s summit findings gathered by facilitator Kathy Jones will be contained in a report to council as it decides how to use the church building.

Jones told those in attendance Sunday about the number of years art has been an integral part of Elliot Lake life.

“One of the things that really stuck out for me is just the amount of work and energy that has been devoted to the arts in this town,” she said in a road map display of the different arts ventures that took place in the city’s history.

“We have the opportunity to sit down as a group and figure out what we want in the arts community,” she said. “We have an opportunity to remake the arts community.”

Those attending were asked what their visions were of the future arts community and what they felt there should be with no financial opportunity to build a new arts complex.

“We can’t get 100 percent of what we want,” she said.

Jones suggested the arts community has to decide how it can work together with the various art groups in the city with limited building space available.

People were split into four groups to discuss and document their various ideas for the arts in Elliot Lake. Much of that discussion focused on the church and what it could be used for.

There seemed to be a consensus that the church could be used for performing arts presentations. What that would involve is providing additional handicapped accessibility and having the fire department determine how many people could be accommodated in the space for performances.

Management of the space was also part of the discussion. Campbell said talks with the city would involve management and also a budget if ARIEL was to take over the management function or if it would be left with the city.

The report being prepared by Jones for ARIEL will go to the city for consideration and an eventual decision by council.


About the Author: Kris Svela

Kris Svela has worked in community newspapers for the past 36 years covering politics, human interest, courts, municipal councils, and the wide range of other topics of community interest
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