by Hilary Thomson
The municipality’s Arts and Culture Advisory Committee has been hard at work behind the scenes, creating policies that will govern different aspects of the arts in North Grenville.
Created in May, 2019, as one of council’s four new advisory committees, the Committee was given the task of creating an overall Arts and Culture Policy for the municipality.
This includes a policy that will govern the rental of the Urbandale Arts Centre, a policy for festivals and events, and a policy that will put in place funding earmarked for arts and culture projects in the community.
Chair Jayne Couch says all these pieces are important for regulating how the municipality interacts with the arts community and the sector as a whole. When complete, the Theatre Allocation Policy will include how theatre rentals will help cover the costs of maintaining the centre, and making sure that it is up to the proper standard to rent out to community groups and visitors.
“It shouldn’t be the municipality’s responsibility to pay for the entire upkeep of that building,” she says. “If it were just a meeting hall for council and to bring people in, it wouldn’t have to be quite that elaborate. It is elaborate so that it can be used by the community.”
The policy will also dictate the rules of engagement regarding the rental of the facility to give the municipality some guidelines that have been outlined by residents. This includes who is responsible for theatre upkeep and maintenance and whether discounts are given for local community groups who want to rent the space.
“We have to make those decisions because the staff and the municipality shouldn’t be the ones making those decisions,” Jayne says.
Jayne believes that the theatre could be an important draw in terms of tourism in North Grenville as people travel to see concerts and plays held at the centre. “If it gets managed properly, then it can actually bring revenue into the community from all kinds of different avenues.”
Another aspect of the committee’s work is a Festival and Event Policy to regulate festivals and events in the municipality. This policy is important as the tourism sector in the municipality grows, which often includes some aspect of arts and culture. “We could attract people from around the world potentially. Because art tourism is a huge thing.”
The bonus of getting their Festival and Event Policy right is that, when people want to try something new in the community, the framework will already be in place. “If you’re fostering a place for new ventures, new adventures and new gains, you are supporting the community financially [and] you’re supporting the community emotionally, because they can attend as well as anyone else can.”
Jayne believes this policy will be even more important as the community recovers from COVID-19. “I think people are going to want a special reason to come out of the house. And so, if people do start throwing more festivals, here’s a reason why we really need a good strong public policy on festivals.”
The final part of the Arts and Culture Policy is the establishment of a Development Funds Policy which will award grants to people or groups who are engaged in arts and culture projects in the municipality.
This potential funding for arts projects is still in its infancy, and they are going to reach out to the community for their thoughts on what they want the municipality to help fund in the future.
Jayne is happy that this council has given the arts and culture sector status in the municipality, especially as it has the potential to bring so much to the local community.
The Committee is about three-quarters of the way through developing the overall Arts and Culture Policy, which they hope to have finished by the end of their term.
“What the policies are going to do is to set a groundwork for the municipality to interact with the arts sector as a whole and treat them as an industry.”