On a warm September evening the downtown streets of Collingwood are alive with movement, music and voices as people explore the shops and artisan-lined sidewalks– taking in the art, entertainment and happenings of the Collingwood Art Crawl. The energy of the evening is electric and the Art Crawl is just one of many recent changes and shifts happening within our arts community helping define our downtown cultural district.
Words & Photos by Heather Goldsworthy
The brainchild of local artist Andrea Rinaldo and Espresso Post owner Mark Krause, the Collingwood Art Crawl was inspired by art walks thriving in other communities. The two felt that a similar event would be embraced by the community in Collingwood and they were spot on. Even with the inaugural crawl being held during a bitterly cold November snowstorm a respectable 300 people braved the weather to check out the 20 artists participating and the event has steadily grown each year since.
Now in its sixth year, the self-guided art walk happening September 22nd boasts over 100 artists and performers in almost 50 venues, and draws roughly 3000 attendees to the downtown quarter encompassing Hurontario between First and Third, Simcoe and Elgin streets. With art, music, food and drink, demonstrations and performances all within walking distance the crawl is a fun, social evening celebrating the breadth of talent we have in this area. This years “Unmissables”– highlighted events– haven’t been announced yet but last year included great stuff like a Battle of the Brushes live competitive art event, glass-blowing demonstration, and performances by Franny Wisp and Her Washboard, and the Collingwood Circus Club.
It’s not just the performances and art battles that are drawing folks to the Art Crawl. The region is building a reputation for the calibre of fine art being created here and buyers are looking to see work by their favourites along with the chance to discover new artists.
Georgian Bay has always had a large community of artists but in the past few years there has been a marked increase in the number of artists being able to make a full-time living from their art, many gaining recognition and representation provincially and nationally. Various factors have encouraged the shift such as increased opportunities for artists to show and sell work, patrons eager to buy local works and, perhaps most importantly, the strong connections between the artists themselves which provides the feedback and support invaluable to developing and refining their work.
That same spirit of collaboration and peer-to-peer support has led to one of the biggest changes to the Art Crawl. This years event has evolved to become the Collingwood Art Crawl + Live & Original Music Crawl.
As the event grew, Rinaldo approached the Town of Collingwood about partnership and the Town saw how taking on the musical side of the event could support the broader vision and goals of Collingwood’s music scene. During development of the Simcoe County Music Strategy (a burgeoning county-wide initiative to develop and grow the region’s music industry) the town heard from musicians that they needed access to space, learning opportunities, and the chance to connect and collaborate with other musicians and industry professionals. In response, the town’s successful Live & Original Music Series was revamped from a competition based model to an ongoing initiative that would support and promote local artists producing original music.
The initiative now includes the Live & Original Music Crawl (in conjunction with the Art Crawl), a forum with workshops and networking opportunities for musicians held that same weekend, and Music Jam Mondays held once a month at the Simcoe Street Theatre giving musicians and songwriters the opportunity and space to jam and build relationships.
As a two year pilot program, the town has taken over the day-today management of the 100-seat black box theatre giving them a venue for their various programs and events, as well as opening up the theatre to a wider demographic of groups requiring space for workshops, concerts, lectures or other events. Fans of the current Theatre’s line-up can rest assured that theatre owner’s Anke and Rick Lex and other promoters like Violet’s Venue will continue to bring great programming to the theatre as well.
The changes on Simcoe Street opened up the door for another big move within the arts community. The Blue Mountain Foundation for the Arts is moving out of their location by the Gayety Theatre and, as of June 26, will be curating the art hanging in the Simcoe St Theatre’s hallway and Press Gallery and opening a boutique art and gift shop in the building. Just across the street from the established Tremont Studios, the new location is a great opportunity to introduce their members work to a larger audience and increase awareness of the foundation’s youth arts programming, juried art shows and events such as the Collingwood Arts & Music Festival (CAMF) held at the Eddie Bush Arena August 4-5.
The BMFA isn’t the only gallery on the move. Butter Gallery has relocated to a bigger and brighter location at 126 Hurontario. The full-service gallery represents many regional artists and owners Rinaldo and Suzanne Steeves work directly with buyers to help them find their perfect piece. And, to top it off Paperwhite Flowers & Framing (in the Tremont Studios building) and Georgian Frame Gallery (172 Hurontario) are there to help ifyour new art purchase needs finishing.
With the growing selection of galleries, studios, artisan shops and theatres all within a walkable, four-block radius, a centralized arts district is really taking shape in downtown Collingwood. There is plenty to discover and explore this summer. |E|
Heather Goldsworthy is a freelance writer and photographer based in Collingwood. Visit her website Imageobscura.com