The big players of the local art scene kicked off Culture Days, a celebration of the arts held across Canada from Sept. 24 to 26, over coffee and scrambled eggs during the first ever Mayor’s Breakfast for the Arts on Thursday (Sept. 23) morning.
The food was not the reason for their visit to the newly renovated Tony Rose Memorial Sports Centre banquet hall though — it was all about recognizing significant contributions to the arts.
“The fact that this is a first for Orangeville is awesome,” said a groggy, yet excited David Narin, director for Theatre Orangeville, explaining “asking an artist to get up at 7 a.m. in the morning is a little out of control.”
Then again, considering the success and feedback, Orangeville mayor Rob Adams confirmed it appears The Mayor’s Breakfast for the Arts will become an annual event for artists, actors, actresses, directors, playwrights, art lovers, community organizers and more, to book into their calendars.
“Without a doubt, our immediate community is home to one of the most vibrant arts communities in Ontario,” said Adams. “The arts give us pleasure, they make us laugh, and they make us cry. … This is the best way to start off Culture Days.”
The breakfast included the entertainment of 14-year-old comedian Michael McCreary, who stole the show with his bit — Does this make my Asperger’s look big?
After the Orangeville District Secondary School (ODSS) student left patrons in stitches, an independent panel of judges handed out seven awards — established artist of the year, emerging young artist, arts educator of the year, community impact by a business, creative cultural event, community arts advocate and community impact by an organization.
Lyric tenor Mark DuBois, who took home the event’s established artist of the year award, was a little emotional on stage after receiving his plaque. The panel of judges chose the Hockley Valley resident over local songstress Heather Katz and landscape artist Arnold De Graaff.
DuBois, as many other award winners, listed the recent tribute concert which raised more than $14,000 on Sunday (Sept. 19) for musician Matthew Shawn Fleming, who is battling Type 1 diabetes, as an example of the great things the arts community can do together.
“Everything was solidified on Sunday when I participated in that tribute to Matthew Fleming,” DuBois said, noting he hopes to see The Mayor’s Breakfast for the Arts become an annual event. “To see how much talent that is hidden in these hills is incredible.”
Gary Vipond, who didn’t know he had been nominated until he showed up Thursday, was named top community arts volunteer advocate, while Joan Borden was awarded arts educator of the year.
The Dufferin Arts Council, represented by its president Harvey Kolodny, accepted the community impact by an organization award, while Nancy Frater, owner of BookLore, was pleased to receive community impact by a business honours.
In addition, the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival was awarded the prize of top creative cultural event.
Wayne Baguley, president of Headwaters Arts, grinned ear-to-ear when the individual he nominated, guitarist T.J. Whitelaw, was named best young emerging artist. Fresh from winning a Toronto Independent Music Award (TIMA) for best young songwriter last July, Whitelaw was nominated for the award alongside Jessica Bradley and James Gerus.
While his organization’s biggest event, the Headwaters Arts Festival (Sept. 24 to Oct. 11), continues to gain steam, Baguley said The Mayor’s Breakfast for the Arts came at a perfect time.
“This is fantastic the town is recognizing the arts in such a high profile. My understanding is it is going to be expanded, it may turn into the mayors’ breakfast,” Baguley said. “When the community is developing right, you can tell — the icing on the cake is that the arts explode. And it has.”