Thursday, September 24, 2009

Artists in Motion: What Artists Can do in Small Towns

What a small town can do when a small town wants to

Marmora, Ontario celebrates a year of Art

Marmora is by all intentions, a sleepy little village in eastern Ontario. One of its residents told me that those who are employed in Marmora service the needs of the retired and unemployed.

This is definitely a "roll up the streets after 6 o'clock," village.
Then, along came newcomers Christine Dominico and Eiliean Teat. Two very artistic ladies with big dreams and huge ambitions. Both wanted to wake the sleepy little village up with a fresh coat of paint and bring it to life.

By the time a year had passed - they had not only created what they set out to do but they created a model for small towns everywhere.
The first thing the women did was seek out other like minded artists with advertisements in the local papers and word of mouth and together they initiated their goal by featuring an art workshop in an abandoned railroad station and an Arts in the Park event along walkways which grace the Crowe River which flows through the village.

By the time these two events ended, the wheels were turning. The two called for meetings in a committee room in the village 'town hall', and the art community turned out in force; musicians, writers, dramatists, and visual artists all.

By November, the little village was taken by surprise when the group initiated their first of many to be, Christmas Showcase of the Arts. Those who attended attended were greeted by singers, a juggling clown, and a splendid supply of refreshments.

By the time their first year had ended time, the group had created bye laws, a committee structure and had incorporated. They also found a local shop which was empty to showcase the visual arts and to feature books written by local writers. The store is funded by a governmental funding grant, and by local artists who committed themselves to $30 a month to display their works.
Their list of activities in the first year, is nothing short of amazing. The group has spun off, art workshops, a literary contest, a juried art show, a dramatic presentation, and a musical performance.
It is rather amazing to think that a village of about 1,300 people and a surrounding area could produce about 40 artists to display their art in the village gallery. But what surprises most visitors is the quality of the artwork. Most of these artists have produced their artwork quitely and without fanfare to be shared by friends and family.
But there was more. The artists for the most part had been working, without connection to any other artists. The side benefit of the work of these two ambitous and visionary women, and the people they drew around them to share their dreams was that a community of artists was born and that this community strengthens their sense of identity.

All of which leads to the question - if this small, Ontario village and nearby vicinity can produce so much hereto unknown art, is this characteristic of small towns throughout the province?

The Marmora AIM project has further implications. Small town Ontario, and for that matter - small towns and villages in Canada have seen a shift of economy and the brightest and most ambitious of their youth have 'moved on' to where employment offers a more secure future.

Over the years, a spiritual decay has set in, within these villages. Village pride has taken a back seat to despair and loss. Villagers see themselves as boondockers.

The dynamic influence of art in Marmora, has provided this little village with colour, and identity. There are those who now have a vision of the town attracting, an business "arts community" to create boutiques and coffee shops.
It goes to show what two people with a vision for the arts, and hard work can achieve.

Please visit the Marmora AIM (Artists in Motion) website, for a more extensive story of their accomplishment, and to read of the contributions of others who have joined the village art team.

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