Local artist Shanna Steals, shown here with the painted cow statue she created for the St. Albert Curd Festival, has been hired by Excellent Events as a consultant for a proposed artists-in-residence program at the Arbor Gallery Cultural Cenre. Submitted photo

Public consultation sessions begin November 1 for proposed artists-in-residence program

Bilingual in-person consultation sessions are being held virtually and in person at the Creating Centre in Vankleek Hill over the next two weeks, regarding a proposal for an artists-in-residence program on the second floor of the Arbor Gallery Cultural Centre.

The consultations will kick off with a virtual session in English on Monday, November 1, beginning at 6:30 p.m. A second English session – this time in person – will be held at the Creating Centre on Wednesday, November 10, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Two consultation sessions in French are also being held, beginning an in-person gathering at the Creating Centre, located at 11 High Street, on Wednesday, November 3, starting at 6:30 p.m. A French virtual session is being held online on Monday, November 8, also at 6:30 p.m.

The proposal for a possible artists in residence program in Vankleek Hill – which would be on the second floor of the building where Arbor Gallery Cultural Centre is housed – is being put forward thanks to a grant recently awarded to Excellent Events by the Community Innovation Grant Program, through Prescott-Russell Community Services. Excellent Events has hired well-known local artist Shanna Steals as a consultant on the project, and she will lead the four sessions.

“We want to consult with the community to see if this is something that they would appreciate,” explained Steals. “If from the consultations we find that the community is interested in having this project, Phase Two would be to get a new grant to move forward with the artists in residence program.”

“But it’s up to the community to decide what they should work on, and that’s a big part of the consultation process.”

The second floor of the building where Arbor Gallery Cultural Centre is housed is currently underused. It is a space that has a lot of potential for many new artistic and cultural projects, Steals noted. The proposed program, to be determined by the community through the consultations, would also be complementary to the community’s already rich cultural activities.

Steals said both the virtual sessions, which will be held on the Zoom platform, will provide the shape that the proposed artists-in-residence program could take to complement the current activities in Champlain Township.

Nathalie Ladouceur of Excellent Events, who initiated the pilot project, said she is excited about the possibilities the project will create for the community.

“We’re really looking forward to hearing what ideas the art community and residents of Champlain Township and surrounding areas will bring to the consultations,” Ladouceur said. “It’s important to us that the community feels that this vision is theirs to co-create.”

Anyone would who like to attend one of the four consultation sessions is asked to sign up via this Online Form. Those who sign up for one of the virtual sessions will receive a Zoom link via email. An online survey will also be circulated in late November, in order to validate the information gathered by the consultations.

Steals said sign up will be open right up to the date of each consultation and those who drop by to the in-person sessions will be allowed to attend if there is space remaining. Those who wish to ensure they have a spot in one of the sessions are advised to sign up in advance. Both in-person events at the Creating Centre will follow all public health safety protocols, including masking.

“It would be better if people sign up in advance just to make sure that we have space,” Steals advised.

The pilot project is funded by the Ontario Social Services Relief Fund and led by Prescott-Russell Community Services in partnership with United Way East Ontario and the United Counties of Prescott and Russell.

Reid Masson

Reid Masson is a graduate of Algonquin College's Journalism Program. He has over 20 years of experience as a staff writer and editor for various newspapers across Canada, including The Ottawa Citizen and Brockville Recorder and Times.

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