April 19th, 2017
Will the evening be remembered as one of the historical moment in the cultural life of the city of Burlington – or will it be just another non-profit organization that seemed like a good idea at the time?
Only time will tell but the Arts and Cultural Council of Burlington (ACCOB) was launched in the lobby of the Performing Arts Centre on April 18th, 2017.
There was a city council meeting that evening and just about every member of Council was in the lobby of the PAC up to watch the momentous occasion. There were enough of them in the lobby to form a quorum – they could have gathered in a corner and conducted the city’s business on the spot.
There weren’t just members of city council in the room. A local youth choir sang and a lovely young girl from an Orchard community school played her violin flawlessly – giving the audience a rendition of a Vivaldi Concerto. Yoanna Jang was a delight to listen to.
Getting an Arts Council set up is an organizational matter. They now have to determine what their mandate is and how they want to execute on that mandate.
This all started back in 2013 when Trevor Copp stood before city council and said he wanted to be able to work in his home town and not have to toodle along the QEW to earn a living.
The irony of the evening was that Copp could not be on hand – he was out of town doing a show.
There were a number of arts community stalwarts – Teresa Seaton, Tim Park, Rob Missen
Mayor Goldring and former Mayor Walter Mulkewich were on hand – Goldring might have been thinking through how much ACCOB was going to want in the way of funding.
The important point is that the organization has moved beyond an idea – now it is up to them to lobby the city; seek funding and advocate for the Arts.
Will they mount programs of their own?
Will they find people within the city that will support the arts in general?
Will they hold the well-funded Performing Arts Centre the Art Gallery of Burlington and the Museums to account?
Burlington doesn’t have an arts or cultural profile even though the city has produced and been home to some very significant talent. The late Gordy Tapp lived here; the Spoons came out of this city, Walk Off the Earth has roots in the city. Robert Bateman worked from Burlington for some time.
There are countless others. What Burlington has not been able to do – yet – is pull the history and the story of Burlington into focus and draw people to the city.
Burlington has relied on the Sound of Music and Ribfest to draw the multitudes – both are looking a little warn and have not managed to achieve a refresh and create a new life for themselves.
In the past Burlington has been a place where things happened. There is a spot along the waterfront, in Spencer Smith Park that is referred to as “pebble beach”. It is a collection of large stones – but, as Councillor Jack Dennison will tell you – if you look closely you might see some of the old pilings that once held up the Brant Inn – which in its day was a jumping spot – the place to be.
Many of the black musicians would take the train to Burlington and play in a place where they could eat, sleep and work in the same building and not be treated as second class citizens.
The city has not managed to build on that illustrious and colourful past.
ACCOB has its work cut out for it – the good news is that there are some very good people on that board – they could make it happen.