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Arts Action Now Mobilizes for Provincial Election

Ontarians for the Arts coordinates local and Ontario-wide arts advocacy, with a current focus on the upcoming provincial election. Arts Action Now is Ontarians for the Arts’ primary activism vehicle and is now recruiting community leaders across Ontario to volunteer as arts advocates and meet with local MPPs and Candidates. In the Guelph riding Patti Broughton, in her role as Executive Director of Guelph Arts Council, has volunteered to coordinate these meetings, and is recruiting a small team of local arts leaders to help with the advocacy effort. If you are interested in helping our local candidates understand the importance of the arts for our community, province, and nation, please contact Patti at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 519-836-3280.

Ontarians for the Arts is a new inclusive, non-partisan movement intent on promoting the benefits of the arts in every city, community and in every corner of the province. It includes Ontario-based artists, arts organizations, and arts supporters who promote and advocate for the importance of the arts across Ontario and to secure adequate resources and enabling policies that will support the development and enhancement of diverse arts practices and provide access to rich, vibrant arts activities for all Ontarians.

In this context, Ontarians for the Arts seeks:

         To increase investments in arts and culture at the provincial level; and
         To strengthen Ontario’s arts and cultural policies.

In its work to date, Ontarians for the Arts has produced its first arts policy discussion paper entitled Connections and Resilience through the Arts, as well as a Call to Action that prioritizes five recommendations for the duly elected Government of Ontario’s short-term implementation. The discussion paper includes 10 recommendations on the themes of: Invest in the Arts, Arts Development & Arts Education, and Ontario’s Place in Canada and the World.

The Call to Action is informed by the discussion paper and calls for the newly elected Government of Ontario to implement the following in short order:

  1. Create an infrastructure investment program that facilitates Ontarians’ access to arts and culture, and helps leverage federal investments, with a $30M annual base allocation for the next 10 years.
  2. Follow through on the current increases planned for the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) to $80M base by 2020-21 and commit to increasing the OAC’s funding base to $160M by 2025-26 to ensure greater accessibility to the arts for Ontarians, while adapting to changing demographics.
  3. Advocate with Federal counterparts to ensure that Ontario’s leadership role in Canada’s vibrant arts and culture scene is reflected in federal policy and funding decisions.
  4. Set achievement and development guidelines to ensure the arts education curriculum is prioritized and complements STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) goals. Our kids deserve STEAM!
  5. Revitalize the Ontario Arts Foundation (OAF) by reintroducing a matching endowment incentives program with a $25M strategic investment.
For more information about Ontarians for the Arts and Arts Action Now, and to read the discussion paper, please visit: ontariansforthearts.ca. To get involved locally, contact Patti at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 519-836-3280.

Guelph Youth Music Centre Celebrates Brenda Lewis's 25 Years of Singing

On Sunday, April 29 at 2pm the Music at the Guelph Youth Music Centre (GYMC) Series proudly presents "Great Jazz in Support of The Centre" with versatile Guelph vocalist Brenda Lewis and musical friends, celebrating the first 25 years of Lewis’s singing career. The concert will feature Lewis with a number of guest musicians who have often joined her on that journey through jazz and roots music, performing from duo through to full ensemble: Margaret Stowe (jazz guitar), Jeff Bird (upright bass, harmonica, mandolin), John Zadro (piano), Andy MacPherson (drums, percussion) and Gayle Ackroyd (harmony vocals, ukulele, guitar). 

Brenda Lewis Headshot 3AB2857 BalfourPhotoPhoto by Balfour Photo, courtesy of Brenda Lewis. 

“We are thrilled to host the musical talents of Brenda Lewis & friends at the GYMC,” commented Gabriella Currie-Ziegler, Executive Director of the Guelph Youth Music Centre. “Expect to enjoy a matinee concert of smooth jazz, with a hint of eclectic.”

Lesley Mitchell-Clarke, describes the singer’s style in The WholeNote Magazine: "Her adept jazz sensibility is beautifully displayed; her consummate vocal skill shines throughout“

brenda lewis and margaret stowe1 col crop photo by ian molesworth
Brenda Lewis and Margaret Stole. Photo by Ian Molesworth, courtesy of Brenda Lewis.

Brenda began performing later than most but made up for lost time by starting a music career in the roots and R&B genres, moving into jazz singing about 20 years ago. Her most recent Jazz CD, “Far & Near” (Nov. 2015) has been receiving airplay on JAZZ FM Toronto & CBC Radio across Canada and has been garnering rave reviews. Mark Rheaume from CBC Radio Canada, featured it on his picks for the new year on the Fresh Air show in January 2016. She is also a busy publicist and teaches singing lessons. 

In between rehearsals for Sunday's concert, we had a chat with Brenda about her years behind the microphone:

What sparked you to get into singing? Tell me a bit about your history as a musician and performer - how it all evolved?

Visual art was very much the main creative focus for most of my life leading up to my mid-twenties or so. I had always been an audiophile, soaking up many styles of music even from an early age - and also sang a lot, but privately! In 1990, it took a job posting teaching ESL in Czechoslovakia to almost force me into singing publicly. I taught my classes popular folk songs from here - and lost my inhibitions since students didn't know the lyrics in the first place. Much to my surprise I was asked to perform a few songs in an actual concert with others while living there. Months later, after returning to Canada, I moved from Ottawa to Guelph and found myself getting up to sing at house parties' jam sessions and such. People started urging me to get onstage. So I did. I began with just guesting at supportive events like the Guelph Folk Club open stage and Mel Brown's blues jams, singing R&B. I soon found accomplished accompanists; first Lloyd Milligan, then longtime music partner Ian Molesworth (our eclectic folk duo was called Hurt & Run). A few years later, I moved into jazz, mainly because whenever I would perform the odd jazzy number, people really responded well to it and started asking me if they could book me to do that - so I took the plunge and have never looked back. I still maintained connections to roots music in duos with Nonie Crete, and Eddie Douglas - and now with vocal harmonies duo partner Gayle Ackroyd, but worked hard at learning the craft of jazz singing and have managed to build a sustaining career singing jazz through the support and partnership of longtime music compadres Margaret Stowe, Tony Quarrington and Guelph's own John Zadro.

Brenda Lewis at Mel Brown Blues Jam early 1990s

Brenda Lewis at Mel Brown Blues Jam  - early 1990s. Photo courtesy of the artist.

You've performed in many respected concert series and festivals. What do you consider to be the highlights of your years in music?

There were concerts honouring two prominent Canadian artists who have deeply influenced me musically - which I had the joy of singing in - one was for Jackie Washington and the other for Colleen Peterson. More recently I was asked to be one of the guest vocalists in a short concert run performing pieces written by The Breithaupt Brothers, a gifted and prolific songwriting tour de force often referred to as "The Canadian Gershwins". Beyond those, there are many highlights ... sometimes I just have to pinch myself to believe some of the musicians I've gotten to share stages with...

What does music mean to you?

It's always been a constant, an integral part of my life. I cannot remember a time when I was not listening to music on the radio even as a young child. Specific music connects me to exact life events. For me, music is all about connection; the measure of music is whether or not it reaches me somewhere inside; whether it makes me feel something. When I sing that is my hope - that is connecting to the hearts of listeners. Music is also very much about connecting to the community, the world, to humanity. Sometimes an important message conveyed via lyrics, melodies and arrangements can reach people in a far more meaningful, tangible and accessible way than simply watching the news, for example. 

Brenda Lewis Eddie Douglas Cabbagetown Festival 1998Brenda Lewis & Eddie Douglas -   Cabbagetown Festival 1998. Photo courtesy of Brenda Lewis. 

What makes this Sunday's concert such a special one for you?

Well, it is a landmark year for performing which seems to have arrived rather quickly - a quarter century - so I'm thinking of it as a sort of celebration. It's a way of connecting with a community that has been very supportive of my musical endeavours over the years so it is also an opportunity for me to show gratitude. The musicians with me onstage have each played important roles in my musical development over the years (and yes, there are many more musicians - too numerous to mention). The audience at this Sunday's concert can expect a feeling of warmth, good humour and camaraderie between all involved.

Brenda Lewis leads Finale in 5000 Miles Concert for Syrian Refugees 2015Brenda Lewis leads finale in 5000 Miles concert for Syrian refugees. Photo courtesy of the artist. 


Where do you see your music career going from here... where would you like it to go in the future?

Creatively, I am hoping to get back to songwriting. The constant working out of interpretations of jazz standards for so long seems to have moved me away from writing. And time permitting, working on my guitar and ukulele-playing. Most of all, I'd like my music (and myself!) to go places, literally. I'm hope to arrange some concert touring to farther-away-places. Across Canada and just about anywhere in the world. 

Don’t miss this Sunday afternoon’s performance. Save by ordering advance tickets now online at: 

Adults $15 advance ($20 at door); Seniors 60+ $10; Students (high school, grade school & university) $10.
or phone Guelph Youth Music Centre at 519.837.1119

Learn more about Brenda Lewis & listen to her music at: http://www.brendalewis.ca/ 

Explore Guelph's History on Sunday Afternoons

by Jane Litchfield

What can you do on a Sunday afternoon that only costs $5 and gives you a taste of local history and architecture plus some fresh air and exercise? Take a Guelph Arts Council Historical Walking Tour, of course.

Walking Tour Launch 2018 web

The season launch saw an enthusiastic group turn out to take the tour under some much-needed sun. Photo by Kesia Kvill.

Walking tours run on most Sundays from April to October (excluding July), and there are six to choose from. Why not do all six? Some of our fans do the same tour more than once so they can pick up new tidbits from a different guide or another guest on the tour.

The walking tour season starts annually on the day after Doors Open Guelph, which means the 2018 season launched on a sunny April 22. Nineteen people came out to stroll the city’s oldest commercial area and learn about Guelph’s roots. 

Your tour guide will be one of our dedicated volunteers. “These guys are passionate about what they do,” says Guelph teacher, writer, and GAC volunteer Marion Reidel, who has completed all the tours. Some guides are more interested in history; others architecture, or natural features.
You can buy your $5 ticket from your guide (exact change is appreciated) or online through the GAC Events Calendar. The tour schedule is available on our site, in our newly updated brochure. Check the brochure for starting points, which vary. Tours run rain or shine at 2 p.m., except in extreme weather, for about 2 hours.

New downloadable tour booklets

Can’t make Sundays? Take a self-guided tour – now with new digital tour booklets, thanks to our volunteers, including Reidel, who updated the text for all the tours. These downloadable booklets feature historical photos and drawings, many from Guelph Museum archives, so you can compare today and yesteryear as you walk.

You can also buy a printed booklet of each tour with historical information and architectural drawings as a souvenir of your tour, as a gift, or for self-guided walks. Booklets are $5 at The Bookshelf (41 Quebec St.), at the GAC office (42 Carden St.), at Guelph Civic Museum (52 Norfolk St.), or from your guide.

Reidel notes that the new digital booklets aren’t necessarily the same as the guided tours. “We couldn’t include the embellishments and fun stories that you get from the guides.” Guides might also add variations to the route, while the booklets might offer different details.

Reidel says the tours are a good balance of architecture and history. “You learn what a quoin is, and the difference between a Gothic window and an Edwardian one, plus you’ll learn about the movers and shakers and founders of the city.”

One goal of the tours is to create awareness and appreciation for downtown Guelph’s historic buildings. Many original buildings were destroyed in post-war expansion and our volunteers are dedicated to preserving the remaining ones. “There are lessons to be learned,” says Reidel. “St. George’s Square had stunning architecture, and some bad decisions were made.”

The six tours

1.       “Where Guelph Began” encircles the original Market Square and covers many of Guelph’s earliest buildings on Wilson, Carden, and Wyndham streets.

2.       “Downtown Walkabout” tours today’s downtown core with many historically and architecturally interesting buildings, such as the Raymond sewing machine factory.

3.       “The Slopes of the Speed” introduces you to many of Guelph’s most distinguished historic homes along the river, on King, Queen, Palmer, and Stuart streets.

4.       “Altar & Hearth” alternates between Exhibition Park, with its 19th-century homes, and Catholic Hill, with its remarkable stone buildings including the Basilica of Our Lady and St. Agnes School.

5.       “Brooklyn & The College Hill” tours the early industrial area, including John McCrae’s house, and the area that developed around the agricultural college.

6.       “Ward One Guelph” reveals a wide variety of historic architecture in this mixed residential/industrial area, which is now enjoying a revitalization.

You can do the tours in any order, but Reidel likes starting at the top, because they build on each other. “On one tour you’ll see where an industrialist lived, and on the next you’ll see where his factory was.” Her favourite, though, is the Exhibition Park section of Altar & Hearth: “It has fabulous old houses.”

All the tours offer visitors and Guelphites a chance to get a unique perspective on the city’s heritage and an appreciation for Guelph’s historic buildings and homes. And, as Reidel says, “It’s a nice excuse for a walk.”

Guelph Arts Council Celebrates Success of Doors Open Guelph

Guelph, ON – April 24, 2018 – Saturday’s sunshine and warm temperatures brought out over 3,000 Guelph residents and out-of-town visitors to the eleven sites offered at Doors Open Guelph and Trails Open 2018.

Among the many highlights of the day were:
  • Lineups for tours of the spectacular renovation of The New Petrie Building
  • Backstage tours, hands-on theatrical experiences, and artist-in-residence Arthur Kerrey at Guelph Little Theatre
  • A glimpse into the innovative social change hub of 10C Shared Space, in the Acker Building
  • A view of the amazing transformation of a church-turned-home at Church House in the Ward
  • Organ recitals and storytelling at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian and The Churches of St. Matthias and St. James the Apostle
  • Introductions to some of Guelph’s community resources at Community Living Guelph Wellington, Guelph Orange Hall, and Hospice Wellington
  • An amazing partnership with Guelph Museums with Doors Open After Dark at the Civic Museum, which featured interactive pop-up art and history installations.

CoG Tourism Doors open 44      2018 04 21 11.36.56
Video installation by Dawn Matheson at Doors Open After Dark (right) Photo by Scott McQuarrie. Doors Open Guelph organizers Susan Ratcliffe, Katie Wilde and Patti Broughton, with mural artist Arthur Kerrey at Guelph Little Theatre (left). Photo by Lynne McIntee. 

CoG Tourism Doors open 24      CoG Tourism Doors open 28
Graffiti preserved at Sway Marketing in The New Petrie. Photos by Scott McQuarrie.

Doors Open Coordinator Susan Ratcliffe said: “This year’s Doors Open Guelph was a wonderful experience for visitors, sites, and volunteers. We thank the site owners and all the volunteers for their commitment to our city’s rich heritage in buildings, arts, landscapes and industries. And we thank Guelph’s residents and visitors for ongoing interest in our city’s resources and stories.”

Doors Open Guelph is one of Guelph Arts Council’s longest-running programs, and annually launches the season of Doors Open events across Ontario. Its success is due to the enthusiasm and hard work of volunteers who serve as site captains, tour guides, sweeps, greeters, counters, and researchers. This year over 200 volunteers pulled together to open the doors of Guelph’s remarkable places.

CoG Tourism Doors open 32    CoG Tourism Doors open 37
Organ recitals and volunteers at St Andrews United Church. Photos by Scot McQuarrie. 

Doors Open Guelph 2018 was presented in partnership with the City of Guelph, Guelph Museums, and Doors Open Ontario, and generously sponsored by Downtown Guelph Business Association, Grinham Architects, The Mortgage Centre, The Modern Bride, and media sponsor Guelph Mercury Tribune.

View the original media release here

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