Donor spotlight: Finding creative ways to give back

By Jane Litchfield, GAC Volunteer

“Nothing makes me happier than feeling like I am helping someone do what they have been born to do,” says Jason Nadon. One way he has done that is through Guelph Arts Council.

Nadon works in IT in the Windsor-Essex area, so you might ask how and why he became a GAC donor and volunteer. It all started with Doors Open Guelph, an annual event that was presented by GAC. “I’m a Doors Open advocate,” Nadon says, “and I have traveled across Ontario to learn more about how communities run their version of this event. There is nothing that lives as close to my heart as what this program stands for — community, inclusion, celebration, stories, experiences, culture, heritage… it has it all.

“In 2017, I volunteered for several Doors Open events and I attended nearly a dozen of them. During my time volunteering as a sweep at Ker Cavan in Guelph I met the fantastic folks at GAC and the amazing [Doors Open site co-ordinator] Susan Ratcliffe. I felt immediately welcome and really haven’t left since.”

Jason Nadon says he is always
looking for ways to give back. 

Patti Broughton, who was then GAC’s Executive Director, remembers that Nadon mentioned he was an IT professional, and asked if GAC needed volunteer support for IT projects. “Well, we were about to move to 10C, and switch our operations from desktops to laptops, so did we ever,” Broughton says. “He helped us with that transition and with a software switch later on. We got to know Jason through these projects and to learn more about his love of heritage, community, and the arts. He began to support GAC as a donor and as a member of the Doors Open Guelph steering committee. Then, last year, he approached GAC staff with another idea for how he could give back: by funding an award for Guelph artists that would bring together artistic creation with themes of heritage and community. His idea was realized in 2021 as the Research & Renewal Award.” 

Nadon says his goal with the award was to offer funding for projects that would “dive deep into the culture and stories of the area for inspiration, and then create something new to be enjoyed within the community.”

The 2021 award funded two unique multi-disciplinary art projects addressing themes of heritage and community that are now under way. In one project, Alia Miroshnichenko plans to create a series of musical compositions tying Guelph to its plant-based life. She is currently waiting for the plants and fungi to awaken, and GAC will continue to share her progress. 

In the other project, Silas Chinsen and Lizzy Mikulich are using Guelph’s long history with limestone as creative material for two pieces of music and animation.

An in progress shot of Lizzy Mikulich’s animation

“This project has already been such a unique and exciting challenge,” says Mikulich, the animation artist. “It’s very different from the work I usually do. It’s been a lot of finding a balance between creative expression and research/history and making sure the two tie together to tell a compelling story. We can’t wait to share our final pieces. I hope it makes you see Guelph in a new light, as it has for me!”

Chinsen adds: “Creating music to narrate such inspiring historic events in combination with finding ways to musically incorporate the field recordings of the rocks, ice, and water lead to a very unique and exploratory creative process. Symbolic instrumentation and layering of different textures became the primary expressive focus over melody and harmony, resulting in soundscapes very different from music I’d created previously.”

Silas Chinsen recording in the field
to use in music composition

These projects would not be happening without Jason Nadon and his desire to give back. His Twitter bio describes him as an “author, technologist, creative, with a passion for community, arts and culture, and helping others live their dreams.”  GAC is grateful he has chosen to channel that passion into the arts in Guelph.

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