Happy New Year!

Dear Friends - artists, audiences, students, teachers, and community partners.


As the snow falls on Lake Couchiching, we are reflecting on a very busy year! This is what happened…


We kicked off 2021 in the middle of lockdown - a time of great uncertainty for live performance. Orillia Centre responded with Pixels, Programming, and Pragmatism, a three-day conference in support of a digital pivot for performing artists with free professional development workshops in augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), digital collaboration, web-building and social media curation.


The conference included a panel discussion about the future of virtual performance and online art education. We wrapped it all up with a screening of live performances translated to film featuring works by T.M. Glass, Francesca Chudnoff, and excerpts from Fides Krucker’s In This Body - which was filmed in our city and made possible by Orillia Centre. This digital event also featured student works from Humber College and Ryerson (X) University.


Jeremy Mimnagh filming In This Body with dancer Peggy Baker in Couchiching Park.

Pixels, Programming, and Pragmatism panel: Luke Garwood, Omar Rivero, Jeremy Mimnagh, Freya Olafson.


It was a time of change, and we did it—thanks for your support!


Through the winter and spring of 2021, we delighted in working with students from all corners of Simcoe-Muskoka with two workshops focused on ecological preservation. Water Monument, led by cultural speaker Kim Wheatley, discussed water care through Indigenous perspectives and engaged students to create a community assembly project in the form of a Water Quilt.


Moving Landscape explored land, identity, and the art of choreographic practice with artists Jera Wolfe and Miyeko Ferguson. Students learned about the rich history of nature-inspired dance performance in Canada, while making their own nature dance film.


Simcoe County High School student creating a water quilt square


Dancer and student workshop facilitator Miyeko Ferguson


By May, the future seemed more positive, so we planned a return to the theatre. . .


In August we invited Natasha Powell of Holla Jazz to work with 11 graduating students from Ryerson (X) University to create a Vernacular Jazz dance titled Together Again at the Orillia Opera House. The work premiered in outdoor locations across the GTA at the 2021 Fall For Dance North Festival.


Canadian filmmaker Jeremy Mimnagh captured a mini-documentary titled Body and Soul that follows the making of the dance in Orillia. All of the artists came back to kick off the Orillia Jazz Festival with a live performance and a live stream that broadcasted across Canada. See the Jazz Fest performance here and Body & Soul here.


Performer Sierra Kellman in Together Again by Natasha Powell


Finally, we closed the fall with adelheid's re:research + design. This residency focused on providing movement artists with time, space, and facilitation in the area of design. In 2021, this call was open to artists who identify as Indigenous, Black, or Persons of Colour. Speakeasy from Ottawa was chosen through a selection committee process. Artists Céline Richard Robichon, Vanessa Lovell, and Armel Mzalina worked with award-winning designer and theatre advisor David Mesiha to “refurbish sounds, visual clips, and urban dances". The application process was competitive! The selection committee also unanimously recommended that emerging choreographer Aliyah Beckles from Penetanguishene receive support for her new solo. We are thrilled to host Aliyah at the Orillia Opera House this spring (2022)!


Speakeasy & adelheid: Dedre McDermott, Armel Mzalina, Céline Richard Robichon, Heidi Strauss, Vanessa Lovell, and David Mesiha



We would like to thank Canada Arts Presentation Fund

for their generous support this season.


Up Next:


We are very excited to announce a youth makers' program in collaboration with Orillia Youth Centre. Preliminary planning is underway to cope with the current climate of the pandemic. The project aims to bring young people together using creative practice as a way of expressing, socializing, and learning through music and sound composition!


With a $49,537 Sector Innovation & Development grant from Canada Council for the Arts, Orillia Centre launches Dance & Design - a new residency at the Orillia Opera House supporting the creation of four dance performance projects in our community. Jury-selected choreographers are offered resources to deeply investigate their creative process with specific incorporation of sound, costume, lighting, projection, and/or set design.



Canada Council will also support our fourth Indigenous authors’ festival with a grant of $20,000! Gathering: Festival of First Nations Stories is curated by Sherry Lawson and Fred Addis and scheduled for April, 2022 at Rama First Nation. The festival will launch Orillia Centre’s inaugural Indigenous artist-in-residency platform, titled after an artist who has inspired our community! Stay tuned for more information about the Tomson Highway Writers' Residency.


2018 Gathering: Festival of First Nation Stories with authors Drew Hayden Taylor, Rosanna Deerchild, Tanya Talaga, Lee Maracle, and Waubeshig Rice


Thank you, Ontario Arts Council, for a $20,300 partnership grant with Orillia Opera House. With these funds we are announcing our first Theatre & Community conference, inviting dynamite playwrights and directors to advise Orillia Centre on best practices for a theatre residency program that not only situates Orillia as a location for devised making and stage collaborations, but also engages our community in a creative project to discuss important local and global issues. Don’t miss Simon Malbogat, Marcia Johnson and Desirée Leverenz this April 9th and 10th, 2022.


Guest Artist Marcia Johnson for this year's theatre and community event


We are looking forward to continuing our workshops with the Simcoe County District and Protestant Separate School Boards while also expanding our reach into new communities of education. We are so respectful of our youth citizens, parents, and teachers for the many ways that you continue to brave online learning during the pandemic. We look forward to continuing our creative work together!



Finally, the team at Orillia Centre would like to thank outgoing Directors—Anderson Charters, Catherine Allman, Dennis Smith, Kim Fedderson and Kate Mostowyk—for their long and committed service to the organization. We welcome incoming Directors, Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux and Brian Alger. We would also like to say a heartfelt thank-you to Christine Hager and our friends at Orillia & District Arts Council for their collaborative spirit this fall. We know that the future is bright, and we are looking forward to many more projects ahead!


From all of us to all of you - Happy 2022!

The team at Orillia Centre for Arts + Culture
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