artsVEST Wraps Up Chatham-Kent Project

From the Chatham-Kent Daily Post – March 14, 2010

Written by Marlee Robinson

Chatham-Kent businesses invested over $54,000 in the arts during 2010 through the artsVest Programme created by Business for the Arts (BftA). Our municipality was one of five communities in Ontario to benefit from the educational and financial opportunities.

The programme began last February with an intensive workshop at which local arts organisations were helped to explore ways to connect with potential corporate sponsors and new volunteers. At the same time, business leaders were encouraged to consider new methods of investing in cultural initiatives.

A major incentive was a potential $50,000 of matching funding from artsVest to kick-start support for an array of programmes. That money came from BftA, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Ontario Ministry of Culture.

Participating Cultural Orgs

Five Chatham-Kent groups successfully applied for the artsVest funds: Theatre Kent, the Historical Society of Blenheim and District, the “CK on the Edge” festival, Chatham Capitol Theatre for their World Music Series and the municipal Cultural Development group. A total of 17 companies supported the new projects.

Speaking on behalf of Theatre Kent, Jenne Wason described their new musical theatre sponsored by Pioneer Hybrid with support from Blackburn Radio and Sun Media. They have just had a soft launch for their Cabaret Company which acts out songs for themed events. They look forward to bookings for entertainment evenings, fundraisings and parties. For further information contact J.C. Charbonneau of Theatre Kent at 519 434 0043. Wason confirmed, “This expansion of Theatre Kent would not have happened without artsVest”.

Wason also described the funding for two Capitol Theatre music series: the Van Kesteren Hyundai World Music Series and the Canadian Music Series supported by Retro Suites Hotel. The combined funding gave theatre organisers inspiration to be more creative in promoting sponsors.

Blenheim Historical Society President Stan Uher was congratulated for getting the largest number of sponsors for matching funding to support the purchase of a microfilm machine for the archive at the Society. Uher asked eight local companies to donate $500 each and, knowing their funds were being matched dollar-for-dollar, they all agreed. Uher said, “I relied on the ‘feel good’ factor in requesting support – and know that they and others in the community are generous corporate citizens”.

Blackburn Radio was the sponsor for a weekly municipal radio spot during which Cultural Development Coordinator Patricia Peters promoted local arts groups or activities involved in cultural development.

The inaugural downtown Chatham arts festival, “CK on the Edge”, brought in support from the Downtown Chatham Centre, Chatham BIA, Five Amigos Broadcasting and Hughes Advertising Agency for the artsVest matching funds.

At the wrap up celebrations for the year-long programme, BftA National Programme Manager Kate Zagorskis said, “Dollars from this programme are meant to encourage talent retention and community building and to show the impact of business working together with arts. Chatham-Kent is a community which knows how to do it all”.

Mayor Randy Hope

Mayor Randy Hope emphasised that the arts industry can be the key to progress and change in the community since “art minds can think outside the box”. He feels we now have a strong foundation for change which will make it possible to move forward on the Cultural Master Plan launched four years ago. “Change can be difficult”, he affirmed “but with collaboration and cooperation it will happen”.

Municipal CAO Rob Browning agreed that Chatham-Kent is going through a transition, with culture becoming more important. “Culture shows the strength of the community,” he said.

Lorie Gore, Executive Director of the Downtown Chatham BIA confirmed the importance of culture on the economic development of downtown Chatham. She spoke particularly of the positive effect the Capitol Theatre has had on the area, citing examples of a server at a nearby restaurant who, for the first time, had been able to pay cash for Christmas presents instead of putting their cost on credit cards and of someone who has paid off his car loan seven months early. “These may seem like small things but they are major changes to the individuals and concrete examples of how the Capitol Theatre is making a change in the lives of Chatham-Kent residents” she asserted.

Gore also spoke of regular telephone calls from visitors asking for recommendations of hotels and restaurants close to the theatre and she recounted the delight of staff and customers at a restaurant when the cast of CATS dined out in full stage make-up.

Speaking on behalf of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Nicole Adan said, “there are always good things coming out of Chatham-Kent”. She also congratulated Business for the Arts for their ability to energise communities and announced they have won the CEO Award from Trillium.

Patty Peters with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent

Lauren Goldman, Programme Coordinator for BftA explained that she enjoyed watching new dynamic forms emerge from business collaborations with arts organisations. She also thanked Patricia Peters for her contribution to the artsVest programme in Chatham-Kent.

Although the artsVest programme is now finished in Chatham-Kent, it is hoped that innovative collaborations between business and the arts has only just begun.