Thursday, September 23, 2021

Arts and Culture: Engines of a vibrant community

By Dan White – Special to the Sydenham Current

Recently, at a Chatham Kent Arts and Culture Network (CKACN) board meeting, Mayor Canniff attended to express his support and discuss arts in the community.

Unlike a number of politicians, our Mayor understands that a vibrant arts community leads to a vibrant and fulfilling community.

The mayor noted several times that C-K is in a growth spurt.

People want to live in this community.

As a transplant myself I know that my perception of C-K was different than the reality.

I have to be honest, to a large extent C-K was a community I drove through on my way to Windsor or Detroit.

I avoided Chatham like the plague.

It’s not personal – after amalgamation of school boards it was often the location of board meetings of various types.

They were what could best be described as an unnecessary evil; a lot of talking with precious little action.

Now that I have lived here for a handful of years I love the community for many reasons, but certainly for me, being involved in a creative venture is paramount.

Even before I moved, Joni suggested that we join the Wallaceburg Concert Band where I met Dave Babbitt.

Roberta Buchanan, former principal of my school (SCITS) and Dave’s (WDSS) and dear friend, is not surprised that Dave and I quickly became friends and get up to all types of artistic mischief.

She has observed many times that we are two slightly different peas in a strange artistic pod.

The ventures Joni, Dave and I and a few friends have been in creatively are wonderful.

In the current restricted atmosphere we have relied on our brass quintet and video creations to fill the artistic void forced upon us.

The opportunity to participate in artistic ventures is important to many and there are many hidden gems locally.

Just today Joni and I ventured to Pretty Road Co. Farm Store just a few minutes from town.

We had a lovely chat with Sandy Duffy and discovered that they are offering pottery classes with the hopes of doing couples, or date night classes.

Well, we are in!!!

The CKACN is looking to assist artistic and cultural events in getting the word out.

If you know of an artist or an artistic or cultural event happening anywhere in C-K, contact us on our FB page.

We would love to help.

Another thing the mayor mentioned was honouring C-K residents, past or present, who have made a significant contribution to the community in arts and culture.

Well, the CKACN has already begun that process as well thanks to the foresight of board chair James Snyder and a small contingent of community minded people who began hashing this idea out some time ago.

CKACN has been calling for nominations since early summer and again, you can find more info on our FB page or through the Municipality of Chatham-Kent website at

The CKACN is looking to be diverse in both race and region.

If we are to represent the entire county we need representation from across C-K. The artistic needs, plans, and goals of Wallaceburg are different than that of Blenheim or Highgate.

Nominations will be sought in the spring for our second year of operation, but in the meantime, if you are interested in being involved contact the CKACN to see if there is a committee you can serve on.

While I’m at it, the Wallaceburg and District Council for the Arts (WDCA) needs new board members.

Our AGM is a few months away.

If you are interested in joining that group, contact Dave Babbitt or any board member for more information.

Also, if we are to represent the racial diversity of the community, we need to reflect that on the board and committees.

This is something you can do to enrich not only your own life but those around you.

While the last 18 months have been devastating for the arts we are sputtering back to life, venues are cautiously reopening, performers are slowly finding ways to gather and prepare and soon we will be able to offer live entertainment again.

If you have the time, skill and commitment to helping to make your community great, consider volunteering for an arts and/or cultural activity across the region.

If you aren’t able to, get back out there as soon as we can do so safely and support the lifeblood of the creative community.

A few final thoughts: Thank you to everyone who has supported the Wallaceburg Brass Quintet collaboration with members of Walpole First Nations “Stand By Me” video.

I have spoken to Tina Aquash several times since it was released and we hope it is important, in that it, at least, keeps the discussion in the fore.

Too often politicians etc., talk about change with little intention of following through.

Don’t forget to vote.

It is important in a democracy – and despite some ill-informed assertions to the contrary, we are still a democracy.

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