SERIES: Huronia Museum and Culture Alliance win hearts with no budget increase requests

·4 min read

This is part one in a series of five stories reporting on the budget presentations made to Midland council by local non-profits and agencies.

A zero per cent ask in budget brought a smile to some councillors' faces.

"'This also represents a zero per cent increase from last year’s request, as we understand the budgetary challenges faced by all levels of government, businesses and citizens in 2020,'" said Coun. Bill Gordon reading a line from the letter submitted by the Huronia Museum.

"For you to put that succinct statement in your letter means an awful lot to me. Exactly this kind of do more with less type of attitude got people through the Spanish Flu and will get us through this."

That was in response to the presentation and $84,000 funding request put forward by Nahanni Born, museum executive director, who was one among six local agencies and non-profits attending a special budget session on Thursday evening.

"We had some great things happen in 2019 that we wanted to capitalize on in 2020, but we all know what happened in 2020," said Born. "We did acquire a Group of Seven painting under the Cultural Properties Act, which identifies that piece as an Arthur Lismer piece."

During the pandemic, she said, the museum took advantage of a reduction in visitation and shifted focus on its collections and programming.

"It allowed (our curator) to catch up on back cataloguing of over 2,000 artifacts," said Born.

In addition, she said, the museum was able to access a number of heritage funds released in 2020.

"We probably leveraged about $200,000 in funds to keep ourselves open and operational and contribute to the tourism landscape and continue the important museum work we do," said Born, adding federal government grants also helped the museum employ five full-time students throughout the year.

"We're strongly focused on what's going to happen when we do get through this pandemic, whether that's in six months or whenever," she said. "The one thing we can all say is that historically, after we have these world-changing events, we have a time of economic growth, robust spending and travel. It's really important when that time comes, we're ready for what's going to be coming to us."

A second organization also focusing on culture and tourism was Culture Alliance in the Heart of Georgian Bay, which had also come forward with a request that was the same as last year.

Cindy Hastings, board chair and a Tiny Township councillor, who presented the $10,000 ask, talked about the various activities and partnerships the non-profit was able to build on in 2020.

"Our goal is to be the resource for all cultural activities in the area," she said.

Karen Mealing, staff resource from the Town of Midland, gave information about a new event that's being launched on Tuesday.

"Clayton King is doing a three-part series of virtual workshops starting Tuesday night," she said. "It's exploring the Anishinabek Doodemag families in the Georgian Bay Region. It's a free workshop. We will be recording these so if you're unable to attend, you can find them online.

Coun. Jon Main asked if Culture Alliance would eventually become the umbrella organization for all special events in the area?

"I think we can have a further conversation about that," said Hastings. "A lot of events we put on could go through the Culture Alliance. We're certainly trying to help boost and support the existing events now. I'd like to see more of that. As you saw in our presentation, we're also partnering with the EDCNS (Economic Development Corporation of North Simcoe) to help with the tourism component."

Main also wanted to know if the Town of Midland cultural plan is housed within the alliance?

"This alliance was formed based on all the work the Town of Midland did," said Hastings. "Through that document it was discovered that culture doesn’t know any boundaries so that’s how we got to where we are now.

"We’re also doing culture asset mapping so that we can really know exactly what we have and maybe from there we can update the document that was originally done by the Town of Midland for the whole area."

Coun. Bill Gordon wanted to know if the Culture Alliance could take on the UNESCO Global GeoPark project exploration and leave the Midland Bay Landing Development Corporation to focus on development.

"We actually just had a presentation at our last meeting about the UNESCO project," said Hastings. "We were very very excited and hope to play a big role. We hadn’t thought of taking it over, but we’re excited about it because that’s what we’re all about."

The budget requests will be brought back to future budget meetings.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,