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Wayne Townsend to MC Town’s Arts and Culture Awards

By Constance Scrafield

Save the date for the Arts and Culture Awards on the Town of Orangeville's YouTube channel, October 22 at 7:00

It was Mark DuBois who was the first recipient of the Established Artist of the Year Award in 2010. At the time, the awards were presented over a breakfast event, an intimate affair at the Tony Rose Memorial Sports Centre, some eyes bleary with the early morning call. All that notwithstanding, it was a fine affair and increasingly well attended with every passing year.

Hosted by the Town of Orangeville, the purpose of the awards was to bring into focus and recognition the importance of the arts and the artists in Orangeville and Dufferin County. Not only the artists but this was also an event and a list of awards presented to community businesses, organizations and individuals that appreciated and supported the arts in very real ways, as well. 

The broadest definition is given to the meaning of “arts” to include, in addition to visual arts, music, written, film, theatre, but also the culinary arts, design, parades, festivals and community events, from the point of view of their impact on the community. Broad and very fair.

Like any such event, the awards are a living thing, open to change and, with luck, made better or more interesting. Recently, there was an eighth category added to the original seven: Best Emerging Artist. This took into consideration the number of people who make art a second career, or who intensify their development of their art later in life, when the demands of their lives otherwise are less intense. So, the Emerging Artist category was brought in between the Established and the Student Artist and is meant for an artist on the rise but without regard to age.

Three years ago, the award's presentation event was brought to the Opera House [on Broadway], in the evening, with a modestly glamorous reception in the atrium and the presentations held in the beautiful theatre upstairs.

This year, the awards are to be presented virtually. Wayne Townsend is officiating as the M.C. for the online presentations, to stand on his own, on the empty stage of the Opera House, affable and entertaining as always. 

Mr. Townsend chatted about the arts in this community with the Citizen, and his own life within it, clarifying early on that he is not an artist, as such: “I do not create,” said he. “I appreciate.”

He told us, “I was born and bred here in Orangeville; I'm an original. I've stayed here all my life. I really love the excitement in the area; there's always lots to do, really nice people – everything I wanted is here.”

As a career, Mr. Townsend was a graphic artist. “I got interested in art from an early age. I appreciate and enjoy all the arts. My mother spent a lot of time involving us in the theatre world, taking us to Toronto.”

His involvement in the art world of Dufferin County and as a volunteer, has been long term and quite varied. Professionally, Mr. Townsend was running the Dufferin County Museum and Archives [now the Museum of Dufferin] “for 20 - some years; that was paid employment at the museum,” he said. “I have been on committees and, long before the museum, I was involved with local heritage. I was always big time interested in history. I've been involved in a couple of restoration projections, like the renovations of Theatre Orangeville.”

He added, “I have a Certificate in Museum Studies. After I retired, I taught Museum and Gallery Studies at Georgian College in Barrie for about seven years.”

Being a volunteer is “just who we are,” Mr. Townsend remarked of his family, telling us, “Because I come from a family of volunteers – my dad and mom – mom was on the hospital auxiliary. Dad raised money for hockey; Mom raised money for religion. I volunteer for the arts. It's what we do.”

Wayne Townsend's approach to appreciating the arts is philosophical: “I see the arts in all sorts of things: in an apple and how people dress; there's art everywhere. The wonderful thing about Orangeville is it was full of culture. We had so many concerts, always. Every church held concerts of many kinds. The local artists were always celebrated. 

“What calls to me is design, whether naturally or accidentally or on purpose. I love to look at the way people decorate their home, the jewellery they wear, how they decorate themselves – it ‘s wonderful.” 

He elucidated, “I know people who design clothing too. So, I've always been around people in the arts. I really enjoy the Town [of Orangeville]. It's been fun to work with the people there for all sorts of projects.”

The Alton Mill is part of the arts community he appreciates so much. “I certainly participate in their events at the Alton Mill.”

Further afield, “I'm a member of McMichael [Gallery of Canadian Art]. My mom was born in Kleinberg; so, I know about that. There's a new curator there, who's doing some really creative stuff, really good. Some of it, I don't know how he gets it past the board but he does and it's really interesting.” 

We went on to talk about the Arts Awards and the future of art in the wider community. 

Everything presented online for this year's ceremony is pre-recorded.

“I'm the the M.C.,” he said “All the background is ready and I'm standing on the empty stage.” 

It will be interesting to see how this goes but the bet is, it will be amazingly good. 

Admitting to difficult times, Mr. Townsend was clear, “Now, we're going to thrive and become stronger or it's going to be lost. Artists, keep it up. Do everything you can do.”

This is the time to expand your presence online, whether you keep up the pace of the presence when the storm blows over or not.

Seeing to the time, sooner or later, when the current situation is better, he opined, “I think we'll have a better appreciation of things. Things we previously took for granted.”

Asked for his own take, he put it this way, “I want to say: we have to learn to recognize art is everywhere. In the dance in somebody's step, the music of bird call, the joy of looking at a painting; everywhere and all the time.

“If you see the beauty in everything – the art in everything – art in every day life - the art in a writer's pen -– it helps you get through the day better.”

To join in this important annual event on Thursday, October 22 at 7:00 pm, go to www.orangeville.caand click on the Town of Orangeville's YouTube Channel.

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