Town’s Arts & Culture Awards coming to YouTube on Oct. 22

October 5, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

As a social event celebrating the arts in Orangeville and Dufferin County, the Town’s Arts and Culture Awards gala is established as one of the region’s major occasions. Although an evening event for only the last few years, the Arts and Culture Awards has been important for quite some time. It was, for the first several years, a breakfast gathering, an intimate affair, really, rather fun, very different. 

Moving the timing, location (from the upper conference room of the Tony Rose Memorial Sports Centre to the Town Hall and Orangeville Opera House), ambience and menu made a difference to those minor issues but did not change what mattered most –  the awards, the recipients and the gathering of community members to applaud and show their appreciation, on behalf of a much broader number of people.

So it was, we eagerly assembled in our best bib and tucker, to greet and meet each other, catching up on personal news and views of local lives and business, enjoying the wandering buffet and loving the whole notion of the moment. Soon enough, we were called to ascend to the upper-level Theatre to experience the tension of announcements and enjoy the entertainment on offer. There would be tears and laughter, but both of joy and congratulations.

However, as Ruth Phillips, Manager of the Orangeville Economic Development Department, told the Citizen in a telephone interview earlier this week, “This year is going to be the first time we hold the Arts and Culture Awards virtually.”

She said, “It’s really important at the same time. The arts, the artists and culture have been hard hit by COVID-19. We felt it was important to put this together, so that we could recognize the great work done by the artists in Dufferin.

“The Awards will air on the Town’s YouTube channel at 7:00 pm on Oct. 22,” said Ms. Phillips, naming a date that coincides with the last weekend of the traditional Arts and Culture Days that are celebrated across Canada.

While the usual breaks for entertainment will be missing, “Instead, we’ll have a host. Wayne Townsend is joining us again this year. This will all be delivered virtually,” she explained. “The winners will be acknowledged, and we will arrange for the award winners to meet with Coun. Lisa Post, one at a time, who will present them with their award, within a few days.”

There are a number of talented local residents up for awards in 2020. 

“There were 31 nominees for the eight categories. That number varies from year to year, but that isn’t unusual. I’m happy because it’s not outside the normal and I’m also very pleased because it has been a difficult year – we might have expected a drop, but I think there’s an understanding in our community of the importance of the arts. I definitely get the sense that people still want to be part of this.”

There are advantages to hosting the event on YouTube, Ms. Phillips stated. 

“With YouTube, winners can pass the link on to their friends and they can watch it at their leisure. Which is nice.

“This year, it is just our first time offering this virtually. We are eliminating any entertainment; that means the event will be shorter and the focus will be more concentrated on the artists and award winners.”

Ms. Phillips said the judges, some of whom reside outside of the local area, would have a particularly tough time selecting this year’s winners such is the strength and quality of the nominees up for awards. 

“It’s always challenging for the judges, but I imagine it will be especially so this year,” she remarked.

Ms. Phillips went on to say, “I think the greatest challenge this year is the utilization of technology and adopting the new practices in time to have the Awards event in place. It brings a lot of unknowns; planning is more complicated; more people are involved in the technological side. We needed it all in place so that we can ensure that, overall, the event is well received and people have a good time.”

She added, “With anything new, there is a chance for unknown (issues popping up), and we had to try to anticipate those unknowns. I think from that perspective it has been a considerable learning curve.”

Ruth walked us through some of the changes that have had to be made, not only in terms of the Awards, but for the volunteers and staff members who work to put them together each and every year. 

“So, in the beginning, with the other Awards events, we were using half the tech that we are now. In March, I’m sure that we had the capacity but, as you become comfortable with the changes, with the new practices and new technology, you adapt.”

She added, “There are probably elements of technology that we will never want to let go of, for the sake of efficiencies. It doesn’t take that long to embrace and like them because they save money. There will not come a time when we want to get rid of some of this. Already, this was the way our society was evolving anyway. COVID-19 brought that forward and the Town has adapted.

“We have a brand new website, which is more user friendly and has been refreshed so that all the services are there .”

About the human side of it all, “We love having that social component, the interaction, to connect with each other. People really enjoy having that opportunity, but this reaches a wider audience and everyone can participate.”

Having embraced technology to ensure the 2020 awards ceremony can move ahead, we asked if this was something the municipality would consider doing again, perhaps in a post-COVID-19 world. 

“Maybe, we would look at the two strategies in the future. The bottom line is, it’s better to have all options available and recognize and keep what works. People need arts and culture in their lives now more than ever: it’s important that we embrace that community. The service clubs are doing their best too; this is tough..” 

Coun. Lisa Post echoed those sentiments, saying it was important to host this year’s Arts and Culture Awards in any way possible to ensure some of our region’s most talented artists receive the recognition they deserve.

“I think through this pandemic, we have all learned to be innovative and adaptable. Our local artists have adapted their shows, events and presentations to ensure they could continue while keeping the community safe. Although I would much rather be seeing everyone in person, and I look forward to the next time it is safe to do so, I am so proud of the Town’s Economic Development team for their hard work in ensuring we could honour our artists this year in a safe and meaningful way.”

The Arts and Culture Awards, hosted by Wayne Townsend, is available to watch in real time, on the Town’s YouTube, on Oct. 22, at 7:00 pm.

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