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mudtown-fullannefs-smallBy Anne Finlay-Stewart

Art lovers and candidates were lined up well before 6:30, up the library stairs, out the front door and past the tooth fairy, a creative proponent of "Voting "Yes" to end fluoridation".

The third and final all-candidates' meeting in Owen Sound before the October 27th election was hosted by Mudtown Records, a local event and music production business.

The focus of the evening was the future of the arts in the economy of Owen Sound and each candidate could choose which of ten questions to answer in their remarks. The choice of the question was often as revealing as the answer. Jim McManaman and Brian O'Leary, both closely associated with minor sports in Owen Sound, spoke about balancing spending on the arts with city funding for sports by detailing some of the higher ticket cultural items already in the city budget. Peter Lemon and Arlene Wright answered artist and business owner Karen Rosalie's question about creating a downtown heritage and arts district with clear support for the idea.

Richard Thomas brought a unique perspective to the forum as both he and his wife support their family on creative endeavours – he as a videographer and writer; she as a jewellery designer and maker. "All artists and craftspeople are taxpayers," he reminded the audience.

Mayor Deb Haswell spoke of the "healthy and robust arts community" represented in the room, and Bill Twaddle stated that livelihoods from the arts are a bigger part of the economy than a medium sized industry, and more sustainable and resilient than most.

Some creative ideas were raised in the "future vision" segment of the candidates' remarks. Bringing a post-secondary arts campus to Owen Sound - "how can you say no?" said Travis Dodd. Promoting our rich musical tradition "like Branson, Missouri" was mayoral candidate Mike Zimon'sbest proposal to "put Owen Sound on the map". John Christie wants to see arts on the waterfront, Ian Boddy would like to see them in the empty storefronts on 2nd Avenue, and Peter Lemon proposes a RiverArts project from the harbour to Inglis Falls. Boddy also proposes a creativity and innovation centre in collaboration with post secondary institutions, and Francesca Dobbyn echoed the sentiment of others that the creative minds needed to be at the table when she proposed her "Sound Off" public ideas forum.

The role of city government in the future of the arts in Owen Sound was up for discussion and it was not unanimous. Haswell said it may be "the boring part, but you have to have policy", then spoke proudly of city policy changes that have allowed artists to live, work and sell their art downtown. David Adair too spoke of the

work the city does to support creative arts initiatives, and Twaddle spoke of developing the city's strategic plan to include public art in site plans for new development. Ruth Lovell-Stanners seemed less inclined toward formal processes, saying the city should "not get caught up in approvals".

Colleen Purdon called for a creative city government, "fostering and supporting creative leadership", mentoring, and leveraging available funding.

Incumbent Bluewater District School Board trustee Marg Gaviller was pleased to have her first opportunity of the campaign to address a public meeting, and she spoke of her own participation in the arts community. As to her vision, Gaviller reasserted her commitment to arts programs and facilities within public schools, noting that it is at school concerts, classes and exhibits that many artists get their start.

Residents leaving the event said they were pleased to have had the opportunity to hear the candidates speak about the arts in the economy, and some said they were "re-thinking one or two" on the list.

Anne Finlay-Stewart is Community Editor of Owensoundhub.org. She can be reached at annekfs@gmail.com.


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