Owen Sound Election 2018

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Richard Thomas

1. Any relevant employment or volunteer experience you have in the arts and culture sector?
I have been a member of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Library Board for 15 years, 12 of those as chair; as a local historian and author I have more than 15 books in print; I am chair of the Tom Thomson Gallery Advisory Board, and a former member of the board of management; I have performed on stage at the Roxy; and as a professional videographer I have worked with many arts and culture organizations to create memorable promotional videos. Also, I was involved in the effort to save the Marine and Rail Museum, and I was the founding president of the Community Waterfront Heritage Centre.

2. Concrete actions you recommend/support for improving the atmosphere and aesthetic of the downtown community?
Through its façade improvement program, the city has come a long way towards beautifying the downtown core, but more property owners should be encouraged to take part. I think more of an effort needs to be made to address the issue of empty stores in the downtown core. If they aren’t occupied, property owners should at a minimum be encouraged to maintain a clean attractive look while the vacancy lasts. I helped create the Corkscrew City exhibit, which occupied a vacant storefront for some time. I think at the very least, we could look for more opportunities like is to make our vacant storefronts more attractive. Working with the DIA and downtown landlords, I’d like to see a program developed to create pop-up shops, which would fill vacant spaces at a reduced rent.

3. Specific actions for preventing another situation such as the Tom Thomson Gallery, where drastic cuts had to be made?
The first, most important steps have already been taken. Returning complete financial oversight of the Gallery to the City of Owen Sound will help us put the gallery onto a sound financial footing as we move forward. The new advisory committee has set its first goal as inviting the community back into its gallery and I believe that’s an important step…the Tom Thomson has always been a community gallery, and I think in recent times we have lost sight of those origins. In the future, I believe more needs to be done to place the gallery on a sound footing through the development of community partnerships and joint marketing opportunities. Financially, I believe that any organization which relies primarily on grants to survive will always be in a precarious position. I’d like to see the City increase its funding to provide more financial stability in the future.

4. Where do you feel Owen Sound’s greatest opportunities lie for promoting our arts, community and cultural assets?
Owen Sound is a community of creators, and I think we could do more to promote the idea of being an ‘art town’ destination. Ginger Press this year created its art walk to celebrate all of the galleries in Owen Sound, and I think this is a concept we could expand on through stronger public/private partnerships. I’ve always believed that we need to promote the things that make us different from other communities. One of our great strengths is our stories. The Corkscrew City Walking Tour, followed by this summer’s beer bus tours are great examples of a story that is uniquely ours that people are interested in hearing. Owen Sound really is an interesting place…we need to find more opportunities to tell our stories.

5. In your own words, what is a City councillor or school board trustee’s role in protecting, promoting and growing healthy communities?
Protecting, promoting and growing a healthy community is an excellent description of the job of a councillor. Through the policies and programs we put in place, we aim for all of those standards. During the past four years, I think we’ve done a great job of all three, but there is always room for improvement.

Paul Patille

As a graduate from the Ontario College of Art, the dream was to be an artist. Instead, I ended up in the Interior and Environmental Design program that took me into architecture and project management, but still in the field of creativity.

“A collective vision for Owen Sound”

Owen Sound needs to strive and identify itself as a cultural hub of Grey Bruce. I believe strongly that council should provide directives on how we can focus on attracting tourism, the arts and culture to our region. And to provide facilities and grants to the arts community, visual art, music, theatre, we have it, let us embrace it.

The arts and culture should be in full display in the core of the downtown. It was the heart of the city then and it still should be today. If there is a heart beat, in the heart of our city, the core thrives, and so does the city and its citizens. Being a strong proponent of the harbour development, this last jewel, should be developed to truly provide for an attractive, viable and profitable extension of the downtown core.

The re-development of this area would encompass the relocation of existing businesses that are presently occupying prime waterfront lands. We need to preserve some of the historical buildings in the area along with creative architectural designs to show our past and the vision for the future. We need to introduce more upscale boutiques, along with art galleries, bookstores, craft shops, fine dining facilities and possible entertainment complex.

We should be encouraging unique boutique hotels with only 10 to 15 rooms in some of the existing downtown historical buildings. Incentivize the owners and tenants of the buildings with short term grants and tax relief to upgrade and revitalize their buildings. Give purpose to the people of Owen Sound to come, be entertained and shop downtown. Make it a vibrant and alive centre for all of Grey Bruce.

Riel Warrilow

1. Relevant employment or volunteer experience you have in the arts and culture sector?
Long time OSLT volunteer, I've been involved with the theatre since I was eleven years old. I worked as the studio assistant at the Tom Thomson. I was the assistant technical director at the St John's International Women's Film Festival. I worked as the administrative coordinator at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, then sat on the board of directors of the same.

2. Concrete actions you recommend/support for improving the atmosphere and aesthetic of the downtown Owen Sound community?
I would like to take a page out of the Artists’ Co-op book and open up vacant storefronts to demonstration or studio spaces for artists. That would mean cheap rent for the artist, and utilising space that is otherwise an eye sore. I would also like to work with the local film festival to start up an outdoor/downtown component to the festival, which would display art, and also build community.

3. What specific actions do you recommend for preventing another situation such as that with the Tom Thomson Gallery, where drastic cuts have had to be made?
Transparency, accountability, and solid administrative procedures are how you strengthen an organization from a repeat of that situation.

4. Where do you feel Owen Sound’s greatest opportunities lie for promoting our arts, community and cultural assets?
Owen Sound and Grey County have both stepped up their marketing and tourism games in recent years, and we need to continue that momentum in broadcasting our assets to potential markets.
We also live at a great intersection of rural and urban influence, and I think that we could put in work to make our cultural assets more accessible to folks from all walks of life who live here. School engagement is a great way to plant the seed of interest in the arts, and continuing to hold events that bring in diverse audiences will build on what we already have.

5. In your own words, what is a City councillor or school board trustee’s role in protecting, promoting and growing healthy communities?
All elected officials should reflect on how their policy impacts the health and well being of their constituents. At the municipal level we have insight into the specific needs of our community, and so I believe that any policy developed should be with a healthy community at the heart of it.

Travis Dodd

1. Please share any relevant employment or volunteer experience you have in the arts and culture sector.
During my time on City Council, I have sat on the Tom Thomson Board of Management, and recently re-joined the Tom Thomson Advisory Committee. I was also the Chair of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery Incorporation Ad-Hoc Committee.

2. What concrete actions would you recommend/support for improving the atmosphere and aesthetic of the downtown Owen Sound community?
I believe the façade program currently in place through the Community Improvement Plan assists tenants and building owners financially to help restore their storefronts. I would like to see this go a step further like we have seen in New Tecumseh or ReNew Meaford that was able to connect building owners with small artisans that worked on a short-term lease to help minimize the number of vacant storefronts, offer retail space for small businesses and beautifying our downtown core.

3. What specific actions do you recommend for preventing another situation such as that with the Tom Thomson Gallery, where drastic cuts have had to be made?
The situation at the Tom Thomson Gallery was devastating. Our community deserves responsible spending and accountability. Specific actions could include working collaboratively with other local arts/culture organizations to build unique experiences with the support of the RTO7 (creating a new revenue stream) and exploring additional grant options with the help of industry professionals (to expand an existing revenue stream). Although boards, like members of Council, are to provide long term vision, in the case of the TOM, the committee needs to get this organization back on track. The Tom Thomson Gallery is an incredible asset and a significant piece of our community.

4. Where do you feel Owen Sound’s greatest opportunities lie for promoting our arts, community and cultural assets?
The greatest opportunities lie in leveraging what we have through storytelling. The City should continue to tell our story within our region and beyond. Our rich arts and culture community are truly what sets our community apart from others and I believe Owen Sound is the hub for Arts & Culture. We have an exciting opportunity to attract visitors through experiential tourism with support of our local tourism organization (RTO7) and tell our story to visitors, residents and potential investors.

5. In your own words, what is a City councillor or school board trustee’s role in protecting, promoting and growing healthy communities?
The role of a City Councillor is to have a vision for our community, and to make strategic decisions which will map out the future. Members of Council need to trust the day to day operations with our staff, as the staff are subject matter experts and Council is there to direct the path. I would support policies that promote a healthy lifestyle. I will work to ensure policies reflect Owen Sound as an inclusive community for all residents and visitors.

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