Small- and medium-sized creative sectors are at risk of “full collapse” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the executive director for Creative Industries North Bay told members of city council Tuesday.
“The creative sectors were the first to close and unfortunately, will be some of the last to reopen,” Jaymie Lathem said during a presentation to council as part of her 2020 annual report on Creative Industries, whose goal is to support, connect and promote the city’s creative sector.
“This has put musicians, theatre and festivals amongst the hardest hit.”
The pandemic, she said, has been more hard felt in rural and northern communities, given resources are more often found in larger cities.
Creative Industries hosted several check-ins with the creative community, Lathem said, to share grant and relief information, provide updates on federal and provincial programs, and to gain insight into the health and needs of the creative community.
“This pandemic has exposed the urgent need to develop sustainable financial resources for our creative sectors,” she added.
“There is a strong need to diversify funding, develop new ways of working and build financial empowerment. It’s our organization’s mission and responsibility to strengthen, support and grow North Bay and Nipissing’s creative sector. We cannot deliver this mission if there is no sector left to support.”
Lathem’s presentation comes after the Ontario government put in place a four-week province-wide shutdown starting April 3, which among other things has closed performing arts facilities.
The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit was previously under the yellow, or protect, level of the province’s colour-coded framework, which allowed for capacity limits of up to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors for performing arts centres.
A stay-at-home order will now come into effect Thursday, during which only travel outside of the home for what the province deems an essential purpose, such as getting groceries, exercise or medication, is allowed.
However, Lathem stressed that not everything has been bad.
Prior to COVID-19, Creative Industries partnered with the Toronto-based organization WorkInCulture on a two-day strategic planning initiative, hosted a fundraiser at Raven and Republic and held a grant-writing workshop for fourth-year Nipissing University fine arts students.
The organization has since worked with other local groups on public art installations and plans to start a downtown and waterfront walking tour this spring called, ‘It Happened Downtown.’
Lathem said Creative Industries also was able to use the city’s $50,000 financial contribution to the organization to leverage $86,000 in grants for 2021, including to create an endowment fund and micro-granting program.
“The creative sector does help everyone understand what’s going on, process emotions and really come together even though we’re apart,” she said. “So with that, we are still moving forward, we are trying to pivot and trying to stay alive to keep North Bay a great place to live.”
Deputy mayor Tanya Vrebosch called what Creative Industries has been able to do over the last year “amazing,” despite having limited resources, and said she hopes everyone can get back to doing the activities they could before, “because we miss it.”