Panel #2 – The Dynamics of Urban and Rural Arts in Ontario

What drives arts professionals to migrate and return? To stay and dig in? Can exploring the connections and differences between rural and urban communities allow for increased arts presences when engaging between regions? How can our measure of success be changed to reflect longer reaching impacts for Ontario? This panel discussion deconstructs current dynamics within the province of Ontario and evaluates current tactics regions are taking. Arts professionals in both rural and urban centers have to reflect on their own adaptability if we are supporting, nurturing and growing a the arts across Ontario. Exploring collective abilities to share resources increases the amount of potential collaboration, co-presenting and co-production taking place within Ontario. Beyond the cliche of the quaint and cute, what are the challenges and opportunities when creating collaborations between rural communities and urban communities? Can these reflections offer a path for Ontario’s arts sector to adapt to the ever-changing arts ecology?

Rihkee Strap

Rihkee Strapp (Misko-gwan Gegek)  is a two-spirit Metis of the Wolverine Clan and was born in Red Lake, Ontario. They are a multi-disciplinary artist focused on visual art, community arts, and arts administration with over ten years of experience.  After university, Rihkee received training as a #StudioY Fellow at the MaRS Discovery District, one of the world’s largest urban innovation hubs with projects focused on developing stronger North/South connections. Alongside colleague, Cora Rae Silk, Rihkee is a cofounder of the Northern Indigenous Artist Alliance, a burgeoning arts service organization focused on building audiences and opportunities across the province for Indigenous artists based in Northern Ontario. Rihkee’s arts practice centers around nuances of identity, and cultural appropriation. Using the Woodland tradition of mnemonic painting, vivid colours, and legend, they juxtapose the experience of urban living for the rural-born Metis raised on the internet.

Lisa O’Connell

Lisa O’Connell is the founding Artistic Director of Pat the Dog Theatre Creation (PTD), Ontario’s only inclusive playwright development centre. She is also the founding artistic director of PlaySmelter, Northern ON’s only festival of new works by Northern ON theatre creators. Work created at PTD has been presented at Magnetic North Theatre Festival, SummerWorks, Canadian Stage, Tarragon, MT Space, Sudbury Theatre Centre, Theatre Aquarius, The Grand Theatre, among others. Artists working with PTD have received or been nominated for the RBC Tarragon Playwright Award, the Carol Bolt Award, Governor-General’s Award (Drama), RBC Emerging Directors Award, among others.

O’Connell is a Caucus Chair at the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, and sits on the Advocacy Committee of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, She is the recipient of a Special Jury Award and the Gowlings Literary Award from Arts Awards Waterloo and has delivered the closing Keynote address at the Canadian Association of Theatre Researchers Conference. O’Connell has been published in Canadian Theatre Review, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Chatelaine, among others. She divides her time between her artistic homes in Waterloo, ON and Sudbury, ON with her partner Mark Walton. 

Aylan Couchie

Aylan Couchie is an interdisciplinary Anishinaabe artist and writer from Nipissing First Nation in Northern Ontario. She received her BFA from NSCAD University and her MFA in Interdisciplinary Art Media and Design from OCAD University with a focus on monument and public art. She’s been the recipient of several awards including “2015 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture” through the International Sculpture Center, a Premier’s Award through Ontario Colleges and the Inaugural Barbara Laronde Award from the Native Women in the Arts organization. Her public commissions can be seen in the City of Barrie and at Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport. She’s sits on several boards, advisory committees and juries and most recently received a nomination for an OAC Indigenous Arts Award.

Joshua Bainbridge

Joshua Bainbridge is an actor, writer, and director living in North Bay ON. Josh has written and directed a number of original works including I Hear You Ride Horses, People Grieving, The Life and Death of John the Milkman, Paper Dolls, Poison Ground and I Live With Him Every Day: The Tragedy of David and Dave. Josh also works in film and television and has appeared in Harold and Lorna, the feature films A Dark Truth, Mums the Word, Joseph and Mary, The New Romantic and Country Crush as well as the television series Dark Rising: Warrior of the Worlds, the USA/NBC series Eyewitness, HBO Canada’s What Would Sal Do? and Bad Blood on City TV. Joshua appeared in the first three seasons of TVO’s Hard Rock Medical. Josh will also appear in the upcoming seasons of both Cardinal and Letterkenny.
Joshua is the Artistic Director of The Proscenium Club, a touring theatre company dedicated to the creation and producing of original Canadian content.

Chandel Gambles

Chandel studied theatre at both the University of Guelphand Stratford Festival Theatre, before completing an Artist in Community Education teaching degree at Queen’s University.This training prepared her to work with a range of organizations: from TIFF to Opera Lyra Ottawa, to teaching arts and culture in rural high schools, to coordinating emergency assistance for artists through The AFC.

Over the years, she has worked on projects in Canada and overseas, either as a performer, stage manager, or assistant director. Select acting credits include: The Financiers (Odyssey Theatre), Venus in Fur (Plosive Productions), and I’ll Be Back Before Midnight(Classic Theatre Festival). Chandel has helped develop and present a range of unique projects across Ontario, including Murray Schaffer’s Asterion,Anandam’s Divergent Dances, and an HIV theatre education tour based on her research in Botswana, Africa. As a playwright (and thankful recipient of Theatre Creator Grants provided by the OAC, Theatre Direct, and Pat the Dog, which supports writers across the province), her recent scripts have focused on Canadian history, social injustice, and tumultuous journeys of self-discovery.

Chandel is currently working for SPARC as their Northern Outreach Consultant, to help create a more vibrant and supportive arts scene across Ontario’s rural and remote communities.