This should put a smile on ‘The Don’s’ face!
In a bold move certain impact the arts in Orillia, the City’s new CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) Roman Martiuk has announced today a number of sweeping changes to a number of the City’s departmental organisations, including the Culture & Heritage Department. Martiuk commenced employment with the City of Orillia in April of this year, and has since promised to streamline and increase efficiencies within the City’s bureaucracy.
“As part of the CAO’s work plan presented to Council earlier this year, we conducted an organizational review of the Corporation to look for efficiencies and synergies between departments,” said Martiuk. ‘The reorganization [is]….intended to help the City find savings to help address the fiscal challenges we are facing.’
Here is a summary of the steps taken today, as they affect the arts community:
- Culture & Heritage Department Manager Michael Martyn, widely respected for his experience in the live performance industry, has been relieved of employment. His role however, will continue with a future new hire focussed on ‘culture’.
- D’Arcy Hoover, a specialist in arts and performance marketing is rumored to have had his cultural promotional activities blended into the overall Parks & Recreational Department, meaning he could potentially find himself responsible for promoting swim lessons and hockey tournaments as well as theatre productions or art festivals.
- Craig Metcalf, the Culture & Heritage Department head who earlier this year left his position for medical reasons, will not be replaced.
- The two major cultural facilities in Orillia, the Stephen Leacock Museum and the Orillia Opera House, will be supervised as Parks & Recreational facilities under department chief Ray Merkely. Krista Storey will continue as facility manager of the Opera House.
(While some of this information comes to The GreenRoom from reliable sources close to the issue, there has been no requested confirmation directly from City Hall officials at time of writing)
Can this be viewed as a positive development for arts in Orillia? It’s difficult to see how. Is it a breakthrough in cost-savings for tax payers? The overall net cost saving to tax payers throughout all affected departments will be…are you sitting down for this?…$43,000 annually, less of course any severance and benefits packages for Martin. Sounds like a lot of work for very little financial gain. However, the negative impact on cultural development in Orillia is likely much more.
Can you feel a slap in the face when you get one?
What should we make of this? Clearly this is not a financial move but a philosophical shift. Many will regard these consolidations as degrading to art and culture in a City already reeling from a serious disconnect between the City bureaucracy and the arts community. As an example often cited, earlier this year Council turned down a staff recommendation to permit the Orillia District Arts Council (ODAC), the umbrella group for all arts in the City, to relocate to a well-located and prominent City-owned location. This has precipitated the sharp decline in ODAC’s reach and effectiveness.
Most cities and towns across Canada have come to recognise the arts and cultural development as an integral part of their municipality’s future growth, spirit and prosperity. Most have lifted, or are in the process of lifting, Arts and Culture interests out of their Parks & Recreational folios and giving the arts and culture its own seat at the table. Tucking Culture & Heritage back into Parks & Recreation can only be interpreted as a serious setback for the arts community in this City.
A Tale of 3 Cities: Coming Soon to The Green Room!
Coincidently, The Green Room has been for the past several weeks researching and drafting a 3-part series called A Tale of 3 Cities, an editorial survey of municipal policies and attitudes in relation to the arts in general and theatre in particular in Orillia, Midland and Barrie. The series is scheduled to be released in about 2 weeks. Today’s announcement brings added focus and importance to the issue.
The arts community should be very concerned and ever-vigilant about attacks on municipal departments like this. If the Don Cherry’s of the world had their way, there would be one more hockey rink and one more soccer field built in every town, tomorrow. If we in the arts and theatre communities don’t fight hard for what we need, we will get nothing!