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Community celebrates the arts with annual festival

Wendy Ferris
Star Staff
November 12, 2002, page 9

The community had a chance to celebrate its arts groups while Equality East Citizens' Coalition drummed up more support for an east end arts and cultural facility last Saturday at Place D'Orléans.

The community arts festival, FestivArts, was in full swing at the shopping mall with a variety of displays, demonstrations and performances to delight those attempting to get their Christmas shopping done a little early this year.

"It's always a success," said Susan Ashbrook, executive director of the Visual Arts Centre, Orléans which had a table set up at the festival. "People were picking up brochures, asking questions, and some sighed and said, 'I wish I could paint.'"

The arts showcase is organized by the Gloucester Arts Council for its members to give them an opportunity to promote and market their activities within the community.

"A large segment of the community participate in the arts, particularly in visual and performance arts and the community should have political support," said Cumberland councillor Phil McNeely, who came out to enjoy FestivArts, despite a case of the flu.

McNeely's commitment to the arts came before he was elected and was born out of a conversation with Susan Ashbrook.

"She asked if I would give the arts community support equal to the support given to the sports community. She gave me a great talking to," said McNeely, with a smile.

"He made the mistake of showing up on my doorstep and I told him what it would take to get my vote," said Ashbrook, with a laugh.

She remembers telling the councillor that although those in the arts community may be less vocal than other groups, there is still a lot of people in the east end who participate and enjoy the arts. McNeely gave his word and has been supportive of arts in the east end, including Equality East Citizens Coalition's initiative to give the arts and cultural community a facility of their own.

"Maybe we should be giving more to the arts, because it hasn't been recognized as a group that should be assisted and provided with the facility they need," said McNeely.

John Morgan, chair of the Queenswood Heights Community Association did his part for the arts community by taking a shift manning the Equality East table at FestivArts, collecting more signatures on a petition to bring an arts and cultural facility to the east end.

"We've had some sports groups tell us that they see the arts as competition," said Morgan. "But we don't see it that way. We want to see amenities brought to the east end."

The Queenswood Heights Community Association is one of many community groups supporting the arts and cultural facility initiative.

Morgan says that a new arts and cultural facility would benefit the entire east end, even those not involved directly with the arts, as it would help to increase property value and even boost quality of life in the area.

"Those are a couple of the reasons why we support Equality East," said Morgan. "It is not just a push for arts, but it is a push for the east end."

McNeely says it is just a matter of finding the funding for a facility, but there is not question of the need.

"There are more than 100,000 in the east and it is growing. There will be more than a quarter of a million people in the Orléans community over the next 20 years," said McNeely. "That size of a community needs an arts and cultural facility."