The Arts Council Haliburton Highlands opted to keep its board steady for another year as it maintains programming amidst the pandemic.

Members voted at an AGM March 30 to extend chair Kate Butler and secretary Renée Woltz to serve an additional year, past the two-term, six-year maximum set out in the society’s bylaws.

The move came because of a board proposal to modify those bylaws to allow for three terms, given the difficulties of the pandemic.

Attendees balked at the bylaw modification but instead to give Butler and Woltz another year. Woltz said stability was important at this time.

“The board really feels this is not the time to be losing some experience on the board, given the challenges,” Woltz said. “And the fact with less social interaction it has been a little more difficult than usual to recruit new board members.”

Woltz said the two-year term limit was meant to keep the board fresh with new ideas and energy. But members said it did not make sense to change the bylaw or to provide an extra full term, which usually lasts three years.

“The bylaws are the backbone of the organization and you don’t go making adjustments annually,” Rails End Gallery curator Laurie Jones said. “That doesn’t mean that this has not been an exceptional period.”

Butler said she is willing to carry on for one year as an exception. She added she would be willing to provide advice beyond that.

“Hopefully, by that time, we’ll have a handle on what things are looking like as we’ve gone through this COVID-era,” Butler said. “And we’re coming out the other side and we’ll be in a better position.”

The society also voted to add Sophie Creelman and Danielle Martin to its board, joining Butler, Woltz, treasurer Pat Martin, Chris Lynd, Pat Jones and Scott Walling.

Programming carries on

The arts council reviewed its past year, how COVID-19 impacted the scene and what art programs have carried on despite that.

The organization had a 2020 deficit of $2,532, compared to a $1,642 surplus in 2019. Its general fund had $40,356 at the end of the 2020 fiscal year.

Martin said the board has worked to get more grants and donations to keep programs going.

“Your board has been working hard to ensure the financial viability of the organization,” Martin said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge we have been able to initiate several new programs.”

Some of those new initiatives include a promotional video, a remote reading event called 6-Minute Escape, a monthly social media feature on local artists, an online artist course and a new radio play which premiered April 7.

“The resilience and creativity of our arts community here is remarkable,” Butler said. “We always find a way to make things work … Looking forward to another great year ahead.”.

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