Artists shape communities


The term “small business” has been a fixture in Canadian news and community discussions since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

It’s for good reason: the pandemic and associated health measures only boosted the bottom lines of Amazon, Wal-Mart and Loblaws, while decimating revenues of restaurants, gyms, clothing stores, cafes, hotels and the hundreds of other small businesses that make Haliburton County a good place to live.

We can only hope that the attention small business owners have garnered from provincial and federal governments continue. Artists and creators are small businesses too. Aside from the fact many of us use art to make our houses feel more like homes or find comfort in uncertain times, the industry contributes around $25 billion to Ontario’s GDP, according to a 2019 Ontario Council of the Arts review.

It’s a sector of the economy with wide ripple effects, and the people who work within it are often those working the hardest to make communities beautiful destinations. International tourists flock to Haliburton’s Sculpture Forest and artists from around the province install sculptures on Haliburton’s main street each summer. Students and cottagers enroll in degrees and summer classes at the Haliburton School of Art + Design, and creatives host multiple crosscounty art shows each year.

That’s not to mention the vibrant performing arts organizations which perform top-class operas, plays and concerts. There’s a good chance each and every person who comes to Haliburton for any one of these experiences spends more than a couple of dollars at cafes, restaurants, shops and stores around the Highlands. A county with a healthy arts sector draws people in and can help define its character.

This weekend, artists from Minden to Carnarvon to Haliburton will open their studio doors for the 34th annual Studio Tour. They’ll showcase work that often takes many hours to make; pieces of pottery molded from clay using techniques that they’ve practiced for decades: watercolour depictions of the County’s lakes and forests and much, much more. It’s valuable work. It’s work that reflects our surroundings and encourages us to take time to observe, feel, and marvel.

I, for one, need that encouragement these days. Getting takeout or sitting down for dinner is a way to support the future of our favourite restaurants. Buying art and engaging with artists who have gone nearly two years without a normal show and sale schedule shows support for a valuable, and I’d say integral, part of the county’s cultural and economic fabric.