It won’t be business as usual at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre in 2022.
Director of community services Craig Belfry said the cultural centre aims to open the Heritage Village by the Victoria Day long weekend, but staff turnover means many traditional programs likely won’t run this year.
The township is hiring a manager of cultural services, as well as a cultural programming position.
Since these positions likely won’t be filled until mid-summer, Belfry said it would be “very challenging” for new hires to schedule last-minute kids programs or summer events like the Victorian high tea.
“But I’ll never say never,” he said at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre advisory committee’s first in-person meeting since 2020 on May 10.
Mayor Brent Devolin asked if 2022 will “be basically a preparatory year” for the centre.
Belfry said it will be a “transitional year” with 2023 expected to bring the full suite of programs such as March break programs, summer kids activities and other events. Four artists are still booked to exhibit in the Agnes Jamieson Art Gallery in 2022.
Belfry said the township is struggling to fill summer student positions.
“It is a stress point, Belfry said, adding that “It’s not a unique thing coming out of COVID.”
Students often lead tours at the cultural centre or help with long-term jobs such as organizing archives.
Devolin said hiring administrative positions will help determine future funding priorities and goals for the centre, or human resource needs.
“If we get those people on staff, they look at what we have,” he said. “If they bring a suggestion forward to those positions… staff are going to want them to build a case.”
Belfry and CAO Trisha McKibbin both have extensive experience working in cultural resources. They said they’ll ensure the manager of cultural services has curatorial experience.
“There’s some concern about our [Ontario Arts Council] funding: in either one or both of those jobs, in one or both of those positions will be addressed or covered,” Belfry said.
Committee member Jim Mitchell asked how either position will handle archives, much of which he said aren’t humiditycontrolled or catalogued, when previous staff have been “overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done.”
McKibbin said incoming staff will help define “the priorities, and what support do we need,” adding that the centre could begin to expand its volunteer base to help in the process.
She said the centre’s buildings, the “largest piece of the collection,” are set to receive maintenance this summer, which is a good first step.
Minden Hills’ 2022 capital budget includes money for fixing the cultural centre’s roof and one of the heritage barns.
Committee to discuss role
Mitchell proposed the committee discuss its role at its next meeting. He said he does not believe it’s effectively advising council on the centre.
“The essence for me is since COVID we had a meeting in March of 2020. We didn’t hear anything until July of 2021,” he said. “I have to question how much value the township of Minden Hills has in an advisory committee when they don’t keep us in the loop about what’s going on?”
Devolin said many committees have “mainly been offline for the larger course of two years” due to COVID-19.
Also, both McKibbin and Belfry were hired since the committee last met in person.
Committee Member Mary Hamilton said she’d like to see more communication with the public about the centre’s future. It’s been a topic of concern for many within the township’s arts community since curator Laurie Carmount departed in March 2022.
“I’ve been stopped on the street saying – ‘What’s going on at the cultural centre…’ I don’t know, nobody has told me,” Hamilton said.
“Are we doing any advertising on events that are happening here? there’s been a real lack of any sort of information.”
Belfry said the township is attempting to up communication initiatives, including “trying to do more press releases than we have in the past: it’s trying to do a multifaceted approach.”
He said the township will prepare a media release on the centre’s upcoming year