By Mike Anderson

The Georgina Centre for Arts and Culture (GCAC) is expanding its programming to attract more visitors, rebuild its donor base, and promote cultural tourism in Georgina.

That means more curated exhibitions, visiting artists, public art displays, and a renewed focus on the Centre’s permanent collection.

There will also be a strong emphasis on community engagement, with music nights, summer art camps for kids, and stimulating workshops, including photography, textiles and printmaking.

GCAC’s new leadership team, appointed by the board earlier this spring, hopes to revitalize the Centre after it was hit hard by Covid lockdowns.

“I want GCAC to be a community hub for art and art-minded people,” said Executive Director Christine Arnold, who brings extensive non-profit management experience to her new role.

“It also has to be sustainable. That means getting more people into the gallery and getting them involved. We want that social engagement.”

“Ideally, there will be something for everyone,” adds Charlotte Hale, a former gallery owner and associate dean of The School of Media, Art & Design at Durham College, who has taken on the Centre’s Artistic Director position.

“I don’t like to be intimidated when I walk in a gallery. Mine was always friendly and yet maintained a high calibre of work.”

“When you come in, you should not see something and think I could do that. We should always be elevated. Even if it’s not a comfortable experience at first, you should always be lifted up.”

Hale is planning a series of exhibitions that she hopes will attract more visitors to the Centre.

“We’re thinking carefully about next year and achieving a good mix. Tom Zsolt’s 7 Stories Photography Exhibit & Writing Contest drew the writing community in with photography. So we’ll try to participate in Contact, which is a photography festival in Toronto.”

“Photography is a great gateway medium. It leads you into other arts, like printmaking. So I’m going to schedule a printmakers festival.”

“I’m also thinking about the concept of revolution or rebellion, which I hope will draw in some of our younger artists and Indigenous artists.”

GCAC. 149 High St, Sutton

Hale and Arnold would also like to see more Indigenous art at the Centre.

They point out there will soon be an Indigenous-inspired sculpture in front of the building, a collaboration between one of Canada’s most famous sculptors, Ron Baird, and Jared Big Canoe, from Georgina Island.

“Because we’re new, it’s an opportunity for something fresh. But we’re also listening to what the community wants this to be for them as well,” Hale said.

Hale also plans to leverage the GCAC’s permanent collection.

“The permeant collection is something really unique to this gallery. And we’re talking about always having part of it on display. It doesn’t make sense to have it stored downstairs. It’s really rich.”

“It’s also a tourist draw,” adds Arnold. “People want to come and see it. And we don’t have any of it up.”

Portrait by Travis Schilling, Permanent Collection

Arnold also wants to raise the profile of the Centre in the community by stepping up GCAC’s communications, especially on social media.

“We want everyone to know what’s going on,” she said.

There are also plans to display more art from GCAC in public spaces, including the new MURC, which could help draw more visitors from Keswick.

“We will reach the public in every form of communication, including small installations in glass cabinets, like a beautiful mask, that says join us at the GCAC with a list of events and exhibitions coming up,” Arnold said.

“We’re also going to be working with other community partners to reach out to areas like Pefferlaw and Udora, which haven’t been engaged a lot in the past.”

“We want people to know there’s an art gallery in Sutton, and they can pop by on the weekend and see something interesting.”

Peggy’s Cove, Deborah Wronzberg

The GCAC is currently exhibiting a Juried Art Show & Sale until August 27, featuring regional artists with the top three works receiving awards. The Artists Reception and Awards evening will be held on Thursday, July 13, from 6 to 8 p.m.

A new music series starts on Thursday, July 20, from 6 to 8 p.m., with a performance by Northern Latitudes, a local jazz trio.

Kids’ summer camps are also available; parents can register directly through website.