First Public Meeting on Cultural Plan

About 80 people came to the CCC for the “Launch Event” for the Cultural Plan being conducted by Consultant MDB Insight.  After a good natured introduction by Councillor Adam Bureau, MDB Insight’s Executive VP Lauren Miller gave a 20 minute summary of what the Cultural Plan is and what it hopes to achieve.  The current status is that 1) a Background report has been issued (see Links below) which identified over 400 cultural assets; 2) Cultural Mapping has been done and 3) Telephone and online surveys have been completed.  In the second part of the meeting, citizens were asked to give feedback on what they wanted.  They did this in workshop style and a representative from each of the 12 tables was then asked to speak about their ideas.  One table included Ken Prue, Michael Pepa and Antonio Sarmiento with Ken as the spokesman.  More below.

Ken Prue - Spokesman for his table
Ken Prue – Spokesman for his table

The Mayor and all Councillors were there as were Director Hustwick, Planning Manager Rob Franklin and more.  Results from the 150 people interviewed by phone were provided; here is a summary:

Importance of Arts and Culture    

  • Very Important – 38%
  • Somewhat Important – 50%
  • Not very important – 9%
  • Not at all important – 3%

Participation Frequency               

  • As often as you would like – 29%
  • As much as you can but would like more – 49%
  • Do not participate – 22%

Main Location for Arts and Culture Activities                                                                  

  • In Cobourg – 65%
  • In surrounding Municipalities – 20%
  • Outside of the Area – 15%

Graphic below shows what people actually did [click to enlarge].


Stakeholder Engagement:

What needs to be improved

  • Communication between cultural groups, creatives and local businesses to find synergies, reduce competition and redundancies and coordination around events
  • The downtown is not being leveraged to its full potential
    • Signage and facades that are in need of repair
    • Retail and restaurants are not open late enough
    • Events are not spread throughout the year
  • Volunteer recruitment and fatigue, our volunteer demographic averages over 55+ years in age and volunteer across several groups

Biggest Opportunities

  • We need an effective strategy to bring in new creative workers and keep our existing creative talent.  This requires a community that has:
    • A vibrant (active) and attractive core (downtown/waterfront)
    • A supportive public (attendance, promotion, encouragement)
    • Appropriate space for creativity (workspace, makerspaces, community spaces)
    • A supportive business community (partnerships)
  • We need an effective strategy to promote our cultural assets
    • Promotion to residents (volunteer recruitment, daily experiences)
    • Promotion to visitors (celebration of Cobourg, attract new residents)

Everyone was then asked to discuss issues with those on their table and come to a consensus on a vision and strategies.

Most wanted more collaboration and some way to communicate ALL events to the public. They generally seemed to agree with the above ideas from Stakeholders.  Some commented that we are not serving all audiences (e.g. younger people).  All inputs at the meeting will be consolidated with other inputs and will form the basis of a draft report to the Steering Committee in April.  This report will then be presented to the public in May with a final report due in June.

Director Dean Hustwick wrapped up the meeting with a comment that “Culture is a key factor” in Cobourg and that the first step is to entrench culture.  He said that the Cultural Master Plan will help establish the role of the Town in Culture.

Below are some photos from the Event


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23 March 2019 1:57 pm

One day I would love to see some positive comments from the regular contributors to this site. Did any of you give up your evening and go to the meeting? Did you participate and give your thoughts to help create the plan? There are those of you who criticize the ones with grey hair, thank goodness there are some who care and take the time to help preserve what we have and move forward, otherwise we would live in a total wasteland. Having lived in Cobourg for 42 years I am grateful for the quality of life we have here and without preserving what we have and creating new ventures life would be pretty miserable. Take a minute and be grateful to live here and put your energy into helping build a better community instead of nit picking all the time.

Doug Weldon
23 March 2019 12:23 pm

I think most of the issue is well reviewed below so just a ‘small’ comment. Why do we not see many events at Victoria Hall any more? Why was I at a Jazz concert at the Loft last night with only 25 other people? That is the second week I’ve attended. 50 people attended last week. AND those are the absolute 2 best concerts I’ve ever been to in Cobourg or Port Hope in my 30 years of living here! One more in the series next week! Is the issue lack of publicity? Do we need a comprehensive web site and email service just like this one: John Draper; Cobourg News Blog?
If the town hired someone to maintain an ‘Entertainment Blog” that allowed comments and personal reviews of town event and entertainment” that might do more to develop things than all the studies and consultations will ever do.
Maybe we’re all too old! Could the town drop off Pep Pills to all us old fogeys every day there’s a good event to go out to? We aren’t dead yet!!! See you all next Friday at the Loft! ha Doug Weldon

Keith Oliver
23 March 2019 10:44 am

My concern about developing a cultural MP for Coboug is that for some it’s all about business opportunities. This is far too limited and often self districts when venues take on the form of a franchise like those found in malls, seen one … you’ve seen them all. Problem I’ve had in reading most of the available material, starting with Dean Hustwick’s report to Council a year ago, outlining the purpose and process leading to a final MP, is the relationship between culture and heeritage. Oxford Dictionary offers three distinct definitions of culture one of which refers to the “culture of a community”. For me the goal most beneficial to Cobourg would be to strengthen and enhance a culture unique to this community, one which expresses ever changing concerns, celebrates contemporary life, and is sensitive to the history of this place. In Italy I was struck when it was demonstrated to me that the colour of sky light in a particular part of the country had a direct influence on the palate used by local artists. Same among the Dutch painters. Is it not reasonable to expect that an appreciation of the heritage of a community would also influence the art it produced, rendering it even more unique and meaningful to that community? Another benefit of encouraging the development of a widely appreciated culture unique to Cobourg is that is would be instrumental in creating a widely share identity among all its residents. Montrealers have this, so do Torontonians, etc.

Reply to  Keith Oliver
23 March 2019 12:03 pm

A Concert Band wearing Royal Marines pith helmets, the Police band wearing Highland outfits with a ‘Cobourg’ tartan, Scottish Highland games, US Deep South bubba-style Ribfests, ethnic restaurants from English to Indian, garage band vocalists wailing away in Hillbilly accents etc etc.
Seems that Cobourg culture is more imitative than unique

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Keith Oliver
23 March 2019 6:09 pm

“In Italy I was struck when it was demonstrated to me that the colour of sky light in a particular part of the country had a direct influence on the palate used by local artists.”

This is interesting. Antony Dinardo recently moved to Northumberland. He has authored several collections of poetry. One of those collections, Roaming Charges, contained several different poems about cities in the Middle East and the unique skyness above each city. He was unaware that he had done this until a book reviewer revealed it.

Wally Keeler
23 March 2019 10:44 am

Excerpt from Cobourg Cultural Master Plan, Background Report: “If the cultural value chain of Ontario is taken as a point of reference, it can be understood that Cobourg has a lower proportion of creation industries at 31% compared to the province with 54%. … Cobourg has a good proportion of support functions, namely, production, manufacturing, distribution and support. … Cobourg is favourable to cultural sector growth and uptake and serves as a favourable location for artistic talent and creativity growth. Cobourg can focus on enhancing the creation industries to ensure a wide range of cultural products and services are created.”

Cobourg has a much lower proportion of creative industries 31% compared to the province 54%. Pathetic! I wonder if the fact that Cobourg has one of the country’s highest percentage of retired persons contributes to the paucity of creativity in Cobourg. If a young person growing up in Cobourg has creative ambitions, why would they stay in such conditions?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 March 2019 11:51 am

Judging by the number of grey heads in the photos, Wally has a point.
There are plenty of volunteers for arts events among the retirees.
Creative drive?

Pat Stanley
23 March 2019 10:00 am

I hope they know that we already had an arts council for Northumberland for 7 or 8 years, and an online calendar, a newsletter, and also received a grant to go through a thorough strategic planning exercise. I have the strategic planning material. Nobody has spoken to me. Who do I contact?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Pat Stanley
23 March 2019 3:09 pm

That’s interesting Pat, because there was no acknowledgement that arts/culture exists outside of Cobourg that benefits Cobourg. The Spirit of the Hills Art Association, with many of its members, Cobourg’s residents, appeals and draws creativity from the entirety of Northumberland County. It will be putting on a great arts festival this October 24-26 at St Pete’s. The Spirit of the HIlls exhibits and shows and performs all year round throughout the county. That is Cobourg’s catchment area, and this was not addressed. Music, theatre, visual arts are amply represented; the literary community, not at all.

23 March 2019 10:00 am

With 62% of respondents saying Arts & Culture were somewhat important or less, and only 10% visiting a public Art Gallery, one would think generally speaking that Cobourg does not need a $250,000 tax burden in their yearly budget for their art gallery. Perhaps all the local artists should band together and start a business of their own and on their “dime”.

It would appear that this consultant BDM has been talking to the consultant that has Cobourg restoring/improving downtown and our beach/harbour areas for increased tourism as a major direction for arts and culture improvement.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
24 March 2019 8:19 am

Do you feel the same way about the Cobourg Public Library? Only 15% visit it. It produces an annual tax burden. Individuals can spend their dime to buy books from a retail distributor. So cornbread, do you support a publicly funded library?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
24 March 2019 2:57 pm

In my opinion, a library offers more education opportunities to people than looking at a bunch of paintings. I support our library a lot more than most for your info. How many small towns in Ontario have a library but no tax payer supported art gallery. I rest my case.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
24 March 2019 3:55 pm

“I rest my case”

What a waste of cliché!

You have provided a very weak argument in favour of tax payer supported libraries over tax payer supported art galleries.

looking at a bunch of paintings” displays a pathetic ignorance of art galleries. Ignoramuses usually refer to Shakespeare’s Hamlet as just “a bunch of words.”

There are schools all over Cobourg providing “education opportunities”. The internet is accessible to everyone in Cobourg, especially young people in schools. Bookstores sell books. Any book can be bought online. Let those who like to read pay for them book by book. User pays. Why do you burden the taxpayer with the expense of purchasing reading material for others, and burden the taxpayer with the expense of housing them?

So why the hypocrisy of user pay for those who want to look at a bunch of paintings and not for those who want to read a bunch of books? C’mon cornbread, make your case for tax payer funded libraries, if you have any.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
24 March 2019 5:58 pm

Close the library for 6 months…get the reaction, then close the art gallery for 6 months …get the reaction. Compare the reactions.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
25 March 2019 11:31 am

Pathetic. I didn’t think you had any argument. There are plenty of reasons to support both a municipal art gallery and library. You claim to support tax payer funded libraries but can’t produce a reason why.

Miriam Mutton
Reply to  cornbread
24 March 2019 4:53 pm

hi Cornbread,
Speaking on my own behalf, as a locally based business in garden design for more than 30 years now, I still typically find my inspiration in art galleries and in art displays. Beyond plants and pavements, design is also about space and light (incl. colours). The work of masters, painters and sculptors in particular, has been very enlightening with respect to composition and communication. And I have lots of garden books too. So many books, I now have started using our local library and inter-library loan.
Art galleries are places of inspiration. And, I hope teachers can take more advantage of local art galleries with their students. The story in art can be as educational as a book.
Cobourg and surrounding area is very fortunate to have the depth of artistic expression we have including places to share our stories in art with others, like our publicly funded art gallery of national calibre.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
25 March 2019 11:33 am


Jim Thomas
23 March 2019 9:29 am

I do hope that the telephone survey clearly distinguished between the “importance of Arts and Culture” versus “the importance of local government sponsorship of Arts and Culture”. They are two very different questions.

T Marrocco
23 March 2019 9:17 am

So glad Cobourg is looking at a master cultural plan. A quick reading of this report gives some observations and questions?
Definition of culture, wondering if most in Cobourg would identify hockey and screens as significant.
The majority of Cobourg is not all that interested in the arts and culture as defined here.
Do we need to address this gap?
High percentage of Cobourg involved in art-making wondering about some correlations including age, education .. ?
Wondering why arts and culture did not include best practices in small Canadian towns

Reply to  T Marrocco
25 March 2019 9:21 am

Small town best practices were not included because few small towns have a publicly funded art gallery. Consultants have to pick and choose rationales in order to get the desired answers.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Dubious
25 March 2019 12:06 pm

So are you suggesting some kind of collusion between unspecified consultants and unnamed benefactors? Gives us some clarity instead of inspiring gossip.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  T Marrocco
25 March 2019 12:03 pm

The majority of Cobourg is not all that interested in the arts and culture …”

Given that Cobourg has a very low proportion (31%) of creativity compared to the entire province (54%), which includes such distant communities as Timmins, Kenora, etc.

Creativity generates wealth like no other human action. Innovation, inventiveness, originality, creativity. The lack of creativity tends to lead to stagnation. Nothing new. Same old same old. What business would settle here with such a low creativity score, when they could move anywhere else in Ontario that has a higher creativity score? Is this the kind of best practices for small town Cobourg? What best practices can Cobourg implement that would be attractive for creativity and set us up as better than the dime-a-dozen average of 54%?

Wally Keeler
23 March 2019 8:11 am

No one spoke of cannabis culture. Smith Falls stimulates imagination.

Jim Thomas
Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 March 2019 9:24 am

Great idea. We should do a marijuana-themed film fest here, featuring “Reefer Madness”.