Whatever happened to the idea that Cobourg should encourage Culture – you know, visual and performing arts? In 2019 a consultant delivered a Cultural Master Plan to Council (see resources below) but it’s now buried – no direct link anywhere on the Town’s web site. When Dean Hustwick was hired in 2016, his title was Director of Parks and Recreation with the idea that his mandate would include Culture and Tourism. That Department is now called Community Services but Culture is not mentioned. The Strategic planning update in early 2021 downgraded the goal labelled “Consider Arts, Culture and Tourism Division” and the only time culture is mentioned is when citizens make a presentation to Council. If there are any Town staff working on Culture, they keep themselves hidden. One exception is the Art Gallery which has space in Victoria Hall – but they are not Town employees although they do get budget money.
If you read the plan (it seems few have), you’ll notice that “Heritage” is included as a “Cultural” thing and it’s apparent that the Town is pursuing Heritage – just not performing Arts.
To be fair, there are a lot of mentions of Culture on the Town’s web site but they talk about Venues (the Concert Hall and the Firehall theatre) and groups that are independent of the Town with (in some cases) miniscule funding via Community Grants. The Poet Laureate does get a small budget and a mention.
So can we conclude that the Cultural Master Plan simply means that Arts organizations get web site listings and some get tiny grants?
There were a lot of actions in the final Cultural Master Plan (see Resources below) but some stand out:
1.2 Establish a Cultural Advisory Committee of Council to advocate and support the implementation of the Cultural Master Plan. Include representation from business, education, the cultural sector and economic development – Community Services Division, CAO.
1.4 Prepare a feasibility assessment for building, operating and maintaining a Town-operated multi-purpose cultural facility, which includes performance and rehearsal space – Community Services Division.
4.1 Conduct an evaluation of the Town of Cobourg’s cultural grant program to determine the effectiveness of the current program and to identify opportunities to better meet the needs of the community, streamline the administration of the program and to include updated parameters (e.g. additional points for youth involvement) – Community Services Division and Economic Development.
4.1 Continue monitoring cultural funding programs and opportunities – Community Services Division.
4.3 Explore the potential of expanding the existing Downtown CIP to incent the use of existing vacant buildings and/or storefronts as temporary or pop-up space for artists and cultural groups. – Economic Development, Planning Department.
5.1 Support the growth of cultural tourism by providing cultural tourism content for Regional Tourism Organization 8 wayfinding, promotion and programming strategies.
6.2 Create a Town Volunteer Management Strategy – Community Services Division.
These are just a few of the 50 actions recommended – but I see little evidence that any of them have been done. The consultant also provided an “Action Plan Schedule” with some moved out as long as 5+ years but the majority were recommended to be done inside 2 years. These did not happen. Can we blame it on Covid-19 or understaffing? Maybe.
Reports on Cobourg News Blog
- Report by Cobourg News Blog on Cultural Plan – 7 October 2019
- Cultural Plan on Cobourg News Blog – pdf – 1.4MB
- Cultural Master Plan – Public Meeting – 6 September 2019
- First Public Meeting on Cultural Plan – 22 March 2019
- Council Reviews Priorities – 4 April 2021 – Review of Strategic Plan
Town Of Cobourg Links
- Cultural Plan on Town’s Web site – only found with Search feature – pdf