“I’ve found that there are lots of really good musicians, people who love music, and people who want to get better,” said Orillia’s Doreen Uren Simmons
Artist, creator, musician and historian of Orillia celebrated Wednesday night at a gala at the Orillia Opera House.
The fourth annual Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage (ORAH) award was presented by the Orillia and District Arts Council (ODAC), the Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH), and the Department of Culture of the City of Orillia.
Anna Proctor, a passionate volunteer and organizer of the event, said the gala brought together everyone from the local arts and heritage sectors to celebrate those who deserved awards in five different categories.
Proctor says winning the ORAH Award helps local artists establish themselves in the community.
“It brings more awareness to them,” he said. “I know it gave them a huge boost to confidence and the feeling that someone noticed they had worked hard and had talent.”
Proctor encourages the community to support the ORAH Awards each year and nominate deserving candidates for recognition.
This year, the Education in the Arts, Culture and Heritage Award, which recognizes an educator — not necessarily a teacher — whose teaching knowledge and skills inspire others to pursue their passion for art and heritage, went to Kate Hilliard and Jayne Poolton-Turvey .
Hilliard, artistic director of Arts Orillia, is recognized for preparing and presenting arts programs in 15 local schools and engaging more than 800 children.
“I left home to get into the art world,” Hillard explained. “It’s been a huge honor to come back and have a group of people and a board of directors with Arts Orillia, past and present members, people who have served the organization, to say ‘hey come on in our community and be a part of this amazing thing that’s going on. we’re trying to do.’”
Poolton-Turvey, community service coordinator for the Orillia Public Library, was recognized for hosting the library’s award-winning Remembrance Day event since 2014. Poolton-Turvey was not present at Wednesday’s event, but Proctor read a statement on his behalf.
“This means a lot to me,” Poolton-Turvey said in a statement. “One of the main goals of this (commemoration) event is to ensure that the extraordinary wartime story of Orillia is told.”
The Emerging Artist Award, which recognizes individuals of all ages who are in the early years of launching a career in the arts, was given to tattoo artist Jordyn Nancy Greer.
“For me, tattooing is so much more than placing art on the skin,” he says. “It includes the meaning and sentimental value behind every part of forever in that individual.”
The Heritage: Restoration, Renovation and Publication Award, which recognizes individuals or groups who bring regional history to life through physical restoration or the establishment of permanent public records, is awarded to the Orillia Heritage Centre, which owns and displays a number of antique cars and artefacts. Present to receive the award was president John Smith.
“It’s really an honor,” he said. “We appreciate being nominated, and the fact that we won the award is really satisfying.”
Smith said the Orillia Heritage Center will continue to keep Orillia’s industrial heritage alive and well.
The Events Award in Arts, Culture and Heritage, which recognizes an individual, organization or company for their role in hosting a single or annual event that showcases the creative talent or cultural heritage of an area, is given to the Mariposa Folk Festival. Present to receive the award were president Pam Carter and manager Chris Hazel.
“Without the support of the community, Mariposa would not be where it is today,” Carter said.
Hazel says the 2022 Mariposa Folk Festival is truly magical for a number of reasons.
“Perhaps the biggest thing is our sense of community getting back together in person after three years,” he said. “Mariposa are a big part of Orillia and Orillia is a big part of Mariposa, and it feels great to be back with you guys and back with our Mariposa family.”
The final award of the evening, the Qennefer Browne Achievement Award, recognizes an individual or group of individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the cultural life of their community. This year, the award went to the pianist, organizer of music events in St. Petersburg. Paul’s Center, and vocal coordinator of the Kiwanis Music Festival, Doreen Uren Simmons.
“When I first came to Orillia in 1996 it was out of necessity after 40 years to get out of Toronto and because my grandchildren were here and still are,” he explains. “I’ve found that there are lots of really good musicians, people who love music, and people who want to get better.”
Simmons says Orillia is a very encouraging and supportive community.
“I am so grateful for the people I worked with and made music for those 16 years,” he said. “If my circumstances change, I will come back because Orillia is not only beautiful, but nurturing.”