4elements Living Arts look for year of continued growth

MANITOULIN—4elements Living Arts has hired a consultant to help the group devise a strategy and ultimately a plan for its continued operation and development.

“Our first goal for 2019 is to recruit a new executive director,” said Richard Lathwell, on behalf of the 4e board of directors, after they held their annual general meeting last week. “We prepared a job description and a job posting that went out the first week in January.”

Mr. Lathwell explained that the board has hired consultant Mary Nelder (with an application for funding having been approved for an Ontario Arts Council Compass Grant) to help them devise a strategy and ultimately a strategic plan. “We held a board retreat, hired Mary (Nelder) and the first draft of the strategic plan is pretty much complete and it provides the 4e guiding principles-statement and vision.”

The 4e vision, “is to engage in experiences of land, arts and community,” while the group’s mission statement, “is to nurture and inspire community engagement in land-based arts on Manitoulin Island.”

In his annual report he delivered to the board at its annual general meeting, Mr. Lathwell explained, “this is the report for the fiscal year October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018 and includes noteworthy items through early January 2019. We began the year at the conclusion of the 2017 Elemental Festival. The Festival was at the culmination of a very intense year that included the Canada 150 Billings Connections Trail project with its installation of seven major sculptures. At our last AGM we announced that we would be entering a year of rest and regrouping.” In February, “4elements and our community partners received a Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for the Billings Connections Trail.”

“At the beginning of March, our executive director (Sophie Edwards) informed the board that she was leaving to pursue other interests. The board met and seriously considered the question, ‘should 4elements continue’ and concluded that it should for a variety of reasons,” said Mr. Lathwell. The board then assumed interim management and began learning and untangling the details of the organization. “We contacted our funders who were very supportive and who informed us that there were quite a number of arts organizations in the same situation,” continued Mr. Lathwell. 

“We completed and submitted an application to the OAC for a core-funding grant, and learned how to file our audit and financial information in CADAC. We were successful with this grant, although our rating was lowered because of our transitional status,” he explained.

During the year, 4e hired Carolyn Dearing as its part-time bookkeeper and hired Julie Rochefort-Wood as a part-time coordinator.

“Our Outside the Box program continued through all of this and ended in the late spring. Most of the boxes are still in place and are being maintained and restocked by volunteers,” said Mr. Lathwell.

4e submitted two related grant applications for a summer 2018 artist residency program involving three artists. “The grants were awarded, although one came after the proposed end of the project. Julie worked with one of the artists, Sean Procyk, who came to the Island in July. He built an installation constructed from salvaged barn beams and conducted a workshop, both in McLean’s Park in Assiginack. Both were very well received. We were not able to compose the remainder of the proposed residency work, given logical challenges imposed by the change in timing and staffing,” he explained. 

“We continued a contract for the update and revision of the 4elements website. The new site is quite impressive and is currently in shakedown mode,” said Mr. Lathwell.

Mr. Lathwell continued, “Heather Thoma, one of the long time members and supporters of 4elements, moved to southern Ontario but has continued to organize and facilitate early learning workshops primarily for teachers. These workshops are based on the books, ‘The Art of Land-Based Early Learning Volumes 1 and 2,’ written by Sophie Edwards and Heather Thoma. Copies are made available for sale at the workshops. These books together with ‘Learning the Land: Creative Community Engagements’ by the same two authors are sold on our website and also at a book store in Toronto. Sales have been fairly steady over the year and we have had to reprint some of them.”

4e also received a grant from the Ontario government for ‘Walking Waters,’ a project involving students from the Sheshegwaning St. Joseph’s Anishinabek School and the (Gore Bay) Charles C. McLean Public School, exploring traditional routes along various waterways in their two areas.

“We hired Lauren Satok to coordinate this project and the project is currently underway and will be completed by March 31. We have received positive comments from the people involved and have received inquiries from others interested in having a similar program.”

Mr. Lathwell also explained, “the board met in the fall to begin the process of devising and implementing a transition. We decided to vacate our office location in Kagawong, and gave notice to the township of Billings that we would terminate our lease on December 31, 2019.” Billings township has agreed to allow 4e to store their belongings there rent-free until March 31, 2019. “We will decide on a location once other aspects of 4e’s future are determined,” he said.

Mr. Lathwell pointed out that erin-blythe reddie has joined the 4e board which now consists of Mr. Lathwell, Susan Snelling, Melanie Hunt and Samantha Ramage. “We would like to find two more directors,” he said.

Mr. Lathwell noted that preliminary plans for a 2019 Elemental Festival are under way for September 26-29, 2019, potential artists are being contacted, and grant applications being drafted.

“We are looking forward to an exciting year of growth in community engagement in land-based arts on Manitoulin Island,” added Mr. Lathwell.