Highlands Summer Festival's artistic producer Scot Denton announced the 2018 theatrical lineup will include a locally produced Romeo and Juliet. Denton who will direct Romeo and Juliet is excited about having Shakespeare’s play and hopes to draw youth to the stage and to the seats to watch the performance. /DARREN LUM Staff

Summer arts take a hit

Haliburton School of Art +Design Haliburton Art and Craft Festival cancelled due to COVID-19

By Jenn Watt

Two major arts institutions in Haliburton have nixed their summer plans for 2020 adding to the growing list of cancellations in the county as efforts continue to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

On April 8 Fleming College announced that Haliburton School of Art + Design wouldn’t be offering its summer programming affecting more than 300 weeklong and weekend courses that draw thousands of people to the Highlands.

“Although this is a difficult decision that impacts thousands of students and many others in the arts community it is the only option available to us as we hold the health and safety of the community as our highest priority” Tom Phillips vice president academic experience said in a statement.

Students are to be contacted about the cancellation and refunds.

On April 11 the Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre posted to its Facebook page that the Haliburton Art and Craft Festival would also be called off.

“Rails End Gallery made this difficult decision with the health and well-being of our volunteers staff the public and the artists in mind. The COVID-19 crisis and the waves that are bound to follow are rippling through the arts community and around the world. I am confident this was the right thing to do. I am also confident we will get through this together” curator Laurie Jones wrote online.

Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts said she was saddened to hear of the cancellations but understood that it was necessary.

“Both of these have been staples of the summer in Haliburton” she said of HSAD and the art and craft festival. “They are so important to the economy but also to the vibrancy that makes summer so much fun here. I loved going to the arts and crafts festival and often did some Christmas shopping there. We’d eat lunch and listen to the music. This festival is the main fundraiser for the Rails End and I’m sure they are wondering how they will make ends meet this year. The college courses have been running for years and attract people from all over. My sister from Quebec was planning on taking a course this summer and was disappointed to hear it was all cancelled.”

Because planning is done so far in advance for summer programming it was necessary to cancel now she said.

“The reality is we are in for a very different summer here in the Highlands. All we can do is hope and pray that we will get back to being able to have festivals and events and that organizations that hold these can survive this summer. That being said it will still be summer we will have some gorgeous warm days  we can swim in our lakes go for a paddle and enjoy the beautiful place we live in” Roberts said.

Jones said the Rails End Gallery would share the work of the artists who were to have come to the festival through social media. Rails End has already been posting artwork on its Facebook and Instagram accounts for its Water exhibition which was closed as a COVID-19 precaution.

The Haliburton Art and Craft Festival is the town’s “largest and longest running outdoor festival” Jones said an annual attraction that filled the park each July.

“I hope you will continue to support makers and artists online. Please share this sentiment share your stories and let the makers in your life know how much better your world is because of their art and craftsmanship” she said.

As was reported in last week’s Echo the Highlands Summer Festival has cancelled its season.

As of press time the Highlands Opera Studio is still moving ahead with its offering which starts in late July. Valerie Kuinka general director said that the fallout of the pandemic has been severe for some in the arts community.

“So many of our colleagues in the professional performing arts sector established and emerging have already been deeply affected by COVID-19 with several having battled the virus and some having succumbed. The vast majority have been financially devastated with many already facing bankruptcy” she wrote in an open letter posted to the opera studio’s website.

She asked that those wanting to support the arts community donate the money from cancelled tickets back to arts organizations.

“Should you experience the necessary cancellation of any live professional performance due to COVID-19 to which you have bought tickets please consider donating the cost of your ticket(s) to that organization for a tax receipt instead of a refund. It will mean so much to so many” she said.

Highlands Opera Studio performances are to begin July 23 and continue into August. Updates are posted at highlandsoperastudio.com.