New arts program moves a step forward

SOUTH DUNDAS – A new arts program in South Dundas is taking another step forward. The brainchild of Reverend Jon Martin, parish priest with the Anglican Parish of South Dundas, the program has received funding from the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa.

“We received $10,000 over two years to get things started,” Martin told The Leader.

The plan is to start with music lessons and expand into drama, theatre and even visual arts.

Martin said that such an arts program is important for South Dundas, based on his own experience growing up in nearby Ingleside. “I was the type of kid who could blend in with the sports activities,” he said. “But it was music that helped me, creatively, to cope with the stresses of growing up in a small town.”

He said the sports angle is covered with lots of options available for people interested in them. However arts programming, is limited. “We heard through the community that there is a real need for arts programming here,” he said. “Not everyone has the means to go out of town for programs.”

To that end, the parish has hired Margaret Whisselle as its new music director starting February 1st. Whisselle is from the area and brings a wealth of experience to her new role. She holds a Bachelor of Music (Honours) from Queen’s University, taught at the music performance theatre program at St. Lawrence College, and is a member of the Brockville Operatic Society. Whisselle has taught voice and music to students for many years and shares the same interest Martin does in the start up of an arts program.

“I’m involved with a similar program in Brockville,” she said. “It offers music, art, and theatre. I have had parents ask and I wished there was something we could do here.”

Whisselle said that while she did have opportunities for music in school, nowadays kids don’t get enough.
“Arts always are the first [programs] to get cut,” she said.

She said she has a lot of ideas but will start building programming slowly starting first with music lessons. While expanding the programming, she will also be looking at grants and other funding to secure instruments and other equipment that is needed.

Martin said they hope to have drama and some summer day camp programming running by Summer 2019.
Both Martin and Whisselle said the programming will be free of charge for low-income families. This is to enable as many kids as possible to have access.

In November, Martin pitched a proposal to the 100 Men of South Dundas group for funding to purchase musical instruments, in support of the arts program.

While unsuccessful at the event, Martin did draw attention to the need for instruments. He was connected through the community to a piano which has an historic tie to Morrisburg. The concert piano from the former Morrisburg Music Hall is in the process of being donated to the new arts program. The Music Hall was located in the old village of Morrisburg on the third floor of the Bank of Nova Scotia. During the St. Lawrence-Seaway construction, the piano was sold to a private citizen. Martin connected with Carman House Museum curator Murray Richer who has helped with the donation process.