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“Music is still alive and kicking” – Artists unite to boost cultural sector

August 6, 2020   ·   0 Comments

The lights may have been turned off at museums and galleries, and theatres may have gone cold, but the local arts and culture community is still alive and kicking – and needs the community’s support as we settle into a new normal.

This is the message being sent out to the world through the healing power of music by the Town of Aurora’s Arts & Culture Virtual Roundtable, a group formed by Council to look at the unique needs of a unique industry at what is inarguably a very unique time.

This week, the Roundtable has launched One For Aurora, a music video showcasing Aurora’s arts and culture sector to U2’s “One”, here voiced by singers George St. Kitts and Robyn Black, and backed by pianist Chris Rolko and guitarist Lorne Feld.

Their message is simple: everything will be okay if we move forward as “One.”

“Collectively, we came up with this idea that it would be fun to have an inspirational video that would raise awareness of arts and culture groups and activities in Aurora,” says Mr. Rolko, who, along with partner Janet Marsh, laid the groundwork for the video, including securing St. Andrew’s College as a filming location.

“We wanted to inspire people and get them feeling good about life again, and there’s probably, in my opinion, no better way of doing that than through music. One is about togetherness and supporting one another and we thought that was a nice message.”

Now available on YouTube, the video showcases such cultural mainstays as the Aurora Public Library, Aurora Cultural Centre, Theatre Aurora, Marquee Theatrical Productions, the Aurora Historical Society and Hillary House, and the York Region Arts Council, among others.

Council members belonging to the Arts & Culture Roundtable say the sector was one of the first to shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and, given Ontario’s phased-in plan to re-open the Province, will likely be the last one to get back up to speed.

“They say arts and culture is the canary in the coalmine and will be one of the last to get back up,” said Councillor Rachel Gilliland, who serves on the Roundtable with Councillors John Gallo and Sandra Humfryes. “I wanted to have a focused group in that area to engage with one other and support and collaborate on ideas together to help us through these hard times. As we’re evolving, we don’t necessarily have all those guidelines in place and we want to make sure we’re able to talk about ideas and give each other hope, and hopefully support one another moving forward – economically and emotionally.”

Added Councillor Humfryes: “At our very first meeting, we challenged this talented group to come up with something that would inspire and help Aurora know that we’re in it together. Janet and Chris came up with this idea to do a music video to showcase talent and they came up with a tremendous video that really did uplift the residents of Aurora. They made it happen when it was tough to make anything happen.”

Since COVID-19 took root in Canada, live performances have been almost nil as there are few venues that will allow them to take place while maintaining social distancing rules, says Councillor Humfryes. The group, she says, was formed to see what they can do to lend a hand while these challenges are being worked out.

“Aurora is arts and culture; it is the heart and soul of our Town and not having that was really difficult,” she says. “We’re hoping this committee brought back a little bit of hope that it is still here, we’re going to come through it strong and better than ever – and I really think that video can pave the way. It is going to happen and hopefully we will all hang in there and do what the arts and culture community does differently to ultimately get to where we were even better than before.”

But there is still a lot to do to get to that point, and while the group is on hiatus for the summer, Councillor Gilliland says she hopes they can play an active role in new programs and initiatives this fall.

“Personally, I am looking forward to getting out into the community and being in-person and socially involved, being open and creative to the arts and culture in general,” says Councillor Gilliland. “The [sector] brings various levels of change. They contribute to the development of the community’s creative learning, create healthy communities capable of action, they help people express values and build bridges between cultures, and to be a part of that, I think, is so very rewarding. They really [make a contribution] to the overall health and wellbeing of the community.

“I hope we can bring that collaboration to Aurora and all other municipalities within York Region to promote one another and engage.”

For Mr. St. Kitts, that is very much why he wanted to lend his talent to the video.

“This will definitely give the industry and community a boost,” he says. “A lot of people showcased are from the great Town of Aurora and we want to let the artists know they haven’t been forgotten. Music is still alive and well, it’s still kicking, we’ll get back to doing it the way we want to do it, but, for now, the video and doing it social-distanced was really fun.

“The arts are still alive and well in Aurora.”

To view One For Aurora, visit

By Brock Weir



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