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County Arts Lab launch a creative leap from COVID constraints

A new hub for arts education, artistic expression and community collaboration has been launched thanks to a grant to County Arts (formerly Prince Edward County Arts Council).

The County Arts Lab offers a wide range of artist-driven, community-centered programming in the Picton Armoury Building. The lab’s first session of community arts classes launched in February, with offerings for residents of all ages led by experienced local artist instructors. A sliding-scale fee system and other financial support is helping to ensure courses are financially accessible to all community members.

In the fall of 2021, County Arts was awarded a $50,000 grant from the provincial government’s Community Building Fund, delivered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation to support staffing and operating costs and equipment upgrades.

“The funding has been instrumental during a challenging yet exciting moment in the organization’s history, helping County Arts weather significant pandemic-related revenue losses while launching the new County Arts Lab,” said Jenna Smith, County Arts Executive Director.

She notes County Arts was just about to press ‘send’ on its first grant application for the lab in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Our focus quickly shifted to remaining afloat while adapting our programs/events and responding to the emerging, pandemic-related needs and challenges of artists, arts organizations, and the wider Prince Edward County community. Two challenging years later, and with community healing and togetherness top of mind, we couldn’t be more thrilled to be launching the County Arts Lab.”

The lab now also houses art for well-being programming, which kicked off this month with a series of free visual arts workshops prioritizing access for residents at higher risk of experiencing social isolation and mental health challenges.

“A one-month annual artist residency program (set for June 2022) and the activate arts program, offering free or affordable meeting space for arts activities, respond to a long-standing need for more creative and studio space in the County,” said Smith.

She notes the launch was also due to founding partners who made $5,000-plus gifts to support the launch, including the late Wayne McNulty, and Don Pinder; the Huff Family Fund, The County Foundation and the John M. & Bernice Parrott Foundation.

At the announcement of the grant, Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith praised the arts council for offering “a strong, collaborative voice for more than 300 artists as it promotes, incubates and supports vibrant engagement in the arts locally.”

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