Elly on the Arts: Looking back at Inspiration

The Flin Flon Arts Council hosted “Inspiration 3.0 - Developing a Northern Vision” last month. This is the third edition of the Inspiration conference, which grew out of a wish to establish Flin Flon as a northern centre of excellence for arts and culture in Manitoba. The first conference, “Inspiration - Building Knowledge”, focused on actual building theory and featured guest speakers - Jon Allen, a classical geometrist and architect from London, U.K. who taught the participants how ancient geometric formulas still apply to today’s building techniques and Shabnam Dailoo from Edmonton, an expert on planning and designing Persian gardens who teaches at Athabasca University. Other presentations featured members of our Indigenous community who taught both teepee and sweat lodge building. An amazing aspect of this was how closely the willow tree bending of branches for a sweat lodge adhered to the geometric patterns for geodesic dome buildings.

“Inspiration 2.0 - Knowledge and Development” last year featured conversations with several community and arts focused groups by three exceptional Canadian women, Dorothy Dobbie, a former MP for South Winnipeg, Jean Giguere, recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Volunteerism in the Arts and Janice Price, CEO and president of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. The impetus for this conference was to promote the growth and development of the arts sector in a small community, still with a view towards actually building an arts centre in the region.

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This particular goal has been put on hold by the drastic changes to the economic outlook that is now facing Flin Flon with the mine closure slated for 2022. However, the Flin Flon Arts Council, led by cultural coordinator Crystal Kolt, is committed to alternate economic diversity for the region, aided by development of the arts and cultural industry in the area.

Inspiration 3.0 was led by Hazel Borys, managing director and principal of PlaceMakers, a group of urban planners which prides itself on being more than just a design team. Their website states that they “address the full scope of placemaking — planning and urban design, context-specific coding, community engagement, implementation, and the marketing of great places — and put our focus on the kind of viability that turns vision into reality.” Placemaking is defined (by Wikipedia) as a “multi-faceted approach to planning design and management of public spaces that capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential to create public spaces that promote health, happiness and wellbeing.”

In Flin Flon, Borys met with several groups that included Flin Flon Arts Council, Flin Flon city council, the Flin Flon and District Chamber of Commerce, the NorVA Centre Board, Flin Flon Aboriginal Friendship Centre, the Main Street Revitalization Committee and others, including Look North, a group organized by the province to grow the economy of northern Manitoba and the Visionaries group associated with the North Central Canada Centre for Arts and Environment.

Out of those meetings she developed a seven-point blueprint of economic development and diversification strategies which contain action points within them.

Each point contains many points within them to help the community along but of note is the first point - "let's go silo-busting" - which included starting a community lunch club that would bring together all of the collaborators on a regular basis to discuss progress towards meeting goals. The first meeting of this group took place March 6 and will continue to meet for lunch on the first Friday of each month to review and critique progress towards the goals. Lunch is at the Victoria Inn at noon and all interested people are welcome.

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