Bracebridge’s downtown waterfront is set for a major reimagining and one local artist says the potential is there to create something truly great.
Melissa Pole recently brought her idea for an art school on the RONA/Timber Mart property forward to Bracebridge’s Downtown Master Plan Working Group. In 2017, the Town of Bracebridge purchased the 4.12 acre property and the group is now tasked with helping to find the best use of the lands – which are located downtown on the banks on the Muskoka River.
“The idea came out of being an artist, being a part of Muskoka Arts and Crafts and also practicing and teaching art in places that have invested in infrastructure,” says Pole. “I’ve seen the incredible opportunities the arts community brings while also filling multiple needs for the community.”
Pole, 29, graduated with a Master of Arts from Queens University, studied at the Ottawa School of Art and is currently pursuing a PhD at Carleton University. She is a member of a number of local arts organizations and teaches classes out of the Annex on Manitoba Street.
Her proposal calls for an immersive and interactive community-based design, with indoor/outdoor exhibition space and a cafe and sitting area.
“We have such a large hub of artists, collectives and private studios here in Bracebridge,” she says. “Let’s bring all these people together and create a space that meets all these needs, while also providing friendly and warm spaces for locals and visitors to hang out, explore local arts and culture, support small business and artists and enjoy the waterfront.”
She says the space could also provide opportunities and activities for youth, community events and education. She also says that perhaps at some point in the future the facility could offer certificates or post-secondary degrees.
Pole says it’s also of vital importance to include Indigenous partnerships in the creation and operation of the school.
That could include an integration of Indigenous pedagogy into the curriculum with a speaker series to incorporate visiting artists and knowledge keepers to educate the community on the importance of Indigenous approaches to art and education. It could also include classes in traditional Indigenous art mediums and hosting Indigenous-led exhibitions and collaborations.
Pole spoke to the working group and laid out her plans via a powerpoint presentation.
“I think it went really well,” she says. “They seemed interested in what I had to say and now I’m going to keep going with it and take the next steps.”
Next up, Pole will approach community organizations and partners to create a collaboration and hopefully push the project forward.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!