A Net Increase in Regional Cachet

Two ambitious exhibitions will further add to OMAH's and Orillia's reputations as cultural tourist destinations. 

by Ninette Gyorody 

Originally published in the July-August issue of OMAH's The Muse News

THIS SUMMER, the Orillia Museum of Art & History will be staging two of its most ambitious exhibitions to date -  an art-based show titled Nation 2 Nation and a history-based show titled touch: Champlain at 400, both opening on Friday, June 26.

These two marquee events are the centrepieces of a marketing strategy that we hope will position OMAH as the hub for culture-based tourism in the Orillia area and help establish our region as an arts and culture destination with a unique and broad base of activities.

Cultural tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. Some 44 per cent of all overnight visitors to Ontario identify an arts and culture activity as the primary reason for their trip. According to a 2012 report released by the Ontario Arts Council, arts and culture tourists represent 36 per cent of spending by all overnight tourists. This includes spending on entertainment and recreation (51 per cent), lodgings (38 percent), food and beverages (34 per cent) and shopping (43 per cent).

On the horizon are two other potentially major developments that may further cement Orillia’s reputation as a regional cultural destination. Charles Pachter is spearheading a movement to transform the site of the Huronia Regional Centre into a national cultural facility. Coupled with possible restoration of the Mnjikaning Fish Weirs as an Indigenous attraction, the Orillia area is in the enviable position of having the  potential to dramatically expand its cultural appeal.

Meanwhile, Nation 2 Nation brings together five exceptional artists who will use local and non-local, Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives in a discussion about cultural perceptions of the “nation” concept. This discussion will be propelled by the artists’ research and explorations of the Mnjikaning Fish Weirs National Historic Site and the arrival of Samuel de Champlain in the Orillia/Rama area 400 years ago.

For this landmark anniversary, OMAH will be producing touch: Champlain at 400, an exhibition that explores the cultural legacy of the famous explorer in this region. Beginning in June (which is National Aboriginal History Month), this display of artefacts and innovative research will bring Indigenous scholarship and research to bear on Indigenous and Western records of this early period in North American history.

The exhibition will highlight the signs, symbols and practices of Indigenous people and use non-European forms of scholarship in interpreting the historic influences of Champlain. Visitors can expect a powerful, interactive account of historical events presented through narratives shaped by the cultural practices of North America’s first people.

Touch: Champlain at 400 is produced by the Chippewas of Rama First Nation Culture and Research Department in co-ordination with Dr. Darrel Manitowabi, Program Co-ordinator and Master of Indigenous Relations in the Department of Anthropology at Laurentian University, and OMAH. Douglas Hunter, writer and postdoctoral fellow in history at the University of Waterloo, also contributed to the research.

The touch and Nation 2 Nation exhibitions would not be possible without the generous support of Casino Rama, the Ontario Arts Council, Mariposa Market, OMAH’s board of directors, and the province of Ontario.

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