Muskoka Bound

By Karen Cassian

The Haliburton School of Fine Arts is a part of Fleming College and can be found close to the small village of Haliburton, on the spectacular shores of Head Lake. It is a school with a wonderful reputation that has become a staple in the village’s small but strong arts community.

A satellite branch of the school is scheduled to open in Huntsville next summer, and local residents are getting excited at the prospect of flexing their creative muscles through new educational programs. With an abundance of talented artists in the Huntsville area, the school won’t have to look far for instructors.

A recognized centre for arts education, the school shares its property with the Nordic Ski Club, the Haliburton County Snowmobile Club, the Head Lake Trail and the Haliburton Sculpture Forest.

The school seems to be busy from dawn until dusk. Energy permeates the many classrooms as students work to fulfill their creative talents. The building bustles with outdoor watercolour and oil painters returning from their daily expeditions, wet canvases in hand. They weave their way through hallways of choir singers and violin players testing out their newfound talents.

On Thursday nights the school encourages “walkarounds” allowing everyone to view the many classrooms and resulting works of all students. Each evening there is something interesting happening in the Great Hall including speakers and even a teacher art auction to raise funds for student scholarships.

There are as many varied courses available at the high school down the road as there are at the college. Students can take almost anything including weaving, photography, mixed media painting, stained glass, watercolour, acrylics and portraiture.  Some are attracted to courses on chain saw sculpting, timber house construction, bird carving, or learning to play a musical instrument. There is something for everyone who wants to fulfill a creative desire.

Sandra Dupret, Dean of the Haliburton Campus of Fleming College, confirmed that a satellite campus was indeed in the works for Huntsville.

“We are very hopeful that a satellite of the Haliburton School of the Arts can be delivered in Huntsville next summer,” she said. “Just as we have great people here making things happen, there are wonderfully active members of the Huntsville community working hard to fully develop a partnership. The group of community members who comprise Education Huntsville have really been advocating and making connections on our behalf. Truly dedicated!”

Sandra confirmed that there was a delay this summer because of the G8 and construction at the high school. They will first have to run some pilot courses to get a feel for what would work in Huntsville, most likely running four or five courses next summer.

Bob Attfield, from Education Huntsville, said he and his group are presently looking around Huntsville for wheelchair accessible buildings with classrooms that would accommodate the courses.

Weekly classes throughout the summer would bring in valuable tourist dollars to Huntsville. On the Fleming College summer courses website there are lists of affordable local housing where students can stay for a week at a time, which could be replicated in Huntsville. Restaurants in the village of Haliburton are full throughout the summer and downtown stores and art galleries are thriving with the increased tourism brought in from the school.

The history of the Haliburton school is an interesting one. As far back as 1967, during the time the Province of Ontario was beginning to design their community college system, the Haliburton Guild of Fine Arts began running autumn art courses out of the local high school. In the year 2000 the province, recognizing the guild’s excellent programming yet inadequate facilities, allocated over $5 million to construct a new campus.

Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors, campaign co-chairs Barb Bolin and Murray Fearrey and their committee, a further $2.5 million was raised to complete the funding to build the school. The municipality of Dysart also donated the 25-acre parcel of land overlooking Head Lake that would become the home of the Haliburton School of Fine Arts.

There is no doubt that a satellite fine arts school in Huntsville would be excellent idea. It would enhance the already vibrant arts community and provide increased tourism to a dynamic town. If all goes according to plan, Huntsville’s school of fine arts will have a history of its own.

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