Creative Muskoka’s efforts to revitalize Muskoka through investment in the creative economy continue to gain momentum. 

“A movement is definitely growing in support of the creative economy in Muskoka”, says Mary Robertson Lacroix, Chair of Creative Muskoka. She refers to a University of Toronto Study of Muskoka’s Creative Economy commissioned by Creative Muskoka with support from the District of Muskoka and Muskoka Futures that is scheduled for release later this spring. “This study will identify the current status of the local economy and provide recommendations for us to work as a region to further develop the creative economy. Research clearly points to the fact that small and dispersed communities must be intentional in building strategies for growth.” 

The need for new thinking and new economy strategies is becoming more and more evident. The Bracebridge Examiner recently reported on a new District study indicating the number relying on Ontario Works is reaching historic highs. Young people are hit particularly hard by the lack of employment opportunities. “We simply have to realize that the economy has changed and we must work together to transform our economy for a prosperous future” says Robertson Lacroix.

Four new supporters have joined the ranks of Creative Muskoka bringing the number to 24 community organizations, businesses and municipalities who have formally expressed their endorsement of the group. Creative Muskoka is unique as it operates as a flexible platform for collaboration among champions of arts and culture, environment and creative economy in Muskoka. 

The recently announced Creative Muskoka leadership team for the upcoming year reflects a commitment to working district-wide: Kareen Burns, Huntsville Arts Festival and Reel Alternatives; Gayle Dempsey, Director of Development for the Muskoka Lakes Music Festival; Jennifer Schnier, Economic Development Officer for Township of Georgian Bay; Saundra Turnbull, Chair, Arts Council of Muskoka and Mary Robertson Lacroix representing Muskoka Futures acts as Chair of Creative Muskoka. Larry Curley of the Ministry of Culture acts as an advisor providing an important link to provincial initiatives. 

Creative Muskoka has been invited to share Muskoka’s story at an upcoming creative rural economy conference hosted by the Monieson Centre, School of Business at Queen's University. The relationships Muskoka is building with Queen's University and the University of Toronto is helping to put Muskoka in the forefront and provides important avenues for the sharing of ideas and expertise .
 
 
Here's What's Happening ...

• Creative Muskoka is pleased to announce the Executive Leadership Team for the upcoming year: Kareen Burns, Huntsville Festival of the Arts & Reel Alternatives (capercailliecallum@gmail.com); Gayle Dempsey, Muskoka Lakes Music Festival (mci@muskoka.com); Mary Robertson Lacroix - Chair, Muskoka Futures (info@creativemuskoka.ca); Saundra Turnbull, Arts Council of Muskoka (villageplace@muskoka.com); Larry Curley - Advisor, Ministry of Culture (larry.curley@ontario.ca). A special welcome to Jennifer Schnier, Economic Development Officer, Township of Georgian Bay (jschnier@gbtownship.ca) who is joining the leadership team at this time. Great to have a municipal representative with such strong community experience on the team. Rob McPhee, MCN is stepping down as a member of the Executive Team having served for the past year. Many thanks to Rob for all he has done to support Creative Muskoka!! We look forward, of course, to continue our relationship with Rob and MCN in the upcoming year. 

• Creative Muskoka welcomes four new organizational supporters from across Muskoka: Muskoka Lakes Spring Art Tour, Lake of Bays Sustainable Economy Strategic Planning Group, Township of Georgian Bay, and Wood's End Studio. This increases the number of our formal supporters to 24 community organizations, municipalities and businesses. If you know others interested in joining our efforts to grow the creative economy in Muskoka, please ask them to contact CM at info@creativemuskoka.ca

• Creative Muskoka is supporting the Arts Council of Muskoka in their application to bring the Steps to Leadership Program to Muskoka - a three part series aimed at building youth, organizational and community leadership. Strong leadership is fundamental to community innovation, economic prosperity and jobs. Building leadership capacity to take Muskoka into the future is critical to all sectors – private, public and not-for-profit alike. Our success in bringing this program to our District hinges on community sponsorship. We need your help. For more information, contact Becky Conlin, Arts Council of Muskoka at becky@creativepathsmuskoka.org

• CM's 2011 Strategic Priorities Report identified communications and outreach with our municipal partners and community organizations as a high priority in getting our message out about the importance of supporting the creative economy. Meetings have already been held with Mayor Graydon Smith, Town of Bracebridge and District Chair John Klinck. Both expressed strong support for the work of Creative Muskoka and interest in strengthening their relationship with us in the future. 

• In co-operation with Muskoka Lakes Music Festival, CM has made application to hire a Summer Experience Student through the Ministry of Culture to help with the development of quality communication pieces and the design of an easily managed website. These materials will increase the professionalism and credibility of the organization and become the backbone of our outreach program.

• The University of Toronto Study of Muskoka's Creative Economy is progressing on schedule and promises to provide a pathway for future development. Anticipation is mounting! Thanks to all who participated in interviews with researcher Robyn Shyllit. The Advisory Committee comprised of the CM Executive Team plus representatives of the project funders -- Muskoka Futures staff and Board Members, and a representative of the District of Muskoka's Planning Department are now reviewing early drafts of the report. Stay tuned for presentation of the report at a public event later this spring. Date to be determined. We have been making good use of the MCN Business and Technology Centre to connect electronically with the University of Toronto thorugh video conferencing. What a great way to connect multiple locations without the need for travel.

• University of Toronto researcher Robyn Shyllit and CM Chair Mary Robertson Lacroix have been invited to speak at an upcoming creative rural economy conference titled, "The Creative Rural Economy: From Theory to Practice" being held in Kingston and Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada June 14 - 16, 2011, and hosted by the Monieson Centre, School of Business, Queen's University. We will be participating in the panel session, "Creative Rural Economy Sector Analysis: A Practical Analytical Tool for Community Action". The invitation to participate in this conference is a recognition of Muskoka's emerging leadership in the field. The relationships we are building with Queen's University and the University of Toronto provide important avenues for networking and the sharing of ideas and expertise.

• The Town of Huntsville has now completed their Cultural Plan. It is available online at http://www.huntsville.ca/en/townHall/resources/Town%20of%20Huntsville%20Cultural%20Strategy%202011%20Final.pdf. and worth the read!

Any comments or questions... please feel free to contact me.

Mary Robertson Lacroix, Chair - info@creativemuskoka.ca