• Interested in getting involved as a member of the Creative Muskoka Executive Team? It is an exciting time as partnership plans are being made to implement the recommendations from the University of Toronto study, Water, Rocks, and Trees: Building on our Rich Resources – The Creative Economy in Muskoka. Just signal your interest via an email note to: info@creativemuskoka.ca.

• Just out -- a great Muskoka Life article by Jon Spratt in response to the release of the Creative Economy Study – The Economic Superhero?? Academics, artists, business owners and others are wondering whether the ‘creative economy’ offers Muskoka a way out of its seasonal highs and lows. See below for links to the article:
http://edition.pagesuiteprofessional.co.uk/launch.aspx?referral=other&pnum=&refresh=3t1HrK5012mX&EID=4549c833-05e2-4680-9ad5-5982201b3aad&skip= OR http://www.cottagecountrynow.ca/printeditions

• Presentations made at the Queen’s University conference, Creative Rural Economy - From Theory to Practice by Creative Muskoka and University of Toronto researcher Robyn Shyllit were received with significant interest. Speakers from Scotland and Australia added a global perspective to creative economy movement that is shaping Muskoka and other local economies. 

• Word is getting out about Creative Muskoka’s community and research work. Inquiries regarding details of our development and activities have recently come in from Niagara Region and Renfrew County. David Brushey, Executive Director, Muskoka Futures will be presenting the Creative Muskoka story at an eastern Ontario Community Futures Development Corporation conference later in July.

• Watch for changes to our website – www.creativemuskoka.ca as the site gets an overhaul with the help of media and communication experts Emma Lovell, Summer Experience Program staff and Muskoka Lakes Music Festival coordinator and CM supporter, Jenn Morgan Anderson. If you have photos that you would like to appear on the Creative Muskoka website, please forward them immediately to info@creativemuskoka.ca.

• Last fall, Creative Muskoka hosted a visioning session as part of the District of Muskoka’s Muskoka Moving Forward: Visioning for the Future initiative. A total of 2,700 people from across Muskoka provided input to the visioning process including 20 community groups, 2 high schools, and 3 elementary schools as well as more than 2,100 people who completed visioning surveys. The District has recently released the new vision statement. See links below for the summary brochure or full report.
http://www.muskoka.on.ca/siteengine/activepage.asp?PageID=524 OR www.muskoka.on.ca and click on “Hot Topics”.

• Steps to Leadership Program: A community advisory committee is now in place to assist Program Coordinator Molly Ross, Bloom Strategic Solutions & Consulting in shaping this three phase program. The Step Up to Leadership program for those under 30 years of age will be held October 21 -23 and offers a significant fee subsidy as an incentive for participation. The First Steps and Next Steps Program will be offered late fall, 2011 and winter, 2012. What a wonderful opportunity this will be for entrepreneurs, community and public sector leaders … and anyone interested in honing their personal and leadership skills. Stay tuned….Details of the programs will be distributed as soon as they are available.

• Enjoy all that the Muskoka summer season has to offer. We’ll be in touch next month!
• Excitement is building as we prepare to introduce the University of Toronto study “Water, Rocks, Trees … Building Upon our Rich Amenities: The Creative Economy in Muskoka” on Tuesday May 10th at 1:30 p.m. at the Rotary Centre for Youth, 131 Wellington Street, Bracebridge. This is the first study of its kind for Muskoka and we are anxious to bring the community together to discuss the implications of the researchers’ findings and recommendations. All are welcome so please spread the word! This project was made possible through the financial support of Muskoka Futures and the District of Muskoka.
RSVP: info@creativemuskoka.ca

• Refining our website images. We are in the process of enhancing the images on the Creative Muskoka website to ensure they reflect the work of our supporters. You are invited to forward pictures that represent your organization and we will do our best to incorporate them into the website. Let’s keep our website dynamic! Many thanks to Shannan Boothby, Ripples Web Design for helping us with updates.

• Members of the Creative Muskoka executive had the opportunity to meet with Mayor Alice Murphy, Township of Muskoka Lakes to discuss Creative Muskoka priorities and activities. Mayor Murphy expressed strong support for our work. We continue our efforts to build networks with our Municipal partners from across Muskoka. Recent meetings have also been held with Mayor Smith, Bracebridge and District Chair John Klinck who also expressed commitment to the creative economy. We will continue to meet with municipal officials and encourage their participation in the May 10th community event introducing the University of Toronto Creative Economy Study.

• Good news on the leadership front …. The Arts Council of Muskoka has announced the launch of the Steps to Leadership Program in partnership with the Rural Ontario Institute. This three phased program will provide exceptional learning opportunities for youth in our community as well as organizational and other community leaders. Leadership is key as we work to bring transformational change to Muskoka. Interested in participating or sponsoring? Contact Becky at becky@creativepathsmuskoka.org

• You won’t want to miss the official launch of Chautauqua Muskoka as a member of the International Chautauqua Trail. A Chautauqua Round Table – A Culture & Tourism Conversation on Creating Cultures of Place will be held in association with the launch along with a whole weekend of exceptional literary speakers and events. A program of the Muskoka Lakes Music Festival http://www.muskokachautauqua.ca/events.html

• Muskoka Watershed Council continues to offer highest quality learning opportunities related to environmental research and practice – and all events held right here in our midst. 
Muskoka Stewardship Conference, April 30th at Nipissing University – Muskoka Campus http://www.muskokaheritage.org/watershed/MSC.asp AND … Environmental Lecture Series with experts from MNR, Dorset Research Centre, Environment Canada http://www.muskokaheritage.org/watershed/PDFs/Newsletters/March2011_e-Bulletin.pdf

• The Canadian Urban Institute is pleased to announce that work is now underway to develop a set of indicators and performance measures that can be used by Ontario municipalities to measure and evaluate the outcomes of Municipal Cultural Planning (MCP) in their communities. While the Cultural Indicators Project is urban based, it promises to be of interest and relevant to smaller communities as well.

• The Monieson Centre, Queen’s University continues to take the lead in building networks and dialogue related to the creative rural economy. Plan to attend the upcoming conference, The Creative Rural Community: From Theory to Practice. And yes, Muskoka is on the agenda for our work with the University of Toronto on Muskoka’s creative economy.

• The University of Waterloo has announced that Robin Brushey (former General Manager of the Downtown Huntsville Business Improvement Area) will become the Events Manager for the Waterloo Summit Centre for the Environment. Robin takes up the position on April 26, 2011. Great to have a local contact for this great new facility!

• Be sure to follow us on twitter …twitter.com/CreativeMuskoka

• If you have information or notices that you would like included in our next Update … please forward information to info@creativemuskoka.ca
In the January 26th edition of the Bracebridge Examiner municipal reform made the headlines. While the article indicates the topic was fully debated 11 years ago and set aside, it is still on the mind of those educated about the issue. While the article suggests there is little duplication between individual municipal responsibilities and the District, it does highlight duplication among municipalities. The point is, there is lost potential for Muskoka when our human and financial resources are divided by seven. Our municipalities relate in a courteous and respectful manner but because of our municipal structure, each have a mandated responsibility to focus their energies and ideas to promote their respective municipalities. The residents of Muskoka, on the other hand, easily move among our municipalities for employment, services, education, culture, and recreation.

What if the municipal boundaries were dropped and all energy focussed on quality of life and community, environmental health and economic development for Muskoka as a whole? What would be the advantage of pooling our strengths and resources? 

On the economic front, prosperity and innovation demand regional perspectives. Competition among municipalities is a trademark of rural Ontario. We often refer with fondness to traditional rivalries between sports teams, quality of local services and infrastructure. But in today’s global economy, it is imperative that we assume a vision that extends beyond our municipal boundary. What would result if we brought all of the municipal economic developers, information technology and mapping specialists together in one office? What a powerhouse! The generation of ideas and the ability to innovate and respond to opportunities would grow exponentially. Some ideas are larger than any one municipality can own or maximize. The notion of making Muskoka a centre of excellence in education, for example, is one that pops up consistently. But who has the authority and responsibility to explore the opportunities…. and build the linkages among the formal and non-formal educational organizations and institutions already in Muskoka? How too do we fill the spaces between the efforts of municipalities, community organizations, institutions, and business? Those within the community who have District-wide interests and seek to communicate with public sector leaders face the daunting task of addressing six municipal councils plus the District.

A strong, progressive and coordinated Muskoka is attractive to those considering the option of making this the home for their family or business. The creative economy attracts the ‘footloose’. These are the new economy workers who are attracted by quality of community, cultural vibrancy and an exceptional natural environment. We are blessed with all three. It is important now that we put the structures in place that enables this new economy to flourish.
Municipal signs are popping up across the District.  Coffee shop talk has begun and formal all-candidates meetings are just around the corner.  What a great opportunity this provides to bring forward the issues that are important to Creative Muskoka supporters, and challenge potential leaders to share their views.  With this in mind, the Executive team with the help of Creative Muskoka member Newman Wallis, has prepared a series of questions that highlight some areas of critical interest.  These questions relate to topics raised by Creative Muskoka participants at the recent visioning workshop hosted by the District of Muskoka.   
* District-wide collaboration: In what ways are you prepared to promote District-wide collaboration in order to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for Muskoka?

* Creative economy: What does the “creative economy” mean to you and in what ways will you support its development in Muskoka?

* Arts and culture as economic base: What role do you envision for arts and culture in Muskoka's economic future?

* Leadership in education: Do you share the dream of making Muskoka an educational leader with world class opportunities for formal and non-formal education?

* Opportunities for youth: While Muskoka's senior population continues to grow, the young and educated are looking beyond Muskoka for career opportunities.  What is your position on this situation?  

* High priorities: Help us understand the type of leader you will be by describing your two highest priorities for change in Muskoka?

* Innovative projects: "Blue sky" for a moment and share your thoughts on what innovative projects would enhance life in this area?

* Balancing environment and economy: Summarize your position on maintaining a balance between environmental sustainability and economic development.  How important is it -- and is a balance currently being maintained?

* Growth and development: To what extent do you feel that population growth and development is necessary for Muskoka?  In your opinion, what type of growth and development should be targeted?

* Industries: What are the industries that you can foresee as bringing prosperity to this region?

* Economic vision: What is your economic vision for Muskoka?

* What we do well: Identify three things that we do really well in Muskoka. How can we build on these to enhance local prosperity?

Feel free to forward these questions to your colleagues, board members, and any other associates you feel would benefit from them. It's time to get involved. Get out and ask some questions. Remember ... the next election isn't for another four years!