• 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
What is the Steps to Leadership Program?
Steps to Leadership is a three-stage package of leadership development programming that offers communities and organizations the opportunity to develop a new generation of leaders. The package has been developed by a provincial collaborative including the Rural Ontario Institute, 4H Ontario and the Foundation for Rural Living, and funding through the federal government.

What are the benefits to Muskoka?
Steps to Leadership provides the tools, knowledge and networks to build strong individual leaders ... who in turn build strong organizations, strong local economies and communities. Local, affordable and quality leadership training opportunities will enable leaders and emerging leaders in Muskoka to develop their potential and become instrumental in bringing positive, innovative change to our community.

How is the Program organized?
The Package includes three distinct programs:
• The Step Up to Leadership Workshop will inspire next generation leaders between the ages of 16 and 25 years to get involved in Muskoka. (Up to 25 participants)
• Leading Edge: First Steps is a skills-based training program that focuses on personal leadership development and organizational development. This program is for those already involved in the community as well as those who need to build confidence to get involved. 
(Up to 25 participants)
• Leading Edge: Next Steps has a community development focus and targets current leaders. Participants will enhance their ability to assess opportunities, and to better plan and develop a more economically sustainable community. (Up to 25 participants)

How can we bring this opportunity to Muskoka?
The Arts Council of Muskoka is prepared to act as lead partner organization and administrator for the Steps to Leadership Program. While the Rural Ontario Institute is subsidizing the program to ensure the opportunity reaches all of those communities interested in fostering local leadership, a community investment is required.
Total Program Cost $40,450
Community Investment $10,000
We are seeking assistance from community organizations, groups, businesses and individuals to help us bring this program to Muskoka through Program sponsorship.

Request for Sponsorship
The entire program package, including the three program components, project co-ordination & administration, marketing and outreach, is valued at over $40,450:
Cost Breakdown:
$23,450 (57.5%) from Steps to Leadership Program
$7,000 (17.5%) from participant registration fees*
$10,000 (25%) from the community investment
*There is an opportunity to receive a further program subsidy of up to 50% of registration fees

We are seeking assistance from community organizations, groups, businesses and individuals to help us bring this program to Muskoka. We strongly urge you to invest in the leaders of tomorrow through program sponsorship.

A Benefit of Sponsorship 
All sponsors will be invited to nominate a representative to sit on a Local Steering Committee. Through involvement on this Committee you will have the opportunity to shape the program and tailor it to the Muskoka situation. Committee members will play a role in:
- identifying potential program participants
- suggesting presenters to deliver the content of the programs
- marketing the programs to their networks and organizations contacts
- championing the programs
- recommending potential program venues

You will be joined on the Committee by key sector leaders representing the economic/business, agricultural, educational, tourism, environmental, political or youth sectors. 

For further information on Steps to Leadership Sponsorship contact:
Arts Council of Muskoka
Phone: 705-644-0531
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
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!
Muskoka is the place to be if you need a drink.  Our cute pubs, stylish ristorantes, and laid-back hangouts fulfill everyone’s wants and needs.  One thing I have found since returning home is that I spend much more time talking to my bartenders because we are all around the same age.  It is amazing what you can find out about someone over a casual drink.  

Did you know that you can make between $8,000 and $13,000 as a bartender or server during the summer in Muskoka? I talked to some friends who are working as servers and bartenders in variety of Muskoka establishments, and they all agreed that if you really commit yourself you will get a very high return. It is very difficult to find a job where you are making that much money, other than in construction. I was chatting with one of my favorite local bartenders and when the subject of school and travel came up it was so interesting to hear that she had done a double major, and had travelled all over Europe and South Asia during the past few years. When I asked her why she came back to Muskoka and what she was going to do next, she replied, “I’m not really sure. Right now I’m just making money to travel and pay off my student loan. I just love it here! The lifestyle is so different, I love the outdoors, and I really can’t see myself anywhere else.” This statement is very telling. 

Having grown up in Muskoka, I constantly run into people I went to school with and during the initial “How are you?” the subject of school almost always comes up. “I’m done, just back here to figure out what I want to do now”, “I think I might have to go back and do a college degree or something. There aren’t that many jobs up here in my field”, “I can’t find something I really want to do up here, so I’m serving. The money’s decent.” 

Don’t get me wrong, serving and bartending are completely acceptable careers, and absolutely vital in Muskoka. It is disappointing, though, if you go away to school, get your degree, come back because this is where you want to settle down and instead of being able to find a job in whatever you studied, you settle for a summer job that will make you money, not a full-time career. This is a problem. We go away to school so that we gain a better education, learn the tools we need in order to get a well-paying job, and to experience life away from home. When we come back to find that great job here, there isn’t one for us. You have raised us in this amazing haven, and regardless of how much we wanted out after high school, you still made us fall in love and we’re back. What are we going to do now?

I was talking to a fellow intern the other day and he said, “Finding a nice girl in this town is hard because they all leave after high school. The guys come back and work construction, but the girls move on and go to the city to find a career.” This may not seem like a big deal at the moment, but when the baby boomers are retired and it is up to us to keep Muskoka’s population sustained, how will that happen without young people attracted by well-paying jobs? 

This is where the creative economy comes in. Ask yourself – do the young people in your community represent wasted resources? Muskoka needs to start investing in new economy jobs that require next generation education, skills, and ideas – that is what we can offer. Now that’s sustainability!

Dana Clark
I am a twenty-something with my eye on Muskoka. This is my home and, although my schooling has taken me across the country, I am constantly drawn back to its natural beauty, charismatic community and its lifestyle. But something is changing and I want to be a part of it. They call it the creative economy and like others, I am trying to understand what it means.

Why does the creative economy interest me at all? Because my expectations are high. I am educated, ambitious and hungry for opportunities that will grow my talents and my experience. I am looking for a great job that will make use of my talents and will reward me in return. I love Muskoka and want to build a career that will allow me to contribute to my home town. Occupations related to arts and culture are very much a part of the new creative economy, and cultural activities contribute to a quality of life that acts like a magnet in attracting creative workers. But by definition, creative occupations are much broader. Creative workers are knowledge workers whose jobs involve idea generation, innovation, decision-making and responsibility.

The creative economy is taking many forms in Muskoka. I mention a sampling.

On the culinary front, The Griffin Gastropub is a niche establishment that is capitalizing on consumer's interest in combining quality food, cozy atmosphere and a focus on all that is local and micro. Two young Griffin entrepreneurs are bringing the flavours of the world to their patrons along with over 50 different beers made exclusively by Ontario Breweries. Muskoka Cottage Brewery and Lake of Bays Brewery, two other local creative industries, are included on the menu. Good luck finding a seat! Savour Muskoka is a clever collective of food businesses that is developing the Muskoka region as a dynamic culinary tourism destination by supporting establishments like the Griffin.

What about the many environmentalists who are operating consulting and research services from Muskoka. They are also a part of the creative economy. For example, Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Ltd. is a new Muskoka company that is using local scientists and technicians to undertake Canada-wide projects related to aquatic science. New technologies allow Muskoka-based operations to serve clients around the globe.

Muskoka is also becoming an eduation centre. Georgian College, Nipissing University and now Waterloo University are bringing formal learning opportunities to the area. Specialized programs promise to attract learners from around the world, and bring teaching professionals to Muskoka as well. Having the chance to experience Muskoka may entice some people into relocating and moving their businesses and jobs here to enjoy our quality of life on a permanent basis.

And yes... I am proud of my community. I am passionate about being a part of Muskoka's future and I am committed to doing what it takes to prosper here at home by becoming a part of this new, creative economy.

Dana Clark