Cultural Midland Awards and Roundtable

The civic leaders of the Town of Midland, Ontario have been actively working to re-energize their community as changes in the economy have necessitated a new community strategy based upon the cultural economy. Gord McKay, Midland’s Mayor and its urban planner, Wes Crown have been instrumental in reaching out to civic and cultural leaders throughout Ontario to find new ways to enhance the economic vitality of the town. As a key step in acknowledging the role that arts and culture can play in the evolution of the Town’s economic base, the Culture Midland Awards and Roundtable was launched this year.

Many parts of Ontario have been redefined by the careful nurturing of the specific qualities that make their regions unique. Places like Niagara-on-the-Lake, Picton County, Muskoka and Stratford have had great success attracting people from outside their borders. Linking the cultural awards with the round-table was a brilliant way to bring the people of Midland into an intimate conservation about the importance of this evolving strategy.


Mayor of Stratford, Dan Mathieson

The keynote speaker for the Awards Ceremony was the four term mayor of Stratford, Dan Mathieson. Stratford is acknowledged as one of the most successful cultural regions in Ontario. Mayor Mathieson described Stratford’s evolution from a manufacturing and agricultural hub to its present condition which includes significant cultural assets. Throughout the presentation, Mayor Mathieson stressed that the evolution of Stratford was a grass roots affair. Its cultural offerings evolved with incremental improvements as the town slowly established itself as a theatre centre within all of Southern Ontario and beyond. He stressed that while the level of support from all levels of government towards each of the cultural institutions of his town is much lower than in many other jurisdiction, their economic impact is well above any other region, per capita, in Canada. After his presentation, Mayors McKay and Matheison took questions from the audience, stressing the realities that any changes will be founded upon on strong public participation and to expect limited government funding.


Mayor Mathieson and Gord McKay, Mayor of Midland

Fred Hacker, the MC for the evening and a huge contributor of the success of the cultural community of Midland, set out to present the evening’s four awards. A standing ovation greeted the announcement by referee Rudi Quammie Williams (Founding Director of the City of Barrie’s Department of Culture) for the “Founders/Builders/Historical Contributors Award” which was presented to Reinhart Weber.


Reinhart Weber accepting award from Rudi Quammie Williams

His gift to build the Midland Cultural Centre (MCC), designed by our office, is the single largest gift to any town in Ontario’s history. This together with the Weber Foundation’s contributions to many of the core institutions of the community, Reinhart and Alexandra Weber have given Midland a unique foundation to build upon. Stratford’s Mayor stated numerous times throughout the evening that the MCC could do for Midland what the construction of the Stratford Festival Theatre in the late 1950’s did for his community. We can see that this transformation may already be underway. Within three years after its construction the Town has already capitalized on this unique asset and it has become an economic catalyst for the downtown, anchoring the downtown BIA’s southern edge and creating a destination within the downtown area.

The Culture Midland Awards event filled Rotary Hall with many of the regions most talented. The “Excellence in Culture award” was won by John French, recognizing his incredible contribution to the Town through his Brookside Music Association (many Brookside events are held within the MCC) and Sweetfire, a pop ensemble of 4, won the “Emerging Talent Award” with Patricia Stenton winning the “Education in Culture Award”.

Midland’s urban planner, Wes Crown, speaking at Prosperity Summit in Rotary Hall

HRA continues to participate in Midland’s cultural and economic renaissance, with the Salon Camden which our office hosted in 2012; then the Prosperity Summit in 2013, and the recent article in Canadian Architect about the role of the Cultural Centre in the Town. With the newly launched Midland Culture Plan and the Downtown Midland Master Plan the town is well positioned to reveal and showcase to Southern Ontario the huge talent found in the region. Our own analysis of the town’s unique character within our recently published book, “Building Community – Community Building” also gives an indication of the subtle ways that the Town can be transformed to attract people.

Midland must now build upon the efforts launched by Mayor McKay and the mayors of the surrounding municipalities, to unify the region under a memorable brand, allowing each of these smaller communities to work together to build exposure and invite people into the region. We look forward to this.

Keep posted for further blogs about Midland and its evolving cultural landscape. We know that this is only the beginning of great things for Midland and Simcoe County.



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