Ancaster arts groups wait until curtain rises again

News May 29, 2020 by Kevin Werner Ancaster News

Hamilton’s arts community is in a state of limbo as organizers and artists wait out the coronavirus pandemic after being forced to dim the lights on their shows.

But despite the darkened theatres and halls, Ancaster’s arts organizations are enduring the health crisis and are in a relatively better position for when the lights come back on whenever the restrictions are lifted.

Colin Lapsley, the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre executive director and vice-president of Theatre Ancaster’s board of directors, said the “arts scene has mostly ground to a halt” with individual artists “feeling it the most.”

He said a number of full-time musicians are having some success with online shows. He expects those types of virtual performances will continue even after the coronavirus pandemic recedes into the background.

Lapsley is confident that even though Ancaster’s arts groups were forced to cancel their shows, “they will weather the storm just fine.” He said all are volunteer-based so staff costs are low, their expenses are limited, and they can wait out until governments clear the way allowing for large gatherings to happen again.

The province, as part of its Stage 1 reopening plan, allowed all construction sites to resume, which was a relief for the arts centre currently being built out of the former elementary school on Wilson Street. Construction crews have already swarmed the downtown location to continue with transforming the building into an all-purpose centre for the arts.

Theatre Ancaster has already cancelled its spring shows and youth programming for 2020, said president Nupi Gokhale, but further decisions are expected soon about the charity group’s other programs. British Invasion, Theatre Ancaster's Spring Concert, was originally slated for April but has been postponed until next year.

“We will need to make some final decision in the next couple of months,” with regard to the fall schedule, she said.

She said the board of directors will decide if the group’s summer camps will be held this summer. While the province and some municipalities have cancelled summer camps, Hamilton officials are studying how to allow day camps in some form to be held under provincial orders.

Gokhale said the group has already provided full refunds for show tickets and programs that have been cancelled.

“Our patrons have been very supportive,” she said.

Theatre Ancaster is a non-profit community group with federal charitable organization status.

Gokhale said the organization’s expenses currently are low and so far, there has been no layoffs, since the group is predominately composed of volunteers.

Theatre Ancaster shares the now-closed Old Firehall Arts Centre with the Hamilton All Star Jazz Band, which also finds itself without a venue or events.

Russ Weil, founder and executive director of the non-profit organization – which oversees three groups of about 20 youths that range in age from 11 to 25 – had to cancel its events for the season. It is scheduled to hold auditions for students in September for the 2020-21 season.

Weil said since the city owns the building, officials closed it along with all of its city facilities in March, leaving the arts groups without a venue and speculating when Hamilton will start reopening the facility, located on Wilson Street.

Under the provincial measures, which were extended to June 9, it prohibits any gatherings of five or more people, which impacts the band, said Weil.

Weil said members are continuing to practise, but it’s difficult to maintain that skill level without also playing with other performers in person.

The pandemic has also hit the band financially. Unable to hold events, it can’t sell tickets and there is no revenue.

“We are a small charity and we need to sell tickets,” he said.

Weil said expenses are relatively low with the building. He said if council approves its community grant, it would go a long way to keeping the organization in the black.

“Grants cover the basic expenses,” he said.

At its May 27 virtual meeting, Hamilton council approved a number of grants to community organizations, including for the Hamilton All Star Jazz Bands Inc. The group requested $9,500 for 2020, the same as the 2019 grant.

Weil said the group is preparing for the new season with the expectation that at some point governments will allow people to congregate and artists to perform.

“This can’t go on forever,” he said.

But the question is will audiences return to darkened venues, sitting shoulder to shoulder? Arts groups are already taking steps to provide a safe environment for patrons.

Lapsley said management officials have been educating themselves and watching the industry for ideas on putting on a show. But will that be enough for customers?

“Who knows?” said Lapsley. “If we recover, it’ll be because patrons feel comfortable doing so, not because the government has told us it’s OK. I personally believe that we’ll make a full recovery, but that it will take some time.”


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: With not-for-profit charitable organizations struggling with event cancellations and lower revenues, we wanted to find out how Ancaster's performing arts groups are coping during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lights go dark for Ancaster arts groups as they wait until curtain rises again

Patrons supportive thus far #givingback

News May 29, 2020 by Kevin Werner Ancaster News

Hamilton’s arts community is in a state of limbo as organizers and artists wait out the coronavirus pandemic after being forced to dim the lights on their shows.

But despite the darkened theatres and halls, Ancaster’s arts organizations are enduring the health crisis and are in a relatively better position for when the lights come back on whenever the restrictions are lifted.

Colin Lapsley, the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre executive director and vice-president of Theatre Ancaster’s board of directors, said the “arts scene has mostly ground to a halt” with individual artists “feeling it the most.”

He said a number of full-time musicians are having some success with online shows. He expects those types of virtual performances will continue even after the coronavirus pandemic recedes into the background.

Related Content

Lapsley is confident that even though Ancaster’s arts groups were forced to cancel their shows, “they will weather the storm just fine.” He said all are volunteer-based so staff costs are low, their expenses are limited, and they can wait out until governments clear the way allowing for large gatherings to happen again.

The province, as part of its Stage 1 reopening plan, allowed all construction sites to resume, which was a relief for the arts centre currently being built out of the former elementary school on Wilson Street. Construction crews have already swarmed the downtown location to continue with transforming the building into an all-purpose centre for the arts.

Theatre Ancaster has already cancelled its spring shows and youth programming for 2020, said president Nupi Gokhale, but further decisions are expected soon about the charity group’s other programs. British Invasion, Theatre Ancaster's Spring Concert, was originally slated for April but has been postponed until next year.

“We will need to make some final decision in the next couple of months,” with regard to the fall schedule, she said.

She said the board of directors will decide if the group’s summer camps will be held this summer. While the province and some municipalities have cancelled summer camps, Hamilton officials are studying how to allow day camps in some form to be held under provincial orders.

Gokhale said the group has already provided full refunds for show tickets and programs that have been cancelled.

“Our patrons have been very supportive,” she said.

Theatre Ancaster is a non-profit community group with federal charitable organization status.

Gokhale said the organization’s expenses currently are low and so far, there has been no layoffs, since the group is predominately composed of volunteers.

Theatre Ancaster shares the now-closed Old Firehall Arts Centre with the Hamilton All Star Jazz Band, which also finds itself without a venue or events.

Russ Weil, founder and executive director of the non-profit organization – which oversees three groups of about 20 youths that range in age from 11 to 25 – had to cancel its events for the season. It is scheduled to hold auditions for students in September for the 2020-21 season.

Weil said since the city owns the building, officials closed it along with all of its city facilities in March, leaving the arts groups without a venue and speculating when Hamilton will start reopening the facility, located on Wilson Street.

Under the provincial measures, which were extended to June 9, it prohibits any gatherings of five or more people, which impacts the band, said Weil.

Weil said members are continuing to practise, but it’s difficult to maintain that skill level without also playing with other performers in person.

The pandemic has also hit the band financially. Unable to hold events, it can’t sell tickets and there is no revenue.

“We are a small charity and we need to sell tickets,” he said.

Weil said expenses are relatively low with the building. He said if council approves its community grant, it would go a long way to keeping the organization in the black.

“Grants cover the basic expenses,” he said.

At its May 27 virtual meeting, Hamilton council approved a number of grants to community organizations, including for the Hamilton All Star Jazz Bands Inc. The group requested $9,500 for 2020, the same as the 2019 grant.

Weil said the group is preparing for the new season with the expectation that at some point governments will allow people to congregate and artists to perform.

“This can’t go on forever,” he said.

But the question is will audiences return to darkened venues, sitting shoulder to shoulder? Arts groups are already taking steps to provide a safe environment for patrons.

Lapsley said management officials have been educating themselves and watching the industry for ideas on putting on a show. But will that be enough for customers?

“Who knows?” said Lapsley. “If we recover, it’ll be because patrons feel comfortable doing so, not because the government has told us it’s OK. I personally believe that we’ll make a full recovery, but that it will take some time.”


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: With not-for-profit charitable organizations struggling with event cancellations and lower revenues, we wanted to find out how Ancaster's performing arts groups are coping during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lights go dark for Ancaster arts groups as they wait until curtain rises again

Patrons supportive thus far #givingback

News May 29, 2020 by Kevin Werner Ancaster News

Hamilton’s arts community is in a state of limbo as organizers and artists wait out the coronavirus pandemic after being forced to dim the lights on their shows.

But despite the darkened theatres and halls, Ancaster’s arts organizations are enduring the health crisis and are in a relatively better position for when the lights come back on whenever the restrictions are lifted.

Colin Lapsley, the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre executive director and vice-president of Theatre Ancaster’s board of directors, said the “arts scene has mostly ground to a halt” with individual artists “feeling it the most.”

He said a number of full-time musicians are having some success with online shows. He expects those types of virtual performances will continue even after the coronavirus pandemic recedes into the background.

Related Content

Lapsley is confident that even though Ancaster’s arts groups were forced to cancel their shows, “they will weather the storm just fine.” He said all are volunteer-based so staff costs are low, their expenses are limited, and they can wait out until governments clear the way allowing for large gatherings to happen again.

The province, as part of its Stage 1 reopening plan, allowed all construction sites to resume, which was a relief for the arts centre currently being built out of the former elementary school on Wilson Street. Construction crews have already swarmed the downtown location to continue with transforming the building into an all-purpose centre for the arts.

Theatre Ancaster has already cancelled its spring shows and youth programming for 2020, said president Nupi Gokhale, but further decisions are expected soon about the charity group’s other programs. British Invasion, Theatre Ancaster's Spring Concert, was originally slated for April but has been postponed until next year.

“We will need to make some final decision in the next couple of months,” with regard to the fall schedule, she said.

She said the board of directors will decide if the group’s summer camps will be held this summer. While the province and some municipalities have cancelled summer camps, Hamilton officials are studying how to allow day camps in some form to be held under provincial orders.

Gokhale said the group has already provided full refunds for show tickets and programs that have been cancelled.

“Our patrons have been very supportive,” she said.

Theatre Ancaster is a non-profit community group with federal charitable organization status.

Gokhale said the organization’s expenses currently are low and so far, there has been no layoffs, since the group is predominately composed of volunteers.

Theatre Ancaster shares the now-closed Old Firehall Arts Centre with the Hamilton All Star Jazz Band, which also finds itself without a venue or events.

Russ Weil, founder and executive director of the non-profit organization – which oversees three groups of about 20 youths that range in age from 11 to 25 – had to cancel its events for the season. It is scheduled to hold auditions for students in September for the 2020-21 season.

Weil said since the city owns the building, officials closed it along with all of its city facilities in March, leaving the arts groups without a venue and speculating when Hamilton will start reopening the facility, located on Wilson Street.

Under the provincial measures, which were extended to June 9, it prohibits any gatherings of five or more people, which impacts the band, said Weil.

Weil said members are continuing to practise, but it’s difficult to maintain that skill level without also playing with other performers in person.

The pandemic has also hit the band financially. Unable to hold events, it can’t sell tickets and there is no revenue.

“We are a small charity and we need to sell tickets,” he said.

Weil said expenses are relatively low with the building. He said if council approves its community grant, it would go a long way to keeping the organization in the black.

“Grants cover the basic expenses,” he said.

At its May 27 virtual meeting, Hamilton council approved a number of grants to community organizations, including for the Hamilton All Star Jazz Bands Inc. The group requested $9,500 for 2020, the same as the 2019 grant.

Weil said the group is preparing for the new season with the expectation that at some point governments will allow people to congregate and artists to perform.

“This can’t go on forever,” he said.

But the question is will audiences return to darkened venues, sitting shoulder to shoulder? Arts groups are already taking steps to provide a safe environment for patrons.

Lapsley said management officials have been educating themselves and watching the industry for ideas on putting on a show. But will that be enough for customers?

“Who knows?” said Lapsley. “If we recover, it’ll be because patrons feel comfortable doing so, not because the government has told us it’s OK. I personally believe that we’ll make a full recovery, but that it will take some time.”


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: With not-for-profit charitable organizations struggling with event cancellations and lower revenues, we wanted to find out how Ancaster's performing arts groups are coping during the coronavirus pandemic.