“It has been a wild ride!” That is how 4th Line Theatre’s General Manager, Lindy Finlan, describes their pandemic journey.  “It has been frustrating due to the ever-changing ability to engage with our audiences. It has been enlightening as the pandemic has given us time to reflect, analyze, assess. It has been encouraging as we have seen our community of artists, donors, supporters and colleagues rally around us and rely on one another to get through these trying times.”

Last summer, 4th Line Theatre and fourteen other local arts organizations received grants totaling $104,500 from the Community Foundation through the Peterborough Arts Alive Fund.

The grants helped arts organizations invest in the resilience of musicians, actors, artists, and writers. They funded the purchase of technology needed to do creative work in a virtual space.  Grants also supported training, collaboration and professional development opportunities to help staff, artists and volunteers prepare to reach audiences and sustain their operations in a post-pandemic world.

Recently, the arts organizations who received grants have been reporting on their experiences and they have a lot in common.

Chad Hogan from Market Hall explains that “this has easily been one of the most challenging times in any of our careers. From the initial panic in March 2020 to the hopeful optimism in the fall of 2021, it has been an emotional journey.”  Many organizations, like Sadleir House, agree that the pandemic has brought challenges, but they also want “the community to know that we are actually stronger now”.

The Peterborough Singers speak of the importance of connecting with others while staying physically safe, and Artspace’s Dylan Dammermann mentions the importance of mental health and concerns around burnout. Maggie Goldsmith explains that Kawartha Youth Orchestra’s pandemic journey has been “akin to a paradigm shift” as they “stretch their thinking about the role of the arts in community and their response to being relevant to the needs of society.”

Arts organizations have been exploring questions fundamental to their existence over the past two years.  Kate Story of The Theatre on King says arts groups are asking “how soon will people feel safe to return to live theatre? Will we lose a proportion of our former audiences long-term, and if so, how many? Will there be another pandemic, or will Covid variants mean restrictions periodically return? What can we do to maximize our chances of retaining audiences online who are unable or unwilling to come in person?”

There are no clear answers. The Peterborough Arts Alive grants only scratched the surface of need for arts organizations in Peterborough. “Investment in the arts is an investment in community,” notes Kate Story. “Unless there are fundamental changes to arts funding in this country, province, and community, the wounds inflicted by this pandemic will see a devastated arts scene.”

The Art School of Peterborough echoes the sentiments of other grant recipients as they thank the community for supporting the Arts Alive Grants and the arts community. “If other’s have experienced these beneficial changes to their organization as we have, we are all sure to come out of this pandemic stronger than before,” says Jenni Johnston.

The Peterborough Arts Alive grants were funded by the Community Foundation, the City of Peterborough and many local donors, and supported by the Electric City Culture Council.  Donations are always welcome.

Photo Credit: Megan Murphy, Kate Suhr in The Verandah Society in Residence at 4th Line Theatre. Photo by Tristan Peirce Photography