Gabriola: Together We Triumph

Gabriola: Together we Triumph – a new $273,000 community grant awarded to GAC

In December of 2021 the Department of Canadian Heritage (DCH) released a grant called Commemorate Canada – Reopening Fund. The grant’s objectives were to increase opportunities for Canadians to participate in various commemorative activities and celebrations to mark Canada’s emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic (we know it is not over), build a sense of pride and belonging to Canada by holding celebratory and commemorative activities that recognize people and achievements in the response to COVID-19 and support the revival of local economies through in person events. The call gave examples like a commemorative garden or a statue. Carol Fergusson, Executive Director of the Gabriola Arts Council looked at it from a different perspective and took to social media asking community their opinion. Using the feedback as inspiration, the attention of community partners and some creativity, the result was the “big idea”. The Gabriola Museum, the Chamber of Commerce and the Agricultural Association were at the table. Some tweaks were made and a late addition of People for a Healthy Community and the Gabriola Elementary School made it a well-rounded community endeavour. As it would turn out, DCH agreed with the plan and last week the email arrived saying we were successful in securing a $273,000 grant from the Government of Canada, which would have a notable economic impact on the island and an opportunity for community to come together in a variety of ways celebrating their resilience.

It is important community fully understands the spirit of the grant and the players involved, so when things start happening over the next number months, the connection is made as to why it is happening. Here is the project description from the grant application:

“Gabriola: Together We Triumph is a dynamic celebration honouring our community for their resilience. COVID-19 showed us very quickly we are a vulnerable community and the best way to commemorate and celebrate is to learn from our experiences. We are the Isle of the Arts, a rural island community that relies on the kindness of neighbours and the hive mind.

We have taken a holistic approach to this grant. We want something meaningful for our community, we don’t do statues and we don’t need a garden. Our objective is to prepare ourselves for the next pandemic (we were going to ask for a warehouse of toilet paper), the next climate event, the next unknown, and we plan to do this through food, economy, art, music, culture and gratitude.

The project is multi-faceted; it is supporting community building, while commemorating what happened to us and celebrating our resilience as Canadians.

The project ranges from community education around food security, to Heritage Skills classes providing valuable instructions essential to island living, climate adaptations and resiliency building. Celebrating and promoting businesses who provided for all of us during these strange times coupled with essential skills service providers can share, to Elders and Youth exchanging stories through art. Documenting community pandemic stories with a physical installation at the Museum, a digital version for wider distribution, culminating in a commemorative book for every household. All wrapped up in monthly celebrations honouring the aspects of what helped this community survive through COVID-19. Celebrations will range from art shows to blues shows, poetry readings to preschool ballerinas, centered around community and creating additional economic stimulus.

Each piece recognizes what happened, what we learned, and where we need to be for next time. It is very Canadian.”

Here is what that will look like with possible minor adjustments due to time constraints. Keep in mind there will be no cost to community, all activities will be free of charge.

Food Security workshops (Agi Assoc) – what food security means on an island, how to support local food producers, understanding how the supply chain works and where the vulnerabilities lie, how to know when to grow your food, how to manage your food, sharing stories of food experiences during the pandemic and more.

Heritage Skills workshops (Agi Assoc, GES) – canning, bread making, ax sharpening, storing firewood, water purification, mending, and more where community members teach skills necessary to survive on an island and celebrating what we learned during the pandemic (think sourdough on social media), with special attention paid to Youth classes (classes will be following the seasons)

Gabriola Business Showcase (Chamber of Commerce) – a month long celebration, with support, taking place every Friday and Saturday, local businesses open their doors where islanders sample products, learn about the owners, learn the history of the business, understand the value of shopping local, and attend the speaker series. For businesses without store fronts, a space would be provided for display tables. Much hype, advertising, local entertainment, assistance with showcase set up for businesses.

Elder Youth Art Share (GAC, PHC, GES) – a program where Elders are paired with Youth to share their pandemic stories and learn from each other’s experiences, while each work on a 6×6” canvas of their pandemic inspired art project and the canvases are later displayed in an art show for community. An interviewer will document the stories to be displayed with the artwork.

Pandemic on an Island (Museum) – gathering of community pandemic stories and anecdotes, photos, videos, artifacts, for an installation at the Museum and digital presentation. Materials turned into a commemorative book, one given to each household and one for the library.

Celebrations (GAC) – each month we produce a performance (music, dance, poetry, art show etc.) where we celebrate our gratitude for different community organizations/members/businesses (i.e: clinic staff, volunteer fire department, paramedics, front line workers, restaurants, etc.).

The organizations involved do not financially benefit, as it is budget driven and tied to specific expenses, but there are some funds allotted for the administration (it is a ton of work, even spread over 6 organizations!). Over $135,000 will go directly into the pockets of Gabriolans through employment opportunities created by this grant. Another $100,000 to local businesses for services and materials. The grant was applied for based on a twelve month timeline, but due to delays at DCH that timeline has been shortened. The respective organizations will take eight weeks to get organized and celebrations will start in mid to late August, running until March 2023. A website will be developed as a hub of information, a place to register, take surveys, submit stories, and see the schedule of events. GAC will be hiring a contract web master to get started right away….see our ad and tell your WordPress friends who are social media savvy.

So an exciting couple of weeks for grant announcements. These big grants come with their fair share of stress and pressure, but it is really about the joy of providing quality and inclusive programming for community. Together we are stronger.

photo credit: Bill Pope

Comments are closed.