Celebrating a strong, creative, resilient Lunenburg County
NOW, MORE THAN EVER...
Story by Erin Donovan
Photos by Holly Crooks
We have been impacted - all of us. Pandemics do a really good job of reminding us of how fragile we all are and how we are all in this thing together. Writing about music on the South Shore of Nova Scotia in the middle of a global crisis may seem trivial, but if you are anything like me you feel that art, music, writing, dance, theatre and creative expression can be key to understanding ourselves, understanding others and creating community and togetherness. These things are critical now, more than ever, when we have been collectively shaken. Some of us have lost people we love, lost our livelihoods and lost our sense of stability in the world. The thing I keep bringing myself back to is: artists are really good at chaos, improvisation and instability—it comes with the territory.
As a professional percussionist I have freelanced with Symphony Nova Scotia, the Calgary Philharmonic, the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra and recorded and performed with many great artists. I also create and present multimedia shows with my organization Hear Here Productions. Hear Here is currently making a film in the woods in Mahone Bay with poet Alice Burdick, film company Picnic Studios, recording studio Stonehouse Sound and Halifax’s Mocean Dance. In many ways I’m rich. I love my job. I’m good at what I do. Every day is different. I work with wonderful creative people. I bring some good things to the community. I teach some incredible kids about art and creativity. I can walk out my studio door and go for a swim in the lake. I’m rich in the best ways. That said, I also have no financial stability and neither do many artists that live in this area.
With the pandemic, all freelance musicians, dancers, and theatre artists basically lost all of their income and it probably will not return for a very long time. Our income may never return to where it was, and it wasn’t really in a good place before. My teaching rate here, on the South Shore, is what it was 20 years ago when I lived in Toronto while the cost of food still goes up every year. There are very few paid gigs for musicians here. Many kids do take music lessons which is wonderful and our local school in Mahone Bay has a fabulous music program as do the schools in Lunenburg and Bridgewater. These are great gifts.
In other ways the South Shore of Nova Scotia is an excellent place to be an artist. We have an abundance of live music and great music presenters including Musique Royale (where I am education outreach coordinator bringing music to schools on the South Shore), Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance and the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival to name just a few. We have galleries and lots of freelance writers. We have the Lunenburg School of the Arts and many incredible ceramic artists, painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, theatre people, far too many to start naming them all, but they are very present and make our area rich with culture. The beauty around us is endlessly inspiring and also free for all of us to enjoy.
I frequently get asked how people can support artists more. For starters, streaming music does not support musicians. The best way you can support local artists is to buy tickets to their shows (online and in person), buy music directly from the artist when you can or through Bandcamp (way better for artists), hire and pay (properly) professional artists for events, sign kids up for art classes or music lessons and buy local art, music and books when you can. Yes, you can buy a mug for $10 and maybe that’s all you can afford, but for a special treat or a gift can you afford to pay $40 for a one of a kind mug created by a local artist? Now more than ever our South Shore artists need to be supported if we want to live in a place with a healthy and inclusive arts community.