By Sue Tiffin
A musical trio, a voice actor, a couple of writers, an actress, poets, book authors, visual artists and artists of varied disciplines have all found solace and hopefully some inspiration while taking up residency on an off-grid island on Koshlong Lake.
Applications for the Halls Island Artist Residency, now in its third full year, open on Nov. 1 with interested artists from within Haliburton County or beyond having until Jan. 15, 2022 to apply. A family that privately owns Halls Island provides the residency, accommodations and island access for the artists chosen, so there is no accommodation cost to resident artists other than food and personal supplies, and the hope is they “will find inspiration as they engage with nature and pursue their creative endeavours in this beautiful setting.”
“It’s really been gaining some ground,” said Joan Duhaime, of the Halls Island Artist Residency.
The first year, the group received 13 applications, and in the second year, almost 40 applications poured in.
“That’s quite a jump in interest,” she said.
Though COVID-19 put a damper on the in-person sessions last year, a virtual meeting has allowed artists and committee members to connect and network though they will not spend time together on the island together. This past summer, 12 artists visited over eight sessions that ranged from ten to 12 days, with help from funding from the Haliburton County Development Corporation which assisted in providing a safe re-opening after COVID-19 restrictions put a damper on the 2020 season.
“This past summer the island was full of creative energy and the goals of the attending artists and the volunteer management committee were met with great success,” reads a press release from the group.
Canadian novelist and New York Times bestseller Cathy Marie Buchanan has been able to make use of the spot, though Duhaime said truly any artist is welcome.
“We’re not seeking big-name artists necessarily, but it’s kind of neat when it spreads to people who are a little more well-known, then you get some credibility for future applicants when they look and see who has attended,” said Duhaime.
The TD Ready Challenge Fund grant is allowing the Halls Island Artist Residency group to offer a $200 stipend to all artists participating in the program, to help offset their costs to attend.
As well, a one-time scholarship, the Halls Island Indigenous Artist Scholarship, will provide $2,000 for one Indigenous artist to attend.
“The donor family is very interested in valuing that connection and wanted to make sure that, not just to have words on your website that say land acknowledgement, but to try to actually take some action to back up your words,” said Duhaime. “We also want to reach out to lots of diverse communities as well as Indigenous regarding gender and race, but at least this is a start with one scholarship we can offer to someone that hopefully will encourage them to apply and be able to afford to come.”
Committee co-chair, Don Gage, noted the benefits the program brings to Haliburton County.
“Each artist will be encouraged to connect and engage with our artistic community and residents,” he said. “The Halls Island Artist Residency program is a great addition to our arts community in the Highlands.”
Tune in to the premiere of Escape to Halls Island on the Arts Council – Haliburton Highlands YouTube channel on Nov. 19. For further details or to apply to the residency, visit www.hallsisland.ca.