Westport, Ontario, Canada


Review Mirror Article dated April 11, 2024

April 11 2024

Vol 133, No. 12

Westport Arts Council Offers Opportunities to Get Creative

By Suesan Saville


Westport is home to more than its fair share of artists. “We’re in such a wonderful, creative community with talented people in the arts, right at our doorstep,” says Diane Graham-Lynn, a long-time member of the Westport Arts Council (WAC), a local not-for-profit group that supports arts in the community.

Graham-Lynn heads a WAC committee of seven volunteers that organizes camps and workshops for children in the summer and more recently, by popular demand, adult programs too, that are offered at various times during the year.

It started with a desire to create opportunities for children to learn new skills and to be exposed to a small sampling of different forms of art.  “I’ve only received positive feedback from people saying that it’s wonderful to see somany things done for kids, that we are providing experiences for them.” Their programs also attract participants from Newboro, Portland, Delta and Elgin.

Last year for the first time the Arts Council offered a musical theatre camp. Lynn-Graham said it was a huge success. Instructor Judy Follet worked with the kids to put on a scene out of the musical Annie.

“The kids were just so excited about performing. Even the really shy kids. I was surprised because I know some of the kids from being a teacher and they just really blossomed.” She also remembers a student who got his start in one of their drama camps who is still acting. But she says it is about more than just art.

“Just exposing kids to become more self-confident in themselves and their ability to perform in front of an audience is really good. It helps with public speaking and confidence. You never know, when you provide these things, whether it’s musical theatre, whether it’s drama, what’s going to happen with that later in their lives, or how that is going to influence them.”

“It’s good for social skills, teamwork, maybe leadership skills and all the while they are doing this while having fun and learning new things.”

The Westport Arts Council has camps of varying lengths and for various ages throughout the summer until just before the WAC’s big music festival, the third weekend in August.

Interest in their offerings has grown over the years. Registration for summer camps for kids 6 – 13 years old opened April 1 and already Christine Harvey’s Drama Camp and Baking Italian Macarons in a professional kitchen with successful local baker Stacy Blair are full.

Judy Follett will be leading the musical theatre camp again this summer doing a scene from Mary Poppins. Diana Kemp will instruct kids on how to work with stained glass to make a frog. Jessica Bryce will help kids learn to paint with dots and Laurie McCann will show participants how to make geode wind chimes.

Fundamentals of Drawing for Adults by John Martin, has already started although another one is planned in May. Adults can also sign-up for Decoupage with Judy Fielding and later this spring Michael Kavcic will be offering a workshop in making chainmail jewelry.

Graham-Lynn said learning a new skill can really pay off. One of their past participants who took a workshop with Susan Villeneuve on making jewelry from alcohol ink is now selling her artistic creations at local markets.

Many of the course leaders volunteer their time or charge minimally. Funding from local sponsors, businesses and individuals helps subsidize the cost of offering courses.  Graham-Lynn says local places that open their doors to host activities like St. Paul’s Anglican Church and the Free Methodist Church in Westport have been “wonderful.” It all contributes to trying to make opportunities in the arts affordable. The current
programs range from $15 to $80.

Like many organizations in Westport, the activities of the Westport Arts Council are made possible by the efforts and generosity of its volunteers. “It is a ton of work, but I have to say, we work so well together. I have so much help from other people. It is a real working committee, that’s for sure.”

Workshops and arts camps are only one aspect of the broader activities undertaken by the Arts Council. They also organize events and other artistic endeavours to showcase the creative talent in the community. Check out Westport Arts Council.com or WestportArtsCouncil on Facebook for more information.

Suesan Saville was a Communications professional with the Government of Canada for many years before she retired and moved to the wonderful village of Westport, Ontario, where she writes for the Review Mirror.

Suesan can be reached at ssaville.scribe@gmail.com