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Published on Thursday, January 18, 2018

Oakville Arts Council releases guide for newcomers

Culture Passport Oakville offers free or discounted access to cultural activities

Oakville Arts Council releases guide for newcomers
OAC's Culture Passport Cover
By Nathan Howes, Oakville Beaver

Newcomers will have an easier time accessing community events with the help of a new Oakville Arts Council (OAC) publication.

Culture Passport Oakville contains information on arts and culture, and free or discounted access to arts and cultural activities around town, with the goal of encouraging new residents from diverse ethnocultural groups to participate in the community.

The OAC officially launched the complimentary guide Jan. 11 at the Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre.

The event included remarks from OAC representatives, Oakville MPP and Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn and Mayor Rob Burton, as well as performances from the Oakville Chinese Network and Eddie Paton.

“This was the project we decided to launch because it was a really good fit. It ticked a lot of the boxes for us,” said OAC Executive Director Bernadette Ward.

“This was the project we decided to launch because it was a really good fit. It ticked a lot of the boxes for us,” Bernadette Ward, OAC executive director, told the Oakville Beaver prior to the event.

Through a partnership with the Halton Multicultural Council (HMC Connections), a group helping newcomers settle and integrate into communities, more than 500 copies of the passport, published in English and Mandarin, have been distributed.

For now, copies are available at the HMC Connections and OAC offices.

Passport holders will be able to choose from more than 25 different activities hosted by 16 local arts and culture organizations.

“It’s more or less a coupon book. People will be able to turn that coupon in and get a discount or free pass. The other thing we will be offering are prizes for people to encourage others to use the booklet,” said Ward.

“There is a stamp grid at the back, so the more stamps you collect, you will be closer to winning a gift.”

The publication came to fruition during the creation of the arts council’s strategic plan in summer 2017, the end of its fiscal year, Ward noted.

She used the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW), which measures stability and changes in Canadians’ health, and the Town of Oakville’s cultural plan in her research for the guide.

“There are a large number of newcomers (here). Oakville is supposed to grow quite a bit. We knew from this data that a lot of people speak languages other than English as their first,” said Ward.

“We looked at a lot of the different needs of our arts organizations, artists and the community, as well. That was kind of the launching point.”

Culture Passport Oakville was funded through a $7,600 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, a contribution Ward called “really critical” since the OAC is a charitable organization.

“We’re really dependent on funding. Without it, we can’t really do all the things that we would really like to do for the community, the arts and culture organizations and artists,” said Ward.

Flynn told the audience the passport is going to expose a lot of people, new or longtime residents, to Oakville’s arts and culture scene.

“It really is, I think, one of the most perfect ways to engage newcomers and support diversity in the arts and culture sector. It provides information and encourages participation in those events,” said Flynn.

Burton discussed the importance of the passport and said it will help newcomer families connect with Oakville’s arts activities and the groups that offer them.

“Newcomers can face obstacles that slow down their settling in to a new community and adjusting to their new life,” said Burton.

“The passport will be another way that Oakville’s warm and friendly (residents) welcomes newcomers to successful places in our community.”

The long-term plan for the passport is “twofold,” Ward said, as the goal is to make newcomers aware of local events and to attract more people to OAC members’ events.

As well, the arts council hopes the guide will forge new partnerships between artists and groups, and foster new ways of “seeing art or doing artistic expression.”

The OAC plans on creating another edition next year, possibly in a different language.

“It’s a great community already. We have a lot of different art forms here. But there are always great opportunities when you have new people coming in to do new things,” said Ward.

For more information, visit www.oakvillearts.com.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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