Moose Jaw wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t have a library or a vibrant arts and culture scene, but such activities need funding so residents and visitors can continue to enjoy them.
Fifteen third-party community groups made presentations at City Council’s first 2023 budget meeting on Nov. 22including the library, the Festival des Mots and the cultural centre.
The Moose Jaw Express highlights these presentations.
In-person visits and material circulation at the Moose Jaw Public Library returned to near pre-pandemic levels this summer, while the overall situation began to normalize again, Chief Librarian Gwen Fisher said. .
The organization provided different literacy materials for children, young people and adults, while adding more literature in different languages, such as Chinese, Arabic, Filipino, Persian and Ukrainian, thanks to a provincial grant.
The provincial library association has chosen Moose Jaw as a pilot project site for a dyslexia program for children and youth. Dyslexia, Fisher explained, is the most common learning difficulty, with 6 to 17 percent of those affected.
“From personal experience, you may know how hard it is to develop a love for learning if it’s hard to do, so this dyslexia-friendly collection is dedicated to serving those people and trying to spark love of reading and learning from a young age,” she said.
In addition to being a community center, the library is also on the front lines of Moose Jaw’s growing social issues, Fisher continued.
The library has faced some difficult and complex issues this year, so it is committed to addressing them by having staff undergo training in areas such as first aid, mental health first aid, reconciliation and trauma-informed care. He also worked with the John Howard Society and engaged with commissionaires.
Although she didn’t have exact numbers, Fisher added that visitor numbers were similar to the five-year average as customers slowly returned to the building.
“Your presentation highlights that the Moose Jaw Public Library is more than just a library…” said the councilor. Heather Eby. “I really believe the pandemic (shone) the spotlight on the library more than ever because so many people depended on it…so maybe that was a silver lining in a dark cloud.”
Sarah Simison, Acting Artistic Director of the Festival des mots, highlighted the organization’s three main services: community action, youth and the summer festival.
Throughout the year, the group organizes the Performer’s Café, the Writers in Schools program, CineView, fundraisers, public readings, film screenings, speakers and public events.
The summer festival offers 60 events over four days, including the Teen Writing Experience, a Kids Ink Workshop, a Children’s Story Hour, writing workshops, book clubs, reading sessions, film screenings and concerts. Most of the events, she said, take place in the Mae Wilson Theatre, “the jewel of our town”.
The festival also generates over $100,000 in economic benefits locally as it attracts over 500 people, while it spends approximately $200,000 locally on goods and services, improves literacy, strengthens lifelong learning life and adds to the social fabric of the community.
“One of the programs we are most proud of is Writers in Schools. This program reaches thousands of children a year…” Simison said of the free initiative.
“After our writer visited his classroom, a Moose Jaw teacher said, “Disengaged writers wrote, reluctant speakers spoke up, and students facing difficult and personal times found a voice, a vehicle for truly express themselves. Not only do I think this program is valuable, but I think it is necessary.
The festival operates on a balanced budget every year — between $250,000 and $300,000 — without any debt, she said. Federal grants contributed to a balanced ledger.
This year, the organization has faced several challenges due to the pandemic, such as the cancellation or rebooking of authors and artists, flight cancellations and the attempt to offer an in-person event. /online fulfilling.
“Despite (these challenges), we have managed to maintain an optimism by focusing on what we can do rather than what we cannot and look to the future as an opportunity to experiment and try new things,” Simison said, adding the organization is already booking writers for its 27th annual festival.
Com. Crystal Froese praised the festival saying, “It always amazes me how well the Festival of Words does. It’s more than our city. The effect you have had on children’s literacy simply cannot go unnoticed. It’s a diverse festival and we’re lucky to have the head office here.
The Mae Wilson Theater is a gem and a cultural center that offers many events, said Simison, executive director of the cultural center. It reflects the cultural needs of the region and provides a destination for artists and residents to enjoy many experiences.
Simison emphasized the significance of the location, highlighting its art gallery; the space it provides for groups like the Festival of Words, pottery groups, Moose Jaw Pride and the local Aboriginal group; its annual partnerships with the festival and the gamers association; and be the new home of a theater company.
It is also a place where filmmakers can shoot their projects, as two community filmmakers recently did.
The center hosted 200 events, meetings and programs this year, while several shows sold out, Simison said. While it was exciting that the center sold 15,000 tickets, the staff faced significant burnout, so the organization hired a curator to reduce the number of shows and maximize attendance.
Simison wants to diversify the cultural center’s revenue streams — especially with a looming recession — by seeking more arts grants to help expand community programs, fill empty halls in the building with new artists and run more workshops.
She also wants to pursue several building and equipment upgrades.
“I don’t think the Moose Jaw Cultural Center has reached its full potential yet,” added Simison, “and I hope to do something new with it.
The next budget meeting will take place on Wednesday, November 30.