Let’s Put Otonabee Ward on the Peterborough Map for Arts & Culture!

By Deb Reynolds –

When Kim Zippel asked if I’d write a blog post about the arts in the South End of Peterborough, my immediate thought was: Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?  The South End and the arts? 

As someone who is actively involved in the arts in Peterborough, I don’t associate Otonabee Ward with the arts at all.  There was a time when I took art workshops at the Kawartha Artists’ Gallery (KAGS) where there was once an artist, Judith Mason, who had a studio in the space attached to that building where classes were held for a time.  Other than these two places, I have no sense of how, or where, the arts are alive and well in Otonabee Ward.

So, the question comes: What if Otonabee Ward was a thriving hub of creation, innovation and artistic expression? What might that look like? Here are some of my musings…

What if the Crawford Trail came alive with artistic expression? I’m thinking especially along the stretch between Monaghan and Erskine?  It’s used by a lot of people for walking and biking.  How could creativity be infused into that space?  What would that look like?


Wish flags displayed at a tent at the downtown farmers' market in Peterborough.
Accessible art opportunities provided at the Peterborough downtown farmers’ market during Arts Week, 2013.


What if we knew the people in the area who are artists?  What if they wanted to share their talents and you and I wanted to learn from them?   Whether it is bike rebuilding or bird house making, gardening or sculpture from reused materials, there is a wealth of artistic expression waiting to be seen and shared in our neighbourhoods.


Gathered underneath a tent, art is created in a public space. Conversations & connections are also created as part of the process.
Popup art opportunities in public spaces welcome people from all walks of life to come & make art in whatever form “art” means to them.


What if there were popup art studios in parks around Otonabee Ward where adults and kids alike could explore with paint and glue and bits of paper and string?  There could be the making of puppets, lanterns, collage, nature mandalas, and printmaking.  Go beyond “art” in a traditional sense and have workshops on medicinal tea infusions made with local plants, a swap meet of things loved and no longer needed, stories created and told about people and events in the neighbourhood.

What if these popups led to a permanent site (or sites) where people from all walks of life were welcome to come and make art in whatever form “art” means to them?  What if there was a place which celebrates the artist and creativity in each of us, whether we can see it in ourselves right now or not.




You see, “art” in this way is not about the materials and the techniques.  It is more importantly about the connections we make and the relationships we build.  It’s about meeting your neighbours and building resilience in your neighbourhood.  It’s about knowing who lives across the street and around the corner.  It’s about coming together and celebrating who we are and where we live.

Now that would put Otonabee Ward on the Peterborough map in terms of arts and culture!!


A young women is painting her wish for Peterborough on a banner.
Wishes for Peterborough are painted on a public banner during Culture Days 2014. Art in this way is not about the materials and the techniques. It’s about coming together and celebrating who we are, and where we live.

If you would like to have a conversation about these or other ideas, please feel free to contact me.  Deb Reynolds at:

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