Art Trees of Craighurst Deeply Rooted in Oro Medonte’s History
As a small rural municipality within the Township of Oro Medonte, Craighurst doesn’t have a “main street,” per se. The local businesses (about 20) are clustered around four corners. But main street or not, those businesses are vital to the community — and after the impacts of COVID-19, the Township was looking for ways to support them, while celebrating local history and the natural beauty of the area.
Jennifer Whitely, Economic Development Officer for the Township of Oro Medonte, says that with the Simcoe County Forest celebrating 100 years, trees were a natural inspiration.
“Oro Medonte is well known for the trails we have here,” says Whitely. “We have lots of trees, and lots of forest areas.”
And so the idea for the Art_Trees of Oro-Medonte was born — metal tree sculptures painted by local artists, placed in front of businesses. With funding from the My Main Street, the vision became a reality.
As part of the Government of Canada’s $23.25-million investment in My Main Street through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) is leading the Community Activator program to support projects that revitalize urban spaces. The Township of Oro Medonte received a My Main Street contribution of $40,000 to support Art_Trees, an installation of seven-foot metal tree sculptures at seven businesses in Craighurst.
Local artist Meg Leslie was hired to coordinate the project, tasked with finding someone to design the metal trees and then artists to paint them. After a competitive process, David Smith of Oro-Design & Manufacturing was chosen to design and manufacture the seven-foot metal sculptures. Then, after a call for artists and a juried competition, seven local artists were selected and given one month to complete their pieces. Artists were required to include depictions of Oro Medonte, showcasing its landscape, culture, or history of the area.
All of the trees are connected by a Tree Story Map. Each tree has a QR code, which takes visitors to a website with information about the artists who participated and the story behind their work. The project has attracted a lot of visitors, as well as instilled a sense of community pride.
Kathryn Bowman, owner of Dwellings home decor, says: “What a beautiful enhancement the Art_Tree project is to my business and to my small town of Craighurst. We often discuss local history with customers, many of whom are tourists. It’s a great idea to bring that history into living colour.”
The project also gave a boost to participating artists, who are integral to the area. Artist Marlene Bulas says, “I will always remember and be grateful for this very special time.”
As for attracting more visitors, the Art_Trees certainly make them stand out. Whitely says that if people don’t stop the first time they drive by, they’ll plan to stop the next time. Significant local media coverage has also attracted visitors.
“The trees are bringing more people to the Craighurst community,” says Whitely.
The project also had larger, long-term implications for the community. Without a Business Improvement Area, and after the pandemic, businesses had not met or collaborated for several years. The Art Trees project brought together 50 local organizations and businesses in collaboration.
“This provided an avenue and an opportunity for the businesses to connect together,” says Whitely. “And now over the last year, they've continued meeting and planning events and opportunities for the community.”
Whitely says the project would not have been possible without My Main Street funding.
“We had no opportunity to do something like this if we didn't have the funding,” she says. “So it really kickstarted the Art_Trees and created this bigger opportunity in the end that's now been able to move throughout the entire municipality.”
About My Main Street
My Main Street is a $23.25-million Government of Canada investment through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to support the recovery and revitalization of main streets and local businesses in southern Ontario. The Canadian Urban Institute and the Economic Developers Council of Ontario have partnered to deliver My Main Street through two program streams. Learn more at www.mymainstreet.ca.
About FedDev Ontario
For 13 years, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation, growth and job creation in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving productivity, growing revenues, creating jobs, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects, our Southern Ontario Spotlight, and FedDev Ontario’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.