City of Kawartha Lakes hires Debra Soule as Economic Development Officer - Arts, Culture and Heritage.

(Official City Announcement)

We are pleased to announce that Debra Soule is the successful candidate for the full time position of Economic Development Officer - Arts, Culture, and Heritage. This is a new full time position approved by Council in Fall 2016 that will provide dedicated resources to develop and implement arts, culture and heritage development initiatives to strengthen the creative economy, cultural tourism and cultural vibrancy in Kawartha Lakes.

Debra is a Canadian Australian with over twenty-five years of experience in cultural development, economic development and community development positions in Australia, the United States and Canada and brings a wide spectrum of experience to this position. She is a passionate advocate of the arts and is committed to working at the grassroots with the community to assist in capacity building and professional development projects that improve local quality of life and build a thriving economy. She holds a Bachelors degree in Social Psychology with a Minor in Fine Art and a Master of Science degree in Consumer Studies / Planning from the University of Guelph, and has completed Graduate Studies in Planning at the University of Waterloo and in the School of Environmental Studies at York University.

To learn more about the Heritage Conservation District Plans that are being developed for Oak Street or Downtown Lindsay, please contact Debra Soule at (705) 324-9411 extension 1498 or via email at dsoule@city.kawarthalakes.on.ca

 

Our chat with Deb...

1.    What exactly is an Arts, Culture and Heritage Development Officer?
The new job title is Economic Development Officer – Arts, Culture and Heritage.  This position leads, supports and promotes the development of a vibrant arts, culture and heritage sector as a key facet of economic development, tourism and quality of life in Kawartha Lakes through community engagement, inter-departmental collaboration and a wide range of development activities.


2.    How long have you been in this position?
I have been acting in this position in Kawartha Lakes on a contractual basis for the past 2 ½ years.


3.    Before you arrived - were there others in this role?
No – the City has not offered a staff role like this one previously. This is essentially a cultural planner role within an economic development context.


4.    Have you worked in other municipalities? 
Yes, I have worked in the cultural planning / economic development field in several other municipalities – the City of Peterborough, in Boulder City, Nevada, and in Ipswich, Queensland Australia. I have also worked in the community/economic development field in state government positions in Nevada and Queensland, Australia.


5.    What do you think your “genius” is? In other words, what background do you bring to your position that is unique to you?
I think that I offer a unique perspective because I have years of experience developing and administering cultural development programs in a government context, and have an academic background in planning, but I also worked for many years as a practicing artist in visual arts, the theatre and as a musician. So I understand the challenges associated with learning and perfecting one’s craft and skills, and as well as the “industry infrastructure” and supports that are needed to maximize professional opportunities and lift artists to the next level. I also have a passionate interest in tourism development and recognize the value that arts and heritage can bring to the sector.


6.    What impact does your work have in the community?
I hope it has a lot! There are so many talented and determined people in this community to work with – I never cease to be amazed by that. They inspire me.


7.    What roll do you believe arts and culture plays in a community? 
Arts and culture have been a vitally important part of Kawartha Lakes communities for a long time – but it has been driven and supported by many, many people who offer their time and skills on a volunteer basis because they love what they do. There is a very talented and dedicated theatrical community, dance community as well as amazing musicians and visual artists that need to be recognized and supported now. This area also has an incredibly rich cultural heritage – these stories and the places that are their manifestations need to be showcased and shared.


8.    This past summer, the City of Kawartha Lakes agreed to support the arts in a meaningful way by designating a position to support the arts and working with the Kawartha Lakes Arts Council. How do you see this new position actually working?
As I was alluding to previously, there is only so much that a committed group of volunteers can do – eventually they need help and support to raise the bar to a higher level to enable professional programming that is able to compete with cultural offerings that are available in communities all around us – and that qualifies for provincial and federal level support. This position will also play a direct role working in tourism development and business development. Over the past 2 ½ years, we have made great in-roads in terms of identifying human and cultural assets and resources, and connecting and building partnerships across these in the arts, culture and heritage sectors. Now it’s time to introduce projects and programs that we can collaboratively bring to fruition.


9.    What role do you believe an arts council should play in a community? 
An Arts Council is potentially a very powerful organization – not only does it connect the many artists that otherwise work independently out there, but it is a catalyst for discussion, communication and action across the entire sector. Arts Councils operate at arms-length from the municipality and other levels of government, so they can play an advocacy role on behalf of the sector to enlighten, bring about change and facilitate progress. The Kawartha Lakes Arts Council is only 2 years young, and it is already very good at that!


10.    How do you believe a municipally and an arts council can work together to not only give artists and arts organizations a voice but also to promote economic activity and quality of life in a community?
That’s a very big question. Advancing arts and culture, and showcasing our unique built and cultural heritage requires a lot of team work and a willingness to work together in our communities and with our municipality – looking beyond our former townships and current wards. But I think the arts sector has already found its voice and it is speaking up effectively.
By fostering development in the arts sector, the municipality will benefit economically from new cultural businesses and cultural tourism experiences that grow from the entrepreneurial aspirations of local artists, and from the development of the music, performance and the visual arts industry. This will attract additional visitors, adding value to our amazing natural assets. It will contribute to more a vibrant quality of life and attract new residents to Kawartha Lakes. 

11.  What is your personal ambition relative to your role with the City and what milestones do you believe have been achieved in your time here?
My personal ambition with respect to my role here in Kawartha Lakes is to continue to connect and foster mutually productive relationships across the arts, culture and heritage sector with the municipality and business community – so that we are all better able to celebrate and showcase the talent, assets and unique cultural identities that already exist, and develop these to their highest potential. This requires bigger thinking and a willingness to be leaders in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as a planning and policy perspective.

Milestones?  We’ve only just begun. But as I mentioned  previously, I think I have helped to lay a solid foundation for cultural development – identifying our local cultural and heritage assets and resources, linking our human and organizational resources and building a partnership with the municipality.  These are essential ingredients for developing the sector.