Submitted by Dianne Lister
Starting out in fashion, selling children’s apparel and driving a taxi, in 1976 Penni Holdham enrolled at Ontario College of Art, where she explored jewellery making, photography, sculpture and painting. Following graduation and a short stint as a ski bum, she worked for a Singles Dating Club in 1980. Social planning for singles led her to special events design and production. Here, she found a challenging career path offering a new creative opportunity every day.
In 1986, Penni established The Display Connection Inc., offering a one-stop service for complete event design with beginning-to-end management, props design and full installation - now one of the oldest Festival and Event firms in Canada. Mindful of budget, the company helps shape creative vision resulting in logistical and deliverable solutions. The Display Connection has won numerous national and international awards for excellence in corporate, charitable, bespoke and trade festivals and events.
Further refining her qualifications, Penni became one of the first 25 people globally to successfully earn the professional CSEP, Certified Special Event Professional designation. The CSEP is the international measurement that tests knowledge in applied design, production, logistics, budget management and risk mitigation for Festival and Event practitioners. This designation empowered Penni to teach at both George Brown College and Centennial College. She has lectured at many conferences across North America, as well as at Queen Margaret University in Scotland.
Penni served on the Board of Governors at OCAD during its transition with a new President, degree-granting status and the newly built 60,000 sq. ft. Design Centre. In 2011, her extensive industry volunteer leadership as the Canadian Affiliate Chair of ILEA (International Live Events Association in Canada) was recognized and the creation of the ‘Penni Holdham Volunteer Award’ was established, awarded annually to high-level volunteer nominees.
Five years ago, Penni downsized her 10,000 sq. ft. studio/storage space in Toronto, and moved to Kawartha Lakes. Friends and family had introduced her to Young’s Point, Dunsford and Fenelon Falls, and she was hooked. Penni claims, “I wanted to live in a small town, enjoy the ambiance of a rural community, walk to the bank, and still have my studio.” Penni has happily settled and engaged with her new home of Fenelon Falls. Local boards of Kawartha Lakes Arts Council and Maryboro Lodge, and more recently the Board of Regional Tourism Organization 8 have benefited from her immense knowledge, energy and dedication.
This summer, Public Art received a visual boost with her design and installation of the ‘Bobcaygeon Constellation’ outdoor mural commissioned by the Kawartha Coffee Cafe. This exquisite 50 ft. mural took 450 hours of labour - hand-painting, carpentry, design and pre-paint production time.
More recently, Penni has focused on her vision to realize the first Seniors Play Park in Canada, a place where seniors can gather and socialize while engaging with low-impact equipment that promotes flexibility, agility and mobility. In partnership with City of Kawartha Lakes, this pilot project is advocated for Fenelon Falls.
As a sought-after speaker, Penni has hosted festivals and events workshops in Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland. On March 6, she will be presenting a “Copyright for Creators” session as part of KLAC “Our Community Learns” series (read in “All About” for details).
Out of the hundreds of successful events Penni has orchestrated, many stand out for her for many reasons. From full event transformations to props-making solutions, here are some of the challenging creative requests she has successfully delivered.