December: OCAF Updates, Lights on Stratford, DesignTO, Hamilton Winterfest, and more!

Dear OCAF Friends,

Thomas and I are taking this opportunity to send our best wishes to all of you for completing a great 2023! The sector is back with a vengeance and we’re
so proud and pleased to have been able to support such wonderful festivals, events and exhibitions around Ontario! The demand for OCAF support increased by almost 40% over last year. We are working furiously to ensure we are able to invest in the best projects to attract the most people to your communities, not only to your events but new visitors to support local businesses, restaurants and hotels.

This fall has been particularly busy with both TIAO’s Tourism Summit and Destination Northern Ontario’s Summit (more about that later). Along with Vikas Kohli, our Outreach Ambassador on the OCAF board, we were excited to meet some of you and have an opportunity to hear about your plans for the next few years.
Lots coming up for the winter season – you will see in this issue what we are supporting over the next month or so. For more information visit our website – – for all of the supported events.
We look forward to seeing many of you in 2024 and please don’t hesitate to be in touch to discuss your ideas for new programming!
Kathleen Sharpe
Executive Director

Thomas Vaughan
Associate Director

 OCAF on the go – meeting with Dave Smith, Parliamentary Assistant for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport
OCAF had the fortunate opportunity to meet with Dave Smith earlier this week to discuss cultural tourism across Ontario and the impact of the OCAF program. We covered a lot of ground including his love of sports and The Petes of Peterborough! Thanks so much Dave!

Northern Ontario Tourism Summit

OCAF recently attended the NOTS in Sault Ste. Marie and participated in one of three panels programmed by Ontario Culture Days. Michael Murray, CEO of the Ontario Arts Council, presented the newly released cultural tourism study by Forum Research and Kathleen Sharpe acted as moderator/instigator in the ensuing discussion. The other two panels included cultural tourism research by Shawn Newman and Frédéric Dimanche, and Matthew Hills, CEO of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, presenting the exciting plan for the new Gallery on Thunder Bay’s waterfront and plans to attract tourists and visitors. It will be a spectacular addition to that important area of the city.

Dave Smith, Parliamentary Assistant to the Honourable Neil Lumsden, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, was on hand to present awards at the gala and OCAF was thrilled to spend some time with him and his staff.  As always, Destination Northern Ontario did a fine job of organizing a thought-provoking and useful agenda for the tourism sector. Congratulations to all the staff who do such outstanding work!

Events On Now: Opening

Lights On Stratford will light up this winter starting December 15th, 2023 through January 13th, 2024, Thursdays through Sundays 5:00-10:00 P.M.

Launched in 2020 during the pandemic, the award-winning Lights On Stratford annual winter festival will once again transform Stratford’s heritage downtown core and park system with luminous art and interactive light installations. 

The Lights On Stratford 2023/24 theme is EMERGENCE – just as something comes to light or shows up where there was darkness or nothing before, an emergence happens.

The Festival will feature Made-in-Stratford light displays along the Light Trail connecting Market Square to Tom Patterson Island. As in previous years, storefronts and locations throughout the City will be lit up with unique displays and experiences. Come see Stratford in a different light!

Learn more.

Celebrate the holiday season with Loreena McKennitt’s Under A Winter’s Moon, at Koerner Hall, a captivating live performance of carols and tales that blends Celtic, Indigenous, and Welsh cultures. 

Join the Juno Award-winning Canadian artist and her musical companions as they transport you to a world of music and spoken word that connects us with our past and the spirit of the season. 

Loreena McKennitt’s eclectic Celtic blend of pop, folk, and world music has sold over 14 million albums worldwide. Her recordings have achieved Gold, Platinum, and multi-Platinum status in 15 countries on four continents. 

Later this winter, enjoy this season’s 21C Music Festival, spanning from January to May. The festival includes the Kronos Quartet celebrating five decades of sound, Turkish pianist Fazil Say and friends including RCM alumna Beste Kalender, Brad Mehldau playing new works commissioned by The Royal Conservatory, cultural icon Laurie Anderson, and more.

Learn more.

Events Opening Soon

This January DesignTO Festival brings people together to design a better future, one that is more sustainable, just, and joyful. The Festival happens online and in-person at venues across the City of Toronto. Most events and exhibitions are free, but some require a RSVP or purchased tickets. All window installations are viewable from the outdoors.

DesignTO Festival is Canada’s leading and largest annual design festival that celebrates design as a multidisciplinary form of creative thinking and making, with 100+ free exhibitions and events.Learn more.

Hamilton Winterfest 2024 will take place from February 2nd to 19th, 2024, offering 70 events created by community arts, education and recreation partners. The Festival brings everything from classical concerts to exhibitions, workshops and classes, swing dance and story-time, science to sports!

In addition to the community events, Winterfest Hub is coming to a new exciting location. This year the rooftop of Jackson Square will be transformed with over 20 site-specific light installations, murals and performances. Concerts and live comedy on Friday nights, a Valentine’s Day party not to be missed, and a Family Day Extravaganza with music, food and activities designed for the whole family in partnership with the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the Hamilton Public Library.
Learn more.

Events: Closing Soon

Now open at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Tom Thomson: North Star offers a close look at Thomson’s legacy, focusing on the small en plein air oil paintings, also know as oil sketches, of which he is the supreme master. An account fit for the twenty-first century, the exhibition and accompanying major publication isolates particular moments of Thomson’s artistic experimentation, and incorporate assessments of his work by leading contemporary artists and writers, exploring Thomson’s evolving public persona as the quintessential outdoorsman, and considering his oeuvre within the framework of the international art of his time.

The fully illustrated colour catalogue includes essays by Ian A.C. Dejardin, Sarah Milroy, and Algonquin historian Christine McRae Luckasavitch, as well as appreciations by contemporary Canadian artists Ben Reeves, Sandra Meigs and Zachari Logan, all of whom are engaged with Thomson’s artistic legacy.Learn more.

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