Northumberland County, east of Toronto, is rich in outstanding natural beauty. That may be one reason why it’s attracted such a large population of artists of all kinds. Gwynn Scheltema is one of them.
A writer and poet who lives on Lake Seymour, Gwynn runs writers’ retreats through Writescape.ca and is the co-host of Word on the Hills on 89.7 FM.
We interviewed her about Spirit of the Hills, the Festival of the Arts, and the future of Northumberland county as a vibrant centre for the arts in Canada.
Q: How does it make you feel to realize that Spirit of the Hills is celebrating its 20th anniversary – and has thrived and grown over those years?
It’s amazing! I remember sitting with (writer) Beth Rhind at a Northumberland Arts Conference in Baltimore years ago and Beth asking me if there were any writers that I knew in the area. That led to an open house in Warkworth to discuss the need or desire for a writers group in the area.
Now the writers group is a vibrant gathering of amazing literary talent that not only supports its members with learning more about the craft and the industry, but also helps promote each other and gives back to the community with hundreds of volunteer hours at festivals, community radio shows and as members of the board.
Q: Northumberland is said to be (somewhat quietly) on its way to becoming an arts capital of Ontario. What’s your vision of SOTH’s significance in the region and the country?
I make at least one trip every year to Stratford, Ontario and am always blown away by how much the arts there have shaped that little town into a destination for people from all over the world, and how the arts have been a catalyst for growth in all areas from retail to hospitality to education and artisan industries. I hope the same happens here.
Q: What do you hope the Festival of the Arts will do for artists in the region and for the community?
I hope that it will become an anchor for continued growth in the arts in the region and continued co-operation between the different artistic disciplines. Together we grow, divided we stagnate.
I hope too that other artisan talents will become part of the mix. I’m thinking cheese makers, jewelry, textiles, and such. If other areas of the community can get on board, such as B&Bs and local restaurants offering FOTA packages, it could become a gateway to growth for all of us.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at FOTA?
Seeing the wealth of talent from this region all in one place.