Meet the Faces Behind NFOTA: Jessica Outram

Jessica Outram

Who you are?

I am a writer and teacher. People also know me as the Poet Laureate of Cobourg and a principal with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. I’m so glad I made the decision to move to Cobourg 10 years ago. Connecting with the arts community and walking along Lake Ontario regularly inspires me.

Why do you believe in the Northumberland Festival of the Arts?

There is so much to celebrate in Northumberland. We have a vibrant arts scene. Imagine if we could bring everyone together to celebrate creativity and community? Whoa. That would be amazing. The arts are a way that we can connect to each other, share an experience of listening to a piece of music or gazing at a painting. I’m honoured to work with this dynamic group to shine a light on the talented people who live here and provide a place to gather for those that love and appreciate the arts. 

Any passions and talents you want to share?

During the pandemic I launched a small side-business focused on creativity coaching. Creativity is a good tonic for hard times. Everyone has the capacity to be creative, to expand their creative processes, and turn these challenging days into something else. It has helped me greatly in moving through the last year. What if instead of a lockdown, it was an artist retreat? That’s how I framed the last year. How can I use this extra time at home to build my skills, refine my process, and connect with the community in new ways? I was so thrilled to have our weekly Poetry Present email publication to stay connected to our local poets. Technology doesn’t replace time together in person, but it can offer many possibilities.

What are your roots or groups – connections in the community

Over the years I’ve sang with Safe Harbour and Orianna Singers, performed with Northumberland Players and Victorian Operetta Society, and connected with writers through Spirit of the Hills and Cobourg Poetry Workshop. Over ten years ago I attended a writers’ breakfast for Spirit of the Hills. Then I decided to move to Northumberland. The arts called me here. I knew this was a place I could call home.

What does “art” mean to you?

Art is a way to connect, build relationships with each other or with the subject of the ‘art.’ Art in any form from music to poetry to sculpture invites us to look at ourselves or the world around us in a new way. It can move us to nostalgia or to laughter or to debate. Art is a great healer. Research supports the healing ways of singing together in a choir, the impact on our subconscious and sense of belonging. Art lights up our homes or helps us to escape them. 

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