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What is NFOTA?
The newly-rebranded Northumberland Festival of the Arts (NFOTA) is an artist-led, not-for-profit corporation dedicated to showcasing the arts and artists of Northumberland County, Ontario. Gwynn Scheltema chairs the organization and Felicity Sidnell-Reid heads the Programming Committee.
NFOTA was launched in 2016 as a grass roots collective of local writers, poets, editors, and publishers—enterprising members of the Spirit of the Hills Writers Group trying by various means, to network, raise their profiles in the community and sell books. Over the years, they mounted several niche-focused activities with limited success. In 2016, the group invited other artists — visual artists, singers and musicians—to mount a mini-festival the following year. They hoped to rise collectively on the same tide by appealing to a wider audience, showcasing their works en masse and offering them for sale. It worked!
In 2019 they expanded further to include drama, photography, multimedia, dance, writing, photography and play writing contests. The festival took place in Coburg over three days and was opened by the Lt. Governor of Ontario. Following rave reviews and positive responses from the attendees, The Town of Cobourg later honoured two of the organizers with Civic awards for their work, recognizing the festival as a valuable tool for growth and promotion of the area. An expanded festival was scheduled for 2021, but the Covid pandemic upended that plan.
Since 2020, the NFOTA team has been working to identify and collaborate with groups already offering arts performances and exhibits in Northumberland. In 2021, NFOTA also dedicated its online media channels and volunteer resources to promote artists and arts groups in Northumberland.
The goal of NFOTA 2022 is to create synergy, optimize the limited resources available to the arts community, and include artists and communities that are often ignored.
Now, as the 2022 festival draws closer, the collaborative spirit continues to fuel the challenging behind-the-scenes work required to produce nearly fifty spectacular events in nine locations. NFOTA 2022 is unprecedented in its scope in this region. We hope it will become the most successful festival of the arts in Northumberland County.
NFOTA celebrates the creative spirit of Northumberland.
We believe art should be inclusive and accessible to all, creativity is unlimited and collaboration makes a community strong. In venues across the region, we’ll be ready to entertain you, to give you opportunities to participate, to learn and to be inspired.
As a not-for-profit arts organization, NFOTA brings together actors and artisans, painters and photographers, musicians, singers and dancers, writers and poets in a grand collaborative showcase over two weeks in September 2022.
Coming out of years of COVID restrictions, NFOTA is excited to be “Celebrating Resilience”
The concept is thoughtfully explored in this article by Jennifer Trefiak. Jennifer is an artist, NFOTA volunteer and member of the Mississaugas of Alderville First Nation.
Our Theme Song
A key pillar of NFOTA is collaboration: artists helping other artists. The birth of NFOTA’s theme song is an example of that in action.
Three local musicians and singers, Lynn C. Bilton, Christopher Cameron, and Marie-Lynn Hammond, got together to produce a theme song for the festival then gifted it to the organization for use in marketing.
The three NFOTA volunteers named their group “What Fun!”, and the song, “Spread the Word, was recorded locally at the Northumberland Music Studio, or Studio 29, in Warkworth.
Our Sponsors & Partners
Art events rely on support from the community, especially if ticket prices are to be kept accessible.
Many artists and art organizations have historically done great things in artistic silos in Northumberland County. NFOTA wanted to collaborate and create synergy so we can all benefit from pooled efforts. We’re proud to partner and collaborate with galleries, art clubs, art businesses, libraries, choirs, musicians, singers, visual artists, writers, poets, dramatists and film makers.
Support from these organizations, as well as businesses, service organizations, municipalities, government agencies and individuals ensures that NFOTA can build on the success of our last two festivals and continue to showcase art and artists.
Many artists and facilitators are also donating their time and talent or performing at reduced fees to help make NFOTA happen. As they say, “It takes a village…”
NFOTA is 100% volunteer run. Under the Board of Directors, the Steering Committee oversees several working committees:
- Steering – Chaired by Gwynn Scheltema
- Programming – led by Felicity Sidnell Reid
- Marketing & Communications – led by Shane Joseph
- Fundraising & Sponsorship – Led by Ken Morden
- Grant Applcations Led by Tom Pickering
- Finance & Administration – Led by Tom Pickering
Meet some of our Team
The core of our committed and hard-working organizers are people who planned and executed two prior Festivals. They are also widely experienced as artists, performers, producers and business owners. A number of them are civic award winners and sit on boards of various other Northumberland organizations.
Board of Directors
President: Gwynn Scheltema
Gwynn is analytical, organized and focussed and having worked on two previous arts festivals in various capacities in 2017 and 2019, she has taken on the role of President of Northumberland Festival of the Arts and heads up the steering committee, as well as being a member of all other major subcommittees.
Gwynn Scheltema qualified as a Public Administrator in 1981, and after over 20 years of diversified experience in accounting, education, and administration became a freelance writer under her business “The Write Connection” in 2000 offering a full range of services to the public and business community, newspapers, magazines, periodicals, and writing related organizations, including press releases, brochures, newsletters, business plans, trade journal and newspaper columns, and articles.
As a partner in “Writescape”, she offers editing services and creative writing facilitation and keynotes for conferences and workshops. For 15 years she worked in Provincial Government Communications as a senior editor/writer with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, where she handled various communications products, speech writing and minister’s correspondence, training and the organizing of ministry-wide conferences. When Gwynn writes for enjoyment, she loves to write short stories and poetry and has been published in literary journals, magazines and anthologies, online and in print. Her poetry book Ten of Diamonds was published by Glentula Press in 2021.
Gwynn’s volunteer work includes being on the Board of LICHEN Arts and Letters Preview (9 years) and The Writers’ Circle of Durham Region, including Vice President (4 years) She has also served as contest judge for fiction and poetry contests, and editor for community anthologies. She is a radio host on Northumberland 98’7FM since 2012
Secretary: Felicity Sidnell Reid
In 1959, after graduating from the University of London, King’s College, Felicity Sidnell Reid arrived in Canada and spent seven years in New Brunswick. Then she and her family moved to Ontario. Felicity has taught children of all ages, from Grade 5 to university students and adults, in Canada, England and Thailand. While teaching for the Toronto Board of Education, she taught English, History, ESL and Drama to high school students before taking positions as Vice Principal at Harbord Collegiate and Northern Secondary. During that time, besides raising four children, and writing poetry and short stories, she designed costumes for universities, schools and amateur dramatic societies and directed school plays.
She is the author of a variety of educational materials, including a book for teachers, ESL is Everybody’s Business (with Fran Parkin) and a series of textbooks for language learners. Her books include a novel for young people: Alone: A Winter in the Woods (Hidden Brook Press, 2015, published as an e-book in 2020, and a poetry collection The Yellow Magnolia (Glentula Press 2021). Her poetry and short fiction have been published in a number of anthologies and online journals and collections. She also paints in water-colours and acrylic and is currently a member of the Cobourg Art Club.
Felicity has sat on the board for the Cramahe Public Libraries, the ACO , Brighton branch, and has been a Board Member of Spirit of the Hills Arts Association serving as secretary from 2010-2014 and from 2016 to 2020, and is the current chair of the SOH Writers’ Group.
Felicity chaired the two previous arts festivals in 2017 and 2019 and was recognized with a Distinguished Civic Award from the Town of Cobourg in 2021, for her work with the festival and the festival’s positive impact on Cobourg. She is a director and secretary of the rebranded Northumberland Festival of the Arts 2022 and also heads up the Programming Committee.
Treasurer: Tom Pickering
Tom has a history in the arts, both from the performance side to the managerial and administrative. As a younger man in the 1980s, he was designated as shy by his manager at the time. Get involved in theatre, he said. Get out in front of people and gain some confidence. Looking up Theatre Ontario’s listings of organizations, he called the first one in the alphabet, a group called Amicus Productions. That was the beginning of a ten-year avocation where he became an actor, producer, director, stage manager, and writer of three original plays, all which were produced on a community theatre stage.
Tom completed the Foundation Year from the Ontario College of Art, which was a formative education into fundamentals of design, drawing and painting.
Much more recently, Tom managed the participation of the Writers’ Group of the Spirit of the Hills Arts Association at the 2019 Cobourg Waterfront Festival, and has volunteered with other activities of that Association. He currently serves on the Board for the Spirit of the Hills Arts Association.
What to See & Do at NFOTA
There is something for all artistic interests and for all ages. Many events are free. Details of events with photos can be found by clicking any of the buttons.
Interviews with & Articles about Featured Artists, Organizers & Civic Leaders
Review “News & Updates” for many interviews and articles in our various series: Northumberland Art Lovers; Meet the Faces Behind NFOTA, and What’s on at the Festival. ” Below is a random selection.
Northumberland Art Lovers: Fabian Arciniegas
Northumberland Art Lovers: Ixchel Suarez
Meet the Faces Behind NFOTA: Shannon Linton
Northumberland Art Lovers: Melody Crowe
Northumberland Art Lovers: Dimitri Papatheodorou
Northumberland Art Lovers: Mayor Bob Sanderson
Northumberland Art Lovers: Mandy Martin
Interviews & Quotes
All the blog series mentioned above contain quotes that can be used by the media.
If you require a new or specialized quote, please email info@festivalofthearts with your specific requirements.
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Gwynn Scheltema talks about NFOTA May 2022 VIDEO
Watch the Video
Theme Song “Spread the Word” (click to watch and listen)
Watch and Listen.