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Monday, 17 September 2012 22:11

Zann believes arts and culture can translate into big dollars

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Arts and Culture is alive and well in Colchester County. With a number of organizations operating, it’s now easier for people of all ages to get involved. Pictured, back from left, is Stephanie MacNeil, Margot Begin-Gillis, Wayne Burns, MLA Lenore Zann, Amber Anderson, Zach Saint and Ross Thompson, interim executive director of the Marigold Cultural Centre. Front row, from left is Emily Dennis, Cian McCarron and Courtney Cook. Arts and Culture is alive and well in Colchester County. With a number of organizations operating, it’s now easier for people of all ages to get involved. Pictured, back from left, is Stephanie MacNeil, Margot Begin-Gillis, Wayne Burns, MLA Lenore Zann, Amber Anderson, Zach Saint and Ross Thompson, interim executive director of the Marigold Cultural Centre. Front row, from left is Emily Dennis, Cian McCarron and Courtney Cook. Jeff Gill - Hub Now

For years, Lenore Zann has believed arts and culture is undervalued in Nova Scotia. In an effort to show just how valuable they are, she’s suggesting people need not look any further than right here in Colchester County.
“For many years, people in general, including governments seem to think arts and culture is sort of the icing on the cake – they’re not that important and they’re more like money sponges instead of money generators,” said Zann, MLA for Truro-Bible Hill. “I think people are starting to see the value of arts and culture and how they add not only to people’s quality of life, but how they bring in tourists. They bring a community to a standard where people want to live there. Colchester County is a prime example of this.”
Zann understands how people can scoff at arts and culture, especially when it comes to them attracting new people to an area. In the past, she believes that was the case, but in the 21st century, things are beginning to change and she says many people, when experiencing some downtime, want to be entertained in one way or another.
“In the old days, when a factory or pulp mill for instance would set up shop, a town would typically develop around that business,” she said. “That’s just not happening anymore. What we see happening is a lot of different businesses continue to pop up in homes, basements or little shops and they grow and grow. That leads to local people being hired, they buy local supplies and they choose areas they believe will be a beautiful place to raise a family and grow old in. That’s why in Truro and Bible Hill, we’re really blessed because we’re close enough to Halifax and we’re close to an international airport. We are the Hub of Nova Scotia and we are so lucky to have a creative community and people who are full of talent.”
Zann points to the area hosting the first music festival of any in the province and a community-based theatre group – Hub Theatre – that’s been going for close to 30 years as perfect examples of how arts and culture have enriched the community. Even the level of talent performing at the high school level is second to none, she says.
Other groups like the Truro Dance Academy have also made a substantial difference in the lives of Colchester County residents, she continued.
“When I was a child here, there were no dance classes,” she said. “You had to drive back and forth to Halifax. Now we’ve seen young kids being trained and now they’re 17 or 18 years old and they’re training another generation.”
When Zann moved back to Colchester County in 2007, she wanted to bring back some of the knowledge and experience she amassed in her 33 years of being a performing artist. Her goal was to encourage artists young and old how to be successful without them having to go away.
That success, in Zann’s eyes, would lead to Nova Scotia becoming a real poster province for what arts can truly do for the economy. Since her return, a number of young people she’s been mentoring have progressed in the business and are doing very well. They include Julia MacLellan, who went to Sheridan College and is now dancing, singing and acting in a number of shows in Toronto. Jenny Appleby, who studied directing at Queen’s University is also making her mark and returned to Truro to direct Our Town and The Secret Garden. She’s now attending St. FX to obtain her teaching degree so she can teach drama.
Wayne Burns, who made a name for himself on the stage of Cobequid Education Centre has also taken the next step in his acting career. However, it wasn’t without some hesitation and resistance.
“This career doesn’t always guarantee you’re going to have the nice house, nice car and a family, but it makes me happy and at the end of the day, that’s what’s important to me,” said Burns, who was one 12 students accepted into the National Theatre School of Canada. “Out of high school, I thought my best step was to become a dental hygienist. My mother is in the dental industry. I was accepted to the Nova Scotia Agriculture College with a full scholarship and after doing my first semester, realized quickly I was miserable. Behind my parents back, I auditioned for a theatre show in Halifax and got the part. That set things in motion for me.”
Although his parents were initially upset, Burns says they eventually got behind him and encouraged him to do what makes him happy. He referenced Zann’s point that arts and culture aren’t always viewed as a safe way to make a living, which can often lead to concern and fear.
However, the vibrant arts and culture community in Truro rallied around him, reassuring him he was doing the right thing. Already having his first year completed at a nationally heralded arts school, Burns has signed with an agent and has filmed commercials for Bell Aliant and the Resource Recovery Fund Board, appeared in the CBC-comedy Mr. D and this year was cast in a movie called All the Wrong Reasons featuring Cory Monteith of Glee fame and Adam Brody, who is known for his role in The O.C.
On the local level, he taught this summer in the Rob Lutz Drama Camp at the Marigold Cultural Centre.
“Wayne is very talented,” said Zann. “He’s a born actor. I’ve had the opportunity to see talent in my time and he has it. We have so many terrific talents right here in our very own community. Andrew Morrisey and Christina Appleby are two more locals who flourish when it comes to the arts. When you have people like this, it’s so much easier to encourage people to get involved in the arts. They see success is possible.”
For Burns, success is a key word. However, it doesn’t necessarily have the same meaning for him in a business that seems to drive the world crazy following the names of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
“Success is not measured in celebrity, it’s measured in happiness,” he said. “Happiness is a lot easier goal for me than being a celebrity and that’s what I’m always going to strive for. There are times when I still struggle with this. You still have to deal with the rejection. When you don’t get a role, you have to be able to say, ‘OK, I’m not what they are looking for,’ and move on. It took a lot out of me at first but you can’t give up. I hear so many people talk about this industry and knock it or say it didn’t work in their favour. My answer to that is they didn’t want it bad enough.”
Cian McCarron is an up and coming actor in Truro. Showing an interest in arts and culture in Grade 3, he joined the Truro Theatre Society after seeing how much his older brother enjoyed the experience.
Although he hasn’t had a lead role yet, the 11-year-old wants to continue to learn and grow as an actor with hopes of one day stepping into a major role.
“The roles I’ve had to date have been fitting for me,” he said. “In Peter Pan, I was Toodles and in Alice in Wonderland this year, I have several smaller roles so I’m pretty busy. I like performing and thankfully I don’t get stage fright. There is just something about the energy you feel when you hit the stage.”
He sees himself sticking with acting as he grows, but also admits he enjoys singing and would love to have his own band in the future.
It’s this type of vision and talent that Zann says Nova Scotia has to capitalize on.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I truly believe Nova Scotia is on the brink of more world success from our young people and I think the best thing we can do is support them and give them as much opportunity at an early age as possible. If we can encourage the same kind of attitude people like Wayne exhibit, we won’t go unnoticed. Colchester County can be a true leader when it comes to this.”

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