Sally Wismer shares her experience supporting dance—particularly Guelph Dance (Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival)—over the years. We want to thank her for everything she’s done for us—without supporters like Sally, we couldn't do what we do. Thanks, Sally!
Sally: Fifteen years!!! What a significant milestone for Guelph Dance to be celebrating in 2013. Looking back to the organization’s launch as Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival, I feel that it is truly amazing that so much has been accomplished over the past fifteen plus years.
In my then position as Executive Director of Guelph Arts Council, I was privileged to have been able to play a role in helping launch Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival in 1997-98. I vividly recall my early meetings with co-founders Catrina von Radecki and Janet Johnson who at the time were very new to Guelph but were brimming with enthusiasm and determination. They had a dream for a festival that would celebrate contemporary dance; that would give contemporary dance artists an opportunity to perform outside of major metropolitan areas; that would encourage local dance talent; and that would build and educate local audiences.
That Catrina and Janet, as co-artistic directors, along with their boards of directors, have managed to achieve all of these goals and much more over the last fifteen years is a remarkable testament to their vision and dedication, their professionalism and their organizational abilities! In fact, their accomplishments have been so far-reaching that the organization has recently re-branded itself as Guelph Dance to reflect the wide range of activities that now come under the group’s umbrella. And what an impressive list of activities that is: dance camps, dance in the schools, dance productions, dance training as well as the dance festival with its presentations by professional artists as well as emerging and youth artists – in theatres, in galleries, in parks and in the streets.
How do I see the impact of Guelph Dance on the local community? For me personally, it starts with the feeling that Guelph is a very special place. Over the past forty plus years, I’ve watched the community develop into somewhat of a cultural mecca, drawing artists across a wide spectrum of disciplines to live and work here, and also attracting many visitors to enjoy the artistic offerings that have become Guelph trademarks. I have often said that it’s arts, culture and heritage that make Guelph Guelph! So I view Guelph Dance as having adding one more important dimension to Guelph’s diversity of artistic offerings. I can’t think of another community the size of Guelph that, in 2013, has such a highly-developed and respected dance profile and that supports so much contemporary dance activity. Add to that Guelph Dance’s reputation for innovation and “cutting-edge” creations, I have no hesitation in saying that Guelph Dance has changed the face of the arts in Guelph.
I hope that others in the Guelph community will join me in celebrating and supporting this fantastic organization as it marks its first fifteen years. Like so many others in the not-for-profit sector, Guelph Dance relies heavily on community support, whether it’s through volunteer or financial contributions or through appreciative audiences or students throughout the year. Let’s help make 2013 a banner year for dance in Guelph.
Sally Wismer has lived in Guelph since 1964. She has been actively involved in the community ever since, especially in the arts, culture and heritage sector, first as a volunteer, then for close to 25 years as executive director of Guelph Arts Council. During these years, she worked with dozens of organizations and project organizers to assist in the launch of new cultural activities. She also played a lead in establishing other ventures such as Guelph Tourism Services and Doors Open Guelph. Since retirement in 2010, Sally has continued her involvement in many local cultural endeavours, and has joined the City of Guelph Cultural Advisory Committee as well as the Public Art Committee (sub-committee of the CAC). She remains a fan of and strong believer in Guelph Dance.