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Josh Welsh is an actor, writer and entertainer from Cornwall, Ontario, who resides in Toronto. He is currently pursuing his Degree at Humber College in the Bachelor of Journalism program. Before he joined the Club, he was a member of the catering staff.

YOUNG CREATIVE AND PERFORMING
ARTISTS — THE ARTS & LETTERS CLUB
WANTS YOU
!


 

“Art is a necessity – an essential part of our enlightenment process. We cannot, as a civilized society, regard ourselves as being enlightened without the arts.”

Ken Danby

 

As a starving artist in Toronto and a firm believer in the arts and all the enriching experiences they offer, becoming a member at the Arts & Letters Club was one of the best things I could have done! The transition from employee to Club member was seamless. I knew people and jumped into Club activities, like the Spring Revue, Ad Lib and TGIF casual lunches. These helped me to fit in as a new member.

One of the things I enjoy and value at the Club is its rich history, and our building. People who come through frequently comment on the amazing space we have — and we are proud to be in a space that has been going strong since the early 1900s. The rotating art exhibitions on display in the lounge and Great Hall are a prime example of how we use it and make it interesting.

Yes, it can be intimidating to attend Club events where most of the others are much older. I remember my new members’ reception last October, when I looked around the studio and saw maybe two or three young faces in the room — me being one of those faces! But everyone is friendly and interesting, and the “age thing” disappears quickly. Much of the Club programming is organized by the older members and, naturally, it appeals to what they enjoy. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Friday Nights’ Ad Lib — an eclectic smorgasbord of things artistic, from film screenings, to improv, to making art, to games — offers a head start. Because the Club is open to new ideas and new programming, there are lots of opportunities for us younger members to organize events that appeal to us.

  Club President Penelope Cookson agrees. “In my job as an opera director I work with many young performers who are starting out on their careers and need opportunities to perform. The Club would be a natural home for young people to try out their own productions of opera, musical theatre, or stage plays. We have the hall and the rehearsal space. We have a built-in audience that is both knowledgeable and appreciative, and we have members with expertise on whom they could call on for advice.”

One of our other young members, Gabe Latner, has struck a committee for the very purpose of expanding our programming and attracting young members. “A big hurdle is a lack of awareness,” he said. “I grew up in Toronto, and only learned about the A&L when I visited a reciprocal club abroad. The hope is that our new committee will be able to get the word out and help put on a slate of programming that not only brings new members into the Club but keeps them engaged for years to come.”

Matthew Chapman, another younger member, sees an opportunity for the Club to have more online presence, believing that more use of social media would be an effective outreach to a younger crowd. In a conversation at a past film screening night, I mentioned that I believe the Club could be an “up and coming young peoples’ arts club,” so I have volunteered to chair a new committee aimed at the artistic and technical aspects of making films. I know that there are many interesting young filmmakers and photographers out there who would enjoy and benefit from taking part in this as Club members.

I personally feel that the Club has potential to do so much more with younger members. Stage activities can always use youthful cast and crew members and, having met them in college, I know for a fact that there are many talented young performers who would get a lot from the Club. This year, I’d love to encourage our membership — myself included — to take on a coordinated outreach to students in nearby colleges and universities, to introduce them to the Club as a place that could be their artistic home. (To encourage this, the Club has a deeply discounted fee of $125 for students in literature and arts programs.)

After being a member for almost a year, I really am enjoying my time at the Club. Participating in the Spring Revue and in Stage’s play readings was both fun and artistically challenging and helped me to make new friends. And, as a “foodie enthusiast,” I do enjoy the meals at Film Nights, Club Nights and the casual “TGIF” Friday lunches.

“The Arts & Letters Club: where we can be free in here.” So goes the final verse of a song written by Jamie Musselwhite, Trina Christensen and Betty Trott for this year’s Spring Revue. Freedom to try new things, to experiment, to grow. As members of this wonderful Club we enjoy and cherish this freedom. It’s time for more new and younger faces to experience it too.

Josh Welsh 

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