The Foster Festival’s Local Heroes Initiative partnered with Bethlehem Housing and Support Services for the second summer, by providing free tickets for our residents to attend all three shows.
Patricia Vanstone is the Co-founder and Artistic Director for the Foster Festival, and Emily Oriold is the Co-founder and Executive Director. They first heard of Bethlehem through Lisa Matheson at CMSIntelligence, who we worked with to build our website. Lisa thought the Foster Festival would be a great fit to partner with Bethlehem.
The Foster Festival believes that cultural engagement should be available to everyone in the community regardless of means, which is how the Local Heroes Initiative was created. Emily says, “We wanted to ensure all levels of the community are able to enjoy theatre.”
They are also very committed to complying with the Mayor’s Compassionate STC Initiative, which involves the regeneration of culture in downtown St. Catharines. Patricia says, “In the last 3 years downtown St. Catharines has transformed to a really vibrant destination for residents and tourists. We feel that the Foster Festival is really bringing St. Catharines to the forefront as a destination for cultural tourism. It’s been wonderful to be part of the rebirth of downtown St. Catharines.”
Patricia and Emily are both very passionate about Norm Foster, his work and what it offers to the community. Their mission is to showcase the heart and humour of Foster's writing in a dedicated environment. Patricia says, “Norm is a very funny writer but we are passionate about exploring the heart that lies beneath. That is what makes the shows such a resonant experience for our audience.”
For both Patricia and Emily, the part they have enjoyed most about partnering with Bethlehem is knowing that our residents are enjoying the shows and then going back and sharing their experience together.
One of the residents who attended the shows commented, “It was real life. I laughed. I cried. It was an honour and a privilege to be able to see all three plays.”
In addition to Bethlehem, The Foster Festival also works in partnership with the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre Niagara and the Niagara Children Centre to offer creative expression programs. At these organizations they offer a 6-12 week programs where local Niagara artists introduce various forms of art such as mask makers, song writers and puppeteers.
They are currently working on offering a 12 week program in Fort Erie at the Niagara Chapter Native Women Centre for Indigenous girls, which will be completely focused on Indigenous culture.
Thank you so much to Patricia, Emily and the Foster Festival for their dedication and passion towards building a culturally inclusive community. We look forward to partnering with them next year!