Schryer and O’Gorman doing a year-round AlgomaTrad Centre

Fundraiser two-thirds of the way toward $300,000 contribution to $3.1-million project on St. Joseph Island

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AlgomaTrad is ready to grow, after 16 years of building community and helping to share and celebrate traditional music, dance, art, and heritage craft.
Julie Schryer and Pat O’Gorman involved themselves in the traditional music and dance community long before they officially founded the organization in 2004. Schryer spent her youth playing piano alongside four of her brothers, all award-winning fiddlers, and has performed with many notable artists and taught at several schools and camps.
O’Gorman has played bagpipes for 53 years and wooden concert flute for 40, studying traditional music in Ireland, Brittany, and Cape Breton. He also has an impressive performance and teaching record. Both Schryer and O’Gorman perform with the Brian Pickell Band, and The O’Schraves, a band made up of Schryer, O’Gorman, their daughter Aine, and Schryer’s sons Zach and Benoit.
The couple officially launched AlgomaTrad to facilitate a weeklong music, dance, and arts camp that would bring musicians and artists to Algoma to share their love and knowledge of their traditional crafts. What they mean by ‘traditional’ has no hard and fast definition, but it’s a term adopted within the last 50 years.
“Traditional is a term meant to convey the sense of a culture passed down by aural transmission – that is, through mentor/learner relationships as well as through community sharing that is often led by cultural elders,” O’Gorman told Sault This Week, adding you don’t necessarily have to be old to be an elder in this sense.
“Back in the day, the term used would likely have been ‘folk’ but that term got usurped by the folk music revival of the 50s and 60s, so that it came to be used by the mainstream as more about folksingers than the larger cultural context.
“Some traditional culture practitioners might just identify themselves by their community – Irish, Scottish, Old Time Canadian, Anishinaabe, French-Canadian, Metis… that list is endless.”
AlgomaTrad has run several programs and events over the years, including its annual Family Camp, concerts, three to four community contra/square/ceili dances per year, workshops in music, dance, and heritage crafts, a Fall Heritage Arts weekend, and after school and in-school learning programs. Schryer and O’Gorman have loved all of them.
“I can’t say that we would point to any one program or event as our favourite; they’ve all been part of the vision,” said Schryer. “Our job is to bring all the key components together to create a setting that will achieve our goals – learning, connection, inspiration through art and culture.
“That being said, the annual Family Camp tends to be the signature event: over 160 people of all ages have gathered each year for the last 17 years on St. Joseph Island for an immersive learning and sharing experience with exceptional food in a beautiful setting. Many people have described the experience as magical or ‘life-changing,’” he said.
Schryer and O’Gorman rented the 50-acre Algoma Music Camp property on St. Joseph Island for the first 10 years of AlgomaTrad’s annual weeklong camp.
“Many of our original community of learners and supporters were on the Island and I had a connection with the Algoma Music Camp – my brothers and I learned from Ed and Katharine Gartshore and went to that camp in our youth,” said Schryer. “It seemed a natural place to run the kind of TradCamp we envisioned.”
When the property went up for sale in 2016, before Schryer and O’Gorman could buy it themselves, AlgomaTrad supporters purchased the property to help the organization. They built an open-sided pavilion on the property in 2018 with help from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, but now they’re working toward establishing a year-round AlgomaTrad Centre.
“We were already offering programming throughout the year, but in various spaces, while carting supplies, sound gear, equipment from our home to these venues where sometimes there were limitations,” explained Schryer.
“AlgomaTrad grew through the rental and use of these venues, for which we are entirely grateful, but we have so much more that we want to make happen. With a year-round facility we won’t be restricted by venue availability or inclement weather. We’ll have autonomy and control over the space to make it congruent with programming.”
The new AlgomaTrad Centre will feature a four-season performance hall, winterized dining hall, workshop kitchen, accessible washrooms, and permaculture landscape. 
“AlgomaTrad grew from the grassroots level, with our home being the office space and many thousands of volunteer hours given,” said Schryer. “It’s time to expand (and reclaim our home!), to bring on more staff, to build succession, and this will create more opportunity in the arts for people of all ages.”
To facilitate their $3.1 million, two-year infrastructure project, the organization has worked with several funders, particularly Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., FedNor, Ontario Trillium Foundation, and Cultural Space Canada, O’Gorman said.
AlgomaTrad has a conditional contract with NOHFC for $1 million, but in order to secure it, Schryer and O’Gorman and their supporters have to raise a certain amount of money themselves.
“We learned that [the various funders] wanted to see anywhere from 10-15 per cent coming from us,” said O’Gorman. “It can be complicated, but that can include cash, donations from fundraisers and other organizations, as well as in-kind donations.”
To that end, a fundraiser, so far running for just over a month, has already raised almost $200,000. AlgomaTrad has no fixed deadline to raise its goal of $300,000, but the NOHFC contract does state, “Time is of the essence,” Schryer noted. Donations are being accepted online at fundrazr.com/algomatradgrows.
Despite the difficulties of the last year, Schryer and O’Gorman do not look back in a negative light.
“In a way, COVID has made us more resilient,” said O’Gorman. “Yes, we had to curtail our public activities, and that was super hard for a community organization like ours. But with the help of some incredible Board members, we ran an online camp this past summer, which created what AlgomaTrad always creates – community and connection and, dare we say, loads of fun.”
Using what they learned last summer, AlgomaTrad is currently running a free six-week online music, dance, and art program with funding from Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund. The organization has 130 people of all ages learning fiddle, tin whistle, bagpipes, songwriting, couples dancing, and other traditional crafts.
“Although we can’t wait until we can all be back together experiencing hands-on culture in community, we think that we will likely continue to have some portion of our programming available online as it broadens the organization’s reach and, more importantly, makes it accessible to more people despite geographic, economic, or physical limitations.”

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