The Evolution of the TWG Guest House in Rosseau with AirBnb!

Doing My Own Thing!

The smell of my  “Vin-a-bon” cinnamon rolls and chelsea buns baking in the oven, combined with fresh espresso coffee brewing on top of the stove, filled the crisp morning air. Nick and Lynn, a young couple from Belgium, were in the front sunroom sluggishly rearranging their backpacks, preparing for their first canoe adventure into Algonquin Park.  Dinner of homemade pasta and mussels, eggplant parmigiana and foccacia from the evening before, still filled their bellies with content. However, it did not stop them from enjoying my morning spread of hot lattes and tastey treats.

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Homemade Chelsea Buns, Bagels & Granola

As I stood back and watched, recalling my own backpacking adventures when I was in my youth, I suddenly realized what I had created with the TWG GUEST HOUSE was a combination of all the things  I loved most when travelling.

  1. A place where the host was the owner. They were local, or at least well informed about the area.
  2. You felt like you were stepping into a person’s home and so you got a glimpse of their personality and home life.
  3. The food was their own. Freshly made and again reflective of their personality.
  4. The atmosphere was casual, where you got to meet the owner’s friends, family & even pets.
  5. The rooms were clean, comfortable and not pretentious.
  6. It wasn’t expensive.
  7. It was a gathering place, where people from many walks of life and from a variety of origins met, ate together, laughed and exchanged stories.
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Iago & Willow

This is exactly what the TWG Guest House has become, a gathering place that is affordable, comfortable and personable, with good food to boot!

For years I have been hosting friends, visitors and many actors from my theatre company, all without charging them, because, well, I love doing it. But last fall when the actors returned to the city and suddenly I had an empty house, my cousin Lisa suggested that I list on AirBnB. Quite frankly I wasn’t even familiar with what is now the largest hotel in the world, a combination of all sorts of accommodations from urban condos to luxury recreational homes to campers vans parked on the street of  Brooklyn, New York.

So, after photographing my home, I joined Airbnb and within days I started getting bookings. At first I simply rented rooms and people would use my kitchen to prepare meals or go out for dinner and breakfast. To be honest I wasn’t really comfortable with this arrangement. However, during the fall, when there are fewer dining options in the village, I found myself offering to prepare food. Soon that developed from preparing coffee and toast in the morning to making full-scale dinners.

When I opened in fall ’15, my visitors were primarily Europeans here to see the cavalcade of autumn colours or to experience a final canoe trip to Algonquin Park. During the winter I had only a few visitors but as spring approached I decided to take on this adventure with more of a commitment. In addition to rearranging my rooms, I also added a full continental breakfast that includes homemade bagels, muffins of sorts, chelsea buns, cinnamon buns, granola, smoothies, crepes and a selection of coffees and teas. Of course, dinners too became a favourite and guests started requesting my  Italian specialties.

This year, what I found very popular, were young couples going to weddings at the JW Marriott, just a short ride down the highway and who didn’t want to, nor were able to afford the expense of a room at the resort. Also, I have had several parents staying who were dropping off, visiting or picking up kids at summer camp. Then there were the urbanites looking for a weekend getaway, and others; families, who were looking for an affordable way to experience Muskoka. My reviews, for the most part, have been excellent, except from those who were not comfortable with the cozy atmosphere and having to interact  with other guests. I suspect they have not travelled much.  I’m the first one to admit, the TWG GUEST HOUSE isn’t for everyone, especially the anti-social.

From my perspective the venture has been truly successful and beneficial. It has provided me with security while I write my next project. It’s given me the opportunity to test out new cooking and baking skills. But most of all, in a region of the province where the majority are longtime, permanent residents of several generations, it has assured me that Canada is still a nation that celebrates complex, wonderful and versatile individuals. This year I have welcomed members from every community; visitors from the likes of Germany, United Kingdom, Belgium, China, Italy, Spain, Australia and  several African and South American nations not to mention all parts of Canada and the U.S.

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A marriage proposal  while staying the TWG GUEST HOUSE 

As one guest commented “It’s not the Four Seasons!”, nor have I ever claimed to be anything close to it or any other hotel.  I used to describe the TWG GUEST HOUSE as a “BnB”, which in fact, I am not.  I am my own invention; a hybrid of a traditional North American BnB, an Italian penzione and a hostel found anywhere in the world. It’s a place where strangers gather, become instant best friends then leave feeling they have had the opportunity to experience the local culture, and maybe, a bit of Muskoka magic. It’s a place that has turned out better than I had ever imagined. #keepingMuskokaAffordable

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Celebrate Destination Rosseau! Coming Summer 2014! Art, Music, Theatre & Film

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Even though the ice is still out there on the lake and snow surrounds us, it’s time to think summer! As executive director of the non-profit Rosseau Culture and Arts Project,  I am proud to announce the first annual  “Destination Rosseau”, a celebration of music, theatre, film and art.  Years in the making, this brings together The Muskoka Theatre Project, The TWG Gallery, The new Muskoka Film Festival and The Rosseau Academy of Arts and Practical Science all under one umbrella.

Through generous support from the Ontario Government’s Celebrate Ontario 2014 grant programme, sponsorship, the Municipality of Seguin Township, volunteers and others, Rosseau is well on its way to becoming an arts destination.

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Our playhouse…a spiced up Agricultural Hall!

It was here in Rosseau, back in 2002, that the Muskoka Theatre Project began to produce live theatre and musical concerts beginning with its original, award-winning, one-woman show “Quiet! I’m Talking” (soon to become a feature film “The Grass Widow of Muskoka”).  Since then we consistently presented quality professional theatre up until 2010. This year we return with a presentation of “The Audit” a new romantic comedy plus other productions and musical events.

The TWG Gallery, now in its second year, will be presenting several shows of local and regional artists under the banner “Brave New Art” along with our second annual “Paint the Town, Rosseau”.

ImageThe Rosseau Academy of Arts and Practical Science will be holding a series of workshops in arts, science and theatre for  kids and various media for adults throughout the summer.

Finally, over three days in September, “Destination Rosseau” will feature The Muskoka Film Festival, in three venues featuring not only great flicks but in many cases the filmmakers themselves.

Our final schedule of events is being finalized and new things are being added. In the meantime, keep visiting www.rosseaucultureandarts.com for details.

Also, WE ARE LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS with all our activities including the theatre, the workshops and the film festival. If you are interested in helping out please drop us a line and tell us your area of interest and availability. We’ll get back to you ASAP.    info@rosseaucultureandarts.com

Bring on the summer!

Vince Grittani, executive director

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Actors Wanted! General Call

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The Muskoka Theatre Project (now operating under the non-profit Rosseau Culture and Arts Project) is looking for union and non-union local actors of all ages…Local meaning those with their own transportation and accommodations in the Muskoka/Parry Sound region. In the past we have presented such original shows as the award winning “Quiet! I’m Talking”, “Scenes From My Dock” and “Wake Me When It’s Over!”. This is a general search for several future projects, both plays and musicals, beginning this summer and onwards and will be produced in various venues. Please submit a photo and resume to info@rosseaucultureandarts.com . For more information visit www.muskokatheatreproject.com

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                                               Vince Gritttani, Executive Director 

“Hey Gravenhurst, I’m Over Here! ”

IMG_00000103(Today, Feb 7 at 5:00  is the final day they are accepting  submissions so, I thought I would send this out one more time for good luck!) 

Ego v.s. Passion

Recently the Town of Gravenhurst posted an ad for the position of Manager of Arts and Culture. To say that I want the job is an understatement. I am the job. This isn’t an over-inflated ego speaking. It’s passion. In fact, one could say that I have been vying for the position for some time now. And now, admittedly,  I am campaigning for it!

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The position, Manager of Arts and Culture for the town, includes overseeing its famous Opera House. This is a facility I have a history with that goes back to its 100th Anniversary in 2001, for which I was commissioned to create my summer musical “Scenes From My Dock!”. It played to packed houses.  Previous to that, the Opera House was home to a variety of professional theatre companies and a presenter of many great concerts and events. However, over the past decade the place has never experienced the buzz that was present since its centennial celebration. Its citizens have continuously expressed to me, and their council, of their concern for the lack of good programming and the financial drain the venue creates on the the town’s coffers.

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This job is the sum total of everything I’ve been doing!

You can click here. I have the qualifications. I’ve managed teams of individuals of all sizes and produced award winning results with budgets from nil to over a million. I’ve raised money through sponsorship, fundraising, government grants, advertising  and audience development. I’ve negotiated contracts and worked with professional union members, amateurs, agents, volunteers, actors, directors, writers, dancers, musicians, designers, artists, publicists, backstage crew, media, etc. , etc..  I know what it’s like to work with local government and have been a familiar face to most of the regional councils over the past twenty years. I’m not just a theatre guy but my experience branches into the visual, television and film arts. I am and have always been a big supporter and promoter of Muskoka with a keen interest in its history. (Even my award-winning screenplay “The Grass Widow of Muskoka”, based on my play “Quiet! I’m Talking”, to be a filmed in Muskoka, brings to life the region’s past and present lore.)

On the business side, I spent years in marketing, including working for various corporate clients and advertising agencies. I understand the importance of sponsorship and appreciate the value that lies in the Muskoka brand. And when it comes to understanding the nuts and bolts of an old building, my personal experience, not only with producing in and running a variety of theatre venues, but in real estate and ownership for the past thirty years, has given me a fairly good working knowledge of the mechanics. I recognize that the Gravenhurst Opera House is a valuable icon and an integral part of not only the town’s, but the whole Muskoka region’s, history. I believe the position of Manager of Arts and Culture goes beyond just the building itself and includes stimulating the cultural fabric of the entire town. It’s a position that must lead a unified effort from amongst the many special interests within the pool of citizens, creating a greater sense of community pride. It’s a position that must always look at the bottom line and strive towards sustainability in a very competitive environment. It’s also a position that must see arts and culture take an active role in reviving the town’s core and stimulate the local economy.

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Culture is more than art!

I also understand the challenges that increased competition (both regionally and nationally), changing demographics, digital age media, and budget restraints present. I am well aware that one must develop creative solutions in order to sustain and support arts and cultural activity. And finally, the fact that the position is not just “arts manager”  means one must have an understanding that cultural activity isn’t just theatre, film and visual art, but includes other interests that make up the Town of Gravenhurst community.

So far my efforts to “campaign” for the position have not gone unnoticed. Many have sent in an email of support to the human resources on my behalf. (Be my guest  HumanResources@gravenhurst.ca). Some have commented that they have never seen such an enthusiastic pitch for a a government job! On the other hand, others have warned me that I may come across as “too aggressive”, turn them off and that I am being “too public”.  Well, the job is, or at least should be, very public. The person must be out there promoting and being involved. This is what a leader does. That is how one remains accountable to the people paying their salary.

My motto!

My motto!

I choose to believe that those making the hiring decision want to see change to the status quo and are interested in a person who can show leadership, creativity and have a genuine interest in the well being of the Town of Gravenhurst. That person is me.

Partnerships. Good for everyone!

As far as my vision for the Village of Rosseau, I see this as a perfect opportunity for a partnership. The challenge with Rosseau is that it is very small and it lacks facilities and a substantial permanent population, however it is located at the opposite end of Muskoka and in the designated region of Northern Ontario. A partnership lends itself to shared activity and access to Northern funding not available the the Town of Gravenhurst.  Although there would be some overlap, there would also be the potential to reach a greater audience with more activity. So therefore, Rosseau could be a satellite to Gravenhurst, and funding agencies love partnerships.

You get one life to live. Go for it!

My application for the position could have been simple and I could have just sent in a resume. But that’s not me. Instead, I have chosen to be very public and demonstrate just a smidgen of the effort I would exert if hired.

Using music I wrote for previous assignments and new graphics I created for original projects I have or am developing, here’s a sample of some of the artistic and cultural activity I would bring to the Opera House and the Town of Gravenhurst. Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1eAal8J7j1Y