On February 17, at the sound of the noon-day bell, Tim Porter and Emily Mewett will be taking the plunge into the chilly waters of Tweed Memorial Park… and then heading to the Marble Arts Centre to put on a show.
Their beloved theatre, under the ownership of their arts company Tweed & Company, is in dire need of renovations, and the pair are raising money by plunging into the frozen depths of Stuco Lake.
“I am terrified,” said Porter with a laugh, “It is not something I have ever done before, and I am not a HUGE fan of being cold. Emily has been actively preparing with cold showers and meditation, so I think she will be better at it than me.”
Porter and Mewett, both born and raised in the region, have spent their lives in theatres, both on and back stage, as directors and show writers. Porter said he eventually had enough of city-living and in 2010 found himself back in his hometown of Tweed, where he started performing at the Marble Arts Centre. This is where he said he felt his future – and the future of local arts – needed to be nurtured.
“It is just so exciting to be back here,” said Porter. “Creating the life that we always imagined for ourselves, and helping others create a life here that they can be excited and passionate about.”
Then, in 2022, Tweed & Company took over the building and immediately started to imagine what it needs to really contribute to the growth of Tweed and its arts culture.
“As one of the only mid-sized, fully-outfitted arts and culture spaces in the region, it fills a huge void for up-and-coming musicians, smaller groups and theatre productions,” said Porter. “We have been saying for years that there are certain major projects that need to be undertaken for the building to be usable now and into the future.”
And the renovations are vast. Their plans involve a larger stage and lobby, updated technical equipment and lighting, better dressing rooms, improved heating and air conditioning and transforming the building to be fully accessible to all. They’re looking at roughly $600,000 of renovations, and Porter says they are touched by the support the centre has received.
“The good news is, between grants, foundation support, and individual fundraising, we have already exceeded the original $500,000 in pledged support, and are well on our way to being fully funded,” said Porter.
Now, for the final push, Porter and Mewett are making a splash. The pair are asking for help to reach $150,000 in donations, and in return they’ll take a polar plunge as part of the Tweed Winter Festival. Donators can come cheer them on and Porter said every donator will feel their dollar count toward the community’s development.
“Everyone wants to come to the nicest place possible, where they know their experience is going to be 10 out of 10, that the artists they are coming to see are going to be taken care of and that they are performing in a space that the community can be proud of. That is what we are really building here.”
Porter said there’s a lot to look forward to from the Marble Arts Centre, both during the renovation period while shows continue to run and after it’s complete.
“This space is going to change the experience of coming to one of our shows so much,” said Porter. “It’s going to be a whole new world. We can’t wait.”