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New Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre manager reflects on successful first year

Matthew Barrett is looking forward to the revival of the Melville Music Festival in Happy Valley-Goose Bay next spring. Barrett, an accomplished piano player, is on the committee members planning the event after a seven-year hiatus.
Matthew Barrett has been running the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre for the last year. - The Labradorian

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, NL – It’s been just over one year since Kathleen Hicks, the first manager of the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre, handed over the responsibility of running the arts centre to Matthew Barrett.
Kathleen, along with her husband John, had been instrumental in the arts community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay for over 30 years. This left big shoes for her replacement to fill.
In many ways, the combined role of artistic manager and technician is built for Barrett. A long-time activist for the theatre’s construction while in high school, Barrett went on to obtain both a bachelor’s degree in jazz piano and an electrician’s license.
After achieving his red-seal status, the chance to apply to become the theatre’s manager arose. For Barrett it was a natural move to go for it.
“My dream as a kid was to be a ‘rock star.’ I spent all my life playing, organizing concerts and events, and acting. I've always been involved in many ways. I guess in a way taking this job as manager of the Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre was a step closer to being a rock star,” mused Barrett.
Along with the administrative support team of Suzanne Mealey and Debbie Gill, Barrett has worked hard to ensure the arts centre remains active.
“It is a very busy job, and sometimes, around Christmas and the Creative Arts Festival season, we basically live here,” said Barrett.
This past year has had many local performances in the space, such as the Labrador Creative Arts Festival and the High School Drama Festival. Artists have come from away as well, and are impressed by the success of this creative team.
Taylor Olson, an actor and filmmaker based out of Nova Scotia, was one such artist who fell in love with the arts centre and team when he performed there with the Halifax Theatre for Young People.
“The facilities were amazing. I was wonderfully surprised by how accommodating the crew was, and how good they were at their craft,” he said. “We had lost our set via Air Canada in travel and they helped us rebuild the set with random things around the building.
“We ended up having a great time rebuilding the set with the crew because they were so great.”
After one year of success, this team certainly won’t be resting on their laurels. They’re approaching 2018 with the same determination and creativity that has brought them success so far.
“We are always trying to find new ways to make this a community facility that appeals to every community member,” Barrett said. “We are always working on new ways to develop relationships, outreach, workshops, and partnerships.”
When asked what his goals are for the upcoming year for the arts centre, Barrett has big ideas in mind.
“I want the theatre to truly be a community centre, a hub of Labrador,” he said. “I want to continue to grow and expand on the types of events, shows, offerings and programming we have here in an effort to reach all populations.
“We are trying new things here all the time and it’s quite exciting. Who knows where the next few years will bring us, as we are truly open to any and all ideas.”


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