'Why not Brampton?': Former Buddies in Bad Times artistic director to help shape cultural life there

Brampton's new artistic director of performing arts is drawing up plans to help shape cultural life in the city northwest of Toronto for the next 10 years.

Brendan Healy says mix of cultures and age groups in Brampton is 'electric'

Brendan Healy, former artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, has taken a job in Brampton to shape its cultural life for years to come. (Alejandro Santiago)

Brampton's new artistic director of performing arts says he took the job in the city northwest of Toronto because it's a good opportunity to help shape cultural life there for years to come.

Brendan Healy, former artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto, says he sees Brampton as a young, dynamic and growing city.

Healy will develop cultural programming there that "speaks to the unique identity of the city," map out a cultural master plan, forge partnerships with community leaders and run the Rose Theatre.

"Why not Brampton? I mean it's an amazingly vibrant city. It's going through an incredible boom right now. It's extremely diverse," Healy told Metro Morning on Tuesday. "And there's a kind of energy at the municipal level to really engage with culture." 

'They get it at city hall'

Healy, who has been visiting Brampton "his whole life" because his aunt and uncle lived there, said city council understands that arts and culture is a crucial element of municipal life and is a "pillar" of the city's social and economic health. 

"They get it at city hall and they want to do big things," he said. "It was kind of an impossible thing to say no to."

The city of 600,000 is a mixture of urban and suburban neighbourhoods and experienced upwards of 10 per cent growth between 2011 and 2016, according to census data.

It's also a mix of different cultures and age groups, Healy said.

"That's kind of electric."

When Healy went to the downtown core, he said he walked around, saw "all of these mom and pop businesses" and he felt a sense of community.

"There's a kind of, like, human-sized scale to the city and it felt so welcoming," he said. "It felt that this is a very creative space."

'Ready for something different'

Healy said he has started his new job by talking to artists. Healy was director at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre from 2009 to 2015. On its website, Buddies said it is "a world leader in developing queer voices and stories for the stage."

Healy said he understands Brampton is a new place for him, but he brings with him a "deep curiosity" and an ability to speak to different communities.

Healy said he left Buddies to do a masters in international arts management in a program offered jointly by the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, l'École des hautes études commerciales in Montréal, and the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, Italy.

"I had an amazing time at Buddies," he said. "But I was ready for something different."

With files from Metro Morning