Art Myth and Memory
Two years to remember….
In the beginning….
There was a beautiful lake, around which lived people who belonged to different communities – geographically and culturally. And there was a small art gallery situated on the edge of that beautiful lake. People shopped and worked together, were friends and neighbours; but there was always something to learn about each others’ cultures and communities. A few members of the little art gallery (our own Temiskaming Art Gallery) got together and the germ of an idea grew. Art comes out of people’s experiences, and it also explores, questions and plays with those experiences. They decided to use art to help the people living around the lake to further understand who they and who others are.
These people formed a plan, applied for funding which they got from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and ‘Art Myth and Memory’ was launched.
A wealth of riches….
This region has been the source of inspiration for artists since the beginning of the last century – notably people like A Y Jackson and A J Casson – both of the Group of Seven, Yvonne McKague Housser and George Cassidy. It has also been the home of many. And this wealth of talent was on show for the first exhibition in Art Myth and Memory, chosen with difficulty by jurors from the many wonderful pieces of art submitted by local artists. The result was the exhibition, 35, celebrating both 35 years of the Temiskaming Art Gallery and diversity through visual art.
A fountain of youth…
Our youth are the future of art and culture in this region. They can be the most creative, but frequently the last to see that in themselves. It was wonderful that Art Myth and Memory included an exhibition of art from three high school groups. Art students from École Secondaire Catholique St. Marie, Temiskaming District Secondary School and the Timiskaming First Nation Lodge at TDSS created work inspired by their personal connection to Lake Temiskaming. Called A Cultural Exchange: Our reflections from around the Lake, the project began with conversations. Réjeanne Massie, a retired art teacher, local historian and community activist, Karl Chevrier, a well-known artist from Timiskaming First Nations and myself, a museum and art gallery educator, talked with the different groups about local stories of First Nations, miners, loggers, and settlers around the lake and listened to the stories of the students. Then with guidance from their art teachers / artists (Lise Gravel, Lori Aquino, Karl Chevrier and Nadine Gaudaur) they created original and very personal interpretations of their connections with the lake.
The culmination of their work was a public exhibition at the art gallery, and a reception, complete with pizza and cake, for all the students, teachers and principals of the schools, local journalists, friends and families. Karl Chevrier also brought a group of younger students from Kiwetin school, Timiskaming First Nation – a wonderful way to inspire them by the work of older students and to take in the atmosphere of the event. The young artists expertly showed and talked about their work to their guests. I think, there was a lot of pride in the gallery that day.
In addition, videos were created of the students’ work process and reception by Drew Gauley of Good Gauley Productions and an on-line catalogue in English, French (with parts in Algonquin) was produced with comments by the students alongside professional photographs of their paintings by Richard Steward of Photografiks. Three additional printed copies were given to the different student groups. Videos were also created of the other events and programmes of Art Myth and Memory click here to see
‘Almost all creativity involves purposeful play’ …
And play we did in the spring of 2015. TAG partnered with the Haileybury Heritage Museum to present a series of programmes around play and toys. The core of this was a travelling exhibition from the Royal Ontario Museum called ‘Canada at Play’. It was a small but fun display with toys as diverse as an Inuit hand game made of bone from the Arctic to a 19 century boy’s sled (a girl’s would have been higher off the ground to accommodate her skirts. Who knew?). It also had a wonderful array of activities and toys that could be used by visitors. But I think the best part of the toy programme was the display of local toys and past-times. These came from the permanent collections of Haileybury Heritage Museum, the Little Claybelt Homesteader Museum in New Liskeard and many interested residents, and ranged from antique dolls to hand-made working cranes. And they all came with local stories and conversations. We also had a terrific week of presentations by local craftspeople, storytellers and opportunities to play classic games – and among the several school groups who visited, there was a special bus trip by the Interlink intergenerational choir from Cobalt. The young and old in the group used the exhibition and activities as a way of comparing anecdotes about play and just enjoying each other’s company and stories. TAG also hosted a teddy bear’s picnic in partnership with the Centre pour enfants Timiskaming Child Care Early Years Centre, so even the youngest of gallery goers could enjoy the project.
Creating art in the park…
The setting was Haileybury Harbourfront. The view was Lake Temiskaming with local sailboats gleaming in the evening sun. The event was a series of Wednesday evenings in the summers of 2015 and ’16 with a different musical group each week playing free to all who wished to come, and artists and artisans with tables of their work for sale, along with great BBQed food and snacks, and children’s activities. In addition, the local antique and vintage car club brought their fabulous cars to show. One never knows in the beginning whether this is something the community might be interested in, but from the beginning we had good crowds and by this summer we had regular audiences of 200 people or more. The line-up of musicians, performers and artists was terrific. For a complete list, click here for 2015 and here for 2016.
The aim of Art Myth and Memory was to make connections and share experiences. As part of this, the gallery partnered with le Rift galerie in Ville Marie, across the lake, to plan and present a juried exhibition of artists from around Lake Temiskaming. The results were some powerful works that reflected the impact the lake and its environs have. All the works were exhibited at le Rift last year and those selected by the jurors were exhibited at TAG early in 2016. This has opened the door and created a real interest in future partnerships by galleries and artists in the region.
One Lake…Different Perspectives
We had a series of speakers who helped us realize how complex, rich and diverse our region is, both as a natural environment and as a cultural area. Again the talks were free and progressed from learning about the importance of local geology, natural resources, through the history of First Nations, Francophone and other settlers in the region and ended with hearing about the stories and contribution of artists as told by artists who themselves had made a deep impact in the community. For a list of all the talks and the speakers, click here.
‘Every child is an artist…’, Picasso
Each year TAG is constantly shown that every child is indeed an artist when it has its Junior Artist Colony summer art camp, and this year, its March Break camp. Children 6 to 14 were allowed to be their creative self with the help of local artists who came with ideas, materials and a way into a particular media. The children ate it up and created some outstanding work. They worked in the studio, and en plein air – down at the lake and over at Fort Temiskaming in Quebec. They painted, printed, made collages, sculptures, devised and made complete videos and much more. Last year the theme was the Group of Seven and the Lake, and this year the children focussed on Mythical Creatures. And for the summer camps, they had their work displayed in the Pavilion at Haileybury Harbourfront for friends, family and other invited guests to admire before taking them home.
A project ends but the ideas carry on….
Art Myth and Memory was a project to bring communities together through art and culture. We explored the memories and history of the region, developed some truly creative art (music, stories and visual art) arising from the experience of our lake and region, and explored and celebrated the imaginations of young and old from all communities. This journey will continue.
Penny Bateman, Project Coordinator
Art, Myth, & Memory is a project of the Temiskaming Art Gallery
Supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation
An agency of the government of Ontario