By Jennifer Thurbide
It was a full house at the Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre as the artwork collected for Beginnings was unveiled at the opening reception on June 14th. In attendance were representatives from sponsors, partnering organizations and the artists themselves to celebrate the culmination of two years worth of work by the Wilderness Arts Council (WAC).
Providing opening comments to the evening event was WAC member Janet Hager who told those gathered the show was a labour of love for those who were involved in its creation.
“We are excited about what you have probably already seen tonight. The two year process has been a labour of love and in the beginning it was a lot of love and now it has been more labour so we have to get more balance there. It was a challenge especially enticing artists to submit their work. That became quite a process because our original date was June 2011. We are so happy we waited the two years because now this is what we have been able to gather,” introduced Hager who also recognized sponsors the Ontario Arts Council, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, FedNor and Chukuni Communities Development Corporation, the Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre and Goldcorp Red Lake Gold Mines.
The advocate also announced to those gathered a future endeavour to put forward a name change for the Heritage Centre that would include the word art. “The partnership that we are developing we are going to be petitioning the mayor to have a name change…the regional art and heritage centre. And then we want to add a studio and theatre space to it,” she joked.
Providing a welcome to all including out of town guests and artists Mayor Phil Vinet recognized Councillor Debra Shushack for being an advocate for arts and culture for the local government and said of the show: “The talent level we see here is truly spectacular there is no other way to describe it and it comes from all walks of life.” Agreeing that arts and culture is important pillar in the sustainability of a community, the Mayor committed to continuing to push for further resources and facilities.
Also on hand to provide comments was newly named Director of the Ontario Arts Council Peter Caldwell who noted “This represents my first trip to the northwest in this capacity and this represents my first trip anywhere with the Ontario arts council.” Caldwell announced that over the last year almost $4 million dollars has been pumped into the provincial art scene to meet the agencies priorities and said “OAC’s head office may be in Toronto but our mandate and our priorities are to be culturally diverse, geographically diverse which mean everything but Toronto, new generation, francophone and aboriginal – those are our five priorities. And you can see with those five priorities this area is key to our future and we are very happy to be working with you.”
Of the 150 pieces of art submitted for evaluation Beginnings features 50 pieces of art spanning from acrylic paintings, photographs, drawings, multi-media, and fabric and the artists associated with the work are a mix of local, regional and national talent. Additionally, those who attend the show, which will run from now until the end of the summer, are encouraged to vote for the People’s Choice. At the close of the show the artist with the most votes will receive a prize of $100.
Local art teacher Rhonda Bobinski, whose work is featured, said last week she felt like a “proud momma” touring the show as she has a number of former students with pieces in the exhibit. “As an artist, growing up in the district, I never imagined that I’d have the opportunity to see my artwork displayed in such a professional manner at a local level. So, when the Wilderness Artists Council put all of their efforts into arranging this exhibit at the Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre, I was delighted. It is a definite honour to have my work displayed along with the work of my former RLDHS students, friends, artistic colleagues, and future acquaintances. The exhibit shows that even though it may not seem like it at times, our communities are teeming with creativity in a plethora of styles and forms and I’m proud to be a part of this community.”
A full list of artists includes: Bobinski, Debbie Metzler, Kathleen Baleja, Rihkee Strap, Kristy Cameron, Lauran Furman, Liane Ross, Alastair Mackay, George Johnson, Tammy Zebruck, Don Nord, Luc Nicol, Jeanie Cutts, Holly Ann Friesen, Sonja Boyce, Linda Paquin, Stephen Martone, Donna Olsen Williams, Gary Worrall, Heather Mitchell, Ahmoo Angeconab, Pippi Johnson, Harriet Carlson, Jeff Faulds and Martin King.