MANITOULIN—This weekend across Manitoulin yellow signs could be seen down most highways and side roads directing both Islanders and visitors alike to galleries that were part of the 23rd annual Manitoulin Art Tour.
“This year’s tour went very well,” said Helen Siksek, Manitoulin Art Tour advisor with the Manitoulin Fine Arts Association (MFAA). “We had a higher turn out than usual. Last year we had 2,000 visitors, and this year the artists are reporting even more visitors—everyone said that there was higher attendance than usual. There was also steady traffic every day, including Sunday, which is very encouraging.”
There were a number of new artists on the tour this year and Ms. Siksek noted how impressed she was with them.
“The new artists were great at helping to promote the tour on social media,” she said. “They were a breath of fresh air. The newer artists also reported high sales, which is great to see.”
Ms. Siksek noted that all the municipalities were very supportive of the tour. “We had a record number of town offices that supported the tour this year,” said Ms. Siksek.
Rochelle Neal of Periwinkle Studio on Lake Mindemoya guided visitors back to the studio through her garden which she explained in the spring is full of periwinkles, hence the gallery’s name.
“I celebrated my 80th birthday last week and my friend gave me this stump for my garden,” she pointed out. “I have painted 400 paintings and they have all sold, other than what’s currently on display in my gallery. Each piece has a story behind it—somewhere I visited, something that happened in my life or in someone around me.”
The Neon Raven Gallery in M’Chigeeng featured the work of Ann Beam and her late husband Carl Beam. There was a mix of older pieces that had returned home temporarily between exhibits and new pieces that Ms. Beam had recently created.
“After creating this piece my horses came to me,” said Ms. Beam of a large acrylic and photo transfer on recycle corrugated paper with birch bark on panel piece called ‘Mystery Into the Light.’
“I often incorporate personal elements into my work,” she said, showing a piece that features a photo transfer of she and her daughter doing karate.
Oil painter Lauren Satok was new to the art tour this year and joined Petra Wall and Mira Jones at Timberlane Rustic Lodge.
Ms. Satok explained that she has been coming to Manitoulin for years and painting it, but this past winter made a permanent move making the Island her new home.
Peter Bering, although a highly accomplished artist who has spent a career teaching art at the university level, considers himself first and foremost a storyteller. “There is a story behind each of my artworks,” he said, as he took visitors to the Turner Gallery Art Tour site on a tour of his work. One piece had an especially poignant backstory. “My daughter was reading on a bench I had built for her when she looked down and saw a baby mouse being attacked by ants,” he recalled. His daughter brought the unfortunate creature to him in tears and Mr. Bering, being the teacher that he is, decided to use it as a teaching moment. Although he showed his daughter how to feed the tiny blind creature with an irrigation syringe, he didn’t really expect it to live out the night.
Much to his surprise, not only did the mouse respond to the feeding, it thrived. The mouse ended up finding a home with a neighbour who “loves mice” and went on to live a long (for a mouse) and fruitful life in a terrarium. From that story sprang the inspiration for a black and white work.
Debraa Lynn Ireland was just heading out the door for a quick bite when The Expositor showed up on her “doorstep” at the Turner Gallery in Little Current, but agreed to head back upstairs for a tour. Her work is very inspired by wildlife and Manitoulin is a literal godsend when it comes to finding inspirational critters.
Gwen Bond is experiencing her first Manitoulin Art tour exhibition, setting up her works at the newly reopened Sandfield General Store. Although there were quite a few pieces with price tags attached, there were a number of her works on display were not for sale. Ms. Bond explained why. “This is our family homestead,” she said. “Nobody had a complete photograph of the old homestead, so I collected all the bits and pieces that people in the family did have and put them all together to create this painting.” Another work shows a ramshackle old building from the 1880s. “Nobody lived there when we were children,” she said. “We used to think it was haunted when we were kids. We would sneak up in the yard and then there would be the creak of a door or something and we would all run away.”
One of the best deals on the tour this year had to be the $20 works being sold by Julie Glaude at Sunset Cottages. Ms. Glaude was holding court with her boon companion, the tiny but ever-gregarious Pheobe. “She loves attention,” laughs Ms. Glaude as the Chihuahua nestled in her arms. Ms. Glaude’s main works were stunning pieces of Canadiana, but she also had a large selection of outstanding demonstration pieces from her workshops that she was selling. “I am trying to downsize for our new place in Ajax,” she laughed. “It’s not easy.” From the way the works were heading out the door during the day, the Manitoulin Art Tour was making the process a lot less stressful.
Zoe McDougall and Kari-Anne Piche were set up outside on the deck at the Edgewater PharmaChoice. Ms. Piche creates a fibre arts style of sculpture through a technique known as Paverpol. Learning about the technique has proven to be very popular and since setting up shop in Espanola Ms. Piche has been busy presenting workshops. Ms. McDougall’s jewellery and stained glass creations were a nice complement to the exhibit, and her granddaughter was more than happy to help out with the display.
Meanwhile, upstairs at the Anchor Inn Hotel, the quartet of Marcie Breit, Judy Boyd, Gwendlyn Goulet and Donna Kanerva kept everyone in stitches as they chatted about the stories behind their work.
Artist Dani Lynn Redrift and jewellery artisan Kate Robbeson were ensconced in the back room at The Island Jar. Ms. Redrift has displayed in the Island Jar for the Manitoulin Art Tour before and was looking forward to meeting the patrons who follow the circuit. Ms. Robbeson’s work was augmented with a collection of wonderful vintage pieces that she has found in her travels.
“We have gotten a lot of great feedback from the art tour and have already started to plan next year’s,” Ms. Siksek concluded.
For more information about the Manitoulin Art Tour or the MFAA, visit www.manitoulinart.com.