‘Festival of the Seven’ leverages the region’s connection to iconic artists

SUDBURY—The Art Gallery of Sudbury (AGS) is once again celebrating the influence of the famed Group of Seven with the Festival of the Seven.

“The Art Gallery of Sudbury is presented the second summer long ‘Festival of the Seven’ celebrating Franklin Carmichael and the Group of Seven’s importance to the Sudbury, Killarney, Manitoulin and LaCloche areas,” confirmed AGS curator Tom Smart. “The festival will feature special exhibitions, interactive excursions, musical performances, art, film, and education workshops.” Last year saw the launch of Sue and Pat Waddington’s book ‘In the Footsteps of the Group of Seven,’ he noted. “They will have a role in this year’s presentations as well. The Festival of the Seven highlights the significant impact the Sudbury, Killarney and LaCloche areas had on Franklin Carmichael , A.Y. Jackson, The Group of Seven and their contemporaries.”

“The Festival of the Seven just keeps getting bigger and better,” said AGS board member and renown Willisville photographer Jon Butler. “We are encouraging local lodge and resort owners to come on board with events of their own and a lot of them have already risen to the occasion.”

The festival is particularly poignant for Killarney Park and the LaCloche region this year due to it being the 50th anniversary of the park. “A lot of people don’t realize that A.Y. Jackson played an important role in the establishment of Killarney Park,” said Mr. Butler. “He wrote a number of letters in support of the creation of the park.”

At least five members of the Group of Seven worked extensively in the Manitoulin/LaCloche regions and their work has inspired many artists working in a wide range of mediums and art forms in the region today.

“Last year’s festival sought to develop a multidisciplinary program and to highlight how  (the Group of Seven’s) work has inspired contemporary artists,” said Mr. Smart. “Last year, for example, we had Diana Thornycroft who replicated their work as backdrops in her installation ‘Group of Seven Awkward Moments.’” Think Dave and Doug McKenzie of the ‘Great White North’ fame, sitting drinking beer on their couch in the forest, surrounded by a pack of ravenous wolves.

Ms. Thornycroft’s dark humour and groundbreaking work has received international attention and acclaim.

Another innovative facet of last year’s festival was the creation of a graphic novel highlighting the mysterious demise of Tom Thomson written by George Walker. That work is now being integrated into Parry Sound’s Festival of Sound with a display at the Stockey Centre this summer.

This year’s Festival of the Seven will have its official opening at the AGS at the end of June, with a special pre-launch taking place on May 22.

The Festival of Seven leverages the special relationship the Manitoulin, LaCloche, Killarney and Sudbury areas have with the art of the Group of Seven to attract tourists to the entire region and is being looked at as a template for other regions across the North and beyond—but they don’t have the same cache as ours. “Of course not,” laughs Mr. Smart in agreement. “But they are looking at us as the model.”

The Festival of the Seven is looking to lift the economic boats of the entire region with a tide built upon the global reputation of the Group of Seven and their love of the rugged beauty of the wild and untamed Canadian landscape and there is a role for just about everyone to play.

“If you are in the Sudbury, LaCloche, Manitoulin or Killarney areas and have a Group of Seven inspired event, give us a call at 705-675-4871,” encourages Mr. Smart.