WHITEFISH FALLS— The LaCloche Art School was first established 30 years ago, noted organizer Ellen Lewis proudly and with significant justification. “We never in our wildest dreams thought it would be going on this long,” she said.
To celebrate its longevity, and to demonstrate its impact on the Northern Ontario art scene, the school organized a special event this year—an alumni exhibition at the Whitefish Falls Community Centre. Current and former students were asked to submit examples of their work for the exhibit.
The centre was abuzz with animated discussion as artists, friends and family, mingled with art lovers who dropped in to visit the show.
“I was very impressed with the fact that so many of you chose to not simply submit your best work,” said instructor Richard Edwards. “A lot of you sent in your first piece of work.” Mr. Edwards noted that some artists sent in a series of their works that demonstrated their advancement in their craft through the years.
Ms. Lewis was presented with a copy of the book ‘In the Footsteps of the Group of Seven’ signed by all of the artists taking part in the exhibit by co-organizer Sylvia Simpson and Mr. Edwards.
Mr. Edwards, who has instructed at the LaCloche Art School for decades, was also presented with a signed copy of the book, with a twist. “They were passing around the book for people to sign,” he said. “They kept trying to stop me from signing, but I didn’t realize that was what they were doing.” The artist was not to be put off adding his own note of appreciation however, so in the end Mr. Edwards’ book includes his own signature of appreciation—nobody wanted to be the one to ruin the surprise.
It was Diane Tremblay of Espanola who came up with the original idea for the art school 30 years ago, and along with Donna McDonald and other members of the Espanola Art Club, the project was driven forward into reality. The founders universally credited the school’s success and longevity to Ms. Lewis, however, although she was quick to try and place the credit on others.
“That’s Ellen, the school teacher in her,” said Ms. McDonald, noting that Ms. Lewis had been a science teacher in Espanola for many years.
Comments from alumni were universally positive. “I’ve been to the LaCloche Art School a few times and love every minute of it,” said Linda Carter of Toronto. “To be immersed in the beauty of our Northern landscape and paint at the same time is so joyful.” Ms. Carter’s work on display included watercolours and photographs from the Credit River.
“I consider myself to be an aspiring landscape artist,” said Judy Nowgabow of Birch Island. “I am inspired by the passion of Emily Carr.” Ms. Nowgabow also makes jewellery with porcupine quills and semi-precious stones and enjoys picking sweetgrass and making different crafts with it.