Perivale Gallery building steam for 40th season

Artist Ivan Wheale joins Perivale Gallery owner Shannon McMullan at one of Mr. Wheale’s openings in those heady days when crowds could still gather. photo by Michael Erskine

PERIVALE – Art galleries and museums have taken a heavy hit from the travel and gathering restrictions brought on by the battle against the pandemic, but Shannon McMullan, owner of Perivale Gallery near Spring Bay remains undaunted, thanks in large part to her solid client list and the integration of digital tools in her marketing strategy.

But the gallery is preparing for a return to a near-normal milieu with in-person activities lined up for the summer, albeit involving distancing protocols.

“In early February we began to plan eight summer art workshops with our artists,” shared Ms. McMullan. “In late February, we informed the members of our mailing list and things took off. We released on social media in March to great response, in fact, now we have some full workshops that have necessitated additional workshops being offered to make a total of 12.”

Ms. McMullan noted that the majority of workshop participants have booked, or will book, nearby accommodation and that those participants anticipate enjoying many other tourism offerings on Manitoulin.

“All of my friends in the accommodations business are telling me they are filled up already and extending their seasons,” said Ms. McMullan.

Running from July 9 through to September 26, the series of summer art workshops draws on Perivale Gallery’s deep stable of accomplished artists, including fibre artist Catherine Timm, Jennifer Lawson, who will introduce how groups of small paintings can tell a story, three workshops with Mark Hope will take participants through how to paint like Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, Jules Crowley will take participants through capturing personality in contemporary portraiture style, Cathy Boyd will stretch media boundaries with painting on wood, two workshops with Sarah Earley will explore the nature of living colour with botanical dyes, Lauren Satok’s two linked workshops will brush with nature en plein air (the art of painting outdoors), and Lisa Free will share her new approach to painting waterscapes.

The highlight of the opening of the artistic season on Manitoulin has always been the unveiling of the new works by Ivan Wheale and, like last year, many of those changes will still be in place.

“Ivan Wheale is beautifully prepared for his opening show on May 21, ‘Georgian Bay Moods’,” said Ms. McMullan, who notes that the gallery will be featuring dozens of brand new works by the internationally renown artist. “This year’s work is among his very best,” said Ms. McMullan. Like a fine wine, Mr. Wheale just keeps improving over time.

Last year, the opening show only featured Mr. Wheale’s work, with the rest of the gallery walls filled with Ms. McMullan’s own private collection. This year those walls will once again be filled with the works of artists from across the nation thanks to the diligent work of Ms. McMullan’s partner and the occasional “swoop” by artist’s studios.

“I call them ‘swoops’ because it generally involves just meeting an artist at the end of their driveway or in a deserted parking lot,” she laughed. “There is none of the usual hanging around over a cup of tea to catch up these days.”

Among the new artists exhibiting this year are North Bay’s Lynn Johnston (of ‘For Better or Worse’ fame) and the whimsical works of Charles Pachter, whose moose renderings and images of the Canadian flag have garnered plenty of attention in recent years.

“Our well-known seventh annual ‘In the Spirit of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven’ show will run from July 24 to August 8,” said Ms. McMullan. “Another Northern Ontario favourite, artist Jay Favot will have a show at the gallery beginning on August 9 through to August 15.”

In other good news, Perivale Gallery will be closing a week later than usual this year to accommodate a number of cycling tours the gallery has partnered with.

Perivale Gallery has been making its own waves online, now ranked as a Travellers’ Choice on TripAdvisor and Ontario’s top “hidden gem.”

“These facts are part of what led to many requests and some sales to potential clients over the winter,” said Ms. McMullan, “as well as submissions for representation from many Ontario artists whose urban galleries have closed thanks to COVID.”

The “hidden gem” appellation is particularly satisfying to Ms. McMullan. “We are located a little out of the way,” she said. “We truly are a ‘destination,’ you don’t just happen upon us driving by.”

The gallery will continue to follow its pandemic schedule, open by appointment only Monday through Thursday, and with restricted entrance to three “bubbles” Friday through Sunday. Although this sometimes leads to patrons having to bide their time for a few moments, there is little hardship involved as Perivale Gallery’s extensive gardens are a wonderful sojourn of their own.

Truly a gem worth seeking out.