Record crowds pack long weekend Perivale Gallery opening

Ivan Wheale and Perivale Gallery curator Shannon McMullan surrounded by Mr. Wheale’s latest works.

SPRING BAY – The opening of the Perivale Gallery and reveal of the latest works of Manitoulin’s Ivan Wheale collection is always a popular gateway to a new tourist season, but this year’s event (themed as ‘Sunrise and Sunset’) was truly a standing room only celebration as newcomers to the gallery mixed and mingled with the regular faces to create a vibrant collage of its own.

Although Mr. Wheale’s works are always the main draw at the annual opening, this year the man who has mentored literally generations of Island artists generously shared the limelight with several younger artists whose works are featured in the award wining gallery.

“I know I say it every year, it’s almost become a trope, but I really think this is some of my best work ever,” quipped Mr. Wheale. Judging by the speed with which the red dots were blossoming on the walls and the constant rustle of wrapping paper as works headed out the door, the artist is on to something. Mr. Wheale’s work depicting Canada’s wilderness, and particularly the wonders of Georgian Bay, has prompted many to agree he should stand among those at the pinnacle of the Canadian art pantheon.

“We stopped counting at 200 people coming in the door,” said Perivale Gallery owner Shannon McMullan. “We are pretty close if not at a record for sales this opening as well, I can’t say positively because I haven’t had time to tally up all the numbers.”

Mr. Wheale is hands down the gallery’s artist emeritus, but he is quick to point out there are a large number of outstanding artists whose work are featured in the gallery and many of those artists were present this year for the opening of the season.

“This is the first year we did that,” said Ms. McMullan. “I made up name tags for all of the artists who indicated they would be coming.”

The tags allowed gallery visitors, particularly those who were first time attendees at the opening, to be able to identify the artists and engage with them about their work.

“It was great for the artists as well, I think,” said Ms. McMullan. “They don’t often get the opportunity to speak with the audience of their work, to share their motivation and the inspiration behind their pieces. Each piece has its own story.”

Ms. McMullan noted that although she and her staff are very familiar with each artist and their work, it is often difficult to engage with each visitor on such a busy day to go into much detail.

“We also had quite a number of pieces that people asked us to put away so that they could come back when it was a bit quieter to look at them,” confided Ms. McMullan.

Perivale Gallery will be playing host to an exhibition of the works of Sudbury artist Jay Favot July 13 to July 19 and Ms. McMullan said that they are planning something special for the July 13 opening. “We will be having a Hip cover band,” she said. 

The annual ‘In the Spirit of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven’ exhibition, for which the gallery has received an innovation in tourism award, will run from July 20 to August 4.

Among the new artists at the gallery is Lauren Satok of Manitowaning. Ms. Satok was a familiar face around Yorkville galleries, but Yorkville’s loss is Manitoulin’s gain. She will be having a show at the gallery on the Labour Day weekend.

Perivale Gallery is open Friday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm until June 14, when summer hours of 10 am to 5 pm will prevail daily until once again reducing on September 15. As has become the tradition with the gallery, a number of popular workshops with experienced artists will be taking place throughout the summer. See the advertisements in The Expositor for dates, times and availability.