W(here) now? Final thoughts

The W(here) festival has come and gone for this year, but I wanted to wrap it up by jotting down some of my thoughts and memories of the project.

From day one, the Kitchen pARTy, the community was buzzing with excitement; Carver’s, the local coffee shop in Pictou, was packed. As one of the speaking artists, I was unsure of the topic, what the heck I should be talking to this crew about. I ended up speaking briefly on my own art practice, as did the other speakers. There were textile artists, videographers, sculptors, painters, you name it. Susan Tilsley Manley makes mixed media pieces with rusty gadgets from her barn. You get the idea.

What I really wanted to talk about was artists in the area and their practice. I wanted to ask each artist how they live out in middle of nowhere Nova Scotia and have an art career as well. Some artists have a day job. Some artists teach, others actually have managed to maintain an art practice that is successful from this place. This small town whose industry has passed and most of the younger generation has moved away. Is it though the internet that they manage to hold their careers? Are they jet setters, hopping on planes to group shows in New York or Barcelona?

The Award Ribbons for Places was first and foremost, fun. There we were, a group of enthusiastic locals, making crafts at the Old Bayview School House, something I hadn’t done since I joined the 4H club when I was very young.
I am now a huge fan of artist Marlene Creates . I have a lot of respect for her work as an artist, not to mention she is just a fantastic lady! Yes, this project was fun; but it was also emotional and raised our awareness of the “W(here)” around us. For me, this installation project was the most successful of the entire festival. I traveled with a group of cars from place to place, seeing parts of Pictou County that I had never seen before.
 At each stop, we awarded our special places with a ribbon, and spoke about the spot much like you would give a short speech to the prize winner in any ceremony. It got us all thinking about this beautiful community in a new light. I gave my award to the “Little Island” on Waterside Beach. It is this little mound of rock and clay that used to be acres, but has been eroding more and more each year. As the story goes, the island used to have sheep on it, and after that volkswagon minivans would drive up on it in the summer. My generation would tent on the land that was left, and now there is barely enough grass for people to sit on. If the island was living, I am sure it would have been like Christopher Plummer, who as the age of 82, received his first Oscar. “It’s about time! This is what I have worked so hard for.”

There were several projects that I did not participate in; living in Toronto, I needed some time with my own Pictou places and people to hold me over until Christmas. But I did come to the closing event and launch of “Memory Factory”, an online project by filmmakers David Craig and Katherine Knight. I love this project. Craig and Knight moved to Caribou Harbour several years ago into an old farmhouse. They began to research about W(here) they were. Being artists, they turned their quest into a body of work, and this amazing compilation of stories and images is the end result. How great would it be if we all took the time to find out W(here) we are when we land in an area?
So, I left the festival all excited, determined and of course, sad it was over. I always look for reasons to come home; but W(here) gave me a reason to come home that is connected with my life in the city, my art career.



Memory Factory: Caribou Harbour closes W(here) Festival 2012

When filmmakers David Craig and Katherine Knight moved to the “Old Simpson house” in Braeshore, Nova Scotia, they soon came to discover that the history of the area and the house were so rich, it impacted the entire community around them for over 100 years.

Memory Factory: Caribou Harbour “celebrates Caribou Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada past and present. The project invites contributions in terms of memories, facts and reflections of this place. It aims to be a receptacle for the oral histories gathered from near and far about lives lived in and around this area.”

The project is an online collection of stories, images and videos all focused on the history of Maritime Packers, a lobster packing plant, purportedly the largest in the world during its heyday, which was open from approximately 1875 – 1975.

Memory Factory was developed by Katherine Knight of York University, Department of Visual Art with the assistance of David Craig and Site Media Inc. (www.sitemedia.ca ) in cooperation with the Northumberland Fisheries Museum of Pictou, Nova Scotia. It intends to foster a greater awareness and understanding of the fishing industry and its history in this part of the Northumberland Straight.

Site Media has produced four documentaries on Canadian artists: Annie PootoogookKinngait: Riding Light into the WorldPretend Not to See Me: The Art of Colette Urban, which received Special Mention at the 2010 Ecofilm Festival in Rhodos, Greece; and KOOP – The Art of Wanda Koop, which premiered as the gala night selection at the 2011 Reel Artists Film Festival, Toronto. Site Media Inc. is currently developing a film on the architecture of Todd Saunders on Fogo Island, NL.

The launch of Memory Factory was the perfect end to the inaugural W(here) Festival. Each project both took a journey to answer the question “Where is here?” and what they came up with was a refreshing reminder of pride and joy in being exactly where you are.


W(here) day 2 – Award Ribbons and unexpected artistic discoveries

Visitng Artist Marlene Creates enjoys the boat ride to Pictou Island

Award Ribbons for Places is a project headed by visiting artist Marlene Creates as part of a very eventful day two of the W(here) Festival.Creates is an environmental artist and poet who lives and works in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, Canada. “For over thirty years her work has been an exploration of the relationship between human experience, memory, language and the land, and the impact they have on each other.” In this installation project, locals from the area (including myself) created award ribbons for a place in Pictou that had special significance to them. The participants will then, over the next couple of days, travel to each place and present the place with their ribbon. Documentation of this will be posted on the W(here) website, so be sure to visit back often.www.wherefestival.ca What is my special place? Well, you will have to stay tuned tomorrow! Myself and fellow Pictonian John Burns accidentally chose the very same place, and so will be doing a bit of a collaborative presentation that is sure to knock your socks off.   In the afternoon, using the framework of the life and times of Pictou Island nurse, Margaret MacDonald (1897-1977), we travelled to Pictou Island, a small private island off the coast of Caribou, NS. On Pictou Island, writer Susan Sellers lead us to various sites that played a major role in MacDonald’s life. The walk was informative and adventurous, but I was wondering how the tour would tie in with the W(here) festival’s connection of art and a sense of place. It was then that we ran into Maureen Hull, also a writer ( Check out her book “The View from a Kite“. I give it two thumbs up) and an Islander who took us to the Community Centre, where several of her neighbors and her have been working on a quilt.

Artouteast readers, I am well aware that this masterpiece will not be regarded as “high art”; this quilt will probably never be displayed in a gallery alongside the quilted works of Joyce Weiland or Anna Torma. But this quilt has the technique of masters, the passion of any artist and the history and tradition reminding the medium of its roots. It is a celebration of art and place, which is exactly what W(here) is all about.

For more on the history of Margaret MacDonald, be sure to read Susan Summer’s article “Pictou Island’s unsung heroine”www.pictouisland.com

W(here) kitchen party launches!

For those of you who don’t know, let me introduce you to my home town, Pictou, Nova Scotia. Nestled on the Northumberland Strait, it’s a community of fishin’ and farmin’. My lovely friend and fellow Pictonian Mary MacDonald, created the W(here) Festival as the research project for her Masters of Fine Arts degree at OCAD University in Toronto in Criticism & Curatorial Practice. This festival has proved to be so much more than that, bringing “together local artists, diverse communities and visiting artists in a rich program for all ages. Discussions with the local community will form the basis from which the project will grow as well as the artists, locations and modes of presentation chosen.”

Tonight was the Launch event, the “Kitchen Party” was a social event, with artists talks and discussions. Painters, sculptors, filmmakers, textile artists, all with a common thread of place, came to share their stories and work with the community.


Artists included Dawn MacNutt, Susan Tilsley Manley, St. Clair Prest, Carolyn Vienneau, Fenn Martin, Eliza Fernbach, and Amanda MacDonald.

For more information on the W(here) festival, visit artouteast daily! or visit


 Image (l to r): Dawn MacNutt, Timeless Figure, 66.9 in..; Fenn Martin, Ceramic relief sculpture, approximately 120 x 60 in.

Artist of the Week – Jenna Faye Powell

Okay, so this is LONG over due. While meandering around the Artist Project here in the Toronto back in March, I came across Jenna Faye Powell’s work. At the time, she was working towards her MFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (she is now officially a Master of Fine Art! Congrats Jenna!) and was part of the Artist Project’s UNTAPPED Emerging Artist Exhibition.


Her current body of work is focused on a fictitious place called “Chesterfield”. She says about Chesterfield:

It is an illusory place I have lovingly created to support and develop the many aesthetic, theoretical, and historical inquiries I have around middle class lifestyle. It is constantly changing and adapting to suit my artistic needs. It is a place brimming with mundane everydayness; it is both fantastical and pathetic, full of romance and familiarity. Don’t be deceived though. Chesterfield is not all laughter and sunshine. From suburban sprawl to poor air quality, Chesterfield is one full of contradictions, irony (and failed irony), autobiographical confessions, cheeky narratives, illusions and allusions, and nonsensical exploration: Welcome to Chesterfield!

I would love to see Chesterfield in Toronto, sprawling across the common area around city hall or peeking it’s little suburban head around a busy corner where tall men in tall suits work in tall building and get tall lattes.


Poupart: Phenomenal Art Gallery, itty bitty space.

Artouteast is reaching out a bit this week, as the new Poupart Gallery has no fixed address; nor is it an e-gallery. Nope, it is a physical space, small enough to fit in the back of your car and travel the world. Poupart comes from the French word for doll poupée but also carries a sense of whimsy and playful sarcasm.

Here are a few questions I asked Director/ Curator Lianne Zannier:

Where did the gallery come from?

I purchased the house in Montreal from Jean Gilbert who has a storage container/shed where he holds perpetual yard sales all summer long. What is particular about these yard sales is that Gilbert is a collector of antiques along with memorabilia from St Henri which is the neighborhood of Montreal in which I reside. Inside his space he has the streetcar used in the film Bonheur D’occasion based on the book by Gabrielle Roy about St. Henri. He also has full stain glass panels of the original church that used to be in the center of the neighborhood. Pretty amazing really, especially when you consider that the neighborhood has been in the process of gentrification for several years now with old factories turned into lofts, offices or art spaces. Gilbert has a record of this place tucked away and disassembled into parts behind a garage door of a storage container which is sandwiched between two duplexes, the roof is caving-in in certain spots but form the outside you would never know. The dollhouse itself was poorly made, with rusted nails, glued in strange places and the inside was painted with crazy bright colours, some of the paint dripped down onto other floors. Actual carpet, that was moldy, had been glued to one of the top floors. I have basically taken the shell of the dollhouse and renovated it. I called it doing ‘home renos.’ So the dollhouse half belongs to Gilbert’s St. Henri and half belongs to me.
for more info on Jean Gilbert: http://www.milieuxdefavorises.org/serie_C/32.html

 What is the mandate of the gallery all about?

The gallery is about manipulating scale; providing an alternate way of looking at and presenting work. The Poupart Gallery aims at playing with nostalgia, narrative and the potential for miniatures to be both big and small at the same time. The goal of the Poupart Gallery is to manipulate those concepts. It is part curatorial and part collaboration between artists’, the space and myself.

The first installment of the Poupart Gallery is taking place from March 9th to 12th as part of the Art Matters Festival at a gallery in St. Henri called Coatcheck Gallery. Inside you will find  a combination of installations by artists Amele Bissonnette who has made miniature ceramic furniture; Hugo Dufour, who has recreated dioramas he uses for his photography; and Kamil Chajder who is installing the puppets from a stop-motion animation. The attic of the Poupart Gallery contains a miniature projector (Really!), so (Zannier) will be screening several animated works.

This brings the idea of “Pop Up” stores and galleries to a whole other place.

Congrats, Lianne, and Happy Birthday to you AND Poupart Gallery!


Sweetest Little Thing – spreading the love since 1999

I posted it last year, and I will continue to post every year; The Sweetest Little Thing is the best thing to come out of Valentines Day since….well…its the best thing to come out of Valentines Day.

Micah Lexier and Jon Sasaki A collaborative sculpture consisting of two boards accomplishing something together that neither could do alone, 2012

Now in its 13th year, The Sweetest Little Thing is the most important annual fundraising event for The Owens Art Gallery and Struts Gallery & Faucet Media Arts Centre in Sackville, New Brunswick. It’s not hard to see the love that Struts Gallery has spread to the art scene world wide, with participants such as Graeme Patterson, Micah Lexier, Jon Sasaki, and Eliza Griffiths.

Presented in partnership on Valentine’s Day,The Sweetest Little Thing combines a contemporary art auction with a cake walk and dance. The event has become a seasonal highlight for the community, featuring artists, friends and supporters from across the country and beyond.

The funds raised go directly to the ongoing programming of the galleries.

Bidding closes at 5pm. (New Brunswick time) Tuesday, February 14th at 7:30pm.


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