These days, Oakville Galleries spends as much time delivering programs off-site as we do at our gallery spaces. While our bricks-and-mortar home will always be at the heart of our mandate, we’re also dedicated to ensuring that Oakville’s the kind of place where art gets to exist well beyond the museum walls.
Most of these programs are directly inspired by the incredible local organizations—from libraries and hospitals to seniors’ residences and community foundations—that we partner with in the shared goal of bringing art to all corners of our community. This spring, we’ll launch three new programs with ArtHouse, our longest-term offsite programming partner. Since 2009, this partnership has seen us deliver free art workshops to over 1,200 kids, largely in lower-income communities. Instead of offering the old standards of art education, these programs are designed around the needs and interests of the kids we serve. That means we’re often learning alongside our participants, reshaping our programs on the fly to ensure kids are given as much space as possible to discover, experiment and play. This spring marks nearly seventy-five programs with ArtHouse—amongst dozens of other community initiatives. We look forward to the next seventy-five!
Throwing back to Ulrike Müller’s terrific Herstory Inventory (2009–2013) this International Women’s Day. This iteration of Müller’s project was installed as part of After My Own Heart at Oakville Galleries in spring 2013. Müller invited 100 feminists, queer artists and other interested people to create new images based on text descriptions of feminist t-shirts found on an inventory list at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn. Müller presented ten of these original drawings at Oakville Galleries—relating to books, shoes and non-normative cultural desires—along with Gathie Falk’s Standard Shoes, The Column (1998–1999) from our collection.
Installation view of After My Own Heart at Oakville Galleries at Centennial Square. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
This week the great Spring Hurlbut—along with 7 other deserving laureates—was awarded the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. This shot is a detail of a terrific early work of Spring’s—Dentil Entablature (1989)—that was acquired by Oakville Galleries twenty-five years ago. The title of the piece refers to dentils, the repeating block- or peg-like ornaments that regularly adorn classical entablature (the wide horizontal feature that sits atop columns often found on courthouses or municipal buildings, for example). In their stead, Hurlbut cleverly offers us dentals—horse teeth—objects once central to pagan sacrificial rites. Drawing parallels between decorative articulations of “civilization” and their roots in natural, ritualistic or ancient forms, Hurlbut guides us, as ever, toward the origins of things, toward the impulse to conventionalize, intellectualize or otherwise eschew those most primordial aspects of our history and being.
In Allison Katz’s current exhibition Diary w/o Dates, references to seasons, calendars, clocks, and diary-writing abound. Rather than an exacting chronology, Katz’s works—and their installation—explore how time feels.
In the lead-up to the exhibition, staff in the curatorial office read Marc Wittmann’s book Felt Time, published by MIT Press. In the book, Wittmann takes up recent scientific discoveries that shed light on our understanding of subjective time, exploring how our bodies create a basis for feeling the passage of time, how our perception of time impacts our decisions, and why time seems to speed up as we age.
As Wittmann writes: “We are time.” Our perception of time, its duration and its passing has a profound impact on our experience. My grandmother, for example, celebrated her birthday on the wrong day of the year for her entire life due to a mistranslation from the Jewish calendar when she immigrated to Canada as an infant. A few years ago, my dad proudly announced he had calculated the “true” date, but it was too late, she told him: she already had a birthday.
Installation view of Allison Katz, Season 1, 2018, sand, silica. From Diary w/o Dates, Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens, 21 January – 18 March 2018. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
Earlier today, Oakville Galleries was honoured to accept a plaque from the Ontario Trillium Foundation in recognition of their funding for Art-ish, a new visual arts program for youth living with mental illness, delivered in partnership with Halton Healthcare. Led by an art teacher and professional art therapist, weekly workshops facilitate learning about and producing artworks that support healthy self-expression, promote social and adaptive problem-solving skills, establish positive self-identities, and foster patient self-confidence and empowerment.
The name Art-ish was inspired by the children’s book, Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds. The story addresses that inevitable developmental stage when kids become self-conscious about their artwork, and start to feel pressure to make something that looks perfect. As many kids get older, they receive the message that they shouldn’t spend time on the things they don’t excel at, and that creativity is reserved for those with “talent.” As a result, many young people lose the enjoyment that comes with the creative process and making something just for the fun of making it.
Art-ish was designed to be the antidote to that, and to provide youth with opportunities to be creative, to express their inner selves, to reflect the world around them without fear of reprimand or being told they’re making a mistake or getting it wrong. Our hope is that this can extend beyond the hospital, into these teens’ everyday lives, where art becomes a way of engaging with themselves and the world around them, and enables in them a sense of belonging and worth.
Today is our Curator Frances Loeffler’s last day in the office before parental leave. As part of Diary w/o Dates, Allison Katz created this great poster—aptly titled Frances (2018)—in which she reimagines the floor plan of Gairloch Gardens as a pregnant form in Frances’ honour. Needless to say, she’ll be missed!
Late last fall, Oakville Galleries initiated Seniors Studio Connection, a series of hands-on art workshops for seniors of varying abilities, including those living with physical or cognitive impairments. As a way of making the program accessible, several workshops include free bussing from local seniors residences to the Galleries and back.
It seems fitting that participants travel together for the program, since the art we discuss and make frequently evokes stories about the places we’ve been and where we’d like to go. Participants at one recent workshop made collages loosely exploring that topic: one woman created a red carpet scene set in Paris with an invigorating wash of blue sky in the background, while another assembled her dream garden with a bench to soak it all in, hemming her scene in a pink painted border. Anecdotes, aspirations and artistic advice abounded—including on the bus ride home—reminding us that some journeys are best taken with others.
The next workshop is January 26 in Gairloch Gardens. For more information, visit our website.
We’d like to extend a big thank you to our visitors, members, individual donors, corporate supporters, foundation partners and core funders for their generous support in 2017. Planning to visit us over the holidays? FASTWÜRMS and Tamara Henderson will continue until Saturday, December 30th. Please note that the Galleries will be closed December 24th through 26th.
On World AIDS Day, we’re throwing back to John Greyson & David Wall’s exhibition Fig Trees. Greyson and Wall staged the first version of this documentary opera about South African AIDS activist Zackie Achmat at Oakville Galleries in 2003. They went on to make it into a feature film in 2009.
Installation view of Fig Trees at Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens. Photo: Peter MacCallum.