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Exploring Guelph's Public Art

by Meaghan Griffin

On a foggy afternoon in December, I hit the streets of downtown Guelph armed with a map from Guelph Arts Council of our public art works. The reason? While most people understand that public art enlivens our urban landscape and highlights our heritage, it's not often that we take time out of our busy lives to step into the shoes of tourists and drink in the sites in such an intentional way. While there has been a lot of attention recently about our newest public art installation – four sculptures in the Civic Precinct by Ted Fullerton – I thought it might be nice to draw our attention back in time to celebrate a few more of the many works the City has to offer.

Interested in what I found? Follow along using this self-guided tour, or come up with a tour of your own by browsing the Culture Map.

John Galt Bust

Perhaps the most obvious place to start on a tour of this kind is at the doorstep of the beautifully re-designed Guelph City Hall. Toward the intersection of Carden and Wyndham Streets you’ll find the first stop on my tour – the bronze bust of Guelph’s founder, John Galt. Galt came to Canada as the superintendent of the Canada Company and felled a maple tree at the bend in the Speed River, just a stone’s throw away from this statue. If you look closely, you can see that Galt’s right hand is turned skyward, a symbol of his inspiration for the radial design of the future city, emanating from the site where that first maple came to rest.

 

Blacksmith Fountain

Next, I headed northeast on Macdonell to find the oldest piece of public art in Guelph. Recently restored, the Blacksmith Fountain was first erected in 1885 as a tribute to industry in Guelph. The donor was J. B. Armstrong, a businessman and manufacturer who, by the 1870s, dominated much of Guelph’s industrial and civic development. Originally situated at the heart of St. George’s square, the Blacksmith has since been relocated to a quiet but significant corner of downtown, overlooking the site where John Galt’s maple fell.

 

Family Fountain

Next on the tour is the Family Fountain that now anchors St. George’s Square. Though this sculpture is presently recognized as a quintessential piece of downtown Guelph, it initially caused quite a storm among several conservative religious groups who objected to the figures’ lack of clothing when it was first introduced to the public in the mid-1980s. The bronze statue depicting life-sized nudes of a nuclear family was created by unapologetic Hamilton artist William McElcheran. The funds for the piece were raised by citizens at the suggestion of the Italian-Canadian community. Moving beyond the controversy that initially shrouded this piece, it can now be appreciated as a physical representation that families are at the heart of this community. To me it is a celebration of how families have made Guelph the unique, caring and resilient community it is today.

 

The Glass Quilt

Through the doors and up the stairs of Old Quebec Street is where you’ll find the next piece on the tour. The Glass Quilt hangs from the ceiling above a cut-out in the upper level of the mall. The piece was made by members of the Glass Guild of Guelph to commemorate the city’s 175th anniversary, and is really a patchwork of some of our most unique attributes. Covered bridges, fields of poppies, University of Guelph’s Johnston Hall, the Church of Our Lady Immaculate (now also designated a Basilica), and even the Family Fountain are all illuminated on the quilt.

 

Passages

After taking a close look at some of Guelph’s most renowned public heritage and art pieces, I meandered down to the River Run Centre, where the giant copper wall by Guelph sculptor Peter Johnston is housed. This was the first time I had ever really stopped to examine this piece for any length of time, and I don’t think I can stress enough that it does not do this complex work justice to shuffle past during the intermission of a performance. This work deserves a spotlight of its own. In fact, after examining the piece for about 10 minutes, a kind staff member of the River Run Centre switched on the red spotlight specifically for that purpose. While there is much to say about this piece, perhaps the best part of it is the sense of discovery that comes with recognizing all the pieces of Guelph, present and past that become connected through this work.

 

Time Line/Water Line

When I could finally pull myself away from Passages, I headed along the trail of John Galt Park along the riverside to the last stop on my tour. Time Line/Water Line was a work of the millennium, created to capture the stories, images and keepsakes from Guelph’s more recent history. If Passages was a thread weaving all these pieces of history together, Time Line/Water Line is the needle searching for what’s next. The canoe, a vessel that has been synonymous with the identity of the peoples of this land since before Canada was founded, is the vessel that will carry these relics into the future. It boldly asks what the future will hold for this city, how our stories will shape it, and directs our attention back to our life source: the bend in the Speed River from which this city was created.

 

With ideas of future Guelph afloat in my imagination, I called up Sally Wismer, Chair of the Public Art Committee that spearheaded the Ted Fullerton commission earlier this year. When asked what’s in store for the future of public art in Guelph, she replied, “Public art enhances and animates our cityscape, and my hope is that we’ll see more works added to the public art inventory. Certainly the City’s new Public Art Advisory Committee will be working towards this end in the days and years ahead.”

A hopeful future indeed for Guelph’s public art collection.

Want to learn more about public art in Guelph?

It’s worth mentioning that there is also more public art around the city that I haven’t detailed here - both within and outside of the downtown core. You might want to check out the great Donald Forster Sculpture Park at Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, or the monuments at the Woodlawn Cemetery and Riverside Park, as well as some hidden treasures such as alleyway murals and privately owned sculptures on the lawns of artists and art lovers.

In the warmer months, the Guelph Arts Council also offers Historical Walking Tours of Guelph, and these often include some of Guelph's public art treasures. Stay tuned for more details on these in spring 2015.

Three Recipients Named for the 2014 Guelph Arts Council Youth Opportunities Award

By: Sally Wismer

Guelph Arts Council is pleased to announce that the 2014 Youth Opportunities Award will be shared among three of this year’s applicants who will offer three quite diverse opportunities for children and youth in Guelph and Wellington County to become in engaged in the arts. The recipients are 21-year-old aspiring artist Nathan Gatten in partnership with established portrait painter Meredith Blackmore, both Fergus residents; the Children’s Art Factory led by Guelph installation artist Melissa Mazar; and Guelph Film Festival.

Nathan and Meredith have requested support for a series of free "Try-It" workshops targeted to youth aged 14 to 24 years. These workshops will offer introductory sessions in different media, followed by two sessions with a teacher/mentor. Nathan, whose formal learning has been limited by autism and mitochondrial disease, wants to offer others of his age group the opportunity to experience free arts-based learning and the chance to work with a mentor. Having himself discovered and become engaged in art through the mentorship provided by Meredith, he will now be working with her in the planning and preparation of the workshops as well as assisting with the delivery as he is able. He will introduce sessions and talk about his experience with mentorship. The workshops will take place at Meredith's recently-established STUDIOHERE in Fergus.

The Children's Art Factory has requested support for a collaborative between Melissa Mazar and Guelph youth that will see children engaged in the creation of a piece of "meaningful public art" to be permanently displayed on the side of the building where the Children's Art Factory is located. The art piece will be a moving sculpture of wooden gears and cogs that can be controlled by handles strategically placed close to the ground. The cogs and gears will be available to be painted during the Children's Art Festival at Art on the Street in July 2015. In keeping with Melissa's artistic practice at the Children's Art Factory, there will be no instruction at this event, allowing children to be partners in the art process, to express their own voices, and to "discover the magic and fun of painting."

Guelph Film Festival has requested support for "iCan Make Films," a workshop for teens aged 14 to 18, with a focus on using accessible smart phone and tablet technology to "create innovative, 'guerilla-style' documentary films." The intent is to engage youth to use everyday technology (that they already carry in their pockets) and encourage them to tell stories from their own unique perspective. In the process, the hope is that youth will "find themselves empowered and working without limitation." The workshop will be offered as part of the 2015 Guelph Film Festival and will build on a very successful youth workshop offered during the 2013 festival.

Both Guelph Arts Council and the 2014 jury panel were extremely pleased with the innovative ideas from and the diversity represented by all of this year's applicants for the 2014 Youth Opportunities Award. Included were both young artists and local arts organizations across a wide spectrum of different disciplines, with offerings for several different youth age groups.

Established in 2009 to take the place of a previous youth awards program dating back to 1982, the Guelph Arts Council Youth Opportunities Award is intended to encourage programs that will initiate, enhance or expand opportunities for children and youth in Guelph and Wellington County to experience or become in engaged in the arts. Funds for the award come from the Guelph Arts Council Youth Opportunities Fund managed by the Guelph Community Foundation.

For more information about the award program, contact Guelph Arts Council at (519) 836-3280 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Members' Web Access Need-to-Know

How to Update Your Profile:

 Once you have signed up for a membership, the office will need to start a profile for you. Once you have received an email stating your profile is ready to update, you may follow the below steps. If at any time you are unsure or reach a roadblock, please don't hesitate to contact our Office Manager, Katie Wilde at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 519-836-3280 and she will help you out.

 

  • Go to guelpharts.ca and click LOGIN

  • Enter your username and password. Use the password reset functions or contact the office if you aren't sure - we're happy to help!
  • Once you are logged in, type your name in the search bar
  • Click your name in the search results
  • Click the edit 'cog' (looks like a flower or a gear) on the button next to your name
  • Click "edit profile"
  • Upload images (see tips below - IMPORTANT!)
  • Enter as much or as little contact information as you are comfortable sharing publicly. If you don't wish to share your email address, people can still contact you by using the contact form on your profile. Their message will be emailed to you by our system, but the sender won't know your email address.
  • Write a bit about yourself and your work in 600 characters or fewer including spaces (approx 100 words). Best to type in a word processor first where you can check your character count. Remember: spaces, letters, punctuation and numbers all count as characters.
  • Add your website and social media links

 

TIPS and IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

 

Image Size (important!)

The digital images that you upload must be a minimum of 300 pixels on the shortest side, and the file size must be no larger than 800 KB (kilobytes). This requirement is listed on your editing page, so you don't have to memorize it.

 

To Delete an Image

When you're in the editing area, click on the little checkmark which is embedded in the thumbnail, and the checkmark will disappear. When you submit your changes this photo will be gone from your 9-piece roster. To choose the order in which they appear, go into the editing window, and click and drag the thumbnails to rearrange the order.

Adding your Bio/Description

The bio/description section will only display the first 600 characters including spaces, even if you write more. We suggest drafting your description in Microsoft Word or a similar program to keep track of when you've reached 600 characters.


Be sure to include in your bio/description words which you think people will use, or you want people to use to find you during a raw Google search, such as 'Guelph', 'jewellery', 'artist', 'local', etc. These are words which would have been "tags" previously, and now Google just searches the text on your page. If you offer any services such as custom work, consulting, etc., or are open to collaborations and projects, be sure to list that as well.

Events Calendar

Don't forget to upload your events to our calendar! Just log in, hover your pointer over "Events" and click "Submit an Event". You must be logged in to access this feature. Be sure to include links and contact information in your event description so people can follow up and attend your event. If you need to change any of your event information just log in, hover over "Events" and click "Manage my Events"

 

Member Spotlight: 10 Carden

By Olivia Hope, with edits by GAC

10 Carden, located in the heart of downtown Guelph, is a non-profit organization, filled with multitudes of opportunity. 10 Carden is a community and co-working space. By offering shared resources for entrepreneurs, non-profits and small businesses working for social change, brings innovative people together who may otherwise have been working in isolation. In addition to co-working, a wide variety of events, meetings, cultural and educational opportunities are held in this one-of-a-kind space. From yoga classes to five-dollar French language seminars, from environmental watchdog meetings to film screenings, hang around this location for any length of time and you are sure to meet some really kind and interesting people.

10 Carden also offers rental exhibition space to artists in two-month slots, resulting in a rotating schedule of art and craft shows year-round. Users of the building have responded very positively, commenting that it continually brings new life and surprises to the space.

communityroom10carden


10 Carden has developed a unique space for emerging and developing artists of all ages and backgrounds. They require no previous degree, training or qualifications in order to submit. It can be difficult for developing creatives, no matter their age, to find affordable opportunities to show work. Juried exhibitions are naturally competitive and the professional art world can be highly intellectual, subject to changes in taste and fluctuations in the market, and often all of the above. 10 Carden's art program gives artists and community creatives an opportunity to share their work publicly, offering open and inclusive rental space for wall-mounted art and craft. They accept a variety of media and content, as well as a range of education and skill level.

The many-purposed nature of this space often results in repeat exposure of artwork on attendees of regular 10 Carden events. For instance, some people attend multi-day conferences or a series of workshops and fall in love with a piece of art they've seen hanging. They have the opportunity to find out more or to purchase the work through the artist. 10 Carden does not take a commission on sales, nor do they sell works on an artist's behalf, although they are always happy to connect artists with a potential buyer.

artinheritageroom

Right now, the art team is accepting submissions for the first half of 2015, with six exhibitions to rotate from January through June. Three of six slots are still available and the call for the latter half of 2015 will go out in the new year. Shows are two months long, starting with the first month in the friendly Community Room and rotating up to the beautiful Heritage Room for the second month. To apply for exhibition space, artists must send between two and six images of the work they would like to display, along with a short biography of themselves or group and the idea or theme of their show. 10 Carden is very open with their selections of artwork and are always happy to find work from around Guelph and Wellington County that promote social activism, engagement or cultural heritage. While they welcome artists to showcase their true passions, the work should have a fairly wide interest or themes of social justice, and must be appropriate for all-ages public viewing. 10 Carden's art team welcomes all artists to submit images and information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information on 10 Carden and its initiatives, upcoming events and the people who make it such an amazing place, please check out their website at www.10carden.ca. For more information on the art program, or if you are interested in exhibiting at 10 Carden or purchasing a work you've seen there, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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