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Living Artfully

By: Sonya Poweska

I don’t know exactly when it happened, I had been conscious of it for so many years, then, one day, I realized that I was doing it without thinking, it had just become a part of my daily routine, who I was, and what I am.

For those of you have met me, I am passionate about many things. At the top of that list is the daily act of living artfully.

When I graduated university I promised myself two things: I would pay off all my student loans as soon as was humanly possible and I would set aside a small portion of every paycheque I received to buy art. At the time, I didn’t really have any set parameters on what I would buy or how I would spend the money that I had saved. In fact, my first hundred dollars, which was collected after several months of savings, was used to buy a pass to attend Ottawa’s acclaimed International Animation Festival. In that moment, that was the art I needed to consume. Not only did I soak it all in, but I volunteered to be a part of one of the filmmaker’s forums just so I could gain entry and meet with all of the interesting people who had devoted their life to the ever-changing medium of animation.

The first piece of wall art that I purchased with my hard earned, post-university savings was a $60 oil on canvas of a marionette by a woman who made her living as a make-up artist. I bought the piece from the artist, who didn’t sign the work so I can’t even credit her here, at the Great Glebe Garage sale in Ottawa. It was the first piece of work she ever sold and it continues to be one of my cherished possessions. The simplicity, beauty, and memory that it evokes far exceeds its perceived cash value.

Working as both an artist and arts administrator means that even though I save, I never save much. With this in mind, I am pretty careful about making sure that the work that I add to my collection suits my needs, tastes, and goals of living artfully. To me, living artfully and supporting the work of local artists is one in the same—the more I support a local artist, the more they can go on to produce more work that will filter its way into the community.

One of my favorite ways to live artfully is wearable and functional art. As I write this, my lunch is packed in a tote with a Gillian Wilson print on the front, my keys are on a key ring with sewn and handmade piece by Francis Hahn of Hue Fielding and Necessary Arts, and I am drinking from a mug that is made by a close friend who happens to be a potter.


Clockwise from top left: Tote by Monika Hauk, necklace by Michelle Miller, earrings by Sweetie Box Studios, ring by Melissa Gobeil Design, and mug by Blue Iris Studio

Each and every day you can see me wearing the work of several local artists and artisans. The work of Michelle Miller, Amy Smania of Sweetie Box Studios, Iris Dorton of Blue Iris Studio, and Melissa Gobeil of Melissa Gobeil Design are part of a small rotation of very special and meaningful jewelry that I wear daily. Come winter, I add to my wearable art collection with hand-crafted scarves and my favorite mittens made by Catherine of Stone Cottage Industry and Creative Spark Studio.

When it comes to living artfully, we can all set our limits and define the role that we want art to play in our life. Because living artfully and supporting local artists has been important to me, I have made it a priority. Despite your motivation for engaging with art and local artists, I can tell you from personal experience that investing in a local musician, media artist, visual artist, author, artisan, festival, collective, choir, or arts-related business will return dividends beyond that single transaction. This season, I will continue to support my local community of artists, artisans, makers, and small businesses. I hope you too will help support our great local creative community. If you’ve picked up something great or want to share the work of a local artist, please help us build support for our artists by telling us about it on our social media channels: Twitter: @guelpharts, and on Facebook: Guelph Arts Council.

Not Just Playing Around: Art as Play and The Children’s Art Factory

By: Sonya Poweska

One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet with and getting to know the artists in each and every community where I have worked. In each community, there have been a few special artists who have inspired me and re-ignited my passion for what I do. If you haven’t yet experienced the magic of Melissa Mazar, owner/operator and creative genius behind The Children’s Art Factory, than you are missing out. Melissa has created a world in which art, creativity, play, learning, and imagination all go hand in hand. She says that the she is inspired by the children, but Melissa is also a real source of inspiration to all of those who have had the great fortune of getting to know her.


Over the years, Melissa has participated with Guelph Arts Council in a number of ways—she has been an artist, an event participant/coordinator, a member, and a Guelph Arts Council Youth Award recipient. In each of these capacities, she has brought a fresh and amazing perspective. With the launch of her new video, which premiered at this year’s Guelph Film Festival, Melissa continues to educate us that art is play and that children will amaze you with what they can learn if they are given the opportunity to explore life through art.

While this might not be a new concept, each and every time I talk with Melissa I am struck by all of the ways that she has engaged children to learn through art. In Art is Play, Melissa states that by letting children experience art as play, they are able to learn valuable negotiating skills and are encouraged to explore and discover new concepts while also making their own rules. This philosophy is carried over into The Children’s Art Factory where children are free to paint on the walls and windows, slop around with soapy water, mix potions and magic concoctions, and define their own parameters for play. Key to this learning is a concentration on the process of art rather than the product. This, Melissa confesses, is what drew her into creating The Children’s Art Factory in the first place. All too often, classes and activities concentrate on leaving a space with a completed piece of art—this becomes the focus of the activity (especially around the holidays). Melissa offers an inspired and creative alternative to traditional programming by allowing kids to take charge and let their imagination run wild. Creating isn’t the goal, the goal is creativity. To me, this is perhaps the most powerful message that Melissa shares. In this regard, she is educating the parents as much as she is encouraging the children.

Art is Play is directed by Oscar-nominated artist Erin Faith Young. It is a terrific short that allows Melissa to impart just some of her wisdom while the camera explores the magic of her space. It’s pretty obvious that every child present is happily engaged in art as play. While these moments may seem playfully innocent, Melissa, as well as the children's parents, are imparting lessons on their children that will last a lifetime and will shape the way that they, as adults, negotiate the parameters of the world in which they live, work, learn, share, and play. 


Click image above to see mini-doc.

Melissa offers opportunities for children, parents, caregivers, and community members to engage with her in a variety of ways. Drop-ins, birthday parties, or “scheduled classes” (which Melissa says are coming) are all offered in her space. One thing to know about Melissa is that she is an ever-present face in Guelph and can be seen at a variety of community events including Art on the Street. And for those who just can’t make it to any of the above events or activities, The Children’s Art Factory also makes their “kits” available for purchase just in time for the holiday season. She doesn’t even stop there! As an entrepreneur, Melissa offers informal mentorship opportunities to community children by setting up pop-up shops/stands in front of her store. It continues to amaze me the ways in which Melissa and The Children’s Art Factory inform and shape the experience and voice of the children who play, the caregivers who support, and the community that is developed as a result.

Remembering Beryl Dawson

It is with great sadness that we recognize the recent passing of Beryl Dawson. In addition to being a multi-talented artist herself, Beryl owned and operated Wellington Artists' Gallery and Art Centre with passion and dedication. There, she fueled and inspired local artists while making their work available to the wider community.

Beryl was a latecomer to art, discovering a hidden talent through art lessons, which then burgeoned into a dream to open her own art gallery after she retired.

Former Executive Director of Guelph Arts Council, Sally Wismer, communicated regularly with Beryl Dawson at the time she was setting up the Wellington Artists Gallery in 2008. "I can certainly attest to her determination and her commitment to providing exhibition space and other opportunities for local artists. She put her heart and soul into this successful gallery venture," Sally shared.

Uta Strelive, a longtime member of Wellington Artists Gallery (WAG), met Beryl through a call for submissions for the new gallery. Of Beryl, Uta says, "She was a person I can only describe as the most energetic, fair, and kind, but very strong at the same time. She was an incredible leader to us and what she did for all the members – it was mind boggling how hard she worked and what she did behind the scenes. We miss her so much and we realize now how much work there was we didn't even know about."

WAG was impressively active, with a different themed exhibition every month. The lower floor of gallery is dedicated to the monthly shows, featuring a range of talent, from individual artists and groups to homeschooled kids in the neighborhood who had no other venue to show their work

Beryl promoted and encouraged artists whenever she could, even when they were just starting out and maybe didn't have a lot of faith in themselves as artists just yet. According to Uta, this had a profound influence on those involved, "and people got better and wanted to work harder."

Beryl passed away peacefully on Thursday, October 9, after a short battle with cancer. She asked that the gallery be kept open and running and the gallery members have come together to keep the dream alive. John McGill was kind enough to respond to our inquiries about the future of the gallery, saying, "We are in the process of re-organizing the Wellington Artists' Gallery and trying to fill the huge void left by Beryl. It will be a challenging year ahead, but we are working hard to ensure that the gallery continues on the way Beryl wanted it to. We have a great group of members who are determined to see this happen."

The gallery's 2014 season is drawing to a close, but we hope you will continue to support the continuing efforts of Wellington Artists' Gallery, and the legacy of this amazing woman.

Bunny Safari Named Recipient of 2014 Guelph Arts Council Jane Graham Memorial Award

By: Sally Wismer

Guelph Arts Council is pleased to announce that the 2014 Jane Graham Memorial Award goes to Guelph ceramicist/photographer Bunny Safari.

Bunny has been working in ceramics since 1998, although has more recently turned her attention to incorporating film photography into her ceramic work. Using vintage camera equipment, she has realized that her photography has given her the opportunity “to focus on what I see through the camera lens and its relation to a functional ceramic piece.” In order to continue this project of cross-pollination of media, Bunny submitted her application as a request for assistance to attend a 2015 workshop on “historical” photographic techniques to help her understand which processes or combination of processes best suit ceramics. The jury was impressed with Bunny’s well-thought-out plan as well as her commitment to explore early photographic techniques that will help her meet the challenges of and move forward on combining her ceramic and photographic visions.



Both Guelph Arts Council and the jury panel were extremely pleased with the applications for the 2014 Jane Graham Memorial Award, the range of artistic media represented, the varied career stages of artists and the range of professional development opportunities being sought.

Established in memory of local artist Jane Graham following her untimely death in March 2005, the Guelph Arts Council Jane Graham Memorial Fund is managed by the Guelph Community Foundation. As a result, Guelph Arts Council is annually able to assist visual artists residing and actively practising in Guelph or Wellington County, helping them to pursue professional development opportunities that will contribute to individual personal artistic growth.  

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..  For more about Bunny Safari, you can visit her website at http://guelpharts.ca/craft/bunny-safari

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