Meet Mallory Tolcher during Culture Days weekend – Guelph’s Artist in Residence


By Jen Rafter

Mallory Tolcher is the City of Guelph’s 2019 Artist in Residence. Tolcher’s project, called #GuelphMovesMe, promotes physical fitness on Guelph’s trails through an outdoor art exhibition.

The project kicked off by asking the community to submit photos of individuals getting physically active as inspiration for 12 hand-drawn portraits. The portraits will be installed at six points along the Silvercreek and Eramosa River trails at the beginning of September and changed out halfway through the project.

The project ends with an artist talk and trail walk at 1 p.m. on September 29 at McCrae House during Culture Days weekend.

Mallory Tolcher. Photo Credit: Jennifer Frayne

About Mallory Tolcher

Mallory Tolcher is a local artist and educator who specializes in community art, drawing and installation art. Since graduating from the University of Toronto and Sheridan College’s joint Art and Art History program in 2011, she has worked on a variety of public and private commissions including the creation of Canada’s largest sports-court mural in Palmerston, Ontario.

Guelph Arts Council wanted to learn a bit more about Mallory, so we asked her a few questions about her art practice and what inspires her as an artist.

How and why did you start making art?

My mom was always a very creative person and provided my siblings and I with several opportunities to express ourselves in different ways. It wasn’t until high school that I realized how important art was to me personally, as the process allowed me to express myself in positive ways and release a lot of anger and frustration I had as a teenager. I had an incredible art teacher that encouraged me to not give up on making art, and so after taking a year off, I decided to apply for schools. I continue to make art as a form of personal release, but also as an excuse to see how things and people fit together.

What inspires you?

I am inspired most by people and the relationships that can be formed in small groups and large communities. We all share so much in common, as well as have individual strengths we can learn from each other, and some of us don’t take the time or have the desire to do that. I am someone who works best in a group where I can bounce ideas off of others and collaborate, so when it comes to my full-time job as a teacher, I am very grateful to work with a variety of different individuals that I can do this with every day. I find that sometimes being an artist can be very isolating, so I like to focus on community-based projects so that I can meet new people and learn from them, while making art.

Physical fitness, movement, and athleticism are some of the central themes in your work as an artist. Can you share with us how this came to be?

When I was in university, I became very anxious and confused with what I wanted to do with art. I focused a lot on sports and basketball, being my main passions, and found that I wasn’t being relatable or clear with my work. I started to run on the indoor track to release energy, and found it almost more therapeutic than creating. When I approached my work again with the focus being on the physical body and seemingly-unattainable goals (training to slam dunking a basketball on a 10’ rim and having others design signs of support) and representation of race and sports heroes in the media (painting large-scale layered portraits of people who should be recognized), I began to connect with more others. Movement is something we all share in one way or another, and by using it as an entry point to talk about things like race, ability, and gender, I finally felt like I was doing something real and authentic.

Portrait: Jenna Westaway by Mallory Tolcher. Graphite and charcoal on paper, 2019.

The Artist in Residence program is offered by the City of Guelph to broaden the community’s experience of the arts. The annual program invites artists to engage with the public and showcase their creative practices while enlivening public spaces.

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