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

Guelph Artist Sylvia Woods Exhibits Renaissance-Inspired Paintings

Guest-written by Shannon Jill Bray with edits by GAC


In her new series of paintings, Flora, Guelph artist Sylvia Woods looks at the symbolic use of flowers in artworks from the Renaissance period, drawing from an era in which the practice of “reading” a painting could be quite literal. The paintings featured in this show are titled with their symbolic meaning, for instance “Tulip, Transience”, “Iris, Divine” and “Peony, Nascent”. The last one is particularly interesting, the symbolic meaning coming directly from how the flower was used. ‘Nascent’ means birth, and the peony was at one time used as a narcotic given to women during childbirth.

We asked Sylvia to tell us a bit about her time in Italy, as a student 23 years ago and how it influenced her work.

“We were allowed into the drawing rooms in the Uffizi Gallery, and wandered the lane ways and church aisles soaking in the art and ambience of Florence. There's nowhere in the world quite like it. I returned this past April to stay for two weeks and found it quite emotional, after painting Renaissance symbols for a few years, to see the original works again in a new light and with a more mature eye. Essentially, Florence hasn't changed, and it has often been cited as one of the world’s most beautiful cities. What makes it so wonderful for me is that you can imagine yourself transported back in history to a time where so many things were being discovered in science and the arts, when beauty and excellence in craftsmanship were highly valued. To me, the symbolic language of the natural elements, which were commonly understood in the past, is a language that acknowledges the essence and importance of creation in communication. The natural world literally spoke to the people of the past symbolically, making ordinary moments extraordinary. It has been delightful researching and bringing some of these symbols into my work as the subject over the past few years. I find that people respond to symbols and have fun reading the names and connecting the natural elements with their meanings.”


Calling upon her time spent in Florence, Woods has used a lost vocabulary of symbolism to inform the character of her vivacious, portrait-like floral works.

Flora opened last week with a celebratory reception, in conjunction with October’s Fourth Friday, to great success. Enlivened by a swanky three-piece Jazz band, food, and wine, the art event was attended by 80-100 people, including family, friends, friends of friends, and past clients, as well as a few people who came in 'off the street' as a part of the Fourth Friday celebrations. Sylvia says it is “inspiring to hear others’ insights into the work and catch the excitement of connecting flowers with meanings. It felt great to have all of the work hanging together, and to share it with so many people.”


Flora is now on exhibition in downtown Guelph at Catch-23, located at 23 Wyndham Street North, 2nd Floor, and can be viewed by appointment until November 9.

You can see more about Sylvia and her work in our member directory VIEW PROFILE>

Guelph Studio Tours a Wonderful Experience

Guest Written by Chelsey Rae Hooker with edits by GAC

Every year since 1985, Guelph artists have chosen a crisp autumn weekend during which they open their doors to the untamed masses so that we may obtain a brief glimpse of their worlds. I should preface this article by stating that though I am creative in many ways, by no means do I have any extensive technical knowledge of art. I enjoy art, appreciate it, and want to surround myself with it in my day to day life, but, like so many others who attend these wonderful tours, I cannot tell you much more about it beyond what I like and what I don't like. This is what makes the Guelph Studio Tours such an amazing experience. You don't need to be a seasoned aficionado to partake in the event; you don't need an in-depth understanding of art, all you need is curiosity and appreciation for it.

Decked out in Fall gear with our 10 month old in tow, we set forth from the Red Brick to see what this event was all about. Directly across Douglas Street we found our first studio: Necessary Arts Co. From the brightness and freshness of the space, you would never believe it was a basement studio. There were numerous artists' work displayed, but I was immediately drawn to Marnie Dallan's colourful paintings of nature. Her paintings are organized and defined but at the same time vibrant and whimsical. Marnie's two daughters and her husband were there to support her; the little girls running and playing in the background, present but in no way disruptive. This was unique as it was the only studio stop we made where the art was family experience.


Necessary Arts Co. is a shared artist space which is wonderfully conducive to networking, collaboration, and group events. Their goal appears to be to provide artists with as many resources as possible, ranging from coworking space, internet, sewing machinery, relevant literature, and general support at a lower cost than private studio rentals. This location was a perfect first stop for our tour as it is an excellent depiction of how I understand the Guelph artists' community to be: respectful, collaborative, and unpretentious.

Following our Tour map, we headed to Tom Dietrich's space overlooking Wyndham St, our second studio visit. After we had browsed for a few moments, Tom explained to us how his work was inspired by observing how humans interact with nature both directly and indirectly. He explained how humans no longer think of themselves as organic beings despite being intrinsically tied to the natural world and how this disconnect is increasingly prevalent in urban centers. Many of his canvasses are broken landscapes and earthy abstracts on a rich red backdrop which gives the studio a sophisticated but comfortable feel.



Our next studio visit was a short walk from downtown on Arthur St North. Michelle Miller and Jenny Yermit's studio was the only home studio we visited that day. We climbed the two sets of stairs up to the loft to first see Jenny's work. The loft was beautifully finished and she had decorated it playfully with Christmas lights and several of her plush creations, called Yermits, all around. Some prints and buttons were also available, but as my daughter was enamoured with the colourful plush creatures, that is where most of our attention was focused. We selected one that caught our eye, made our first purchase of the day, and my daughter and her blue Yermit have been inseparable ever since.




We walked back downstairs to the Mimi Jewelry space where there were elegant displays of intricate wire art jewelry placed carefully on natural white on white stones. Everything looked very soft and delicate. There is a small room at the back of the house overlooking the yard where Michelle Miller's beading desk is set up neatly. The jewelry designs range from large complex necklaces to smaller, more subdued pieces such as earrings. Everything about the Mimi studio is soft and elegant, including the artist herself.

From there we proceeded to the Trafalgar Building on Woolwich St. where the entire 3rd floor is full of artists' studios. As we climbed the narrow stairway, the atmosphere became more and more industrial. Exposed brick walls, old-school radiators, large factory-style windows, everything was exactly as you would imagine an industrial chic studio loft with the added charm of having an amazing view of the Eramosa River. The first studio we entered had comfortable furnishings surrounded by the most provocative artwork of the day. Antique purple boxing gloves cradling an egg, miniature shooting range targets on old wooden cutting, and paintings of the human skeleton and internal organs were displayed throughout the space.

Several amazing artists are permanent residents of Open Art Studios representing a wide range of artistic media. At one end of the building in a corner studio, Lynn Chidwick creates gorgeous stained glass installations while at the complete opposite side of the building, Tammy Ratcliffe prints delicate designs on Japanese paper. In between there are abstract paintings, portraiture, and photography.


1becky-comber-studio-tour-bychelseyraehookerBecky Comber's Photographic Collages

Becky Comber and Heidi Berger's studio caught my eye with some mixed media artwork contrasting delicate paintings with rougher found items such corroded metal sheets. Their workspace is set up right in front of the window and there is a small seating area a bit farther back. On the wall, I noticed some gold ballet slippers which I asked about. The slippers were not in fact an art installation, but had belonged to Heidi Berger as a girl. Heidi explained that she simply found it important to always remember where she came from. As I photographed them, she requested a copy of the image stating that she had never really thought about it until just then, but they were a very important part of the space for her; of course I was happy to oblige.


We made our descent out of the Trafalgar Building via the freight elevator (which can only be described as terrifying but generally regarded as safer than carrying the stroller down the stairs) then proceeded onwards to Blue Iris Studios to see pottery, jewelry, and textiles. Iris's studio is situated in the walk-out basement of a beautiful Victorian home. A showcase of colourful pottery is the first sight as you enter the studio, followed closely by a warm, welcoming smile from Iris Dorton, the studio's owner. Both the pottery and the jewelry is displayed in a neat, uncluttered way, with very little to distract you from the artwork itself. A piece which caught my eye was a silver necklace with a small medallion-like pendant. Iris explained how she had found a sprig of Queen Anne's lace outside and pressed the flower directly into the silver prior to it setting to create an impression on the pendant. With Guelph being such a green community, I've not been surprised at all by the number of artists inspired by its natural landscape. Farther back within the studio is Sidney Sproule, a textile artist who refurbishes textiles into cleverly functional items. While perusing the French Press cosies, purses, and bags, we were stricken with nostalgia at some of the textiles used: a Hudson's Bay blanket that once was a staple in every home, Cub Scout badges, and hockey patches. Sidney passionate about textile work and every piece she has made has a story. This was a wonderful way to breathe new life into textiles and fabrics. 


Now late in the afternoon, our group decided to stop at one more location, the Dublin St. Church. There we found a plethora of artwork ranging from blacksmithing, to painted miniatures. As this was a community display, this site was not actually a working studio. The variety of artists and mediums made this a lovely studio tour stop nonetheless.

As it we were heading out of the church, we noticed another studio tour sign just a few houses down from our location and we decided that we had enough time for one final stop. Maria Pezzano's work was on display featuring a host of mixed media artwork that was bright, colourful, and unapologetically girly. The space echoes Maria's personality is open and vibrant with a homey feel which can likely be attributed to the antique door and windows looking out onto Dublin St. In the adjacent space is some photography work highlighting Guelph's natural foliage. Having visited every studio within walking distance of the downtown area, we decided to end our tour there for this year.

To see a piece of artwork hanging in a gallery is lovely. You can appreciate the techniques applied, the subtle nuances, the medium used, and contemplate which pieces speak to you in some profound and personal way. To see artwork within an artist's studio however, you learn so much more about the person who created it. The entire setting is essentially a reflection of their personality and their process as an artist that has taken years to develop. To anyone who has never taken part in the Guelph Studio Tours, I urge you to come out and meet these wonderful individuals in person. I can honestly say that the artists I met throughout the day were kind, welcoming, and genuine people and we should all devote a little more time to supporting them, even if that just means coming out and shaking their hand at an event. To all the artists who opened their doors to the public, I simply would like to say thank you.

The Results are In... Now What? How to Follow Through on Supporting the Arts

Happy post-election day to all the candidates, voters, and citizens in Guelph! It has been a particularly long campaign season and on behalf of Guelph Arts Council staff and Board of Directors, I would like to congratulate all nominees and those who were selected by their fellow citizens to lead and initiate change for Guelph residents for the next four years.



Over the course of the election Guelph Arts Council led the local ArtsVote campaign. While we have been engaging with candidates throughout the election, we took to social media last week to invite candidates to discuss how they would work to support arts and culture over the next four years. These results were assembled and posted on our website. While a good majority of the candidates responded with their support of arts and culture, few posted a real platform that included how they intended to help strengthen the cultural sector over the course of their term.

With this in mind, I think that citizens and the arts community have great opportunity over the next four years to tell our new and re-elected leaders how important the arts are to our community. While most candidates acknowledged their support of arts and culture, few know how to best support the sector.

For artists and arts supporters, it is well known that arts and culture drive tourism, support the local economy, create jobs, engage community, initiate change, and promote good health. As a citizen, supporting the arts comes in many forms—attendance of local events and initiatives, purchasing the work of local musicians, artists, and community groups, volunteering, information sharing, contributing to fundraising initiatives, membership, and good old fashioned donating. As an elected leader, stating that you like the arts isn't enough. As a member of the arts community, I can say that we need the support of council as we push through another season of great events and art. But we can't leave it up to our leaders; we need to do our duty as citizens to let the Mayor and Council know about the strength, resilience, and value that the arts bring to Guelph.

Over the course of the previous four years, we have had some very strong leaders in office who have worked hard to enhance the capacity of the arts and culture sector in Guelph. What the ArtsVote campaign demonstrated is that we have some truly supportive and innovative thinkers who will push the arts agenda forward. Over the next four years, let's keep arts active around the horseshoe. Let's, as a community, invite our elected leaders to events, ask them to help promote the arts to their community through their networks, and help us as we work together to make Guelph one of Canada's great creative communities.

Thank you to everyone who helped us connect with candidates to show their support of the arts and thank you to all those who took the time to respond to us via twitter, Facebook, phone, email, and connecting with us in person. I look forward to connecting and working with each and every Council member to keep the conversation and support for the arts alive in Guelph.

Sonya Poweska

Executive Director

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