Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for many things. It has one of the strongest theater scenes in North America thanks to the Shaw Festival and its culture and history are front and center for many.
But resident artists believe the city offers more visual arts than is recognized.
Thus, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Arts Collective was formed last year.
“The arts collective is a way for us to raise awareness of the visual arts in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” Niagara Pumphouse Arts Center President Lise Andreana said at a reception celebrating the collective’s exhibit. Sunday.
“We are known for arts and culture, but more for theater and the historical base. So it’s a way to make room for visual artists around the table.
The collective was created so that NOTL artists would have a way to promote and support each other, she said.
“To be honest, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more support for fine art here,” resident artist Lynne Gaetz said.
“I come from Cambridge, where the city paid for an arts centre, they paid for a studio tour. Things that weren’t done here,” she said.
“Our collective would like to see the fine arts become one of the attractions of the region.
One way to do this is to launch a strong promotional campaign. The collective has social media accounts on multiple platforms and encourages people to check out its website, NOTLartscollective.com, to learn about members, purchase artwork, and keep tabs on upcoming events.
Joanne Morandin is the collective’s social media provider.
Morandin takes classes at the Pumphouse and one day his pieces may be exhibited as part of the collective.
She said the Pumphouse and the collective more than deserved her time to help them raise awareness.
Anyone interested in joining the collective must be a professional artist, gallery owner or curator with ties to NOTL, Andreana said.
One such artist was Patricia Haftar, an artist from Welland who taught classes at the Pumphouse and performed at its events for many years.
One of his pieces was on display, featuring his cousin’s granddaughter in a natural setting.
“I got an email asking me to join the collective and I said, ‘Absolutely,'” she said.
Haftar said she never knew when the winds of inspiration would strike and she was always open to new ideas.
Gaetz said she usually tries to portray a specific emotion in her paintings.
“What I really try to do is try to have a strong emotion that is obvious and evident in the work,” said Gaetz, who has lived at NOTL for just over a year.
One of his exhibits featured a rising tide of water slowly consuming a montage of images representing modern culture.
“I was really thinking about climate change, rising seas when I did that,” she said.
Tim Sullivan said he uses NOTL’s natural beauty to find inspiration for his paintings. He had one on display, a view of Lake Ontario from his home on Firelane 2.
“We are near the lake. It’s part of my morning vision,” he said.
Sullivan said he had painted his whole life, but his retirement from NOTL made it a full-time passion.
“One thing led to another and I was so struck by the beauty of this area – being close to the lake, vineyards and orchards – it’s just overwhelming,” he said.
“It was a hobby that quickly became something I loved to do.”
Sullivan was open about the creative process.
An artist also does “a lot of trashy stuff, which just doesn’t do the trick,” he said.
“You might think it’s terrible, but someone else might think it’s interesting. They might get it.
Borrowing a Bob Rossism, Sullivan said, “There are always a lot of happy accidents” while creating.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero was on hand and, in a brief speech, said she hopes to commit more municipal resources to promoting NOTL’s visual arts scene.
“The city, for me, is well served in promoting the performing arts and our cultural heritage,” she said.
“But I don’t believe the city spends enough time or effort promoting the visual arts or promoting how blessed we are with the many artists in our city who work in many different types of mediums.”
Disero said the city recently had discussions with the Pumphouse, Public Library, Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, RiverBrink Art Museum and the Niagara Parks Commission about how to better celebrate its artists.
“I keep saying it and will keep saying it, you are the soul of our community and you bring us life and richness that we couldn’t get if you weren’t there.”
Andreana noted that “Having an artists’ collective in our city supports the growth of arts and culture for residents and visitors. It strengthens our creative economy and helps support both individual artists and arts organizations.
“It creates a more diverse, more resilient and more economically viable area for all of us.”
The exhibition is on view at the Joyner Gallery at the Pumphouse until March 22. The collective will present new pieces in early April, Andreana said.