ARTFUL BLOGGER: Transformation of “Ugly Duckling” Main into Swan



Main2 — Stuart Kinmond’s “windows” on Main Street, a future art installation (2017), which will be part of the redesign of that street

Commissioning artwork to enliven a busy commercial street is a good thing. Unfortunately, not all commissions by the city produce art that is all that suitable or memorable. Sometimes the street sculptures are too small, covered by snow in winter and, during the rest of the year, are simply lost amid a jumble of newspaper boxes, utility poles, and fire hydrants. And sometimes the art is just downright too baffling to be appreciated by passing pedestrians and motorists.

So, that’s why there was cause to celebrate when Ottawa artist Stuart Kinmond recently won the commission to add some pizzazz to Main Street, which is to be “renewed” and “redesigned” by the city starting in the spring of 2015. That work will take about two years, so don’t expect to see Kinmond’s handiwork until 2017.

The winning installation will be a new outdoor gathering place for people on Main near Hazel. This location is meant to capitalize on the pedestrian flow between Saint Paul University, the Main Farmers’ Market, and the various restaurants and businesses across the street.

Main2 - On the squareEntitled Main2 (Main Square), “the artwork will be comprised of blue and green geometric-shaped benches shaded by three, six-metre-tall towers, each framing colourful, multi-layered glass images of the surrounding landscape of Old Ottawa East: The Rideau Canal, the Rideau River, and the land between,” according to a city communique. “In researching his proposal, Kinmond looked at the community’s ecclesiastical heritage, in particular the prominent presence of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Saint Paul University. The association of stained glass with these religious institutions influenced his choice of materials.”

Before settling on a design, Kinmond rode his bike around the community, noticing some “beautiful places” he had seen before but never associated with Main Street, a thoroughfare he calls an “ugly duckling” badly in need of some pedestrian-friendly revitalization.

“When you look at the map, Old Ottawa East is a linear community with the canal on one side and the river on the other, with Main Street running like a spine down the middle,” Kinmond said in an email interview. “Very close to downtown, the community has a wide variety of housing types — a sweet place to live. However, most of the attractive features are not evident when you drive along Main Street. So the concept originated to make these features visible, like windows onto the street.Main2 - Night view

“As I became more familiar with the area, Main Street seemed to be like a diamond in the rough — a neglected thoroughfare with a beautiful community around it. The street needs a strong infusion of pedestrian-oriented activities and opportunities. There is not a single public space along the whole length of the street for the pubic to sit and gather. So, the idea of a public square seemed like a desirable addition to the street. Hence the idea of Main2 (pronounced ‘main square’). My design became a mini-public square, including the benches, the paving, and shade structures, as well as the windows with coloured glass. The three windows have images of the canal, the river, and the land between,” he wrote.

This is Kinmond’s second public art commission in Ottawa. Last year, he was awarded a commission for artwork at the O-Train stop at Carleton University.

THE GIVER: Something for the world traveller, the grocery store lover, and the people person

The Giver is written by Ottawa Mag’s Dee Campbell, who knows that people prefer to volunteer in ways that speak to their interests. Dee has volunteered for the Terry Fox Run since she was a little girl and is a Brownie Leader of 15 years.

Do you have a volun-gig needing filled? Email



These Cuso International volunteers look pretty happy to have completed the Safari International Marathon in Arusha, Tanzania


What would you say to spending a few months in Tanzania, Nicaragua or Nigeria?
Departure Date: next month.

Intrigued? A few of the positions available right now: Counsellor/Psychologist, Agricultural Development Advisor, Fundraising Advisor, and the Under 5 Birth Registration Initiative.

Cuso International covers the costs of being an overseas volunteer, allowing you to enjoy a modest but healthy lifestyle while you volunteer abroad.



Grab a shopping cart, load it up with free food, and then walk around the Kanata Food Cupboard‘s small warehouse placing non-perishable foods in designated piles: baby food, beans, tomato sauce, etc. This is what I did with my Brownie unit last winter, as a community project (it would also make a great family event). They LOVED it. We’re already booked to do it again in January — but why not in December? Because I like the message it sends: adults and children are hungry every day — not just at Christmas.


C'mon. Even the cool kids are doing it.

C’mon. Even the cool kids are doing it.


Are you one of those people who defines him/herself as a ‘people person’? If so, have I got gigs for you — working in the café at The Ottawa Hospital; serving tea in the maternity ward at Riverside Hospital; providing companionship to patients at Queensway-Carleton Hospital. These hospitals need kind, friendly, team-oriented people, aged 16+. Commitment: 3-4 hours/week for a minimum eight-month period.

SOUND SEEKERS: NAC Presents lineup includes concert featuring Basia Bulat + Daniel Lanois + NAC Orchestra


Basia Bulat

Basia Bulat

The NAC will announce 30 new concerts today, adding to the lineup of 26 previously announced NAC Presents shows. They’re billing it as The Ultimate Canadian Musical Journey.

We here at Ottawa Mag have been fans of the all-Canadian music series — now in its fourth season and programmed by Simone Deneau and Xavier Forget — for some time.

The third season featured hometown hero Kalle Mattson and Can-rock icons Martha Wainwright and Rufus Wainwright, among others. We also saw Royal Wood head to the NAC to play a set with plenty of lighting cues and dramatics, befitting the venue. He even arranged wine pairings for that gig, as he’s also a sommelier.

Expect more pairings this season, including a sweet gig with Daniel Lanois, Basia Bulat, and the NAC Orchestra. Bulat will perform Lanois’ material and a few of her own songs accompanied by NACO’s arrangements. That show takes place April 30, 2015. It may seem far away yet, but best not to delay. (Sarah McLachlan’s November 14 show is long sold out.)

We’re also excited about the double bill with Stars and Hey Rosetta! (Feb. 7) and the return of Arianne Moffatt (April 16) and Whitehorse (May 14), who played NAC Presents in years past. Many artists come back to play the series in following seasons, and often in a larger-capacity venue, starting with the Fourth Stage and moving up to the larger studio and theatre stages.

NAC Orchestra. Photo by Dwayne Brown.

NAC Orchestra. Photo by Dwayne Brown.

“NAC Presents is a vehicle for artists to be featured on a national stage,” producer Deneau says. “Investing in an artist with great potential, then inviting them back to perform on bigger stages, for even larger audiences, speaks directly to our commitment to championing their work and supporting their creative growth.”

Here, the 2014-2015 NAC Presents lineup. Tweet us with your best bets and favourite picks! @OttawaMag

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WEEKENDER: Five things to do on the weekend of Sept. 18-21



A screenshot from Philip Eddolls’ Git Gob, screening at this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival


Disney Made Me Do It
Aside from a plethora of cutting edge animation — including Philip Eddolls’ Git Gob, an awesome 1:33 sec. short (is flash a better word?) — Disney is in the Ottawa International Animation Festival’s crosshairs this year. And why not? Love it or hate it, the studio remains the heavyweight of the animation biz (think Frozen). Founded in 1923, the Disney animation behemoth has led the way, more or less, for almost a century. In light of this legacy, along with Disney’s impact on the industry — and us — this year’s animation festival is hosting several events within its five-day program that focus on the famed company. In particular, Disney Made Me Do It is an art exhibit at Arts Court (library, 2nd floor) by nine Ottawa artists who cite Disney’s impact/influence. It opens on Thursday, Sept. 18 (from 5 to 7:30 p.m.) and runs through to the end of the festival — it’s also part of Nuit Blanche (see below). Too many events to list here, so visit their website for info on the entire festival.

Hidden Harvest
Did You Know? An estimated $27 billion worth of food ends up in landfills every year in Canada. Bet you also didn’t know (but likely suspected) that one third of all food produced in the world goes to waste? How about here in Ottawa? — Next time you’re out for a city stroll, take a moment to notice how many crab apples or fruit in general are simply unpicked and left to rot on trees or strewn about on the ground — lots, but less so since Hidden Harvest Ottawa began. The local group harvests the unused fruit and veggies around the city, and, to that end, encourages the planting of more fruit trees. Want to learn more about what they’re up? Come out to a lecture by Harvest co-founders, Katrina Siks and Jason Garlough, on Friday, Sept. 19 at the Agriculture Museum. The talk will be followed by a screening of Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, accompanied by tasty popcorn. The event takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; also, bring a non-perishable food item. More info, visit hereCanadian Agriculture Museum is at 901 Prince of Wales Dr.

Nuit Blanche Art Party FREE!
Construction. Most of this past year has been inundated with cones, signs, backhoes, a great deal of noise, and traffic congestion. Driving, even walking, has become a daily headache. It’s no wonder, then, that this year’s all-night art-party, Nuit Blanche, is launching their third year with the theme of “Bypass” — obviously, it’s meant to inspire ideas beyond the word’s definition, but it is, nevertheless, extremely fitting since there’s been many a day when I wish I could ‘bypass’ Ottawa — at least until this traffic nightmare ends.

If you’ve never experienced Nuit Blanche — either here or in Toronto, Montreal, or elsewhere — it’s a party that is unlike others. On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 19 and into the wee hours of Sunday, Sept. 20, meander in and out of art galleries (National Gallery, OAG, SAW, etc.) which will be open throughout the event, hang out at various art parties, bump into groups of people, and discover works of art, some curated specifically for this event and installed around the city.

One such installation that should not be missed is On-Air. Step inside an airplane cabin, and remain seated, while you experience crash scenes which are typically cut out from inflight movies (for obvious reasons) and the panicked voices of air traffic controllers dealing with emergencies — headphones help to recreate that ubiquitous airplane ‘hum’ as well as a slight air pressure to the ears. Not for everyone, the work, created by artist Geneviève Thauvette, will be at Plaza Bridge Underpass, at Elgin St. and Wellington St. from 6:20 p.m. to 4:21 a.m. More info on her specific installation, visit here. The official website of Nuit Blanche has more details, maps, times, etc. The whole thing is free.

House Gawker
Want to see how the one per cent live? Join this year’s annual Glebe House Tour on Sunday, Sept. 21 and stroll through five homes, old and new, decked out in various styles. There’s a shuttle bus you can hop off and on, and tickets are only (?!?) 30 bucks… And though that, in my estimation, seems a little hefty, proceeds do go towards the Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group. And there’s tea/coffee and cookies afterwards, so… there’s that. The tour happens rain or shine. This is a “shoes-off” tour, so sport some footwear you can slip on and off. Infants/kids aren’t particularly welcome, neither are large packs, so ditch that MEC backpack before coming.

Feast of Fields
Autumn weather is perfect for a fall drive into the countryside, and this Sunday, Sept. 21 offers a great opportunity to do just that… And to also eat and drink the best of this year’s organic harvest. Feast of Fields brings together talented chefs and local organic producers to create culinary delights to sample, which are paired with wines and beer. Stroll through the nearby Gatineau forest and enjoy some live music. It happens at the historic and very picturesque Wakefield Mill Inn, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Wakefield Village in Quebec. Tickets are $80. More info, and to purchase tickets, visit here.Wakefield Mill is at 60 Mill Rd., Wakefield, QC

FOUND: The Chinatown Museum at Jackpine Digital

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Ottawa Magazine. Sign up for a subscription or order back issues here.


There’s a little design shop on Somerset Street West called Jackpine Digital. Here you’ll find the so-called Chinatown Museum — a collection of large signs that once graced neighbouring storefronts. Part decor, part memorabilia, the signs represent the changing streetscape — and what CEO and creative director Liam Mooney calls the “destructive nature” of the design process. After all, the cone of a jack pine tree needs the intense heat of a forest fire to open and release its potential.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Dumpster Diving
Mooney was waiting outside the office — he had lent his keys to another designer — when he spotted a large bright red sign behind a dumpster. Wa Kiu had closed months before; Phuket Royal had yet to open its doors. “Maybe [Wa Kiu] wasn’t the best grocery store, but it was part of the landscape,” Mooney says. After getting the A-OK from the new owner, he hauled the 3-by-14-foot sign in through the fire escape and installed it in one of the main work areas. Upon close examination, it’s clear that the sign was hand-painted, the pencil lines from the stencils still visible after all these years.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Fair Trade
Last year, Mooney traded design services for office space — and furnished it with borrowed pieces from Highjinx, a social enterprise that sells used furniture. Eventually he bought some pieces, but the move to Chinatown called for a new aesthetic (or, as Mooney says, they needed to “break the space”). Enter Malcolm Cairns of FoundDesign and Ken McKay of Furniture Affairs. Cairns gifted a few mid-century modern items to Jackpine; others are loaned on a consignment basis (“We have a strict coaster rule,” Mooney says). McKay will get design services in exchange for a huge custom table and bar. “The generosity — I can’t even begin to understand,” says Mooney. 

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ARTFUL BLOGGER: New book weighs in on controversial bombing of Germany



Tim Cook’s new book, The Necessary War, is is the first vol. of his two-part series examining Canada’s contributions to WW II.

Late on July 24, 1943, close to 800 Canadian and British bombers flew from England to Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, to begin an unprecedented four-day aerial assault by the Allies on that industrial city. during the Second World War.

By July 28, approximately 42,600 residents of Hamburg were killed and 37,000 wounded. The city was destroyed. More people in that one city were killed than in all of the six-month Blitz of Britain during 1940-41. Germany began to fear defeat.

The much decorated Ottawa author and military historian, Tim Cook, recounts the horror visited upon Hamburg in his new book The Necessary War: Canadians Fighting the Second World War 1939-43, Volume I. Much of the book deals with the still controversial issue of Canada’s participation in Bomber Command, whose daily flights over Germany killed tens of thousands of civilians, like those in Hamburg. The goal was to crush morale, decimate factory workers, and pressure Germany to move troops, which were stationed from the Eastern Front in Russia, back to protect the homeland.

The debate over the morality of Bomber Command continues. Just seven years ago, the Canadian War Museum was embroiled in a very public controversy over a text panel in an exhibition about Bomber Command. Some veterans and politicians claimed the text panel turned the airmen into “war criminals” wantonly killing civilians. The text panel was eventually changed, but only after the museum’s director Joe Geurts lost his job, becoming yet one more casualty of Bomber Command.

By Sarah Cook

Ottawa’s Tim Cook, the author of a new book about Canada’s controversial role in Bomber Command in the Second World War. Photo by Sarah Cook

And now Tim Cook has joined the debate. Cook is a historian at the war museum and a much published author, mainly on the First World War. Now he’s turned his attention to the Second World War in the first of a planned two-volume book detailing major battles and issues involving Canadian troops. The book does not claim to speak for the war museum. Yet, one can not ignore the fact that Cook is a very influential historian at the museum and has input into the way history is treated there.

Cook does not pontificate in the book. Instead, he provides facts — the reasons for the aerial campaign and its bloody effects.

In the description of the destruction of Hamburg, Cook notes that unusual weather, combined with the incendiary bombs, created a massive firestorm sucking in oxygen from streets and buildings to fan the flames: “Entire blocks were consumed in the blaze, terrified civilians were cooked alive in the streets, cowering mothers and children suffocated from lack of oxygen in shelters and even those who dived into the canals for safety were later found boiled alive. In the scorched streets, corpses were reduced to charred bones, mummified remains and coagulated human body fat.”

The result was pure horror. But one must also remember that during the bombing of German cities, the Nazis were well into their program of ethnic cleansing, which killed six million Jews, plus millions of other groups and minorities. Germany had to be stopped. And eventually it was, at least partially by the actions of Bomber Command.

THE GIVER: Play teacher for a day, party in the street, and give up chocolate

The Giver is written by Ottawa Mag account manager Dee Campbell, who knows that people prefer to volunteer in ways that speak to their interests. Dee has volunteered for the Terry Fox Run since she was a little girl and is a Brownie Leader of 15 years.


Andrew James & Henry Larsen

GICs and Mutual Funds? Maybe I need to be a student for day. Andrew and Henry are JA volunteers.

Years ago, I spent one day with a grade 7 class playing the role of teacher, thanks to Junior Achievement. Topic of the day (determined by JA): personal money management. I swear it wasn’t boring. It couldn’t be. They’d have booed me. We did role-playing, we looked at bank accounts and savings, we talked about the perceived value of things, and ultimately I challenged them to think more about money, wants, and needs.   Programs like this can literally change the course of a student’s life. And it only takes a day.


Open Streets Festival kicks off one of my fave City of Ottawa initiatives, The Commute Smart Challenge, where residents try sustainable modes of transportation in their daily travel from September 14-21.

Commute Smart

Kick off Commute Smart Challenge at Open Streets Festival on Main – Sept 13

But back to the party deets:
Date: Saturday, September 13 from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m.
Where: Open Streets Festival is in front of Main Street Farmers’ Market
What They Need: friendly people aged 14+ to animate the street in front of the market and celebrate the public space in interesting, imaginative and collaborative ways. That’s IT! Contact to register.


Could you give it up for the month of January? If you’re upping your health and fitness game at that time anyway (aka New Year’s resolution), why not drop chocolate, or booze, or chips for 31 days? But that’s not the volun-gig that needs filling by Victory Over Vice. To plan the big vice-drop, organizers need people to handle communications and event coordination. All proceeds from the fundraiser go directly to support Vesta, a women’s recovery program.

WEEKENDER: Six things to do on the weekend of Sept. 11-14



Prison Break, a fun-run/obstacle course event that takes place on Saturday, Sept. 13 and Sunday, Sept. 14 at Vorlage Ski Hill in Wakefield, QC

Solo View FREE!
Ever wondered why a one-woman or one-man performance can be so compelling? After all, why does the solo performer remain the ultimate challenge for theatre artists? How is it that the simple tale, well told, can still hold an audience in its thrall? Questions, such as these, will be explored during Solo View, a free panel discussion on Thursday, September 11 at Arts Court. It will be led by Ottawa Fringe Festival’s director, Patrick Gauthier, and include guests familiar with this topic: Pierre Brault, Tom Lips, Liz Martin, Chris Ralph, Carol Sinclair, and Bronwyn Steinberg. It starts at 6 p.m. and runs for an hour. Solo View is part of Theatre Matters, a series of discussions organized by Steinberg and Laurie Fyffe.
Arts Court, 2 Daly Ave., 2nd Floor

The School for Wives
The perfect wife? — Raise a pretty girl in a convent in isolation and ignorance, and she’ll become a docile, adoring, amorous woman. Er, sure. Find out what really happens in The Gladstone Theatre’s production of Molière’s famous French 17th C. comedy, The School for Wives, which opens on Friday, Sept. 12 and runs until Sept. 27. Directed by John P. Kelly, tickets are from $34. Check here for showtimes.
The Gladstone Theatre is at 910 Gladstone Ave.

StormTrooper Chairs1-1

Stormtrooper Deck Furniture, etc.
I’ve always thought my deck was lacking that a particular je ne sais quoi. Then I stumbled upon Ottawa’s Legendary Workshop’s Alderaandack chairs — wooden deck chairs in the shape of Stormtrooper heads. At that same moment, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror. The feeling quickly passed when I saw how comfortable the chairs looked. But I digress. Legendary Workshop, and a plethora of other, equally creative designers and artisans of everything ‘Hip, Modern, Handmade’ will be at this year’s third annual Urban Craft Fair, which takes place on Saturday, Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Glebe Community Centre. Free to attend. More info, visit here.
The Glebe Community Centre is at 175 Third Ave.

Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life
Help raise money to help those suffering from HIV/AIDS during the annual Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life, which happens this Saturday, Sept. 13. This year, it’s being held at a new location at Snider Plaza on Bank Street. Local band, Pony Girl, kicks things off with a show at 12:30 until 1:30; there will be a family obstacle course and jousting competition (1 p.m.); vendors will be on hand to sell all manner of enticing goodie; that ubiquitous family staple — face painting — will be available, as will the chance to do some wall painting. The Walk itself begins at 2 p.m. — registration between 12–2 p.m. More info, visit their site.
Snider Plaza is at 150 Bank St. between Laurier Ave. and Slater Ave.

Eat Wellington? FREE
Enjoy the Tastes of Wellington West this Saturday, Sept. 13 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wander the streets of Hintonburg and Wellington West and savour food, drink, entertainment, art, and shopping. Musicians will be performing; there will be a kid’s zone at Parkdale Park; and a classic car show. Proceeds from sales will go towards Somerset West Community Health Care Centre.


This ain’t no Oz
I’ll be honest — I can’t really figure out this new obsession with these running races, such as marathons or the Spartan Race, or the Death Race, and — in particular — ‘fun-runs’ (for a lack of a better word) such as the Zombie runs, Foam Fest, Tough Mudder, and this weekend’s Prison Break. Is it just a new masochistic need to punish oneself? Or is it that God is dead and your Sundays are now free? Perhaps it’s sheer boredom? A love of mud? Or just arrested development? Regardless, this week’s Prison Break — Saturday, Sept. 13 and Sunday, Sept. 14 at Vorlage Ski Hill in Wakefield, Quebec — will, no doubt, fulfill whatever ‘need’ by pitting guards against inmates in a grueling competition that includes a 5km run and 30 obstacles — fun, that is, to everyone but actual prison guards and inmates. More info or to register, visit here.
Vorlage Ski Hill is at 65 Chemin Burnside, Wakefield, Quebec.



FOLK FEST PRIMER: Lorde, M. Ward, Lee Fields, and other make Chris Lackner’s must-see list

For its 20th anniversary, the Ottawa Folk Festival has expanded to five days for the first time (Sept. 10-14), leaving local fans with more musical options than ever before. Pop culture junkie Chris Lackner highlights the acts not to miss at this year’s festival.


M. Ward plays Sept. 10.

M. Ward plays Sept. 10.

M. Ward (Sept. 10) – The Wednesday night lineup features some big headliners in pop-rockers Foster the People and Blues Traveler. But low-fi, Americana troubadour, M. Ward, is the one not to miss. The talented producer and musician’s solo work sounds ageless, culling influences from folk, country, and gospel. But it’s Ward’s gravelly voice that truly resonates. Part of She & Him with Zooey Deschanel, Ward deservedly gets the chance to hog the spotlight when flying solo.

Lorde (Sept. 11) – The young electro-pop chanteuse has lorded over the music scene over the last year, practically taking it by storm with her debut Pure Heroine. Lorde breaks the female pop star mould. A darling of both critics and fans, she may be the most buzz-worthy name in this year’s lineup.


Lee Fields and the Expressions play Sept. 12.


Dailey & Vincent (Sept. 11) – They put the blue in Bluegrass. With stunning harmonies and a top-notch backing band, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent will help many fans discover – or rediscover – the musical genre.

The National (Sept. 12) – The moody, introspective indie-rockers are one of the most talented band’s in the business – proving you can make intelligent rock music and still become a headliner. Matt Berninger’s deep, brooding, baritone vocals are pure magic.

Lee Fields and the Expressions (Sept. 12) – You got soul? The venerable North Carolina artist has been crafting R&B since 1969. The man is timeless.

Neutral Milk Hotel (Sept. 13) – The revered, experimental indie band have a cult-like following despite disbanding after their acclaimed 1998 album In The Aeroplane Over the Seas. In 2013, frontman Jeff Mangum and company announced a reunion tour with their entire 1998 lineup. Dreams do come true. This Milk will go down easy for lovers of bands like Arcade Fire and The Decemberists.

Couer de pirate plays

Coeur de pirate plays Sept. 14

The Strumbellas (Sept. 13) – The Canadian six-piece’s 2013 album, We Still Move on Dance Floors, was one of the year’s best. The indie-rockers fuse folk, country, and bluegrass to craft a stirring live show. Prepare for an assault of hollers, handclaps and harmonies.

The Lone Bellow (Sept. 14) – The Brooklyn country rockers play acoustic-based Americana as it was meant to be – with grit, earthiness and fire in the belly. Fans of The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons will find something to like. Fans of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams will too. (Fans of today’s plastic pop country stars need not apply).

Coeur de Pirate (Sept. 14) – Yes, the final day is chalk-full of headliners such as The Gaslight Anthem and Joss Stone, but one not to miss is spellbinding Quebec songstress Béatrice Martin – otherwise known as Couer de Pirate. The petite singer-songwriter has an unexpectedly powerful voice that could simultaneously break hearts and move mountains.










ARTFUL BLOGGER: Frost-bitten, Mosquito-slapping Trolley-tippers



Horns (10 x 8 x 2.5″): mixed media: altered plastic horse, clay, gesso, colour pencil crayon, charcoal, graphite, smoke, claw — 2014

The first thing you see are the miniature horses. Then you notice the horses are disabled. One has a peg-leg. Another purportedly moves about on blocks of wood. Their mouths are open with their tongues hanging out. The tongues are removable.

Welcome to the world of Frost-bitten, Mosquito-slapping Trolley-tippers. That is the name of a unique exhibition of 18 Manitoba artists at General Fine Craft, Art and Design in beautiful, downtown Almonte, a half-hour drive from Ottawa. (While everyone knows Manitoba is home to mosquitos and frigid temperatures, fewer probably know about the province’s turbulent labour history, which includes riots, where apparently a trolley was tipped at least once).

The exhibition is the brainchild of Winnipeg artists Diana Thorneycroft and her partner Michael Boss. Thorneycroft has family in Almonte. On one trip, Thorneycroft visited the Mill Street shop of General Fine Craft, Art and Design and offered to co-curate with Boss an exhibition of the 18 Manitobans — most of whom display a wonderfully wicked sense of humours, their works varying from embroidery to funky pottery to a particularly mischievous 3-D miniature tabletop scene of anti-Harper protesters. Artist Peter Graham personally brought that piece, Harperlandia 1, in his airplane carry-on from Winnipeg.

Thorneycroft is best known these days for her photographs of dioramas containing dolls and other props that depict often horrifying incidents in Canadian history. The dioramas range from the death of artist Tom Thomson while canoeing, to clergymen abusing children.

Her newest body of work involves purchasing plastic toy horses about six inches high and then heating the animals so that the warmed plastic can be manipulated. The horses are disabled in various ways and their faces distorted so that their mouths remain open and their tongues can be removed.


Sugar (10.25 x 10 x 3.5”): mixed media: altered plastic horse, clay, sugar, electrical wiring, coloured pencil crayon, lead weights, leather — 2014

“This allows the new owner to put something they believe to be magical in through the horse’s mouth, to eventually land in its belly,” says Thorneycroft. “The process of this activation then makes the horse the owner’s personal talisman.” (The entire process is inspired by West African voodoo.)

The disabled horses are stand-ins for people with disabilities. They encourage us to view the disabled in a respectful manner. Thorneycroft’s growing stable of horses will eventually find their way into photographable dioramas about people with disabilities.

On the gallery wall are two photographs of miniature motorcycles made of cardboard. Those are Boss’s contribution to Thorneycroft’s horses; surely a gift for the biker with everything.

One of my favourite pieces in the show is actually the cheapest. It’s a goofy doll called Muskrat Head, which has an elongated head made of fur, and the body is an assemblage of a vintage hand towel, ceramic, cotton, and stone — a creation by Dana Kletke, selling for $200.

Nearby is the most expensive artwork — a $5,000 cast glass sculpture by Ione Thorkelsson called GK41338: winged lung. Yes, it’s a lung with wings, and it’s pure magic.

Another favourite is Fox with Fiddle made of hand-modelled glazed ceramic. A rather sly looking fox, about six inches high, holds a fiddle in one “hand” while the other “hand” holds a mask close to its face. Jordan Van Sewell is the artist. Take a bow, Jordan.

Frost-bitten, Mosquito-slapping Trolley-tippers continues at General Fine Craft, Art and Design at 63 Mill St., Almonte, until Oct. 12.