Niagara-on-the-Lake is celebrated for many things. It has one of the strongest theatre scenes in North America thanks to the Shaw Festival and its culture and history are at the forefront for many.
But resident artists feel the town offers more by way of visual arts than it gets recognition for.
Thus the Niagara-on-the-Lake Arts Collective was formed last year.
“The arts collective is a way for us to bring more awareness to the visual arts in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre chair Lise Andreana said during a reception celebrating the collective's exhibition on Sunday.
“We’re known for arts and culture but more for the theatre and the historical basis. So, this is a way to make some room for visual artists at the table.”
The collective was established so NOTL artists have a way of promoting and supporting each other, she said.
“To be honest, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more support for the fine arts 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 being done here,” she said.
“Our collective would like to see the fine arts become one of the draws for the region.”
One of the ways to accomplish this is through a robust promotional campaign. The collective has social media accounts across several platforms and encourages people to check out its website, NOTLartscollective.com, to learn about members, purchase art pieces and keep an eye on upcoming events.
Joanne Morandin is the social media purveyor for the collective.
Morandin is taking classes at the Pumphouse and one day her pieces may be exhibited as part of the collective.
She said the Pumphouse and collective are more than worthy of her time to help them raise awareness.
Anyone interested in joining the collective needs to be a professional artist, a gallery owner or a curator with some ties to NOTL, Andreana said.
One such artist was Patricia Haftar, a Welland-based artist who has taught classes at the Pumphouse and been involved in its events for many years.
A piece of hers was on display which featured her cousin's granddaughter in a natural setting.
“I got an email asking me to be part of the collective and I said, ‘Absolutely,’ ” she said.
Haftar said she never knows when the winds of inspiration will strike and is always open to new ideas.
Gaetz said she usually tries to represent a specific emotion in her paintings.
“What I really try to do is try to have a strong emotion that’s obvious and evident in the work,” said Gatez, who has been living in NOTL for a little more than a year.
One of her pieces on display featured a rising tide of water slowly consuming a montage of images representing modern culture.
“I was really thinking about climate change, rising water when I did this,” she said.
Tim Sullivan said he uses the natural beauty of NOTL to find inspiration for his paintings. He had one on display, a view of Lake Ontario from his home on Firelane 2.
“We’re close to the lake. It’s part of my morning view,” he said.
Sullivan said he had been painting his whole life but his retirement in NOTL turned it into 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 and the vineyards and orchards — it’s just quite overwhelming,” he said.
“It was a hobby that quickly became something I loved doing.”
Sullivan was open about the creative process.
An artist makes “a lot of trash stuff, too, that doesn’t make the cut,” he said.
“You might think it’s terrible but somebody else might think it’s interesting. They might get it.”
Borrowing a Bob Rossism, Sullivan said, “There’s always lots of happy accidents” when creating.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero was on hand and in a brief speech said she hopes to commit more town resources to promoting NOTL’s visual arts scene.
“The town, for me, is serviced well in promoting performing arts and our cultural heritage,” she said.
“But I don’t believe the town spends enough time or effort promoting visual art or promoting how blessed we are with the many artists in our town that work on many different types of mediums.”
Disero said the town had recently been in discussions with the Pumphouse, the public library, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, RiverBrink Art Museum and the Niagara Parks Commission on how to better celebrate its artists.
“I keep saying this and I will continue to say this, you are the soul of our community and you bring us life and richness that we could not get if you weren’t here.”
Andreana noted that “Hhaving an art collective in our town supports the growth of arts and culture for both residents and visitors alike. It strengthens our creative economy and helps support both individual artists and art organizations.”
“It creates a more diverse, more resilient and more economically viable area for all of us.”
The exhibition is on display in the Joyner Gallery at the Pumphouse until March 22. The collective will be putting up new pieces at the beginning of April, Andreana said.