By Mike Baker
The 15th annual Tour de Forest is coming up this weekend in Haliburton County, with participating artists from across the region excited to welcome guests back inside their studio.
This year’s event will feature 23 artists and 12 different studios, encompassing mediums such as watercolour, oil and acrylic paintings, woodworking, pottery, glassblowing, metal work and jewellery design.
Charlene McConnell has been a staple of the event, also known as the Summer Studio Tour, for more than a decade. Speaking to the Echo recently, McConnell said many artists are treating this year’s tour as something of a reset.
“I feel like the past year has been a difficult time for a lot of people, but artists especially have felt very isolated due to COVID-19 and the pandemic,” McConnell said. “So this tour will be like a bit of a restart for us – we can be around people again, showcase our work. It’s going to be a lovely weekend.”
Individuals can visit the studios between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 31 and Sunday, Aug. 1. A tour map is available online at www.haliburtontourdeforest.com.
There will be many new pieces on display for people to see, McConnell said, with most of the artists taking time throughout the pandemic to develop new tricks and techniques.
“A lot of us have taken the opportunity to expand our repertoire of product and art form, and have experimented with new mediums and new applications,” McConnell said. “I think there’s a lot of new creativity that we’re going to see on this tour… There will be a little bit of something for everyone.”
McConnell, who operates her own studio Purple Door Pottery, said she has a whole new line of work she will be rolling out for the tour.
Other notable local artists participating include Barbara Hart, Biljana Banchotova, Chuck Lewis, Colleen Ferdinands, Doug McDonald, Fernando Diaz de Leon Rendon, Harvey Walker, Heather Salzman, James Goodliff, Jane Selbie, Jyne Greenley, Laurie O’Reilly, Lyn Lawrence, Markus Leydolt, Marleigh McConnell, Paul Diamond, Renee Woltz, Terry Lawrence, Terry Sullivan and Tom Green.
Renowned for her unique style of fabric layering, Selbie will have several stylish pieces on display at her art studio and gallery.
She is calling on the community to show their support for area artists this weekend.
“This artist sector is alive in Haliburton County… This is your chance to explore the beauty of our landscape with the destination of each studio set to welcome you,” Selbie said. “See where the art is made, meet the creators, ask your questions. Take home something for yourself, a birthday gift, or find treasures for your Christmas or other celebrations.”
She continued, “You will be making a memory and supporting your local independent creator.”
The Tour de Forest has become a popular summer event for Highlands residents in recent years, attracting hundreds of visitors.
McConnell says she’s expecting the weekend-long event to be popular once again this year, especially in light of the recently loosened COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario.
“This is really becoming something of an experience for people who visit and who participate. They make a point of coming up and driving from one spot to the other, seeing the different studios and seeing the countryside,” McConnell said. “Especially right now, after having nothing to do for so long, and nowhere to go… This is an opportunity for people to see what Haliburton is all about.”
In an effort to welcome as many people as possible, a portion of the artists will be setting up their displays outdoors. McConnell says visitors will be asked to wear masks, and practise social distancing where possible.
With the event now almost upon us, excitement, for McConnell, is starting to set in.
“I just enjoy talking to people. I really enjoy seeing the people who come back every year. They make this part of their summer experience… It’s sort of like, building a real friendship. And then, of course, there are the new faces, opportunities to meet people that you otherwise wouldn’t get,” McConnell said. “I think people who attend will find it a very enjoyable experience. They’ll get to see new creative works that they’ve never seen before. It’s going to be great.”