By Darren Lum
Hitting the road this weekend for a tour of the Highlands is promising art lovers an opportunity to see the plethora of artistic excellence on the 16th annual Tour De Forest.
Held from July 30 to July 31 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, the Haliburton County Summer Studio Tour boasts 26 artists, which includes new, and established creators based in the area at 12 participating studios.
Stained glass and glassblowing artist Tom Green, who started the Tour De Forest with artists Jane Selbie and Barbara-Joy Peel, still remembers how it all started 16 years later.
“We sat down with a bottle of wine one night and came up with a name and 16 years have passed,” he said.
Green said the longevity of the tour is owed to the artists.
“We have a good turnover every couple of years, three or four new artists and it keeps growing and it’s a lot of fun,” he said.
One attribute of the tour is how studios have more than one artist.
With the price of fuel, he said, this tour is organized so tour goers get to see the work of more than one artist at one studio.
Although the tour continued during the pandemic, the number of participating artists in those years were less than other years. This year’s tour is a step to returning to what it was like before the pandemic.
“Even though we had the tour on a half scale this is a full-blown [tour]. We’re ready for this year and everybody’s got all new stops … it’ll be fun,” he said.
The youngest artist on the tour is 21-year-old Poet Ever.
She is part of a group of young artists who started the Haliburton-based Limbic Collective, and is working at the Ethel Curry Gallery in Haliburton, Green said.
“We just stated to keep an eye on her work and they opened their little shop and went to their opening and [we thought] this might work and so helping the youth and, you know, I help work with co-op kids and this is the next generation past them, giving them encouragement, helping them see what it’s like to be an artist and it’s not just sitting at home answering your emails. You’ve got to get out and work for it,” he said.
Ever and five other members of the Limbic Arts Collective, which is directed by the group will be at Bilijana Banchotova’s studio.
The mixed-media artist values how the tour can benefit her and her peers at the collective.
“We got a huge opportunity to not only sell our work, but make a lot of connections through the people who are going to be going on the tour and, maybe, sell some work,” she said. “None of us are full time artists because we don’t have the ability to be financially so this means that maybe we’ll get one step closer to being able to do art full time,” she said.
Ever works in mixed-media, which includes painting, clothing with screen printing and photo arts, including performance art, which she said will be exhibited during the tour.
Ever said art for her serves the purpose of going beyond satiating an outlet for creativity.
“I think a lot of us in the collective can all agree that art has really made a big impact on our lives. You know, making it, but also having a community of artists who think similarly and being able to collaborate and work together as a community. So, art is really significant in all of our lives. So, having to have other things going on that become really exhausting and really monotonous. Having art be an escape from that and and an alternative is really helpful,” she said.
She adds art can provide her validation, but also helps her mentally.
“I think that being able to do my art and reach people through it not only feels good, it feels like a sense of validation, but also it helps a lot with my mental health and my wellness as a whole makes me feel more whole as being just being able to do art,” she said.
She said her inspiration comes from thinking about where humans are, the related psychology and the challenges facing everyone.
Tour facilitator Charlene McConnell and potter on the tour said with this tour’s less formal and less stringent criteria to join the tour, there is greater latitude for artists, who would otherwise be unable to participate and be showcased in more established tours, she adds.
McConnell said giving a chance for new artists to showcase their work is a significant stepping stone.
“It’s just sort of a hard thing to break into. And it’s very nerve wracking when you first start. So, what we’re trying to do is, as people who are more established and done this for a while to be sort of mentors to younger artists and give them the opportunity to show their work, to be with the public, how to price their work, how to display, [which is] another key element that people take, they [think they] just have to show up and stick it on an easel, but there’s more to it than that and so those of us who have been on the tour and been there for a while we’re looking to help these young people to get a start and grow,’ she said.
She said young artists don’t have to be young by age, but new to art such as potter Lyn and woodturning artist, Terry Lawrence, who will be at the Revolutions Woodturning and Pottery Studio. McConnell said among the new artists also includes her daughter, Marleigh. The 29 year-old is a chainmaille jeweller who will be at the Purple Door Pottery Studio. She noted Jyne Greenley, who is at the Purple Door Pottery Studio, as one artist who puts in the effort of making her own pigments, which she uses in her abstract and interpretative work on wood and tile.
McConnell loves the tour for how it enables her to receive feedback about her work and provide new insight.
“I really enjoy the people that come in. It’s a beautiful time of year and usually I like to talk to people about what they like and what they’d like to see. I often have tried to try to do something new and different and get their responses to them. Or even suggestions,” she said.
She adds this information has helped her to grow as an artist. The feedback about her mugs enabled her to create a mug that had a handle that was comfortable for more people, accounting for different tendencies and physiological differences or even arthritis.
She said this year’s tour is about moving closer to a return to what the event’s main attribute was and that’s to have guest artists in addition to the hosting artist at studios, which keeps driving time down.
“So, not all the studios have a guest this year, that will be our goal moving forward. And [we] just tried to keep the footprint smaller [and] the [trip shorter] as people choose to drive there, the studios are close together and they can see multiple [artists],” she said.
Tour organizers want the public to know studios will be practising COVID protocols as advised, so if masks are required, please, bring your own to wear.
For more information about the tour see www.haliburtontourdeforest.com.