The Elmira Art Exhibit officially kicked off during the month of July. An outdoor art walk taking place across Elmira features 10 different local artists and their work.
“The purpose and initiative behind this project was to increase the foot traffic in downtown Elmira to support the main street and surrounding businesses,” says Jenna Morris, economic development and tourism officer for Woolwich Township.
With the theme and initiative of the event aimed at promoting local businesses and artists, it was only natural that the works on display reflected that. Conan Stark’s illustration of a Ferguson Twenty 85 tractor blends the old school equipment with his modern digital style.
“There’s an interesting juxtaposition there between sort of older imagery, but using really some modern techniques to render it,” explained Stark. “The tractor seemed like a relevant thing for Elmira because of the agricultural history in the community.”
Stark is no stranger to the creative arts, utilizing photography, mixed media and illustration he aims to explore the narratives of people, objects and environments. Stark also teaches at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener and sits on the board of a local arts organization called CAFKA, Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area. Stark hopes in the future to participate in more projects like the Elmira exhibit.
“The value of community art is really important,” said Stark. “Having the outdoor shows and [showcasing] the art in a really accessible [way] is really important. That’s why I like the show.”
Another teacher whose work is featured in the exhibit is art and history teacher Carol Folino. Her acrylic painting titled “For Better or for Worse” pays homage to the frontline healthcare workers as they fight against the ongoing pandemic.
Horst is an Acadia First Nations band member from Nova Scotia. While she was not able to grow up within her community, she uses her artwork as a means to connect herself with her Indigenous heritage.
“I thought it was really timely and I thought it could be healing for people to look at,” said Folino. “And as a thank you to health care workers and as a reflection that we’re all in this together, for better or for worse.”
Folino first used her brush as a way to heal from issues such as anxiety, grief and loss. But as she continued, she began reflecting other people’s struggles in her work like the pandemic and racial inequality.
“It kind of gives me a lot of solace to be able to express how other people have triumphed and to communicate stories of courage,” said Folino. “I also like to incorporate water elements, canyons and crack deserts… My lines are very fluid and organic, and so I try to bring that in because I feel like it reflects some of the emotion that swirls around in the composition.”
Another artist featured in the exhibit also uses her work to empower her Indigenous roots and the under-represented cultures in Elmira. Jennifer Horst and her acrylic on canvas piece titled “Strength of Roots” was made after the horrific discovery of unmarked graves found at many of Canada’s Indian residential school locations.
“It was a way to remind people in our small town of Elmira that we do have different cultures embedded within the population,” said Horst. “It was just a piece to celebrate the diversity that’s within Elmira and connected to it, a piece to reflect on the devastation of the mass graves that have been discovered and more that will be likely discovered.”
“I didn’t have the privilege of living within the Indigenous culture and learning the language and works of art,” explained Horst. “So I’m learning alongside many other people who don’t have Indigenous roots. Because I wasn’t infused in the culture.”
These three artists are just a small sample of what the Elmira Art Exhibit has brought together. While Elmira may be seen as a small town by some, one just needs to look at the diversity of its artists to realize the community is as colourful and diverse as the paints they use.
Those interested in learning more about the Elmira Art Exhibit should visit their website where they can view more artist backgrounds and a walking map of all the installations.