I have been introduced to many amazing performers since moving to Canada, in turn through the artists who make the music I have been introduced to some of the people who make the instruments for those same artists. Incredibly that path took another turn this week when I was invited to a meeting at the McMichael Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario.
The McMichael Art Gallery
The McMichael Art Gallery is located on the original lands of the Ojibwe Anishinabe People. It is uniquely situated along the Carrying Place Trail which historically provided an integral connection for Aboriginal people between Ontario’s Lakeshore and the Lake Simcoe-Georgian Bay Region.
Celebrating The Art Of Canada
The McMichael Canadian Art Collection stands alone as the only public fine art gallery in the nation that focuses on Canadian art and the Indigenous art of the country, both historical and contemporary. The permanent collection consists of over 6,400 artworks by Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, their contemporaries, and First Nations, Métis, Inuit and contemporary artists who have contributed to the development of Canadian art. The McMichael is also the gallery of record for works on paper from the Inuit community of Cape Dorset, as they are the custodians for the Cape Dorset archive, totalling more than 100,000 artworks. The McMichael celebrates the Art of Canada.
Built of fieldstone and hand-hewn logs in a modernist design, the McMichael houses thirteen exhibition galleries where floor-to-ceiling windows enable visitors to enjoy views of the densely wooded Humber River Valley. Beyond the galleries are 100 acres of forested land, from a ridgetop ‘wilderness garden,’ planted by the McMichaels to echo the northern forest beloved of the Group of Seven, to the heritage wetlands and waterways.
The McMichael is an agency of the Government of Ontario and I have always wanted to visit, I tried a couple of years ago to go and see an exhibition but I travelled on one of the only days it was closed ! It was not meant to be at that time I believe, the timing was perfect this week and I was blown away by the exhibitions that lay within it's hallowed walls.
Let me tell you a little of The Group Of Seven for those non Canadians who may be reading this, some of you may or may not know who they are and their significance to the nation.
Today, these men are among Canada’s most famous artists. For many, their works have come to symbolize what is the distinctly Canadian identity.
The Gallery lies northwest of Toronto, It houses an extensive collection of paintings by Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, First Nations and Inuit artists.
The core of this art collection and the very gallery itself are the result of the dreams and vision of two people, Signe and Robert McMichael, who were completely captivated by the paintings of the Group of Seven which seemed to embody the same love and respect they had for the Canadian landscape.
The Group of Seven, also known as the Algonquin School, was a group of Canadian landscape painters from 1920 to 1933. Believing that a distinct Canadian art could be developed through direct contact with nature, the Group of Seven is best known for its paintings inspired by the Canadian landscape, and initiated the first major Canadian national art movement.
In the early decades of the twentieth century, circumstances brought together these artists who were committed to exploring, through art, the unique character of the Canadian landscape. Collectively they agreed that Canada’s rugged wilderness regions needed to be recorded in a distinctive painting style. This style would break from European tradition and reflect an increasingly nationalistic sentiment.
What's all this got to do with music and Blues and Roots Radio ? .... Read on !
The Group of Seven Guitar Project - The McMichael delivers rare masterwork guitars by top Canadian luthiers
Focusing on seven handmade guitars commissioned by the McMichael from great Canadian luthiers Jean Larrivée, Tony Duggan-Smith, George Gray, Sergei de Jonge, William “Grit” Laskin, Linda Manzer and David Wren.
This special exhibition at the McMichael introduces acoustic instruments inspired by and honouring each member of the Group of Seven, along with an eighth guitar dedicated to Tom Thomson and the role he played in the evolution of the Group.
An idea conceived by luthier Linda Manzer in 2012, The Group of Seven Guitar Project applauds a formidable group of Canadian artists from a century ago while demonstrating the global influence of a new group of seven that has, since the early 1970s, shaped the sound and form of the guitar under the tutelage of Jean Larrivée in Toronto.
Over the last few months a series of concerts called ' Acoustic Conversations ' have been taking place at the gallery with the amazing luthiers who were commissioned to build the guitars for the project, they talk about their work and the artist from the group of seven who inspired them to build their guitar. Seven of Canada's top guitarists / performers were invited to play the instruments in front of an audience as part of the series, Jesse Cook, Kevin Breit, Bruce Cockburn, Stephen Fearing, Don Ross .... and .... the series also included a performance by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield who made history by playing a Jean Larrivée ( the main influential luthier ) guitar in space.
Blues & Roots Radio's Connection
We were extremely honoured to have been invited for a tour of the exhibition which culminated in an invitation for us to exclusively air and present the series ' Acoustic Conversations ' to our audience here in Canada and around the world as part of our schedule beginning in the new year,
We met with two very passionate people regarding this project, Anna Stanisz who is Associate Director, Creative Learning & Programs, at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. She holds Master's degrees in Art History and Archeology from Sorbonne University in Paris. Prior to joining the McMichael, Anna worked in Poland as an assistant curator at the National Museum in Cracow, and we met Nick Foglia who is the Director of Communications, Marketing and Sales,
We look forward to presenting 7 renowned guitar makers, inspired by 7 iconic artists, who crafted 7 one-of-a-kind guitars. the art of Canada unplugged with some of the nations top performers brought to you through our award winning platform, the exhibition and concert series has been extended to March 2018 and we'll be publishing details on our website very soon of the airing dates, the extended concert series and the exhibition in general.
I pinch myself a lot through my work with Blues & Roots Radio at some of the work we have had the good fortune to experience, but this time I really have to sit down to take the enormity of it all in. Our platform has been chosen by one of Canada's most prestigious art galleries to air their presentation of some of the nation's most well known luthiers work, which will be played by world renowned musicians from across Canada !
I wish my Dad was around for me to tell him this one !
I'll keep you posted on the dates but meanwhile check out The McMichael and go and see the exhibition for yourself if you are in the area, it's a must see wonderful experience !
Until next time