ArtLifting is uplifting

Sunday mornings at my house you’ll find me having a coffee and catching the US morning shows. A big fan of CBS Sunday Morning, today a @HarrySmith item on The @TODAYshow caught my eye.

Smith profiled an organization based in Boston, MA that has made a big difference to the community there — such a difference in fact, that the idea has spread to seven other American locations. The organization is called #ArtLifting. (@artlifting)

The premise behind ArtLifting is simple…and brilliant. Here’s what they do:

ArtLifting is a benefit corporation that provides homeless and disabled artists the opportunity to earn their own income. ArtLifting sells original paintings, art prints, and products so artists can earn recurring income from each piece. Artists keep 55% of the profit from each sale.”  (Source:

artlifting logo

Co-creators Liz and Spencer Powers, a creative sister-brother team, launched the idea in 2013. At 18, Liz began working with homeless and disabled individuals. Impressed with the talent she saw, she quickly realized that much of their work was either destroyed or lost. A missed opportunity soon to be turned into something remarkable.

With just four artists in the Boston area initially, ArtLifting has grown to support dozens of artists across the country, empowering and instilling confidence. Paintbrushes with power!

So all this got me to thinking…is there something similar in Canada? In Toronto? I am aware of a great program for youth @SKETCHToronto and some other community programs for youth, but nothing comes to mind, given that ArtLifting is a business rather than a not-for-profit organization. If there is, please let me know. If not, Toronto would be a great fit for the first ArtLifting city in Canada. @TorontoComms

Visit the site, learn about the dynamic team behind ArtLifting and check out their artists. I was impressed with Frank Brescia and Allen Chamberlain – but there is something for everyone here. Original, prints and a host of other items are available.

See ArtLifting on CBS News.


Posted in Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Southern Gem – Part 2

It likely drives my husband crazy, but I could spend hours looking at art, even the same pieces. For me it is relaxing and because I have no art muscle at all, I really revel in how talented these artists are and how much effort it must take to produce each piece.

We took two turns around Calhoun Park during our stay in Charleston @CityCharleston. The second time ‘round gave me the opportunity to speak with artist Alana Knuff. As I mentioned, the festival is held for 17 days and so the sense of community among the artists is quite apparent. Alana was with one of her colleagues but allowed me to sit and chat for a and alana Alana and alana

Never too late to pursue a passion

Alana spent many years as a project manager working for a number of larger construction firms. She also spent time working at the University of Texas and at Harvard. Now retired, she’s been painting full time since 2008. Yup just seven years — while she had always drawn and did the odd portrait, she hadn’t really explored painting seriously prior to that. I was pretty amazed by that — and secretly optimistic — maybe one day I could aspire to that! (This is highly aspirational and doubtful!)

Alana says she has her parents to thank for her attributes; her mum was very creative and her dad was an engineer so she has always understood she has both sides of her brain in play. It was in 2007 where her artistic side came to the fore. She signed up for an art trip to Italy. Initially she believed that her medium would be watercolours. However, that was a bit of a disaster. As she says, “you can’t make a mistake [with watercolours]; I have great respect for artists who have mastered watercolours.” Undeterred, she was encouraged to switch to oil — this suggestion proved to be providential.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Romantic Realist

The Amalfi progress.

The Amalfi scene…in progress.

Amalfi in Moonlight

Amalfi in Moonlight

During our visit, Alana was working on a scene from the Amalfi Coast. “The piece must speak to me in some way,” she says. As someone who buys art from a fairly simple premise — “I like it”, it was interesting to listen to Alana talk about the work involved in painting — things like composition and style. Alana calls her style romantic realism and she is known for her portraits and maritime paintings.

Arrange a session

Going to Charleston this month? Well you’re in luck. There is another art festival, the Mojo, which begins Sept. 24 and celebrates African-American and Caribbean arts. But maybe a lesson is more to your liking. Alana offers portrait demos and teaches —maybe a few hours with this passionate painter will reveal your creative core.

Visit to learn more. She exhibits at Reinert Fine Art.

Posted in Art | Leave a comment

A Southern Gem

A Southern Gem

Last week was all about art festivals, large and small, around Ontario. This time, we venture south for a festival worth putting on your calendar in 2016.

Earlier this summer, I went to Charleston, SC @CityCharleston for a long weekend getaway. Having visited years earlier, I had a sense of what to expect and was looking sp4forward to savouring its southern charms.

On arrival I quickly realized that I was in for a pleasant surprise — we had landed smack dab in the middle of its most famous festival – the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.

Put it on your list

The 17-day Festival celebrates the culture and the diversity of the South Carolina Lowcountry. If you’ve read any Pat Conroy novels (Beach Music, Prince of Tides) you’ll have a sense of the beauty and the unique character of this part of the United States. We took a couple of carriage rides during our stay and the guides always make a point of telling visitors that Charleston is one of the top cities to visit, not just in America, but worldwide. Condé Nast (@CNTraveler) consistently places it very high on the ‘must see’ list. I do too!

Indulge your passion for the arts

While I was most interested in the many tents pitched in the park just north of Calhoun Street, residents and lucky visitors are treated to an array of performing, literary and visual arts events – more than 500!artshow3

There’s jazz, dance, poetry, theatre, children’s activities — really something for everyone. Among the events I missed (because I didn’t realize the extensiveness of the festival and because I didn’t read the Festival guide in my room — I digress!) was an evening with Pat Conroy and another with CBS correspondent, Martha Tiechner.

The park is the place for me

Each day in the park the artists provide live demonstrations and are available to answer your questions. They are incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and eager to show their artwork. It is warm in Charleston in June so to be camped out for 17 days illustrates their commitment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I really admired the work of local artist Alana Knuff. Next time I’ll share a bit of her story. She is proof that it is never too late to try something new.

About Piccolo Spoleto

With a focus on accessibility and community participation in the arts, Piccolo Spoleto is the official outreach arm of Spoleto Festival USA.

Accessibility for participants and visitors is a priority at Piccolo. Close to half of the planned events are free, with the remainder priced affordably.

Learn more about the featured artists:

Kevin LePrince:

Fred (Belgian Artist):

Hilarie Lambert:

Debbie Fornell:

Alana Knuff:

Posted in Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A final diversion to consider

Part 3 of 3 – Take the long way to your final destination this holiday weekend!

The rugged Bruce Peninsula offers visitors the unexpected.

Outdoor adventurers can seek out the Grotto (in Tobermory) and experience its stunning vistas and crystal clear water — and test their courage!

It’s the Peninsula’s #1 attraction according to Trip Advisor.

Rated #4 is Flowerpot Island.

Here, changing water levels have carved tall stone pillars, called “flowerpots,” from the dolomite cliffs. Fathom Five Park is just off the northern tip of the Peninsula and is a continuation of the Niagara Escarpment.

Highway 6 is your route but to get to these fabulous sites you’ll have to pass by Lion’s Head and it’s here that you’ll discover a long weekend diversion.

 A tradition of art

logo1-300x277The Bruce Peninsula Art Show kicks off its 48th edition with a ‘Meet the Artists’ event on Friday night. That’ll be your first opportunity to check out more than 80 artists from the community.

A small but mighty arts society was formed in 1997 and it meets regularly to ensure art maintains its profile in the area. It boasts an Artists Co-Op Gallery made up of 15 of the best local artists. Two you might run across this weekend: Patti Waterfield and Sue Dyment.

Pay it forward

Bruce Peninsula Art Show

Bruce Peninsula Art Show

The show is an important fundraiser assisting both the local school and hospital. It also provides bursaries to students continuing in the arts at a post-secondary level. Successful applicants must exhibit their first year’s work at the Art Show. This year 12 students are among the 80+ exhibitors.

Admission is free and you have three full days (Saturday – Monday; 11-5) days to choose from.

It’s just another ‘unexpected’ treat you’ll come across when you visit the Peninsula this long weekend.

Posted in Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another long weekend diversion

Part 2 of 3 – Take the long way to your final destination this holiday weekend!

A cultural gem in the southwest

artin parkIf you’re on your way to the cottage in Grand Bend or perhaps you’re indulging in your passion for all things Shakespeare, a visit to Art in the Park @ArtinthePark4 in Stratford @StratfordON is well within reach.

While this year’s Stratford Festival’s Taming of the Shrew @stratfest may be generating vigorous debate in the theatre community, there is little debate about the value of this unique art fair. It’s a part of the fabric of the community throughout the summer with artists from across southwestern Ontario gathering three days each week: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9am – 5:30pm. (May through September 27.)

Something for everyone

With jewelry, glass, woodworking and just about every medium available, you’re bound to find something you need to take home. I was struck by the photography from Ian Cowling @IanCowlingPhoto.

A photographer who hails from Burlington, ON, his images are intense and dynamic. They clearly resonate with audiences as his work has found a home in private collections in four continents. What’s also great is that he offers private instruction — in photography and Photoshop. Learn more about Ian at:

Art in the Park is just steps away from the Stratford Festival (Lakeside Drive btw North & Front Street) and offers free parking.

With great retail and exceptional restaurants, Stratford’s main shopping district is within walking distance.  It’s a wonderful place to window shop or ‘shop-shop’ plus there are lots of dining options. Or perhaps because Lake Huron is beckoning — just a coffee at Balzac’s will fit the bill!

Part 3 – our last diversion takes us to Bruce Peninsula!

Posted in Art | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Long weekend diversions

Part 1 of 3: Three ways for you to take the long way to your final destination this holiday weekend!

kempenfestThere are at least 370 reasons to stop in Barrie if you are heading to the cottage for the long weekend. Beginning Saturday, the  @Kempenfest Festival kicks off and part of that annual tradition is the Huronia Festival of Arts and Crafts.

The Barrie Art Club and Kiwanis Club of Barrie have been hosting this event for more than 35 years. And you can’t beat the venue — on the water at Kempenfest Bay.

Outstanding art available

I had a quick glance at the featured artists – about 370 or so. Seeing the works of Irina Gretchanaia @igretcha is just one of the reasons you should make a visit a priority. Inspired by Georgia O’Keeefe, Gretchanaia’s exhibition provides a representation of the fragile beauty that surrounds us. I don’t want to say too much but I think you’ll agree, her art is simply stunning.

I would encourage you to visit her website at: and learn more about her art and her success.

Huronia Festival of Arts & Crafts
Lakeshore Drive, on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay

Tourism Barrie

Tourism Barrie

This worthwhile festival helps assist local arts programs in the community – another great reason to lend your support.

Looking for a great spot for lunch? One of my favourite spots is the MacLaren Art Centre ‪@MacLarenArt just up from the Bay.

MacLaren Art Centre on Mulcaster Street in downtown Barrie, ON. Photo by Volker Seding

MacLaren Art Centre on Mulcaster Street in downtown Barrie, ON. Photo by Volker Seding

Visit the Gallery Café! It’s a great spot for a quick bite and a glass of wine — when you need a break from the sun!

Posted in Art | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 to see on Bay Street

Each day, along with hundreds of my closest commuter friends in the GTA, I trek up Bay Street to my office. It’s a shared routine — and it’s likely our focus is pure navigation. But with summer and great weather finally here, it’s time to break away from the everyday and look beyond the sidewalk for inspiration.

Bay Street is the heart of the financial district. But it offers more than just grey pinstripes — it has some real gems.  In just five short blocks, you are treated to amazing art and it’s all free.

First stop – TD Centre

Susanna Heller Restless Prowling From Night to Daybreak Toronto, 2014 TD Centre

Susanna Heller
Restless Prowling From Night to Daybreak
Toronto, 2014
TD Centre

The TD Centre has its own collection of Canadian artists – so many it actually has a catalogue! (Best to visit in person, my BB isn’t a great camera!)

Plus, once you are done viewing those, TD Bank has an impressive collection of Inuit art. Look for it on the ground floor and on the Mezzanine level. (79 Wellington St. West.)

Across the way – the TD Courtyard

One of my all-time favourites – “The Pasture” by Joe Fafard. For me, these beauties pay homage to our farming heritage. A wonderful place to sit and enjoy a coffee.

The Pasture

The Pasture

The other bank courtyard

Tembo, Mother of Elephants

Tembo, Mother of Elephants

On the east side of the street in the Commerce Court Courtyard you’ll find Tembo, Mother of Elephants. This three piece bronze sculpture by Derrick Stephan Hudson is on loan from the L.L. Odette Foundation of Windsor, Ontario.

Hard to Trump this

Valet park in style at the @TrumpTO with Stephen Andrews. This mosaic features 500,000 tiles. WOW!

A small part of something larger

A small part of something larger

Sign as celebrity

The Pan Am and Para Pan Games has showcased the spirit of Toronto and the #Torontosign is a go to spot for photo ops! @JohnTory has encouraged citizens to suggest a touring schedule for the sign once the games wrap up.

toronto 1

Summer is short — take time to soak in the sun and explore how a slight deviation to your commuting routine could reveal the unexpected.

Posted in Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’ll have that painting and a scone with my latte…

I’m always thrilled when the unexpected happens. Especially if it’s a ‘good’ unexpected. (Trust me the bad unexpected, such as locking yourself out of the house — and it’s pouring, not good.) Each week, we do our best to be active by running. Our track in Newmarket @TownofNewmarket offers great trails around Fairy Lake #Riverwalk. Post runs, you can find us at @covernotes, #covernotes a great coffee shop and great meeting place for the community. It’s there that the unexpected happens for me as they regularly feature local artists.

Image from HGB Design – Facebook

Image from HGB Design – Facebook

Right now you can check out a series of great photographs from Hans Backer – HGB Designs @HGBPHOTO.

BTW…HGB is available on ETSY too if a trip isn’t feasible.

BTW…HGB is available on ETSY too if a trip isn’t feasible.


To me it makes great sense for any business with walls to offer them up. For very little effort you improve your décor while providing local artists the opportunity to share their work with a captive community who may have fewer options when it comes to seeing art in a local art gallery.

Over the past several months, Covernotes has featured three very unique artists: photography by Hans Backer, mixed media from Josée Savaria  @joseesavaria and textile art from Heike Blohm. So different, so talented and all from Newmarket! I tend to have time to see and buy art when I’m on vacation but these mini art shows remind me about the great talent right in my back yard.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Community Champion

Curating the art isn’t random; check out Covernotes website to learn more about their featured artists and upcoming exhibits.


Is there a business in your neighbourhood sharing the good work of local artists? I would love to hear about them.

Posted in Art, canadian, local | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The day after Canada Day

There are 10 days left to catch the fantastic “From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia” at the @ago. I was a tourist in my own town and spent the afternoon at this exhibit and the other that’s just opened recently: “Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic.”  You have some time on the second; it’s in town until September 20. But doesn’t it make sense to make a day of it seeing truly exquisite art?

"Trees are so much more sensible than people, steadier and more enduring."

“Trees are so much more sensible than people, steadier and more enduring.”

I have always admired Emily Carr but likely hold her in even more esteem after learning more about her in this show. There are many facets of her life that will fascinate, but for me it’s her passion for nature and trees. I’m a bit of a tree nut. I believe they soothe, calm, nurture; in addition to all the life they bring. I’m on board with her many assessments which are conveyed throughout.

While I will share some of what you’ll have the great privilege of seeing, (much better in person) it is her wise words, unfiltered that are most endearing. And those will require a wander through!


carr4 carr5 Carr3

To broaden your understanding of what mattered to Carr, be sure to pick up the accompanying guide.

Grab a refreshment and then travel to the next exhibit.

“Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic.”  

This is a jougrant woodrney across the Americas you won’t soon forget, that features artists across years and miles. Favorites for me included Grant Wood, Georgia O’Keefe, the oft mentioned here, Carr, Anne Savage and Lawren Harris.

lawren harris









It is unfortunately “Sold Out” but the AGO hosts ‘First Thursdays’ and bring patrons a truly fun filled experience. Visit, check out their calendar of special events and pencil one in. Many of these are held in the evening after the gallery closes to the general population, so it offers guests a unique way to experience art!







Posted in Art, canadian, exhibits | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

To George Street…shall we?

I’m a big fan of Great Big Sea @Great_Big_Sea. And Alan Doyle. And of George Street in St. John’s, Newfoundland. If you’ve been, you know why. If you haven’t, put it on your list. There’s no place like it. So you’re likely wondering, what’s the link to art? Well just down a bit, still on George St. is a wonderful place that should be on your tour of St. John’s: Emma Butler Gallery. It’s here you will find an impressive list of exhibitors. It includes Mary Pratt and Christopher Pratt. (Both were recently part of the Alex Colville exhibit at the AGO @ago.) For me, one of the artists that stood out was a gentleman from France – Jean-Claude (JC) Roy.

From Emma Butler Gallery. See more JC Roy works on her website.

From Emma Butler Gallery. See more JC Roy works on the Gallery website.

There are times when you see something you want, but you second guess yourself, you hold back. That’s what happened to me the first time I saw one of his paintings. I hesitated and by the time I decided that ‘St. John’s after the storm’ was for me, Emma delivered the crushing blow — it’s sold.

I still think about that painting; it had tremendous energy, moodiness and movement and something else too; a signature of the artist, a very distinctive take of the sun in the sky.

Star struck…in France

The building with the large 'orangish' roof is an important focal point!

The building with the large ‘orange-ish’ roof is an important focal point!

A few years later we returned to Newfoundland and took a detour to the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon @spm_pm #ispm for the 400 anniversary of the Francophonie.
It’s a journey to be sure but you step off the ferry into a very quaint community that really feels like France despite its proximity to Canada. A tour doesn’t take long but the islands have a history and are worth a visit. During the celebration, the entire town came into the public square to eat and toast one another and it was there, off in a corner, that I spied an artist and an easel.  picture of JCAnd it was there that I saw that signature sun being painted as JC captured the euphoria of the crowd in celebration. I introduced myself and gushed that I was a big fan! For me, it was akin to meeting a rock star! We took this photo of JC at work and watched how the painting developed in a very short space of time.

Owning a memory

Once back to St. John’s we decided we had to have the piece from the town square, after all — we were part of that day! I contacted Emma who indicated that the mayor of St. Pierre had a request in — it looked like I was foiled again.

From a street party to our kitchen!

From a street party to our kitchen!

Days went by, the vacation was wrapping up, and just before we were about to leave, I got the call. The mayor had a change of heart, the painting was available — was I still interested?

Well I’m sure you can guess the outcome. The painting did make its way back to Ontario and is one of our most cherished items.

“…it will make their home a happier place”

alan doyle where i belongNow why Great Big Sea? This year I grabbed Alan Doyle’s @alanthomasdoyle book about growing up, starting GBS and so on. Where I Belong is such a fun book to read (and LOL funny) and although we grew up in different parts of Canada, I found his stories about growing up in Petty Harbour not so different to mine on the prairies. In one chapter, he describes how he and his pals came upon a man near the church (in Petty Harbour) out painting. As I was reading this passage, the first thing that jumped into my head was ‘could it be JC?’ While the lads thought they might throw rocks at this stranger (as was the norm with the gang) Alan determined no, not this time. While the others took off, he decided to stay and watch, as he was fascinated. A conversation ensued and JC asked Alan what he thought? “It looks like a dream.” What stood out even then to an 8 year old Alan was the shape of the sun, it wasn’t round. Let’s face it, when you are 8 — the sun is round. ‘Not my sun,’ replied JC (ch. 2 “The Way Things Were”).

Years later, Alan purchased a JC Roy, and it hangs prominently in his kitchen (as does mine) — and where, just like JC had told him years earlier, it does “make [his] home a happier place.”

About Jean-Claude Roy: He describes his style as expressionist-colourist; his paintings can be found in many private and public collections, including the Government of Newfoundland. (In Ontario, check out the Bartlett Gallery for a JC exhibition.)

Posted in Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment