Three new exhibitions mark the reopening of the Woodstock Art Gallery

When the Woodstock Art Gallery reopens to the public later in February, three intriguing new exhibits are waiting to be seen.

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When the Woodstock Art Gallery reopens to the public later in February, three intriguing new exhibits are waiting to be seen.

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Closed since mid-November for a major roof repair, as well as delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gallery’s reopening on February 19 – and this suite of new exhibitions – will roughly coincide with the day of family.

“We’re really excited to finally be reopening again. It’s been quite a long time with COVID, but we’re thrilled and excited that on Family Day we’ll have a whole new series of exhibits that we can bring to Woodstock and in Oxford County,” said Mary Reid, director and curator of the Woodstock Art Gallery.

As part of Family Day celebrations on Monday, February 21, the gallery will be partnering with Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada for a giveaway of artwork.

The 400 art bags will be distributed – one per family – via curbside pickup on a first-come, first-serve basis. Reid recommended showing up early for the giveaway because art bags tend to be extremely popular.

“The first time we did it, they ran out in 10 minutes,” Reid said.

The first new exhibition in the downtown gallery space features artwork designed to encourage contemplation and relaxation.

“The idea is just to slow down — maybe not necessarily meditate — but to shift into a much more peaceful, relaxed sort of presence,” Reid said.

The exhibition, A Moment of Mindfulness, features selections from the gallery’s permanent collection that inspire the state of ‘being present’.

“With COVID, we’re all clinging to so much stress and anxiety, and we really wanted to create an exhibit that provides some respite, some relief, so when you leave the exhibit you feel lighter and you you generally feel better about everything,” Reid said.

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The second exhibition, presented on the second floor of the gallery, is titled Many Lives Mark this Place and features the work of artist John Hartman.

Hartman is known for his landscape paintings, but has recently turned to portraits, Reid said. This collection is a series of portraits of various famous Canadian authors among landscapes of great personal significance.

“If you like Canadian fiction and non-fiction, a lot of this stuff will be very recognizable to you,” Reid said.

While there are 37 pieces available in this collection, the Woodstock gallery will only display 11 of the portraits due to their large sizes.

The traveling collection, originally shown at the McMicheal Canadian Art Collection in March 2020, was temporarily suspended due to COVID, but is circulating again, Reid said. The exhibit will eventually travel to Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland before ending its tour in Sarnia by 2023.

The latest exhibition, Common Collective: Controlled Burn, features works by new media artists based near Stratford.

These artists primarily work with projection, video and sound, Reid said.

For this show, the artists decided to pay homage to family farms by taking video and sound of a burning barn and using it to reflect what they see happening to farming and changing farming practices in southwestern Ontario,” Reid said.

“We’re really excited,” Reid added of showing these new exhibits in person.

The gallery will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on February 19 and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on February 21.

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