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When you support Guelph Arts Council, you support people like Abby Nowakowski and Ahmri Vandeborne.

by Jane Litchfield 


These two young artists are out to change the way people look at the world around them. Both in their final year at University of Guelph’s Studio Art program, they create collaborative artwork together as Ahmri + Abby. They help people notice things they walk by every day, but never really see, like a perfectly square little hole in the wall, or bricks peeking through a crack in plaster. “If you take time to pay attention to your surroundings, you may find something beautiful,” Abby says.

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Ahmri Vandeborne and Abby Nowakowski (image by Jane Litchfield)

Separately, they also explore how people interact with the world around them. Ahmri’s work as an interdisciplinary artist is based on the environment, the landscape, and the human impact on nature. She grew up in an environmentally conscious family and studied geography and environmental science along with her art studies to inform her practice. “I’m interested in why humans do what they do,” Ahmri says. For example, she is interested in the way some people look at climate change and say, ‘I can’t do anything about it,’ and the psychology behind that.

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Creating a Vision for Guelph’s New Main Library - A Conversation with Steve Kraft

by Patti Broughton


I had the opportunity to attend the Baker Street Redevelopment open house on November 29 at the River Run Centre. The vision for this mixed-use private and major institutional development is as a northern anchor for the downtown. It will provide a high profile location for a new main branch of Guelph Public Library, a residential tower, an institutional partner, commercial space, an urban square, and parking. I went to the meeting as the Director of Guelph Arts Council, which advocates for and supports cultural initiatives, including creative spaces.

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Artist's Rendering:  Baker District
Winter view of public square from library.   
Windmill Developments, Urban Equation, Diamond Schmitt and DTAH Architects

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Gordon Hill Press: Guelph's Brand New Literary Publisher

by Jeremy Luke Hill


Growing up in Guelph as a reader and a writer and book lover, it always seemed sad to me that we didn’t have a publisher in the city. There was no trade publisher (because, I was told, we were too small and too close to Toronto), no university press (because Guelph was originally founded as an agricultural college rather than an academic institution), and no literary publisher closer than Erin (for reasons that nobody could quite explain to me). I eventually discovered that there was an office of Broadview Press in town, and there have been some very small presses and publishers of various sorts sprout and fade over the years (including some ongoing ventures that I’ve had a hand in), but nothing that engaged in a national conversation about books and literature.

This past spring I thought I had an opportunity to do something about that. I knew that The Porcupine’s Quill press in Erin was for sale, and circumstances seemed to make buying it a possibility. Nothing came of those negotiations in the end, but my friend Shane Neilson and I had already put so much work into preparing for that purchase, that we decided to venture out on our own and found a brand new, nationally distributed, literary publisher.

And so Gordon Hill Press was born, with Shane as the editor and me as the publisher.

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Jeremy Luke Hill, co-founder of Gordon Hill Press (image courtesy of the artist)

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Beading Our Identity: “The Flower Beadwork People”

by Emily Hearn


When European settlers came to Turtle Island and began marrying the First Peoples here, an entirely unique nation was born. The children of these first marriages had to uncover their own place in this world. It was a complicated task, to balance the almost oppositional heritages passed down to them, and then to pass their distinct new culture down to their own children.

Navigating the territory between the old ways of Indigenous ancestors and the new ideas of the European immigrants was by no means easy. At times, attempts at forging an identity in the country were a brutal endeavour. Villages were burned down, leaders were hanged, battles were waged, and children were snatched away to residential schools. Despite repeated attempts to stifle the emerging culture, the young people proved resilient. But still, it is difficult to build a brand new culture, especially in the face of such resistance.

And so we, the Métis, beaded ourselves into the fabric of Canada’s history.

At this point, many Indigenous women were decorating clothing and items with dyed porcupine quills, which mostly limited them to making geometric shapes and designs. However, Métis children learned from the Grey Nuns (soeurs grises) how to do French silk embroidery, which emphasized the delicate floral patterns that were very popular in Europe.

A purple quillwork and beadwork flower by 4 Sisters Métis Beadwork.

The Métis combined this new design knowledge with the traditional quillwork used in the communities of the First Peoples. From this blend, the distinctive Métis beadwork style emerged. They would use coloured seed beads to create vibrant, textured images of flowers, which stood out from the styles that had existed prior. Thus, the Métis became known as “the flower beadwork people.”

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