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Historical Walking Tours Return for August


After a short break, Historical Walking Tours are back! These guided tours run approximately two hours in length and explore Guelph’s vibrant cultural past through various landmarks and historic buildings. The Walking Tour season runs annually from April to October but every year the outdoor tours go on hold for the month of July in order to escape from the occasionally unbearable mid-summer heat.

A quick history: The tours got started back in 1977, led by the late Professor Gordon Couling under the sponsorship of Guelph Arts Council to celebrate the city’s sesquicentennial. Couling was a faculty member at the University of Guelph for twenty-five years where, prior to his retirement in 1974, he served as chairman of the Department of Fine Art. He was also actively involved in helping to develop civic awareness of Guelph’s architectural history as the first chairman of the City’s Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC), holding that position until his passing in 1984. Guelph Arts Council began offering regular Historic Walking Tours shortly afterwards in 1986 in memory of Professor Gordon Couling.

Six Historical Walking Tour routes are currently offered:

Tour I: Where Guelph Began explores Guelph’s original market square area, nearly 24 acres laid out by John Galt in 1827.

Tour II: Downtown Walkabout covers the historic architecture of present downtown Guelph.

Tour III: Slopes of the Speed looks at the area close to the Speed River where many of Guelph's most distinguished historical homes are located.

Tour IV: Altar and Hearth in Victorian Guelph glimpses into churches and homes of the Victorian era, offered in two parts.

Tour V: Brooklyn and the College Hill looks at one of Guelph's early industrial sections on the south side of the Speed River, as well as the College Hill area, and includes some of the city’s best examples of masonry and stone carving.

Tour VI: Ward One Guelph reveals the rich variety of historic architecture and diversity of the residents who formed Guelph in this area, southeast of the downtown, between the Speed and Eramosa Rivers. Particular attention is devoted to residential/industrial proximity and the city’s early Italian community.

The tours are led by a fantastic group of volunteers that repeatedly devote their time and energy to ensure the longstanding series continues. Walking Tour guide Terry Crowley proudly led the first Guelph Arts Council Historical Walking Tour in memory of Gordon Couling in 1986, and is still a regular tour guide today. “The walking tours attract a greater range of people than most Arts Council events each year,” explains Terry. “They show people how architecture is art, and how fortunate this city is in its diverse architectural heritage.”

Admission to Historical Walking Tours is $5 and illustrated guidebooks are available for $5. The remaining tours will commence Sunday, August 10 and continue every Sunday until October 12. The complete 2014 Historical Walking Tour schedule is available on our online events calendar. See you there! 

By Noelle Lalonde

Local Artist is Inspiring Youth


 Garth Laidlaw (far left) leading his life drawing workshop at Hillside last summer. Photo taken by Shawna Smith.

Guelph is bubbling with young, active individuals eager to make their mark on our creative community. Garth Laidlaw, an independent arts educator and founder of ArtStory and Guelph Art Hub, is one of those individuals. Garth recently graduated from Sheridan Collage for Animation in May of 2012 and hasn’t wasted any time.

Garth devotes his time to encouraging others in our community to create, share, and pursue professional artistic practices of their own. This summer, Garth teamed up with art instructor and top portfolio coach Karen Kesteloot of PortPrep to design portfolio-building courses for high school students considering the arts as a career. Together they offer fifteen practical courses that will help you create your individual portfolio and increase your chance of acceptance into top arts intuitions in the country.

“We realized there’s a large knowledge gap between people that apply to specialized direct schools,” explained Garth. “So we really wanted to inform high school students and help them prepare for what exactly is expected of them...there is so much grey area.”

Garth also founded a Guelph-based animation and illustration business, ArtStory, and works collaboratively with a variety of local businesses, individuals and organizations to tell their stories through animation and illustration practices. Children’s storybooks, educational and instructional videos, and promotional materials are among the projects ArtStory has been involved with in the past. Garth is currently collaborating with writer Steph-Marie Szenasi on Project Truckfort, a children’s book series that is aiming for release in spring of 2015.

The Laidlaw family hosts weekly life drawing sessions at their home, which they call the Guelph Art Hub. Life drawing is the act of drawing from a live nude model in order to practice and develop your rendering skills as an artist. The sessions have no teacher, unless requested, and welcome beginners and experienced artists alike.

Garth strives to foster an accessible and inclusive arts community that pushes boundaries, blurs mediums and takes risks. Guelph is fortunate to have such encouraging young artist/teachers in our midst.

By Noelle Lalonde

Take a Little Road Trip to Riverfest!

Why not wrap up summer with Riverfest Elora 2014, a two-day outdoor music festival that celebrates community, music, food, and art! Riverfest is held in beautiful downtown Elora at Bissell Park on the banks of the Grand River on August 22 and 23. Musical acts include Blue Rodeo, Serena Ryder, Charles Bradley, Arkells, Dan Mangan, and many more.


Haydn Watters, Communications Coordinator for Riverfest 2014, filled us in on what it takes to organize this event. “The festival is entirely a community effort. Local restaurants cater and act as the green rooms/hospitality for the musicians. B&Bs open their doors and provide accommodations. Shops close for the weekend and direct their traffic to the festival. Individuals donate whatever is needed…the town really just wants to do their part to make the festival happen. It truly is a festival run by the town.” Watters, who is headed into his fourth year of Journalism at University of King's College in Halifax, has been intimately involved with the festival since its inaugural year in 2009. During the first year of the festival, he helped sell band merchandise, and has since worked on the sponsorship committee, as a co-director, and communications coordinator.

Riverfest has expanded in more recent years to include an area for local artisans to display their work. Artisan’s Alley showcases artists of a variety of disciplines from blown glass to recycled clothing and paintings on wood. “Having artisans at the show adds a whole other dynamic to the festival,” explains Watters. “It helps spotlight the local arts community beyond our musicians.”

In early March, the festival organizers send out an open call for artisans, food vendors and musicians who embody the festival’s community-based mandate. In addition to open submissions, the committee creates a wish list of headlining musicians they envision for the festival and directly contacts their agents.

The festival was founded in 2009 by artist Marilyn Koop. Marilyn was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and passed away at the beginning of 2012. The remaining organizers, including the Watters family, struggled with whether or not to continue the festival but after much deliberation decided to move forward. The festival now continues in her memory.

By Noelle Lalonde

Making GAC Membership Accessible


Membership at Guelph Arts Council has changed recently and it’s a great time to get involved, whether you’re an artist, arts organization, or a supporter of the arts! During the last year, as we’ve looked to streamline our activities and better serve the artists and residents of the Guelph community, a new membership structure was created. Our membership priorities, in keeping with our organizational strategic goals, are to keep costs accessible, encourage participation, and ensure value.

GAC membership is now available in three easy, reasonably priced levels: General, Artist and Organization. Here’s a quick look:


Individuals who care about the arts in our community can now be a part of GAC by becoming a General Member. For only $5 annually, you can add your voice in support of the work of GAC, championing arts and culture in Guelph. You’ll receive our bi-weekly e-newsletter, Arts Blast, as well as communications about the activities of GAC and the Guelph arts scene. For the price of a single latte, you’ll be part of GAC’s member community for a full year!


Artists of all disciplines are invited to become members of Guelph Arts Council. For just $30 per year, you’ll receive all of our communications, updates on artist and space opportunities, discounts on workshops and programs, a profile page on our fresh new website, and more. Lots of ways for you to connect, grow, get involved, and spread the word about your work!


Arts organizations, educational institutions and non-profits are invited to become members at our Organization level for only $50 annually. You’ll receive membership discounts for your own members if they choose to become individual artist members, an organizational profile page on our new site, discounts on conferences and workshops, listing of your events on our online calendar, discounts on advertisements, and more.

We hope everyone will join us as we head into our 40th year. Let’s show off the vast, versatile, and truly dynamic arts and culture community we are so fortunate to have here in Guelph. Head over to our Membership page now to register!

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