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Sarnia Artists’ Workshop: If it’s not baroque, don’t fix it

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One of Sarnia’s most enduring arts groups was launched by the generosity of a famed Canadian painter.

Or so the story goes.

Group of Seven artist A. Y. Jackson was friends of a Sarnia dentist named Spaulding. Jackson gave Spaulding one of his paintings. It was auctioned off at Central United Church, and the proceeds launched the Sarnia Artists’ Workshop.

That was 50 years ago and as SAW marks the anniversary a lot of history has surfaced in its archival scrapbook.

“The Jackson story is an urban art myth at this point,” said club spokesperson Karen Schaw. “I’m gathering more information and I’m still trying to confirm it.”

Whatever the case, the Workshop undoubtedly began in 1964 because of the mutual interest in art of two Sarnia housewives, Mary Phelps and Pearl Annard, who recruited eight more women.

“They painted in people’s homes and then in a barn … The common bond was a love of painting and drawing and being creative,” Schaw said.

SAW grew from those original 10 into a 138-member collective that today runs art classes, workshops and shows spanning all the visual arts.

The secret of the group’s longevity is its willingness to share ideas and learn together, Schaw said.

“And there’s always been someone willing to step up and take a lead. That’s really important, and we’ve been lucky that way.”

About 80 past and current members gathered to share a half-century of memories over lunch at the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club on May 28.

And on June 1 a new show opens at Gallery in the Grove.

SAW started Sarnia’s waterfront arts day for children and was instrumental in launching the first arts programs at the new Lambton College.

Potters were invited to join in1972, and shortly after jewelers and weavers and woodworkers began exhibiting as well.

“Today, we also have a lot of photographers,” Schaw said. “We cover all the visual arts.


WHAT: ‘Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy’ art show and sale

WHO: Sarnia Artists’ Workshop

WHERE: Gallery in the Grove, 2618 Hamilton Rd.

WHEN: Sunday, June 1, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

OTHER: Show runs until June 21




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