AGN Spotlights Creative Processes

Singer/Songwriter (and columnist for The Link), David Newland. Photo: David Goodfellow

The Link, Winter 2018
| by Elizabeth Palermo |

Engaging with local arts and culture is generally a good indicator that people are doing well mentally and socially, according to the ‘Canadian Index of Wellbeing.’ That is, if we’re not too busy to connect with community! With people’s increasingly full schedules, arts organizations have to get creative to keep audiences coming out. For the Art Gallery of Northumberland (AGN), Spotlight Series was created to connect people through art to enjoy the local cultural vibe.

The series is a first for the gallery to fundraise for its new education initiative for all ages that aims to combine social interaction with learning. Four unique events (the first one having launched the series in October) will each feature local artists and their passion for their art form – from songwriting, memoirs and fiction, to documentary filmmaking.

“The series is a first for the gallery to fundraise for its new education initiative for all ages that aims to combine social interaction with learning.”

Northumberland folk musician and series host Saskia Tomkins. Photo: Ken Solilo.

“Each evening will transform the gallery into an intimate performance space as we shine the spotlight on the artist’s journey of honing and shaping their craft from start to finish,” says AGN Executive Director Olinda Casimiro. “Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions and be invited to mingle and engage in conversation.”

The series offers unique insights and untold stories, and is hosted by Northumberland folk musician Saskia Tomkins who plays and teaches violin, viola, cello and nyckelharpa, and plays in three bands, including her family’s ‘Clan Hannigan.’

On December 6 at 7 pm authors Marnie Bickle, Jennifer Bogart, Shane Joseph and Cynthia Reyes will read from their latest works and form a panel to discuss what home means to them from the perspectives of immigrant, Indigenous and settler.

Bickle’s book Native Born Son tells of life in the Arctic in the 1920s through the eyes of a young boy whose accounts were discovered in an attic north of Port Hope. He was born into a multi-generational line of traders, trappers and Hudson’s Bay Company employees who, since the late 1700s, lived alongside and intermarried with Indigenous people. It’s a social history with deep respect for the Indigenous people’s way of life and wise stewardship of natural resources, “depicting life at the end of an era – before radio communication, snowmobiles or power boats – a nomadic life on the verge of extinction.”

On February 21, award-winning film producer/director Robert Hilscher will screen his documentary Painting the Wilderness of the Oxtongue and discuss the fascinating connection between a scenic northern hamlet and Canada’s iconic painters, ‘The Group of Seven.’ The gallery hopes the overarching theme of connection in each event will draw people to attend the entire series.

Author, Marnie Bickle. Photo: Ken Solilo

For singer/songwriter David Newland, this is an opportunity to engage with the community and for artists to meet other artists. Newland will conclude the inaugural series on May 2 with songs inspired by the Canadian landscape.

“[That’s] what really motivates me and inspires all my work. I’ve written songs from coast to coast and there’s something special about expressing a sense of place in music,” says Newland, a captivating storyteller who believes it’s all the more important for the arts to bring people together and help expand the imagination during this time of social, environmental and cultural change.

His forthcoming album Northbound is a collection of stories in song from his travels across the Canadian high Arctic over the past six years in collaboration with local artists Saskia Tomkins, Sam Allison, Steafan and Oisin Hannigan and Ottawa-based Inuit throat-singing duo Siqiniup Qilauta (Sunsdrum). He plans to use the intimacy of the gallery space to get into the creation of his songs.

“I think that people are often interested in process and context,” says Newland. “I’m looking forward to engaging with folks about the material and where it comes from.”

Tickets to each event in support of the AGN Education Initiative are $20 for AGN members and $30 for non-members. For more information, visit

Elizabeth Palermo of Campbellcroft likes to support the arts. She works for Sounds of the Next Generation in fund development and is a volunteer Co-Chair for the AGN Spotlight Series.

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