Happy National Volunteer Week!

The first thing I did when I posted my 2014 calendar at my desk was highlight National Volunteer Week so I could look forward to celebrating KW|AG’s volunteers. A lot of what goes on at the gallery happens because of our dedicated team of volunteers; I feel like every time a volunteer commits to a project or event there is simply no way to express the amount of gratitude we have for their help. So, now that it is finally National Volunteer Week I would like to take this great opportunity to gloat about some of the work volunteers do with KW|AG, and to attempt to say thanks. I mean, I’ve only been waiting for this week since last April…

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Black & Gold committee (left to right): Lynne Wilson, Sheila Yendt, Gail Wise, Laurel Pedersen, Sara Munroe, Eleanor Mueller, Sharon Morton and Caroline Oliver.

Some people may not know that KWAG is a registered charity. Among other things, this means that a lot of our projects rely heavily on volunteer support. Events throughout the year such as Family Sundays and exhibition openings involve planning and preparation and would not be the successes they are without the support of our volunteers. The Black & Gold Gala Committee is volunteer-driven, and their work makes a huge contribution to KW|AG. Volunteers play a role at every level of the Gallery’s operations; members of KW|AG’s Board of Directors are volunteers, and their leadership helps guide the Gallery to success and create connections in the community. The generosity of our volunteers goes beyond dedication of their time. They bring a wealth of their own amazing talents, such as flower arranging, photography, languages, sales and customer service. They lend their education, experience, ideas and professional networks to projects to ensure they are successes. These commitments, talents and abilities help enrich the KW|AG experience for everyone – patrons and staff alike.

Shashi Bangera (left) and Xiaolu Yang (right) volunteering at the Multicultural Festival in 2013, helping kids make pin-wheels in Victoria Park.

Shashi Bangera (left) and Xiaolu Yang (right) volunteers at KW|AG’s booth in the Multicultural Festival in 2013, helping kids make pin-wheels in Victoria Park.

In 2013 KW|AG recorded approximately 1,900 hours of volunteer time – that’s A LOT of hours! It is immensely humbling that our volunteers so willingly share their time and energy on weekends, holidays, evenings and during their own working hours. Beyond enhancing the Gallery in big and little ways, perhaps the greatest result of our volunteers’ hard work this past year is that the Gallery has an increasingly strong presence in our community. This measure of success means a great deal for KW|AG and it is with pride that we say:  Thank you KWAG Volunteers, for everything you do. I feel like it is said a lot, but truly KW|AG couldn’t do it if it weren’t for you.

By: Becky Moore, Visitor Services & Volunteer Coordinator.

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Seeing Both Sides

The worlds created by the exquisitely detailed watercolours in Tristram Landsdowne’s solo exhibition, Provisional Futures at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, are paradoxical and puzzling, like a two-faced Janus that can see in both directions at once. Elements of destruction are depicted in soothing pastel colours. There is evidence of human activity (platforms, pillars, doors, staircases), but not a soul in sight. Lush vegetation springs enthusiastically out of inhospitable rock surfaces and cliffs. A similarly jarring experience launched Lansdowne’s artistic voyage, as he moved from the idyllic landscapes of his home town in Victoria BC to the hard-surface, skyscraper world of downtown Toronto.

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The landscape in Victoria BC where Tristram Lansdowne grew up.

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The setting Lansdowne moved to from Victoria to attend OCAD, the large white building pictured above.

Tristram’s surroundings once he moved to Toronto to attend OCAD, the black and white building in this photograph.

“I went from spending time outdoors, with seascapes, fields and mountains, to the claustrophobic surroundings of OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design on McCaul Street in downtown Toronto). “It was jarring. There was no landscape,” he noted at a recent artist’s talk, presented in conjunction with the exhibition opening. “But there was infrastructure – concrete, metal and buildings.” He became interested in how these elements interacted with the landscape, and began to imagine an elaborate below-ground infrastructure world in his paintings, working within a dichotomous framework of what can be seen and what cannot.

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Tristram Lansdowne, Wabash Community Centre, 2008 – an example of the work in which he begins imagining elaborate worlds below-ground.

“That dichotomy provides a way to explore an alternative narrative. I am interested in images that are hybrid… and in finding a purpose for something that has been abandoned.” His work has been strongly influenced by his father, the renowned wildlife artist J. Fenwick Lansdowne, and by the grandfather of German landscape painters, Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840). Friedrich’s work was the starting point for After The Storm (2010), one of the works included in the current exhibition. “I’ve always loved Friedrich’s paintings of oak trees,” explains Lansdowne, “so I decided I would make a painting of an oak tree. But this is where it gets really nerdy – European Oaks don’t look anything like the oak trees I grew up with, called Gary Oaks. I couldn’t really find a tree that fit the bill, so I painted a “Frankentree,” concocted from different images. Then I crashed a piece of architecture into the top branches… to acknowledge that I was crashing Friedrich’s party, that I was invading it in a clumsy way, intruding upon it. “

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Caspar David Friedrich. Oak Tree in the Snow, 1929Picture6Gary Oak

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Tristram Lansdowne, After the Storm, 2010

Another striking motif in Lansdowne’s work is that of the island, which serves as a metaphor for a fully formed world wherein the author or narrator establishes the parameters of the story. While the islands may be fictional and not actual places one can find on a map, they are nevertheless built out of historical references. His use of lush tropical colours, imagery that includes ruins, waterfalls and starry skies, and backgrounds that look like museum-type diorama settings only serve to “heighten the artifice as much as possible. “ He describes the use of these elements as intentionally “cheesy.’

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Tristram Lansdowne, Axis Mundi, 2012, an example of the island motif.

“Islands have been used in plenty of works of literature that deal with Utopian ideas. Most importantly, it is a limited universe, one in which you as the creator can choose a set of variables and let them play out.” His use of watercolours as a medium is in itself a paradox. Often associated with hobbyist and amateur painters, he sees watercolour as a hybrid medium. “Some call it drawing, some call it painting. It has been used in different fields as well as in art, architecture and botany.”

In Lansdowne’s expert hands the end result is intricate, intense, detailed and fascinating.

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Tristram Lansdowne, The Destroyer (homage to Bruno Taut), 2012

As one Gallery visitor to the exhibition noted in the guest book, “It is retrospective as well as futuristic. It shows the tragedy of a human-destroyed earth by juxtaposing it with a beautiful past”.

What sides do you see?

Provisional Futures is on view in the Eastman Gallery through Sunday April 27.

By: Caroline Oliver, Director of Development & Marketing, KW|AG

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Interesting connections between the art world and the work of corporate law.

It was standing room only for Tristram Lansdowne’s artist talk on Friday March 21, which helped launch the opening of this solo exhibition, Provisional Futures, in the Eastman Gallery. The evening also included a book launch for two KW|AG publications, Milutin Gubash and Ecotopia.

Special thanks go to the Gowlings law firm for their sponsorship of the evening, which was attended by more than 200 people. In his remarks, Gowlings representative Bryce Kraeker (and Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery Board member), drew some interesting connections between the art world and the work of corporate law.

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Bryce Kraeker, Gowlings representative (and Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery Board member) saying a few words at the opening reception for Tristram Lansdowne’s exhibition, Provisional Futures.

“With all the rules and statutes and policies and procedures that lawyers deal with, you might be surprised to learn that law is, in fact, a very creative discipline. Good corporate lawyers think outside the box to develop unique, customized creative solutions to assist our clients to achieve their business objectives. Keeping the creative juices flowing, however, requires inspiration.

Four years ago, I didn’t know a thing about contemporary art. I then took the opportunity to serve the community by sitting on the art gallery’s board. I started, very slowly, to learn about art. But once you catch the contemporary art fever, it quickly becomes obsessive. Do I “get it”? Not a chance. Do I know what I like? Yes. Am I challenged to think and see beyond my ordinary everyday experiences? You bet. Am I convinced that the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery is a source of profound inspiration, and a vital community asset that showcases the best of Canadian art? Absolutely! “

A special thank you to Bryce and to Gowlings for your support of the arts and more specifically The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. We at the gallery appreciate your spirit of adventure that led you to get connected with contemporary art. May many others also catch the contemporary art fever. But a word of advice – once you catch it, the only cure is to continue to enjoy the many wonderful experiences that contemporary art has to offer.

Tristram Lansdowne exhibition, Provisional Futures, is on view in the Eastman Gallery until April 27. Thanks to our corporate partners, admission to the Gallery is FREE .

By: Caroline Oliver, Director of Development & Marketing, KW|AG

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Show & Tell at KW|AG takes us back.

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The Gallery’s second Show & Tell event took place recently at KW|AG, in partnership with Kitchener Public Library. It was a delight to see familiar and new faces as well as interesting objects brought in by those who planned to … Continue reading

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The Next Chapter: From Group of Seven to Painters 11

The most recent series of Contemporary Art 101 Lunch Time lectures wrapped up at the end of February with a presentation by Timmy Chandler, an MA candidate in the University of Guelph’s Masters of Art History and Visual Culture program, about the Gallery’s Permanent Collection. Inspired by the current exhibition in the Main Gallery, A Story of Canadian Art: As Told by the Hart House Collection, Timmy took a look at the next chapter in that story: the Canadian art scene’s struggle to move beyond the influence of the Group of Seven. Although they themselves represented a radical break from the past, the Group of Seven’s tremendous popularity in the early 20th Century in turn became a hindrance for the younger artists who followed them.

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A full house in KW|AG’s Community Access Space for Timmy Chandler’s talk on what and who came after the Group of Seven.

“The Group of Seven’s unprecedented popularity in Canada led to the more prominent members basically becoming the arbiters of taste in the community,” notes Chandler. “While Europe and the United States began to develop more Modern and non-representational styles very rapidly, it became very obvious that Canada was stuck in the 19th Century while the rest of the world progressed. These new art styles began to focus much more heavily on thought and theory than on technique or representation and this caused a dramatic shift in aesthetic style in the rest of the world.”

Toronto’s break from the past emerged from an unlikely, but perhaps fitting source – a store window display at the flagship Simpsons & Co. retail location, at the corner of King and Queen Streets in Toronto (Simpsons was later purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Company). William Ronald, a recent graduate of the Ontario College of Art, worked as a display artist at Simpsons. Ronald convinced the retailer to include a number of abstract paintings by Canadian painters as part of a home furnishings window display. The display was called Abstracts at Home and included paintings by Ronald, Jack Bush, Kazuo Nakamura, Alexandra Luke, Ray Mead, Oscar Cahén and Tom Hodgson, many of whom worked as designers for advertising firms. This was the first prominent exposure that the Toronto public had to abstract art. There was an opening for the display and after the show Ronald organized a meeting for the exhibiting artists at his studio; all attended, with the exception of Jack Bush. In addition to the artists named above, artists at the meeting also included Jock MacDonald, Hortense Gordon, Walter Yarwood and Harold Town. It was at this meeting that the initial idea for the Painters Eleven group was formed.

A frequent visitor to “The Big Apple”, in 1955 Ronald moved to New York City, where he struck up friendships with many painters and critics associated with Abstract-Expressionism, including the tremendously influential art critic Clement Greenberg. Largely due to Ronald’s influence and connections, Painters Eleven were invited to exhibit in the 20th annual American Abstract Artists exhibition in New York in 1956. Bush, MacDonald and Alexandra Luke joined Ronald at the exhibition, where their work received both exposure and acceptance. The group subsequently persuaded Greenberg to visit their studios in Toronto, which led to his support and championing of the work of Jack Bush.
As Chandler explained, “In addition to the high esteem that Greenberg had for him, Bush had 26 international solo shows to his credit, a number which dwarfs all other members of the group. He is arguably the most successful Canadian painter in history. According to Greenberg, “If there is a Canadian tradition, Jack started it.”

Both William Ronald and Jack Bush are well represented in KW|AG’s Permanent Collection. The Gallery holds nine works by Jack Bush (two paintings and seven prints), and 50 by William Ronald (34 paintings and 16 prints), including all 18 of his Prime Ministers series. Works by both artists are regularly included in the Gallery’s Permanent Collection exhibitions.

A Story of Canadian Art as Told by the Hart House Collection is on view at the Gallery through March 22.

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Installation view of A Story of Canadian Art: As Told by the Hart House Collection

The Community Curator Exhibition in the Corridor Gallery, Art Value|Value Art, on view through April 27, features works from the Permanent Collection.

By Caroline Oliver, Director of Development & Marketing, KW|AG

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Contemporary Art 101 – Aleesa Cohene talks about her process.

The Gallery’s latest round of Contemporary Art 101 lectures got underway Thursday February 6 at noon, with a very thoughtful talk by artist Aleesa Cohene. The lecture series offers a bite-size introduction to the world of Contemporary Art, and Aleesa’s presentation provided insights into some of her recent and current work, and left the audience hungry to learn more.

Following completion of her undergrad degree in Philosophy and Religion, Aleesa pursued studies in integrated media and video, and discovered that what she most enjoys is the process of film editing, which she describes as “making a noun out of a verb”. Some artists use paint; Aleesa uses cinema, and literally goes through hundreds of existing film footage to find images and sequences to create the “composite characters that are the core of her practice”, building their narratives, and weaving these seemingly random pieces of footage into a compelling tale. Some of the sequences may be recognizable, some may simply feel familiar and some will be completely new to the viewer. Interpretations of the story being told may depend in large measure on the viewers’ own expectations, experiences and cultural references.

A clip from one of Aleesa's earlier pieces.

A clip from one of Aleesa’s earlier pieces.

Aleesa’s artistic process brings into question the idea of what is original, and is also the driving question for much of her work – what are the implications of knowing how the story will end; and what are the implications of not knowing? While there can be excitement in the retelling of a familiar tale, how important is it for us to know what the future will be? What if we don’t know how it will end?

The exhibition on view at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery until Sunday March 16, The Same Problem, consists of six works created in collaboration with the Montreal-born artist Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay. Although the two have worked together for many years, this is the first time they have combined their respective mediums (editing for Aleesa, performance and singing for Benny) and shown their work together, installed in a single, 45-minute sequence.

A still from The Same Problem, on view at KW|AG until March 16.

A still from The Same Problem, on view at KW|AG until March 16.

They decided to combine their artistic efforts as a strategy to overcome their respective frustrations with the stages each had reached in their separate practices, confronting similar, but mirror-opposite dilemmas. Do they include themselves in their work? (Aleesa doesn’t, Benny does). If Benny removes himself from the work, does he lose himself? If Aleesa decides to include herself in her work, does she lose herself?

Or perhaps it is the very idea of “clenching onto a solid idea of a rigid identity,” that has failed.

The series of lunchtime lectures continues on Thursdays throughout February:
Feb 13, Shirley Madill, KW|AG Executive Director, What the heck is postmodernism?  A quick intro to postmodernism in the visual arts
Feb 20, Diana Lobb, University of Waterloo, Distorted Landscapes: Susanna Moodie’s Roughing it in the Bushand Margaret Atwood’s The Journals of Susanna Moodie
Feb 27, Timmy Chandler, University of Guelph, Highlights from KW|AG’s Permanent Collection

by Caroline Oliver, Director of Development and Marketing, KW|AG.

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Great Programs at KW|AG Ward off the Winter Blues.

With the Canadian winter hitting us in full force, it’s easy to succumb to winter cabin fever this February. Here at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, we’ve planned some great programs to help you ward off the winter blues! Come indoors and join us this month for some exciting opportunities to connect with the very best of contemporary art.

This Thursday, Feb. 6th at 7:00 pm, the Gallery’s own Shirley Madill, Executive Director, will offer some insights into what goes into collecting art for a public art institution. Did you ever wonder how galleries choose what goes into the collection? Why galleries collect artwork? Who owns it, what happens to it once it’s in the collection, and how institutional collecting relates to the commercial art market? You’ll find out all the answers to your questions on Thursday evening!

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If you’re more interested in developing an understanding of what is going on in the world of contemporary art and culture, join us for Contemporary Art 101, our lunchtime lectures held every Thursday in February at 12 noon. These bite-sized lectures run less than an hour and are the perfect pairing for your lunch (which you can bring and eat during the talk!). The Kitchener Public Library will also be in house if you want to check out some books on the topic.

This Thursday, Feb. 6th at 12 noon, artist Aleesa Cohene talks about her collaborative video installation on view at the Gallery, The Same Problem. Aleesa will offer some thoughts on working collaboratively, with artist Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, and working with video art. The following Thursday, Shirley Madill will shed some light on how we define postmodernism in the visual arts – what the heck is it anyway?? Of course, a full listing is always available on our website.

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And as always, if you need a moment of respite from the winter, we’re always open and have free admission to our exhibitions. We have some of the best works of early 20th century Canadian art on view in A Story of Canadian Art: As Told by the Hart House Collection. You’ll want to spend a bit of time with Aleesa Cohene and Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay’s exhibition, The Same Problem. And artworks from our own permanent collection are also on view as part of the Community Curator project in the exhibition, Art Value | Value Art.

The best part? All these talks are free! We hope to see you here at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.

Nicole Neufeld, Director of Public Programs, KW|AG

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Creative Thinking Workshops at KW|AG

KW|AG recently invited partners, supporters and business connections to check out our newly renovated Community Access Space and participate in a mini version of the newest addition to our programs, Creative Thinking Workshops.

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Mindy Alexander, School Programs Coordinator, leads participants in the Creative Thinking Workshop mini session.

The Gallery’s Creative Thinking Workshop offers a fun, thought-provoking and fresh approach to team building. As the mini session demonstrated, this kind of workshop provides a chance for co-workers to engage with one another in a different way, outside of the confines of the usual office setting. The workshop is designed to encourage everyone to think creatively and critically, and to boost team morale in an inspiring, casual atmosphere. As an added bonus, participants learn a great deal about each other while also engaging with some of the best contemporary works of art from around the world, in the Gallery’s exhibitions. A far cry from the regular office-party bowling nights or guest speakers at the office.

Although the recent mini-session was just 1 hour-long and attended by people who had never met before, the discussion was lively and the attendees were fully engaged in the process. The full-length version of the workshop takes 3 hours, and is suitable for groups of between 8 and 25 people.

If you’re asking yourself why looking at art can be a team building opportunity, I’ll give you the highlights:

1. You’ll get an insight into how your team thinks and what they see in the world around them. There are lots of points of view at the table in any team. Our workshop helps everyone get a better understanding of the diverse perspectives at the table.
2. Each participant will develop a self-aware understanding of how they look at pictures, images, and visual cues – this in an increasingly visual and image focused world. We give you the tools and language to talk about it too.
3. It’s an opportunity to see your staff or co-workers in a new light and to understand the different strengths in any team. The workshop is designed to reveal strengths that might not be recognized in conventional office settings
4. This Creative Thinking Workshop encourages positive team collaboration. Is it a social event? Is this professional development? It’s both! Everyone is learning new skills at the same time in a new environment – we offer a level playing field for the team.
5. Our approach encourages creativity, new ways of looking at things and fresh perspectives. Perhaps most importantly, it fosters curiosity – the engine of discovery and the catalyst for innovative growth.

Have I piqued your interest? Do you have more questions? I’d love to hear from you at nneufeld@kwag.on.ca

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Participants in the mini session enjoying the workshop.

Nicole Neufeld
Director of Public Programs

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Speed Networking at KW|AG – A Big Hit

By Priti Kohli, Communications Coordinator, KW|AG

On Thursday, January 24, KW|AG hosted its second –ever (sold-out) Speed Networking event. The evening began with a brief ‘mix & mingle’ in the Gallery’s Community Access Space where guests warmed up their networking skills. Then it was time for the structured Speed Networking session, which was set up in the Gallery amidst the current exhibition, A Story of Canadian Art: As Told by the Hart House Art Collection. 

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The calm before we dove into the activities.

As people made their way in, I heard quite a few comments about the exhibition; some participants had taken a few minutes to wander through the Gallery spaces and check out the art beforehand and were impressed with the collection being exhibited. Nicole Neufeld, Director of Public Programs, got the session under-way with an introduction to the evening’s DJ, Victoria from The Yeti Café, along with some brief instructions about how the activities would work. Ice-breaker activities included a short Scrabble match, drawing a portrait of the person in front of you, finishing a drawing started by Gallery staff, sharing a ‘15 minutes of fame’ story, and randomly choosing a penny to talk about what each person was doing in the year the penny was made.

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Speed Scrabble

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“In 1999 I was…” Year of the Penny.

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Complete the drawing.

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I met Andy Warhol.

Well, these participants wasted no time and got right to the networking. There was electricity in the room as people changed seats each time the bell rang, ready and excited to meet another new person. Some started out with the activities and eased into chatting, while others got right to sharing a bit about themselves. Personally, I had a really great time, met some interesting people, had some memorable conversations and learned more about the range of professional sectors in the KW area. My conversations were with people from the tech sector, a translations provider, a website developer, someone transitioning between professions and looking to make new connections and someone starting out in photography.

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It’s still early in the evening.

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Dan Glenn-Graham, a Councillor for Ward 10, Kitchener joined in on the Speed Networking.

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It’s never too early to network!

Because we only had five minutes with each person (this is Speed Networking, after all) we all met up afterwards in the Community Access Space for some more mingling while enjoying a glass of wine and tasty treats provided by Little Mushroom Catering. This was a great chance to chat some more with some of our new acquaintances from the evening, and to share snippets of the night on the Twitter wall provided. Meeting people really is easy and fun!

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More mingling after the activities.

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The tweets were rolling in.

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Thank you to our sponsor for this event, gowlings.

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A Chat with Kate

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Our good friend and former KW|AG staff member, Kate Carder-Thompson, chats with us about her upcoming visit to KW to teach two workshops at the Gallery, and about her own creative ventures:  What are you looking forward to most about … Continue reading

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