In case you haven’t noticed, the art scene in Gananoque is thriving, and growing, with new venues and initiatives starting up on a seemingly regular basis. I have heard from more than one source that the artists and other creatives in Gananoque and the surrounding region are set on making Gananoque (or “Gan” in localese) an Ontario arts hub and cultural destination — it’s like an artist uprising, or art-rising if you will — and it is truly a good thing.
The newest gallery to open its doors (just this month) is the MAK Gallery at 191 King St., featuring contemporary art in an open and welcoming space. Gallery owner/curator Melissa Kramer has spent her lifetime surrounded by art and creativity, and opening the gallery is for her a means of bringing new art and ideas into the lives of more people. A venue for contemporary art, Melissa sees each new independently curated exhibition as an experiment — one in which the artist and the public are free to explore new ideas, creativity, learning and growth. There are no fixed ideas here of what constitutes “art,” and the desire is for the works on display to generate open dialogue between artists and gallery visitors.
Herself an artist and musician, Melissa envisions the MAK Gallery as a space where people can come together as a community, sharing music, art and conversation. Of Indigenous descent, Melissa is also intent on making the gallery a showcase for contemporary Native art, and welcomes inquiries from Indigenous artists from Gan and the surrounding region.
The opening exhibition at the MAK Gallery features the work of local artist Leisa Rich and her show “She Packs a Punch!” Melissa wanted a gallery launch exhibition with bright, colourful artwork, and Rich delivered. The contemporary artworks in this show are eye-catching, thought- provoking and, because many of them are interactive, inviting viewers to touch and manipulate the piece, it is also fun. If you are accustomed to visiting galleries where the maxim is “look,
don’t touch,” it’s almost strange to be invited to play fast and loose with the artwork on display — you want to look over your shoulder to make sure the “art police” aren’t waiting to pounce. But here you can feel slightly daring and rebellious, while legitimately participating in artistic creation and change.
Rich works with a variety of media, including paint, fibre, lucite, plastic, foam, foil and fosshape (she is reportedly the first artist to work with this material, which is used in car interiors), among many others, including forms that she creates using a 3D printer. She is highly environmentally conscious, and this mindset is evident in many of her works, reflected through form and the types of materials used. Rich’s artwork is extremely organic, quirky and sometimes bizarre, but it is certainly also wide-ranging stylistically, as well as being curiously intense. Of course, Rich’s artwork may not be to everyone’s taste, but that is no reason not to go and have a look. The exhibition will be on the walls until the end of June.
MAK Gallery exhibitions will change frequently, every two to four weeks, and will feature the work of local and regional artists (with a few exceptions), so there is every reason to visit the gallery regularly. Those who believe they are not fans of contemporary art should also note that, beyond the main exhibition space, there is a second gallery devoted entirely to works on paper (where “works on paper” is used in its broadest sense, including various types of prints, monographs, paintings, drawings, watercolour, mixed media, etc.). These are also primarily contemporary artworks, with the collection changing and developing over time.
There is so much going on artistically in Gan, and since it is also home to numerous types of eateries and specialty shops ripe for exploring, I’ll be revisiting the art scene here through the summer. I hope you’ll join me in making Gananoque an arts destination.
Kamille Parkinson earned a PhD in art history from Queen’s University, and is presently a copywriter, writer of fiction and art historian at large. You can find her on LinkedIn, at www.wordpainterprojects.com and can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.