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Lambton County libraries, museums, art gallery and archives partially reopening – Sarnia Observer



Andrew Meyer (left), general manager of Lambton County’s cultural services division, and county Warden Bill Weber are shown in this file photo at county archives. It’s one of the county services closed to the public by COVID-19 restrictions. File photo/Postmedia Network

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Several libraries and museums, as well as the art gallery in downtown Sarnia and Lambton County’s archives, plan to open their doors to the public over the next two months for the first time since March.

Fifteen of the county’s 25 library branches, most starting the week of Sept. 7, will allow people with valid library cards to book appointment times to use physically distanced computers, access library Wi-Fi, and enjoy in-person reference services.

“Certainly the computer use, given Lambton County is a predominantly rural county, there is a need for consistent and reliable internet access,” said Andrew Meyer, general manager of Lambton’s cultural services division.

“We have been hearing from our patrons that there is a desire to access public computers again.”

Free Wi-Fi has been available from library parking lots, he said, “but we wanted to provide a space safely (inside) as well.”

There’s also been a demand to resume library programming, he said.

“We’re not quite there yet.”

The reopening plan follows public-health advice and incorporates an enhanced cleaning regimen, county officials said in a Monday announcement.

The county recalled most of its 120 laid-off cultural services staff in July to prepare for the reopenings, Meyer said.

As of Monday, there were 13 permanent cultural services staff still laid off, but the intention is to have them return in September, he said.

Casual and student staff won’t be recalled in September, he said.

Library visitors will have to wear masks, provide information for contact tracing and still won’t be able to physically browse stacks. Instead, people are encouraged to continue using the curbside pickup service.

The number of library locations offering that service is increasing to 16 from 13, including the downtown Sarnia branch when $390,000 in electrical and HVAC renovations wrap up there hopefully by the end of September, Meyer said.

“The contractors told us last week we’re about six weeks out,” he said.

Sarnia’s Mallroad branch will remain curbside pickup only.

“We found it would be difficult to open it up for on-site services just because of the volume of traffic it sees with curbside,” Meyer said.

Other branches are staying closed largely because it wouldn’t be possible to maintain safe physical distancing, he said.

“We’re very conscious of following those public-health recommendations.”

County officials have tried to ensure there’s at least one curbside-access and one physical-access location in each of Lambton’s 11 municipalities, he said.

Appointments can be made by calling 1-866-324-6912 ext. 5900, or visiting

Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

With cooler fall weather around the corner, it’s important to open local facilities for public access, said Lambton County Warden Bill Weber.

“Business will be a long time until it gets back to normal, but this is a start to normalizing things again,” he said.

The Lambton Heritage Museum meanwhile is reopening with timed ticket entry on Sept. 2, and – in partnership with the Grand Bend Arts Centre – featuring the annual Paint Ontario Exhibition and Sale that was postponed from its original opening in March.

For more information and tickets, call 519-243-2600 or visit

The Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery reopens for timed ticket entry Oct. 2 with two new exhibitions. They include works from the Z’otz* Collective, and the Group of Seven: Their Visions Revisited 100 Years Later exhibition from the gallery’s permanent collection. To book a free ticket and for more information call 519-336-8127 or visit

Timed ticket entry starts Sept. 8 at the Oil Museum of Canada. Details are available by calling 519-834-2840 or visiting

Scheduled appointments for research at the Lambton County Archives also start Sept. 8. Details are available via 519-845-5426 and

“We look forward to welcoming the community back into our facilities and providing safe access to our programs and services,” Meyer said.

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Toronto's outdoor museum for street art is a perfect activity for these pandemic times – blogTO



Dundas West Open Air Museum, a collection of murals clustered in a Toronto neighbourhood, opened about a year ago, but they’ve been very busy during that time.

Around 20 murals have been painted around the Dundas West area from Shaw to Lansdowne by local artists such as Jieun June Kim, Jose Ortega and Pablo Gomez.

All murals can be explored virtually on the museum’s website, which includes info about the works and artists.

The initiative was spearheaded by the artists along with Little Portugal and Dundas West BIAs, Lula Lounge, Toronto Arts Council and Creativo Arts.

It was inspired by similar public space projects in places like The Bronx and Berlin.

One of the new initiatives from the museum is an app that you can download to your phone and use to make your way among the murals, finding out information about each piece and the artists that created it as you go.

As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, finding safe, outdoor activities in Toronto is on many people’s to-do list and this outdoor museum might just be one that’s perfectly suited to the times.

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Art as reconciliation: Ymir artist hosting BC Culture Days event – Nelson Star



It took Damian John decades to realize words weren’t always the best way to connect with people.

When John was in his 20s he became woke to the problems of the world and hoped to make a change. In his 30s, having failed to make that change, he struggled with depression and anxiety.

But four years ago the now 43 year old quit his career as a massage therapist to focus on his art. That choice led to an epiphany.

“I think the dialogue that we have with words is limited. You have this understanding of words, I have an understanding of words. Sometimes they don’t match up,” he says.

“We’re really bad at telling each other what we’re feeling and we’re really bad at understanding what the other person is saying to us in general, even with people we know well. So I thought, but what about having art do that for us and being creative with how we speak to each other.”

John, a Ymir-based artist, hopes to meld words and art into a new type of conversation when he hosts a workshop for BC Culture Days on Sept. 26. Jones was the only West Kootenay artist named ambassador to the annual event, which will run Sept. 25 to Oct. 25.

His livestream is titled Exploring Reconciliation Through Creativity, in which John plans to tell the story of how colonization affected his family and people before having participants create art based on the discussion.

A member of Tl’azt’en First Nation near Prince George, John grew up with a family traumatized by the residential school system. His father attended nearby Lejac Residential School, a Catholic-run facility that operated from 1922 to 1976.

The school is partly remembered now for being the place four boys froze to death while trying to escape from in 1937.

“All of my family on that side is directly impacted by colonization, by residential school,” said John, “and that impacts us as his children, that affects nephews and generations that are coming after us. There’s a heavy, heavy impact mentally, health wise, relationally, all of these various components which would take a long time to talk to or speak to in a real strong way.”

First Nations art has always been a part of John’s life. His father brought pieces home, and John was later influenced by artists Robert Sebastian and Roy Henry Vickers.

John’s own art is vibrant, colourful and distinctly modern. In his work he’s found a place to explore his culture and voice concerns while also being in control of the outcome in a way he never felt he could in conversation.

“If I want to have a life that has any feelings of quality to it, I need to shift things,” he says. “So making things that I think are beautiful, and allowing people to engage in that space as well, felt useful.”

That’s how he hopes the people who take his workshop feel after creating their own work. John wants to inspire new ways of discourse about difficult topics despite personal differences, and he thinks art is the key.

“How do we bridge those spaces to come to a place of community and goodwill and conflict resolution?” he says. “In spite of being devastated by all the information out there I still have hope we can do things differently.”

@tyler_harper |

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Damian John holds a painting he recently completed of his grandmother. John will be exploring reconciliation through art during an event for BC Culture Days. Photo: Tyler Harper

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Outdoor art in a concrete jungle – Excalibur Online



Shaughn Clutchey | Arts Editor

Featured Image: Liz Magor’s “Keep” is located in the Central Square courtyard.
Photo Credit: Excalibur

Between Vari Hall and the Behavioural Sciences building is a set of three stone blocks. Two are made of concrete, and between them is a smaller piece of black cambrian granite. 

Inconspicuous in form and inviting as a spot to lean or sit between classes, these blocks are not remnants of ongoing construction or a sort of chic patio furniture. As a unit, these blocks are titled “Noire Solaire, Basse” and were commissioned by Canadian sculptor Jocelyne Alloucherie in 1993. 

Jocelyne Alloucherie’s “Noire Solaire, Basse” is located between Vari Hall and the Behavioural Sciences building. (Photo Credit: Excalibur)

“Noire Solaire, Basse” is just one installation in a collection of vibrant outdoor sculptures located across the York campus. 

Although York began collecting sculptures as part of a campus beautification initiative in the early 1970s, new relevance has been given to this outdoor art collection in light of the cultural shift influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Modes of art consumption are changing—galleries, theatres, and other venues that have traditionally allowed for a direct, in-person relationship between art and audience can no longer operate in a traditional manner. 

Allyson Adley is the collection and education assistant at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU). With much of York’s campus being closed this semester, Adley agrees that the importance of this collection has increased as a reminder of campus community and culture. 

“Engaging with artworks outdoors can be a meditative experience,” Adley explains. It can “provide students with an opportunity to slow down and practice mindfulness by observing the artworks and their relationship to the surrounding landscape and architecture.” 

A third-year environmental studies student at York, who wishes to remain anonymous, agrees. “I love the idea of having art exhibits on campus,” they say. “It’s important to have art that can inspire or present the opportunity to admire creativity in normally bland areas.”

Mark Di Suvero’s “Sticky Wicket” is located near the Atkinson building. (Photo Credit: Excalibur)

Adley iterates that completing a self-guided tour is a useful way to explore the collection. It is also an opportunity to acquaint or reacquaint with campus. 

“Following a self guided tour is an excellent way to get to know the campus and explore our outdoor collection,” Adley says. 

Adley adds: “Although the tour can provide information about the artist’s interests and motivations behind the creation of a given work, students are encouraged to consider their own personal responses. What comes to mind when standing next to a work? How does the work make you feel? Instead of relying on prescribed interpretations, can you bring your own perspectives into your process of meaning making and trust your own instincts and insights?”

These interpretations and perspectives can be related to the culture and society COVID-19 has created. 

One piece that stands out in this regard is Liz Magor’s “Keep,” conveying the idea of a natural retreat, particularly as a last resource. “Keep” consists of a bronze cast of a willow tree trunk with a rubber sleeping bag protruding from one end. 

Liz Magor’s “Keep” is located in the Central Square courtyard. (Courtesy of AGYU)

“The piece speaks of the need to escape from densely inhabited urban settings and find refuge in nature,” Adley explains . 

“I think in the current climate and context of the pandemic, social distancing and isolation has not been freely chosen but rather encouraged in communities across the world in an effort to protect people’s health and slow the spread of the virus.”

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