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New interactive art installation focuses on Guelph's opioid crisis – GuelphToday



A new art installation outside the main Guelph Public LIbrary is meant to be a memorial to people lost to overdose deaths and to start a conversation on how to prevent others.

Crisis Phone 2020 is an art installation that will be on display for the next six months outside the Norfolk Street library. It consists of a decommissioned public telephone that has been painted red and black with quotes scrawled in either black or white paint.

The project is intended as a reflection on the opioid crisis and the impact it is having on the community in Guelph.

The installation consists of a standalone public telephone which has been repainted and covered in quotations relevant to the conversation.

At its heart is a black telephone and below it where the phone book would be found are empty pages that can be filled by people passing by.

“I love that it is interactive,” said Adrienne Crowder, manager of the Wellington-Guelph Drug Strategy. “It’s an organic piece. As people leave their comments, it changes.”

The piece was created, in part, to coincide with the upcoming Overdose Awareness Day, which will be marked in Guelph on Monday.

Crowder said raising awareness is more important than ever as the trends for overdoses and opioid deaths are headed in the wrong direction. She said Crisis Phone 2020 has the potential to start a conversation every time someone passes by it.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to create some collective energy around this year’s Overdose Awareness Day,” said Crowder.

She hopes the location of the piece outside the main library on Norfolk Street will broaden that conversation past the people who usually show up for Overdose Awareness Day.

“It’s a very public space and a space accessed by everybody in the community,” said Crowder.

Although it is signed ‘anonymous’, the creator of the piece is local artist and Guelph city councillor Mike Salisbury.

“I had written anonymous on it because it really isn’t about me, it’s about the issue,” said Salisbury by phone on Wednesday.

The art installation is intended as part memorial, part community conversation and social commentary.

“Part of it is the symbolism of the unanswerable help phone,” said Salisbury. “It’s not particularly positive, but in regards to the opioid crisis it’s not entirely inaccurate. Yes we have to do something, but am I particularly optimistic? No I’m not.”

He hopes to see the empty pages on the installation filled during the time it is on display.

“Maybe you’re grieving and you can express that, or maybe you can’t express it because of the stigma. You can write about it and as soon as you close that book it’s gone,” said Salisbury.

He concedes that comments may not always be in support of stopping the stigma associated with drug use.

“Maybe you’re angry and don’t believe addiction is a disease and think it’s a choice and that those people should be put in jail and you’re not allowed to say that because it’s politically incorrect in your circles, well you can express those opinions because its a safe place to do that,” said Salisbury.

Even the quotes scrawled on the piece itself alternate between those that are supportive and those that are not.

“It’s intended to provoke and begin conversation, because not everyone sees this issue the same way,” he said.

The opioid crisis has touched Salisbury directly, most notably through the death of his first wife Ruth to an accidental fentanyl overdose about six years ago. 

The couple met while they were teenagers and were married almost 25 years. Salisbury said the piece is partly a tribute to her.

“I found it really hard to do that piece and I find it really hard to be around it,” said Salisbury. “I find it to be uncomfortable, but at the same time I think it needed to be put out. It’s my truth.”

The telephone itself is not operational and does not directly connect to a help line, something Salisbury said he has received some negative feedback about.

“If everybody has a cell phone and they are three digits away from help and it isn’t making a difference, I don’t think an art installation is going to save the day or change the outcome,” he said. “But it is going to start the conversation.”

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Art and grieving: Painter Barbara Pratt honours mother Mary Pratt's life in new exhibit –



There was no cake waiting for Barbara Pratt on her 56th birthday, something that until that point had been a tradition shared between her and her mother each year to mark the annual celebration of life. 

The warmth and love was missing for the first time.

Renowned artist Mary Pratt — her mother — died at 83 in August 2018. Mary made a career of painting hyper-realistic everyday scenes — including of baking — that resonated across the country and sent her to the top of the Canadian art world. 

Today, Barbara Pratt’s newest gallery, starting Saturday at the Emma Butler Gallery in St. John’s, pays homage to her late mother. 

“I had an idea back in 2018 to paint a painting of the cake pans, that’s in this exhibition, and I wasn’t really thinking about it in a really significant kind of way,” Pratt told CBC Radio’s On The Go

“But after my mother died, in that same year, the image became more poignant for me and I started thinking about other possibilities for images. When my birthday came I realized there wouldn’t be any birthday cake from my mom that year, for the first time ever, really, and that hit me pretty hard and fuelled my creativity.”

Pratt picked up painting from her parents. She also picked up baking from her mother, something she says is taken seriously in her family — particularly with birthdays. 

This cake was designed by Maria Clarke of Petite Sweet in St. John’s. Pratt painted it as part of her latest collection. (Submitted by the Emma Butler Gallery)

“It struck me that baking, and baking birthday cakes in particular, is essentially an act of love that you do for somebody else,” said Pratt.

“I don’t take baking birthday cakes lightly. I’m not going to bake a birthday cake for just anybody.”

‘It’s just part of what we do’

Pratt said the idea to paint cakes was obvious to her after going through some old family slides, many of which featured cake.

She said everyone in the family was happy in those captured moments, but added cake itself plays a role in societal norms. 

“Cake in general has a larger picture in our culture. We have cake with many of our rituals and celebrations. Retirement, graduations, weddings, obviously, and even at funerals you bring baked goods,” Pratt said.

“It’s just part of what we do, and that’s the way my mom approached art. It’s the way I approach it as well. It’s about representing what you know.”

Barbara Pratt says painting cakes for her newest collection came to her after the realization that she would not be receiving another of her mother’s. (Submitted by the Emma Butler Gallery)

Pratt’s new works feature actual cakes designed by Maria Clarke of Petite Sweet in St. John’s and some of her own. 

Eighteen of her paintings will be hung on the walls of the gallery from Sept. 19 to Oct. 10, and the memory of her mother and the paying of her tribute goes one step further. 

Many of the paintings were used using Mary Pratt’s brushes, and even some of her own canvases that she never had the opportunity to use, said Barbara Pratt. 

“I feel lucky, in that I have sort have been with her during the whole duration of creating work for this show,” she said. 

“There were days were days when it was very emotional for me, but uplifting at the same time.… I don’t know that it helped, but I did feel honoured by the ability to use her brushes, and her paint, and well an awful lot more of her supplies as well.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

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Art exhibit captures memories of a changing landscape through COVID-19 pandemic –



We began lockdown toward the end of winter; still cold, we stayed inside. As spring opened up to possibilities, many of us took to the outdoors, walking our only contact with the broader community, awkward though those encounters might be, hailing neighbours at a careful distance.

Alliston, Ont., artist Gary Evans has been creating throughout the pandemic; some of his paintings are now being shown in an exhibition titled “Daylight” at the Paul Petro gallery in Toronto.

He, too, experienced the strangeness of the world and the way he was moving in it, differently. “Avoiding the few people out there and really relishing the freshness of the air and changing conditions of the spring, the walks and sights of the town and surrounding landscape became the subject of paintings,” he says. “I found myself trying to express the different textures of the landscape, capture a mood and witness change on a daily basis.”

A fence. A tree changing shape and the changing light.

“Intersections of architecture and nature always seem to catch my eye, and the painting ‘Alley’ is based on the view of a neighbour’s fence that runs beside a parking lot and an arena building. The small maples that peek over the fence mark the space or distance between the viewer and architecture.”

“Often I will start to paint an actual image, then slowly add marks and imaginative or abstract patterns and colours to complete the image in a more expressive and personal manner. I’m trying to create a dialogue between our inner world of feeling and subjective reality and the generic landscape we inhabit together.”

And now, we enter fall. The days shorter, the air crisper, the shadows longer. We’ll observe more carefully, wanting to etch moments in our mind. Some we’ll want to remember clearly, some framed, perhaps, with simply a sense of colours and lines and feelings. Memories to sustain us through a long winter indoors.

You can see the entire exhibition at the Paul Petro Contemporary Art gallery at

Deborah Dundas

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10-year-old Anishinaabe photographer makes art show debut at skatepark exhibition –



Ella Greyeyes came across photography by accident, when she filled in for a photographer who was supposed to take her dad’s headshot, but cancelled at the last minute.

The 10-year-old was instantly hooked. She started snapping more pictures: some of her mom, others of nature scenes. Her parents posted them on Instagram and Ella soon drew the attention of local artist Annie Beach, who suggested Ella get involved with Lavender Menace, a mentorship opportunity that will culminate in an art show at The Plaza skatepark at The Forks.

“I’m feeling really excited and just happy that I’m going to have my photos at The Forks,” Ella told CBC’s Weekend Morning Show host Nadia Kidwai on Sunday. “When people see my photos, I hope they feel joy in them.”

For Ella, photography was a new way to see the world around her.

“When I see something, I just like to frame it,” she said. “And I love to take pictures of nature. It just feels so good and relaxing.”

The photo Ella took of her dad, Alan Greyeyes, that kicked off her budding photography career. (Ella Greyeyes)

The show organized by Graffiti Art Programming gets its name from a term rooted in the American lesbian women’s movement for inclusion within feminism, said Chanelle Lajoie, a Métis artist who mentored Ella ahead of Sunday night’s opening reception. Lajoie said Lavender Menace was a chance to create space for Indigenous people and learn from each other.

“Working with Ella provided for me that intergenerational knowledge-sharing, because it was very much reciprocated on both ends,” Lajoie said. 

“Ella really enjoying taking photography of nature … seemed [to] really fit well with the project of providing natural elements to a predominantly concrete space, and so it was a really perfect fit.”

Ella — who is Anishinaabe from Peguis First Nation and lives in Winnipeg — said she learned so much about photography from Lajoie, from how to use the different settings on her camera to how to make a person comfortable in front of her lens.

“You have to be happy when you take them,” she said. “You have to take them with some joy, because then it will make the person, the model, feel really good and smile and not be grumpy in every photo.”

Ella took this photo of her mom, Destiny Seymour. (Ella Greyeyes)

Lajoie said the show at The Forks is meant to start a conversation about representation of Indigenous, LGBT and two-spirit people in a space so deeply rooted in Indigenous histories.

“That conversation will include us. It’ll bring up some uncomfortable realities. [But] our representation is also going to encourage inclusion and build community further,” she said. 

“So I hope anyone who is at the show, whether it’s tonight or in the future, if they’re having difficulty seeking out their queer selves or their Indigenous selves, that they see this and see themselves in us.”

The Lavender Menace group art exhibition launches Sunday at 5 p.m. The event will run until 7 p.m., though the art will stay until next year.

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