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Peterborough artists Brian Nichols and John Marris facilitate community art making during the pandemic –



Peterborough artists Brian Nichols and John Marris have been facilitating community art making during the pandemic, including for people facing marginalization and alienation. Pictured is artwork at One City Peterborough’s open studio, located at 541 Water Street in Peterborough, which is open on a drop-in basis to community members between 2:30 and 4 p.m. every Monday afternoon. (Photo: Sarah McNeilly /

“I am here as an artist,” Brian Nichols emphatically states through his mask, while stopping mid-pace, on both feet, as if to punctuate his statement. “I’m here as a volunteer.”

With a nod, the artist, volunteer, and psychotherapist springs back into action, energetically fluttering about the studio once more.

It’s the first day the drop-in open studio at One City Peterborough has reopened since the most recent provincial-wide lockdown, and the energy in the room is palpable.

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The new studio space at One City Peterborough, which first opened in October 2020, is buzzing with excited artistic experimentation. Located at 541 Water Street in Peterborough, the studio is open on a drop-in basis to community members between 2:30 and 4 p.m. every Monday afternoon.

Light pours through the large windows onto colourful works of art displayed on the mantle, tables, and walls. That foreboding sense of dread we’ve all grown so accustomed to can’t help but give way to pure joy inside the small studio.

Were it not for the masked participants partaking in the occasional six-foot-shuffle — that awkward physical-distance dance we’ve all shared with unwitting partners over the past year — one could almost forget, if only for a fleeting moment, that we are living in times of crisis.

A freshly made piece of art at One City Peterborough's open studio.  (Photo: Sarah McNeilly /
A freshly made piece of art at One City Peterborough’s open studio. (Photo: Sarah McNeilly /

This is not a typical art class. There is no teacher standing at the front of the room imparting their knowledge onto passive recipients. Rather, it’s a non-hierarchical environment where the small group can safely gather to actively make art together, and learn about themselves in the process.

“It feels even more important during COVID,” says Tammy Kuehne, warming room coordinator for One City Peterborough, which is focused on housing, food security, community safety, and inclusion. The organization is an amalgamation of Warming Room Community Ministries and Peterborough Reintegration Services.

“The need for spaces where people can connect with each other in person, still being safe, is crucial,” Kuehne adds. “We’ve had a lot of people really excited to learn that we’re opening back up.”

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Now more than ever we all need community self-expression and creativity, but for those who have faced marginalization and alienation — mental health challenges, homelessness, illness, disability, and poverty — community art making represents a vital lifeline during the isolating conditions of the pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, both Nichols and fellow local artist John Marris have been hard at work finding ways to deliver the community arts programming they facilitate, respectively, with various not-for-profits.

Prior to the most recent lockdown, Nichols had been facilitating the open studio at One City Peterborough for Circles of Support & Accountability (CoSA) — a restorative justice program — since October.

Prior to the most recent lockdown, Peterborough artist Brian Nichols had been facilitating the open studio at One City Peterborough for Circles of Support & Accountability (CoSA), a restorative justice program.  Pictured is some of the CoSA artwork at the One City Peterborough open studio. (Photo: Sarah McNeilly /
Prior to the most recent lockdown, Peterborough artist Brian Nichols had been facilitating the open studio at One City Peterborough for Circles of Support & Accountability (CoSA), a restorative justice program. Pictured is some of the CoSA artwork at the One City Peterborough open studio. (Photo: Sarah McNeilly /

Throughout most of the winter lockdown, Marris has been offering art-making sessions for young residents in a bubbled household at YES Shelter for Youth and Families. He also managed to offer outdoor art-making sessions with YES in the summertime.

Peterborough artist John Marris has been offering art-making sessions for young residents at YES Shelter for Youth and Families.(Photo: John Marris / Facebook)
Peterborough artist John Marris has been offering art-making sessions for young residents at YES Shelter for Youth and Families.(Photo: John Marris / Facebook)

In January, Marris and local artist Wendy Trusler moved online the community art making workshops they had been running with mental health patients at Peterborugh Regional Health Centre so they could safely continue their important work.

This past fall, Marris and Nichols were also able to continue the ‘You Can Make It Art’ workshops at The Mount Community Centre, though only for residents of the centre. Previously, the workshops had been available on a drop-in basis to the broader Peterborough community, after Nichols launched the program in 2018.

Marris and Nichols have made it their mission to provide those facing marginalization with something the artists believe to be as vital as food, shelter, water, and air.

Art is neither a luxury nor a pursuit reserved only for the cult of the expert. Self-expression is an integral part of being human.

“These community art projects take us back to the fundamental need to express ourselves and explore ourselves in healthy and productive ways,” Marris writes for a presentation he recently delivered before the Arts, Culture Heritage Advisory Committee for The City of Peterborough.

“They help us develop skills and confidence and self-belief. They teach us how to be present, to find focus, and to know we have the right to express ourselves — to be the authors of our world.”

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For both Nichols and Marris the impetus to create, and to encourage others to do so, is anchored in the two artists’ introspective and philosophical investigations of presence, respectively.

“I need to find things that take me into that moment of presence,” explains Marris during a telephone interview. “What I’ve discovered is that making art, working with play, and making art with other people has become this way to be absolutely present in the moment.”

As for Nichols, his background in psychotherapy certainly contributes to his approach to community art-making. Most participants with whom he works have experienced grief or trauma in some form. However, his process is also born from a place of vulnerability and empathy from his own experiences.

In 2018, The Mount Community Centre hosted 'You Can Make It Art' drop-in art making workshops for the general community. The workshops resumed this past fall, but only for residents of the centre. (Photo: John Marris)
In 2018, The Mount Community Centre hosted ‘You Can Make It Art’ drop-in art making workshops for the general community. The workshops resumed this past fall, but only for residents of the centre. (Photo: John Marris)

In 2018, after a diagnosis of giant cell arteritis (a rare autoimmune disease) forced Nichols to leave his psychotherapy practice, he felt a sense of urgency to make art and to encourage community art-making. Since then, his artistic output has been as prolific as his community art-making initiatives.

“It’s been an incredible journey to figure out how to do the work,” Nicols says. “And it’s really subtle and easy, but difficult to grasp, how it’s not teaching, how it’s not simply making art — it’s about connection.”

“What is present is a new pain and the absence, for me, is often hope and a sense of future,” he replies when asked how presence and absence figure into his process. “To help others embrace the new pain, without trying to minimize it — we’re not just the pain but that’s hugely a part of our existence — without moving to hope and without any sense of future. What we have is now — being in the now — which is that sense of presence.”

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Art making is, in many ways, world making. There exists an essential connection between the real and the imagined. An artist’s created world is necessarily separate from, yet connected to, the world in which we live.

“I think living is that whole process of world making,” Nichols acknowledges. “To live authentically is to create both your own interior and exterior world.”

Through art, Marris and Nichols offer people not only the opportunity to be the creators of their own worlds, but also to create an inclusive and even emancipatory community of art makers, connected by their shared presence in the present.

 Community art making at The Mount Community Centre. (Photo: John Marris)
Community art making at The Mount Community Centre. (Photo: John Marris)

As such, their practices — art making, world making, and the gift of presence — transform the One City Peterborough studio into a sanctuary for all.

To support the important work Nichols and Marris are doing in the Peterborough community, you can make a donation to One City Peterborough at or to YES Shelter for Youth and Families at

Atelier Ludmila Gallery, in the Commerce Building at 129-1/2 Hunter Street West in downtown Peterborough, will be exhibiting Marris’ most recent body of work, Material Dialogue. The show opens on the First Friday Art Crawl on March 5th from 6 to 10 p.m. It will be exhibited until Sunday, March 28th. Fifty per cent of all sales from the show will be donated to YES Shelter for Youth and Families.

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We asked art critics about Hunter's paintings – Politico



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Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With help from Allie Bice.

Send tips | Subscribe here | Email Alex | Email Tina

The New York City gallery exhibiting HUNTER BIDEN’s work this fall has estimated his paintings are worth between $75,000 to $500,000.

We are not artists. We are pretty bad at it, actually, so we wanted to ask some experts if Biden’s work is actually worth that amount — and if it’s any good. West Wing Playbook spoke to four art critics and academics, some of whom said Hunter’s work, itself, isn’t half-bad. But as to our first question, it was a resounding, “no.”

Despite the Biden White House’s attempts to protect against undue influence, they say the reason for the five- to six-figure estimates is clearly Hunter Biden’s last name.

According to the George Bergès Gallery, Biden’s paintings “range from photographic to mixed-media to abstract works on canvas, yupo paper, wood, and metal. He incorporates oil, acrylic, ink, and the written word to create unique experiences that have become his signature.”

There are 11 paintings online, including an untitled one on yupo paper — a type of recyclable tree-free synthetic paper — of what appears to be a dragon breathing fire.

“Way better than I thot [sic] they’d be! More particular. Some sustained attention clearly evident.” That’s how GEOFFREY YOUNG, a New York poet, art critic and curator described the younger Biden’s art to West Wing Playbook in an email.

As for the price range, Young said it is extremely high, especially for someone the New York Times recently called an “undiscovered artist.” The 2019 article described some 100 paintings Biden had created in his Hollywood Hills “poolhouse-turned-art studio.”

“Traditionally, young artists are a bargain, and if they begin to sustain a career, gallerists raise the prices incrementally, as they should,” Young said. “Paintings are only as valuable as what some customer will pay for ‘em…he’s complexly famous, but not yet for art. Guess people will pay for a known last name.”

BEN DAVIS, a national art critic who has already written in length that Biden shouldn’t be selling his work, said the prices are not common for any new artist.

“For an emerging artist doing his first show, this would put Hunter Biden in the top, top tier of what was thinkable,” Davis said. “These are prices for an already successful artist.”

Davis gave us some context. Artists like DANA SCHUTZ, ALICE NEEL and STANLEY WHITNEY, all well-known and successful artists, have recently sold their art for around $500,000.

“So that is the company that Hunter Biden’s art, which no one has seen, is keeping,” Davis said.

“There is a lot of bluff and bluster and marketing in art prices. Dealers lie about them all the time to inflate values, and George Bergès may be bluffing and talking up Biden’s prices,” Davis said. “There’s no science to such things. But it is absolutely, 100 percent certain that what is being sold is the Biden name and story.”

Others agreed the high price point correlates with the family name.

“You’re paying for the brush with fame,” JOHN PLOFF, an art professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, said. “That’s like a campaign contribution, right?”

In an effort to protect against conflict of interest, the White House says there is an agreement in place with the gallery that will keep the art buyers’ identities a secret from Hunter, the president, the White House and the public. They did not have anything further to add for this piece.

“In the case of anyone who has a celebrity name outside of art, as with Hunter Biden, it’s clearly the name of the artist that’s driving the price and if it sells, then that’s probably also the motivating factor for the person who buys it,” said TABISH KHAN, a London art critic.

Khan said he wouldn’t critique work he hasn’t seen in person, with limited knowledge of the work, but, “an initial online glance suggests there’s nothing new or challenging about his work.”

“As to whether I think it’s worth the asking price, I don’t think I’ll ever spend that much money on a work of art nor be in a position where I have that amount of cash in hand,” Khan said. “And if I did, I wouldn’t spend it on a work by Hunter Biden.”

We also called some Washington area art appraisers and gallery owners. They did not want to touch this topic with a ten-foot pole.

Do you work in the Biden administration? Are you in touch with the White House? Are you COLIN MILLER?

We want to hear from you — and we’ll keep you anonymous: [email protected]. Or if you want to stay really anonymous send us a tip through SecureDrop, Signal, Telegram, or Whatsapp here.


With the Partnership for Public Service

Warning, this one is hard: President BARACK OBAMA did not attend the Olympics in 2010, 2012, 2014 or 2016. Who did he select to lead the U.S. delegation to the Opening Ceremonies in each of these four games? (it’s a different person each year).

(Answer at the bottom.)

The Oval

MASKS ARE BACK — The White House is mandating masks for all staffers again, per an internal email someone helpfully leaked to us.

The email acknowledged that not everyone on the White House campus is vaccinated even as Biden himself is contemplating mandates. “The vast majority of those working on campus are fully vaccinated,” read the email signed by the White House’s Covid-19 Operations team.

(On July 23rd, Psaki declined to say in the briefing what percentage of White House staff were vaccinated.)

The White House’s operations team initially wrote that the policy would “become effective at the start of business tomorrow” only to write a follow-up email “to clarify our earlier message.”

“All individuals on campus should comply with this update immediately and no later than start of business tomorrow,” they wrote.

SO MUCH FOR SHOT GIRL SUMMER: At least two reporters wore masks in the briefing room today. Last week, we didn’t spot any masks. Expect to see a lot more: The White House Correspondents Association emailed reporters this afternoon that it is “reimposing its mask requirement for all indoor spaces at the White House.”

DOOCE ON THE LOOSE: Fox News’ White House reporter PETER DOOCY pushed press secretary JEN PSAKI on new masking guidance for the vaccinated. “If it’s a pandemic of the unvaccinated still then why do vaccinated people need to put the masks back on?” he asked.

Psaki pointed to a chart showing how the Delta variant was hurting the unvaccinated. Doocy followed up, asking: “But if the vaccines work, which this sign says that they do, then why do people who have had the vaccine need to now wear masks the same as people who have not had any?”

Psaki’s response was unsatisfying to some on the right. “Because the public health leaders in our administration have made the determination based on data that that is a way to make sure they’re protected, their loved ones are protected, and that’s an extra step given the transmissibility of the virus.”

“This ain’t gonna cut it,” GOP operative JOSH HOLMES tweeted.

RELATED: The CDC’s revamped mask guidance for the vaccinated is here. And here is ERIN BANCO and ADAM CANCRYN’s write up on the new policy.

JILL’s CHIEF IS OUT — First lady JILL BIDEN’s chief of staff JULISSA REYNOSO PANTALEON is leaving the White House just six months in to be the ambassador to Spain and Andorra. That staffing shake up was revealed in Biden’s announcement today of nine nominations for ambassador and other senior administration posts at the Labor, Agriculture and Homeland Security Departments.

Asked why she is leaving so early in the administration, her press secretary MICHAEL LaROSA emailed that, “While the timing of this opportunity came up a little faster than they both expected, the First Lady was totally supportive of Reynoso being considered again as an Ambassador, and advocated on her behalf. She’s family and we’re going to miss her terribly.”

Any update on who her new chief will be? LaRosa said “nope.”

Filling the Ranks

ANOTHER NOTABLE NOMINATION — Among the four ambassador nominees Biden announced this afternoon: MARK GITENSTEIN, former U.S. ambassador to Romania, and, as we wrote in December, a “secret Biden power broker.” He has been tapped as a representative to the European Union.


IN QUARANTINE — Homeland Security Secretary ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS is working remotely because he was in contact with a department official who later tested positive for Covid-19, a DHS spokesperson told DANIEL LIPPMAN and BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN. “The Secretary is fully vaccinated, has no symptoms, and has tested negative twice,” a spokesperson said.

Agenda Setting

ANNIVERSARY PLANS — Biden is expected to attend the 9/11 memorial in New York City to mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Lippman and CHRIS CADELAGO report, a visit that will be “particularly significant with our withdrawal from Afghanistan,” a White House official told them. At the ceremony, Biden is expected to strike a tone that is “in large measure a sort of arc of the last two decades,” the person said.

Advise and Consent

KIM TO DOJ — The Senate confirmed TODD KIM to be the assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources, 58 to 41. Republican Sens. ROY BLUNT (Mo.), SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (W.V.), SUSAN COLLINS (Maine), JOHN CORNYN (Texas), LINDSEY GRAHAM (S.C.), CHUCK GRASSLEY (Iowa) and LISA MURKOWSKI (Alaska) voted with Democrats to approve Kim’s nomination.

What We’re Reading

Latino voters moved towards Republicans. Now Biden wants them back (NYT’s Jennifer Medina and Lisa Lerer)

Troops to stay put in Syria even as Biden seeks to end America’s ‘forever wars’ (Our Lara Seligman)

Europeans increasingly frustrated as White House maintains Trump-era Covid travel restrictions (Washington Post’s Rick Noack, Reis Thebault and Quentin Ariès)

Where’s Joe

He met with Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) at the White House to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations. Then he visited the office of the director of national intelligence in McLean, Virginia, where he toured the National Counterterrorism Center Watch Floor with Director of National Intelligence AVRIL HAINES and NCTC Director CHRISTY ABIZAID and delivered remarks to staff.

Where’s Kamala

She gave virtual remarks to the National Bar Association. Later in the afternoon, she hosted a conversation about voting rights with Interior Secretary DEB HAALAND and native leaders from Alaska Native and American Indian communities.

The Oppo Book

Before White House deputy press secretary CHRIS MEAGHER spun reporters, he was one. From 2008 to 2013, Meagher wrote for the Santa Barbara Independent, where he covered crime, courts and local elections. He even moderated a 2012 congressional debate between Republican ABEL MALDONADO and Rep. LOIS CAPPS (D-Calif.), whom he went on to work for (his last name is pronounced “marr” so the paper dubbed him the “Meagher-derator”).

But it was one of his softer features that caught our eye. In 2011, Meagher elbowed his way into covering the royal visit by PRINCE WILLIAM and KATE MIDDLETON with a memorable newspaper lede: “What should I wear?”

The whole piece is worth reading, but we wanted to highlight his riff on his outfit deliberations, while crushing a little bit on Middleton:

“If it’s not plaid and button-down and doesn’t match with, well, jeans, it’s probably not in my wardrobe rotation. But this was the Royals! And I had heard that Kate would be dressing herself throughout the duration of the newlyweds’ weeklong trip to North America, so I put the pressure on myself to do the same.

For the trip to Santa Barbara, Kate settled on a fancy chinoiserie silk dress from the Spring 2011 collection of British designer Jenny Packham. I went with my boat shoes, non-jean pants, and a nice button-down from J. Crew’s 2006 collection. And I must say, we both looked marvelous, though I will give the edge to the beautiful Kate.”

Maybe he’ll do a follow-up story if the couple visits the White House.

Trivia Answer

For the 2010 Olympics, Obama sent then-Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill. In 2012, he sent first lady MICHELLE OBAMA. University of California President JANET NAPOLITANO got to represent in 2014 and JOHN KERRY went in 2016.

We want your tips, but we also want your feedback. What should we be covering in this newsletter that we’re not? What are we getting wrong? Please let us know.

Edited by Emily Cadei

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New Fully Accessible Art Gallery in St. John's Encourages Interacting with Exhibits – VOCM



A new fully accessible art gallery is on its way to downtown St. John’s.

Funded by the provincial Inclusion Grant and sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts, “Sensorius: Where the Skin Meets the Eye” will be a fully accessible art show, that, contrary to most art galleries, encourages touching the exhibits.

The space, located at the Craft Council in the downtown, will be accessible to those with vision or hearing loss, and those requiring a wheelchair.

Bruno Vinhas, Gallery Director and Curator for the Craft Council Gallery, says that allowing people to touch the exhibits breaks down barriers, as a lot of people cannot fully enjoy a normal gallery space.

He says when you only have an audio description of the painting, you’re not getting the full story. By being able to touch the pieces, you can feel the material they’re made of, their shape and the texture.

This exhibit will be the first of its kind on the island, according to Vinhas. He says he hopes this gallery can open the door for more accessible exhibitions and more people enjoying the art.

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Colin Painter obituary – The Guardian



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Colin Painter obituary  The Guardian

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