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Seven public art installations bring Oakville together – Oakville News



At the intersection of creativity, inspiration, and community emerges a Public art installation geared to delight Oakville residents in the purest form of communication – Art. From July 1st throughout summer, residents are invited to engage in “ConNextions” – an art installation showcasing the work of seven local emerging and professional artists, including:

The event is created as a platform to spark a sense of belonging in the community and help Oakville residents create connections (explaining its name Connextions ). More than an art exhibit, it is a medium of communication bridging the mind of Oakville’s creative spirits and the heart of the larger community. In fact, Toni DI Risio – culture program supervisor with the Town of Oakville, weighed in on the event.  “Public art plays an important role in building community, promoting dialogue, and fostering a sense of belonging. Over the course of the summer, the Town of Oakville hopes that residents will take the opportunity to engage, explore, and be inspired by the works of local emerging and professional artists with strong connections to Oakville.”

Read on to unearth the installations set up at this innovative event, and meet the people bringing this to reality.

Hannah Veiga – A Seat in Serendipity

Installation at Pondview Pond Walk – 490 Pondview

“I wanted to create something that would inspire others and provide a moment of observation to the elements of nature we often overlook.” These are the words of Hannah Veiga, a multi-disciplinary artist living in Oakville and graduate from the University of Waterloo Honours Fine Arts Program, speaking about her piece ‘A Seat in Serendipity.’

 1) What inspired you to create this piece?

“I’ve been doing pyrography, also known as wood-burning, for a little over 6 months now. I was so excited at the opportunity to make something that would get more public recognition and would hopefully be exciting for the community to experience. I frequent this trail on my bicycle rides, and every time I pass through Pondview, I need to stop and take a few minutes to enjoy the life that exists in this little nook of the neighbourhood. I wanted to create a piece that would incorporate all of the little elements of nature that we often overlook and provide a pleasant surprise for anyone else who enjoys this trail regularly.”

2) What does Oakville need to know? 

“The designs on this bench have been drawn and then hand-burned with a heat pen tool. All of the elements that you will find within the design are plants and creatures I found in this park. I encourage everyone to spend as much time as they’d like with the piece and find all of the different plants, birds, and insects!”

3) What is the importance of appreciating this exhibit?

“I think the beauty of this exhibit is how every artist has expressed their connection to Oakville in different ways. It is an amazing opportunity for the community to explore the different parks of Oakville and discover local artist’s work.”

4) Anything you wish to express.

“I’m grateful to call this beautiful city my home and to be given such an amazing opportunity with ConNextions!”

Heather J. A. Thomson – Minor Alterations: Oakville

Installation at Shell Park – 3307 Lakeshore Road West

“Our dire environmental situation and how people are informed about it is the driving force behind my piece,” explained Heather J.A. Thomson describing her piece ‘Minor Alterations’ – an installation of six painted picnic tables, with exceeding significance. The piece not only inspires the viewer to take action towards a sustainable future, but it also draws a parallel between how small steps can make a huge impact.

1) What inspired you to create this piece?

“I think it’s important to share the facts, but I also think continual bad news is counterproductive. At a certain point, Climate Change can become so overwhelming that taking action feels pointless. I created Minor Alterations Postcard in 2019 to start an optimistic dialogue and show how small things really do make a difference. My piece for ConNextions is an expansion of this project.”

2) What does Oakville need to know?

“The painted picnic tables at Shell Park are only part of my piece for Connextions. I’m also creating a digital sustainable habits resource and want to hear from the community. Information submitted through my website or the onsite QR codes will be included in the resource and shared on Instagram because sustainability is better when we do it together.”

3) What is the importance of appreciating this exhibit?

“It’s important to remember that we as individuals have power. We can make a difference. Plus, living sustainably doesn’t have to mean radical changes. I share my habits to show sustainable living isn’t difficult and to hopefully inspire others to embrace it as well.”

4) Anything you wish to express.

“ConNextions presents an opportunity to engage with new audiences, and I’m honoured to be a part of it.”

Shahrzad Amin – Bridge Obscura

Installation at Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts – 130 Navy Street

“My inspiration came from two bridges in Isfahan, the Khaju and the Allah Verdikhan,” explained Shahrza, an Iranian-Canadian interdisciplinary artist based in Oakville, illustrating the creative direction of her piece ‘Bridge Obscura.’. Examining diasporic and socio-cultural subjectivities through the lens of art-making, sensory ethnographic filmmaking, architectural design, and language, the installation is inspired by Shahrzad’s interests in human rights, equality, and migration.

1) What inspired you to create this piece?

“My inspiration came from two bridges in Isfahan, Iran. The Khaju and the Allah Verdikhan. In the Safavid era, they were initially used in support of imperial aspirations for staking out and controlling territory. Later, they became integral to improving communication and facilitating trade. Along the way, their significant and majestic architectural details turned them into desirable places for recreation and leisure, giving them a function that was unforeseen by the builders.

Today, they are spaces where opposites meet, connect, and collide; young and old, traditional and modern, conservative and progressive are all spotted together, sharing common ground under the arches of these bridges.

I walked on these bridges often when I was in Isfahan. Since then, they have fascinated me for their social functions, beauty of forms and patterns, historical significance, and power in highlighting the cultural and artistic strengths of a place. My relationship with the bridges changed and intensified in the absence or with distance, as they have become emblematic of the cultural connections that I have lost in moving to a new country across the ocean. When preparing the artwork, I tried to tap into my memories and biographical details to invoke the vibrancy of these bridges and provide insights into the range of elements (spatial, aesthetic, architectural, cultural and affective) that they connect. Here, I use the word connect intentionally to make a reference to the way bridges function as connectors not only in a physical sense but also in the sense that they link individuals to place, history, and culture.”

2) What does Oakville need to know?

“I wish that the viewers of my work know that, as an immigrant, I always look for a metaphorical bridge between my Iranian roots and culture and my new nationality as a Canadian citizen. Lack of connection makes me afraid, specifically because the opportunities for Iranian people to connect with the rest of the world are becoming increasingly scarce due to political and religious differences. The bridges of Isfahan are sites of memory/experience in themselves, as well as being locations of culture; therefore, I see in them the potential to act as potent metaphors for the cultural connections that are missing. Through art practice and sensory ethnography methodology, I experiment with my installation to create a space of cultural and experiential exchange in a climate of isolationism and to alleviate cultural misperceptions about Iran as a country that represents alterity, threat, violence, and terror.”

3) What is the importance of appreciating this exhibit.

“My hope is that it encourages contemplation on socio-cultural connectivity and allows people from different cultural backgrounds to experience a part of Iranian vernacular life in a way that they weren’t familiar with before.

It might be worth noting here that, nowadays, the world finds itself in a state of global isolation due to the pandemic. This occurrence suddenly gives my project new significance. More specifically, people and institutions around the world felt the need to transcend physical and political boundaries to create alternative and virtual spaces for communication. In that climate, art and artists stepped in generated alternative channels to give people a sense of togetherness and awareness of common interests and needs. Overcoming isolation highlighted the need for and potential of creativity. This occurrence made me think about the potential of my own piece in a new light, in terms of generating a space for highlighting isolation as an effect that can be shared and, perhaps, overcome through compassionate and collective engagements.”

4)  Anything you wish to express.

“I want to express my sincerest appreciation to the Town of Oakville for giving me this opportunity to exhibit my artwork at such an appropriate location.

Thank you to all the viewers of my sculpture installation. Their attendance to visit my work means a lot to me.

Special thanks to Tonia Di Risio (Program Supervisor-Culture at Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre) for organizing this project. Her help and support to facilitate the process of making and installing the art pieces are appreciated and valued.

I also want to thank Andrew Moyer (Technical Services Coordinator at Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts) for his Technical support.

Last but not least, special thanks to my brother-in-law, Ali Reisi, for assisting me in preparing the piece to install in the public space.”

Melanie Billark – Stronger Together – Upcycled Plastic Bag Textile

Installation at Westwood Park – 170 Wilson Street

“The dichotomy between our efforts in becoming a more sustainable country and how the pandemic forced us to increase our use of single-use plastics inspired this piece.” Melanie Billark, recipient of the Client Arts Award (2019), the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects Ground Award (2017) and Sheridan College and OCAD alumna, spoke about her piece ‘Stronger Together’.

1) What inspired you to create this piece?

“I was inspired by Canada’s Single-Use Plastic Ban that was supposed to be put in place this year; however, it will likely get pushed due to the pandemic.  The dichotomy between our efforts in becoming a more sustainable country to how the pandemic has had the opposite result, pushing our consumption of single-use plastics. With the ban approaching, I wanted to create a new life or purpose for all of these bags instead of then going into the landfill, so I created a textile with the bags to make a subtle but colourful installation using the bags collected from the community.”

2) What does Oakville need to know? 

“This installation is made from 668 plastic bags that were collected from community members and woven into the existing pavilion. I created a reusable and waterproof textile that I can reuse for different works of art after the installation!”

3) What is the importance of appreciating this exhibit.

“I wanted to create a space for conversation and contemplation. I hope this installation allows people to think about sustainability and inspire them to upcycle – thinking about how we consume and how we can use and repurpose our waste to make something beautiful.”

4) Anything you wish to express.

“For further information and my process, please check out my social media; you can find me on  Instagram and TikTok @melanie.billark or check out my website at:

Tazeen Qayyum –  Hope is the Thing With Feather 

Installation at Memorial Park – 120 Oak Park Boulevard

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the face mask has become the symbol of the pandemic. On the one hand, it represents the hardships, separation, distance, and restriction, but at the same time, it is also a symbol of survival, care, resilience, and protection,” says Tazeen Qayyum, a contemporary artist living and working in Oakville who is also a recipient of the ‘Excellence in Art Award’ by Canadian Community Arts Initiative (2015).

1) What inspired you to create this piece?

“It is a timely inspiration considering the ramifications of the pandemic. Collecting and repurposing used masks from the community, inspired by collected stories, I wanted my work to be uplifting and convey a festive mood with the message of hope and love. 

As a practicing artist, I have specialized in miniature painting of the South Asian and Persian tradition, and many times my work is inspired by this unique vocabulary. In this work, within the natural setting of the park, I have created a fantastical landscape inspired by the Indian Ragamala paintings that conveys a festive and uplifting mood, transcending cultures.”

2) What does Oakville need to know?

“Along with the installation, the project has an engaging component of community participation. I am requesting residents of Oakville and beyond to send their personal reflections on the past year and their experience during the pandemic. All the collected stories are compiled on the project’s website and will continue to grow as our collective reflection, highlighting the community’s ongoing struggles, resilience, and inspirations.”

3) What is the importance of appreciating this exhibit.

“As a community project, this artwork celebrates the spirit of community building and the unquestionable strength in coming together as a nation in such difficult times. Like Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘Hope Is The Thing With Feathers’, the installation portrays a hope that lives within us all, and that must be protected, nurtured, cherished, and shared no matter how hard the times get.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the face mask has become the symbol of the pandemic. Obligatory in many countries, the mask culture has now become part of our daily lives, customs, discussions, and practices. On the one hand, it represents the hardships, separation, distance, and restrictions, but at the same time, it is also a symbol of survival, care, resilience, and protection. It can be rightfully said that this simple, inexpensive object has become a powerful image and representation of our collective experience. 

As a community project, it celebrates the spirit of community building and the unquestionable strength in coming together as a nation in such difficult times. Like Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘Hope Is The Thing With Feathers’, the installation portrays a hope that lives within us all, and that must be protected, nurtured, cherished, and shared no matter how hard the times get.”

To read all the collected expressions, visit ,  and to add your own story, email the artist at [email protected]


Quinn Hopkins – Generations 

Installation at Lions Valley Park – 1227 Lions Valley Road

Aerosol paint, acrylic paint, canvas, plywood, plexiglass, and augmented reality on Instagram. These are only some of the things that make Quinn Hopkins, a 23-year old multidisciplinary Anishinaabe artist, someone whose work you need to see at ConnectXions. 

1) What inspired you to create this piece?

“The park heavily inspired this piece, the moccasin trail that runs through the park, the people that visit the park, and the animals that live in the park.”

2) What does Oakville need to know? 

“On the inside of this piece is a stretched canvas that represents a piece of deer hide that is traditionally used to make moccasins and clothing. The patterns cut out of it are for seven pairs of moccasins that represent seven generations. This piece is called generations because I want you to think about the lives of the next few generations; what will they need to have a good and fulfilling life? I believe passing on greenspaces and protecting them is an important role in this.”

3) What is the importance of appreciating this exhibit.

“To respect our green spaces, to take care of the land, cleaning up after ourselves and others. To see the beauty in diversity.”

Ignazio Colt Nicastro – An Echo of Oakville

Installation at Glen Abbey Community Centre – 1415 Third Line

“My sculptural practice is relatively new, especially as an emerging artist overall. Within it, I have really enjoyed working with shattered mirrors,” said Ignazio Colt Nicatro – an emerging multi-disciplinary artist, curator, and writer based in Oakville.

1) What inspired you to create this piece?

“My sculptural practice is relatively new, especially as an emerging artist overall, but within it, I have really enjoyed working with shattered mirrors. The mirrors allow for a literal and metaphorical use of self-reflection, allowing my viewers to reflect on whatever subject I present them. With this piece, I immediately knew I wanted to reflect something onto the residents of Oakville, but I truly didn’t know how to convey a community of identities in one piece – so I let them decide for themselves. I gathered community submissions on words, places, feelings, or places that came to mind when thinking about Oakville and came with a list that mostly highlighted the Oak Leaf and Lake Ontario/Lakeshore. Now when they look at the sculpture, they not only see a physical representation of themselves but also the conceptual result of the community’s submissions. This type of reflection is exactly what I try to create with my mirror sculptures. 

For my digital sculptures, I’ve recently become interested in the digital arts and wanted to try something new – virtual reality painting. I wanted to focus more on the history of Oakville but more so to honour and acknowledge it rather than provide a step-by-step history. Without these histories, the physical sculpture couldn’t exist.”

2) What does Oakville need to know? 

“With work that is inspired by our community members and the town’s history, I think Oakville needs to do more work in educating, acknowledging, and honouring its history and past community members. I am guilty of not knowing much about the history of the work I created until I started researching it for this installation, but after doing so, I have much more agency to uncover more about what this land has offered and continues to. “

3) What is the importance of appreciating this exhibit?

“Having seven artists spread out across the wards of Oakville is something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before – and not just Oakville wise. It’s not often that a town gives its own local artists this much support, specifically their emerging artists. So by visiting and appreciating this public installation exhibition, you’re really supporting a new movement of art in Oakville’s History. The seven of us work so differently in our mediums as well, so this show also showcases how vast the world of the arts can be. 

4) Anything you wish to express.

“This project overall was honestly a big challenge for me. I’ve never made public artwork or digital paintings before, so everything about this experience was new to me. Ensuring that one of my sculptures would need to withstand nature’s wrath was something I’ve never had to do before either – it was a very exciting challenge. Putting this much time and energy into a public piece really opened my eyes to this experience and has made me appreciate public art so much more.

Aside from my involvement here as an artist, I am also the Curator and Director of a digital gallery known as IC Contemporary, where I develop free digital art galleries for emerging artists. I have also recently published my debut fantasy book ‘The Trials of Salahan’ which is available for pre-order now! “

For more information on this captivating exhibit and to get more details, look at the artists’ backstories, inspirations, and more – check out the Town of Oakville’s Website here.

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The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes –



The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes
Part of the Field Museum’s underground “bunker” of reptile specimens. Credit: Field Museum

Two levels underground, Chicago’s Field Museum has a secret bunker. The sub-basement Collections Resource Center houses millions of biological specimens for scientists around the world to use in their research, including countless bottles and jars containing pickled fish, lizards, and snakes, arranged like a library. Many of these specimens are decades or even centuries old, near-perfectly preserved by a combination of formalin and alcohol. But the process that preserves tissues often destroys or at least makes acquiring DNA for modern studies very difficult, which is bad news for scientists who study genetic relationships between organisms. A new study in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, however, reveals new approaches for getting and maximizing usable DNA from decades-old pickled specimens, and uses these techniques to solve a long-standing mystery about a small snake from the island of Borneo.

“As a true crime aficionado, it reminds me of how people didn’t take DNA samples when a crime was committed in the 1960s, because nobody could have predicted that one day DNA samples would let you pinpoint who committed a crime,” says Sara Ruane, assistant curator of herpetology at the Field Museum and the study’s senior author. “These older museum specimens are sometimes the only available examples of a species, but they weren’t preserved with DNA in mind— this paper is about how we can squeeze every bit of information possible out of them.”

The project was born of the dissertation research of Justin Bernstein when he was Ruane’s student at Rutgers University-Newark. “My primary study is on a group of snakes, called homalopsids or mud snakes, that live in South and Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Australia,” says Bernstein, the paper’s lead author. “They’re really fascinating; they live in muddy, aquatic environments, and there are 56 species of them. We use DNA to study their , to try to describe new species, and to learn what happened to these groups over tens of millions of years that led to the diversity we see today.”

The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes
Alcohol-preserved specimens of Hydrablabes periops in the Field Museum’s collections. Credit: Josh Mata, Field Museum

For this paper, there was one animal in particular that Bernstein and Ruane were trying to place into a family group, a two-foot-long greenish-brown snake called Hydrablabes periops, aka the olive small-eyed snake. It’s found on Borneo, a large island east of mainland Malaysia and northwest from Australia that contains parts of Malaysia and Indonesia and the entire nation of Brunei. Based on its appearance, scientists had suggested two different families that it might be a part of. Analyzing its DNA could reveal its closest relatives and thus, its family, but that was easier said than done. “About half of mud snake diversity and all Hydrablabes vouchers are known from older specimens that were chemically treated, and this chemical treatment breaks down the DNA,” says Bernstein.

Part of the process of preserving an animal in alcohol is “fixing” it with a substance called formalin, a solution of formaldehyde gas and water, that makes its tissues rubbery and rigid. Unfortunately, the DNA in its cells gets altered as well. “It does something called crosslinking, which binds up the DNA,” says Ruane. “If you want to study its DNA, you need to undo or try to force the DNA out from those crosslinks.”

Studying the olive small-eyed snake meant taking small samples of liver tissue from some of the few specimens in the United States, both from the Field Museum’s collections. One from 1964, and the other from a 1993 collecting trip by the Field’s then-curator Robert Inger and his wife Tan Fui Lian.

The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes
Lead author Justin Bernstein visiting the Field Museum’s reptile collections. Credit: Sara Ruane, Field Museum

Such old specimens required new lab techniques. Normally, getting DNA out of a tissue sample involves adding digestive enzymes that break apart the tissue, leaving the DNA behind, and heating it to 130 ℉ for several hours. “We had to modify the way we got the DNA out by making it hotter for longer and using more of these digestive enzymes,” says Ruane. These more extreme preparation methods have been effective for other snakes in previous studies, but the resulting genetic analysis still contained lots of gaps for Borneo’s Hydrablabes snake specimen.

The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes
Lead author Justin Bernstein working with snake specimens at University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum, taking morphological data to examine homalopsid snake diversity. Credit: Justin Bernstein

“The chemicals used to preserve the snakes sheared their DNA into shorter pieces of code, which made them hard to compare with longer, more complete genes from other specimens,” says Bernstein. “The first software that I used made it hard to understand how much fragmented DNA there was across the study specimens, but switching to a different software that visualized the pieces of genetic code made it easier to see where there were problems.” And even the smaller, more fragmented pieces of code could be added to larger, published datasets to help build an evolutionary tree.

An important aspect of this paper for Bernstein was being transparent about the difficulties of using older specimens and the troubleshooting required to study them. “I wanted to show scientists that you can still do work with these specimens, it just requires a bit of finagling,” he says. “On a broader level, the study is really showing how to leverage the data you do obtain and how you can combine it with previously published datasets to investigate some really cool hypotheses.”

The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes
One of the decades-old snake specimens from the Field Museum used in this study. Credit: Sara Ruane, Field Museum

As for the Bornean at the heart of the study, the researchers were able to determine that it’s a member of the family Natricidae, which contains distant relatives such as the North American garter snakes. Which might not seem like a big deal, but “knowing that a particular species is part of a certain group can tell us a lot about biogeography and about how life on Earth has changed over time,” says Ruane.

And beyond the study of snakes, she notes that overall, “this project underscores the importance of museum collections, because you never know what you’ll be able to learn from specimens in the future.”

Explore further

Scientists discover a way to sequence DNA of rare animals

More information:
Maximizing molecular data from low-quality fluid-preserved specimens in natural history collections, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (2022). DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2022.893088.

Provided by
Field Museum

The art of getting DNA out of decades-old pickled snakes (2022, June 30)
retrieved 30 June 2022

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'Wordle' fan? The National Gallery of Art has launched a copycat. – The Washington Post



Summer Brennan can recognize a Vincent van Gogh painting by its wispy, vibrant brushstrokes. A series of loopy spirals or spindly legs? That’s probably Louise Bourgeois.

But after a few days of playing “Artle,” Brennan, a writer based in Paris, began to notice some holes in her art knowledge. For 30 years, she has indulged her love of visual arts by visiting galleries, reading books and attending shows. So when she couldn’t identify a piece by French photographer Eugène Atget, it felt like an embarrassing lapse.

“It does give you some self-awareness when you realize that all the artists you know right away are like White 19th-century artists, that maybe it’s time to expand some of your art appreciation,” Brennan said.

One of the latest “Wordle” copycats challenges players not with letters, but with images plucked from the National Gallery of Art. The popular daily word game, which was purchased by the New York Times for seven figures in January, has sparked dozens of spinoffs: “Squabble” (a Wordle battle royal), “Herdle” (for the musically minded), and even “Lewdle” (for profanity experts).

Worldle, Semantle, Heardle and 9 other Wordle alternatives

“Artle” begins by showing players a piece of art — a painting, photograph or sculpture — from the National Gallery of Art’s 150,000-piece collection, including whimsical paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and somber Roy DeCarava photographs. Players have four chances to guess the artist. Unlike “Wordle,” there are no hints, although the art becomes progressively easier to identify as players strike out. Players can then share their results with friends through text messages or on social media.

Mary Gregory, an art critic based in New York, began playing “Artle” as soon as it launched last monthand it’s now become a ritual. Every day, Gregory and her husband return to the gallery’s “Artle” website to test their art aptitude and extend their untouched winning streak.

“It’s fun. It’s a little challenge. And, you know what? If you get it wrong at the end, they tell you who it was,” she said. “These are in the collection of the National Gallery, and the National Gallery belongs to everybody.”

Steven Garbarino, a product manager at the gallery, began developing the game after noticing that people were searching for “Art Wordle” online but that no such game existed. It was the worst possible time. In late March, the museum’s staff was busy with “Afro-Atlantic Histories,” the gallery’s largest exhibition since the start of the pandemic. Garbarino worried that launching a gaming app would be seen as a distraction.

To his surprise, National Gallery of Art Director Kaywin Feldman quickly jumped on board. It took little more than a month to build the game, and it quickly began attracting an audience, with players in nearly every country. It has been played more than 1 million times and has 30,000 daily players. The game has increased traffic to the museum’s website by 125 percent.

Kaywin Feldman wants the National Gallery to be relevant to everyone. But first they have to come back.

“You can catch a little bit of lightning in a bottle and see cascading results,” Garbarino said. “We don’t have to spend 12 months developing a huge strategy and positioning plan. We can build something small [like ‘Artle’] that engages the audience.”

Projects such as “Artle” reflect a new vision for the National Gallery of Art: a desire to quickly reach new, more diverse audiences. Since being named director in 2019, Feldman has updated the museum’s mission statement and priorities. The product management team, which developed the game, has doubled in size, including adding more software engineers and digital consultants under Feldman’s leadership. “The bulk of our funding comes from the American taxpayers, so we owe it to them to give them the greatest art experience they can have. And the nation is a very diverse place. We want to focus on the great richness of the diversity of the American people and better reflect the nation,” Feldman said in an interview with Washingtonian last year.

The team worked closely with the gallery’s education department to choose a mix of famous, easily identifiable art and more obscure pieces. Within the game, for example, Georgia O’Keeffe paintings are considered easy to identify, while those by James McNeill Whistler are a little more difficult. Meanwhile, a piece by Elizabeth Catlett, a Black sculptor and graphic artist, is considered difficult to pick out.

The gallery wants the artists displayed in the game to reflect a diversity of races and gender, Garbarino said. “Often some of the lowest success rates are on artists of diverse backgrounds, artists of color or women artists,” he said.

It’s a challenge. Of the 157,553 objects in the gallery’s collection, only 2.3 percent are by non-White artists, and 8.1 percent are by female artists. In the first 45 days of “Artle,” 17.8 percent of the objects used in the game were by non-White artists and 22.2 percent were by female artists.

National Gallery enters new, overdue era with African diaspora show

“It’s a fine balance between bringing up artists that we think should be having a higher priority among the public while maintaining that ease of introduction to the game,” Garbarino said. “If it happens to be two days in a row where it’s a dead White man and someone is like, ‘Hey, every time I come here, it’s only a dead White man.’ It’s like, no, if you look at the broad spectrum of all the artists, it’s much more diverse. But it’s difficult to communicate that in one day.”

The well of famous artists will soon run dry, Garbarino said, and “Artle” will have to begin repeating artists or introducing its players to more unfamiliar names.

That could drive away players like Brennan’s husband who, she said, calls “Artle” “torture” and often simply offers Picasso as the answer to every image to end the game quickly.

It turns out, “Artle” may not be for everyone.

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CATHERINE SHEPHERD: Connecting through art – Saltwire



In recent years we’ve come to understand the importance of arts and culture in our lives. Art helps us to connect with ourselves and others. It’s an excellent way to express yourself that is known to positively impact our well-being, especially for those living with dementia.

Artful Afternoon is a dementia-friendly program offered by the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia in partnership with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for people living with dementia and their care partners. Participants are encouraged to tap into their creativity and reflect with one another while being able to make their own works of art.

The sessions provide a stress-free environment of fun where everyone involved can laugh, create and connect with one another.

For many, art is completely new to them, while others find themselves reconnecting with something they’ve always loved to do. Participants take a sense of pride in their art regardless of their experience.

Artful Afternoon information. - Contributed
Artful Afternoon information. – Contributed


Participants don’t have to be in-person to enjoy an Artful Afternoon. Sessions are offered virtually on Zoom for those who live across the province to enjoy – materials needed for the session are provided. Sessions are facilitated by Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia staff and a professional artist from the Art Gallery. It includes a guided tour of the gallery followed by an art session. Recordings of the virtual sessions are shared on our website for those who are interested at

“It’s wonderful that we’re able to offer both in-person and virtual formats where no prior art experience is necessary,” said Calandra Kandziora, Client Services Coordinator at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia.

“The relaxed environment allows participants to connect with one another and their care partners.”

The sessions include a tour of a collection at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia where artist and instructor, Lux Habrich, shares her knowledge and information.

Everyone attending feels that they are part of the group, even if they aren’t there in person. After learning about the collection, people from across the province can share and discuss.

At the end of the session, Lux provides some instruction on how participants may use the materials in art kits provided by the gallery. Many people even use the materials outside of the sessions.

“Facilitating the program for the past four years has been hugely influential for me personally,” said Lux. “Not only has it deepened my relationship with my own creative practice, but I’ve been able to witness over and over again the immense power art making and appreciation play in our overall well-being, sense of autonomy and community connectedness.”

Catherine Shepherd is Regional Coordinator, Education & Outreach, Cape Breton, Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. - Contributed
Catherine Shepherd is Regional Coordinator, Education & Outreach, Cape Breton, Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. – Contributed


We know that maintaining connections and trying new activities are important parts of living well with dementia. The program reduces stigma and myths by bringing together people living with dementia, care partners, staff and volunteers in a community setting.

Meaningful social activity is important for everyone, but this need is increased for people living with dementia and their care partners.

The program has received glowing reviews from its participants.

“It’s a fun activity to do with my parent. I think it’s a good opportunity for him to get out and do something different, social, and enjoyable. It gives us something to talk about as well and creates good memories for us.”

If you are hesitant about dipping your toes into the program but enjoy art, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia offers virtual tours on their website

To find out more and to register for Artful Afternoon, visit or call our Infoline at 1-800-611-6345.

Catherine Shepherd is a regional co-ordinator, Cape Breton and provincial lead, first link outreach, with the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia.

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