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A unique viewpoint

Queen's researcher Amber White gets Aboriginal students to utilize canvas to tell the story of their lives.

“May I borrow your story?”

This was the question asked by Queen’s researcher Amber White when she travelled to Sudbury for a research project. The Master’s of Education student encouraged eight Aboriginal youth in the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre to explain why they left high school before graduation, using nothing but paint, a brush, and a blank canvas.

Amber White's new art show documents the lives of eight Aboriginal young people.

The result is Speaking Through Acrylic: Potholes, Loss and Dreams, an art exhibit created by those eight Aboriginal students that delves deep into their lives and doesn’t pull any punches. From bullying, to teenage pregnancy and loneliness, the eight canvasses are stark and unforgiving.

The show has been mounted in The Studio, located in the Queen’s Faculty of Education.

“I travelled to Sudbury and they trusted me,” says Ms. White. “This was a humbling experience and I hope it resonates. It’s important to know why urban aboriginal youth withdraw from mainstream schools. Without their voices, there won’t be change.”

The name of the show reflects the message the students want to convey. Potholes are symbolic of the roadblocks these youth continue to face and overcome, while loss is something each participant has felt in their lives. Each has dreams for the future; some of these dreams were taken away, while some are still held near and dear. Each of these complexities and emotions come together within the eight pieces of art.

“This is a unique way to tell a story and I hope we listen,” says Ms. White. “The students want their teachers to come to their defense, to understand what they are going through. It’s a serious situation. These students are dropping out of school and some aren’t coming back.”

Going forward, Ms. White has plans to return to Sudbury to continue her research.

“I also want to give back to the community that welcomed me in. Some researchers go and just take and take,” she says. “I want to give them something in return.”

The show opens Tuesday, July 28 with a special Thanks Giving ceremony at 1:30 pm. The show runs every day from 1:30 to 5:30 pm until Friday, Aug. 14.

To learn more about the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre visit the website.

Artists Among Us: Solitude allows the words to flow

The Artists Among Us is a series of profiles of Queen’s staff members who pursue artistic endeavours in addition to their work at the university. The Gazette will feature staff members on an occasional basis and welcomes suggestions. If you have ideas of people to profile, please contact Wanda Praamsma at wanda.praamsma@queensu.ca

Musician Megan Hamilton, an administrative assistant in the Faculty of Law, will be performing this summer at the Wolfe Island Music Festival, while her new album is set to be released in September. (University Communications)

Megan Hamilton first started writing music when she was in her late 20s, while in Toronto after studying theatre at Ryerson. She was living alone for the first time in her life, and while lonely at times, she found the solitude freeing.

“I started writing music, short stories, plays. There was no social media at the time, and I didn’t have a computer – very few distractions,” says Ms. Hamilton, now a well-regarded Canadian musician who also works full-time as an administrative assistant in the Faculty of Law. “I felt I didn’t need anyone’s permission and it became a really creative time for me.”

Even though she never imagined herself singing, Ms. Hamilton recorded a few songs with a friend. It was then that she decided she “could do this,” and instead of pursuing theatre, she moved into the musical sphere. 

“I liked that with music, I didn’t have to wait for other people, which I felt like I was doing in theatre,” she says. “I could just go out and do my own thing.”

A few years later, in 2006, she released her first album, Feudal Ladies Club, and since then, she’s toured across Canada, promoted several more albums, and developed a following for her folk/pop-edge/shoegaze style. In August, Ms. Hamilton will be on stage at the Wolfe Island Music Festival, and on Sept. 25, she releases her fifth album, Forty Warm Streams to Lead Your Wings. This latest album is being produced by singer/songwriter and producer Jim Bryson, who has toured and/or recorded with The Tragically Hip, Sarah Harmer and Kathleen Edwards, among others.

“It’s a really busy, exciting time,” she says. “It’s satisfying, getting my music out there, since it’s a much bigger challenge these days.” 

Ms. Hamilton also combines life as a musician and Queen’s staff member with life as a parent, as mother to a four-year-old daughter. It’s a delicate balance, she says, to find time for everything, and the space to write. 

Like her early days writing alone in Toronto, Ms. Hamilton needs complete quiet and separation to set down the stories that become her songs. And, perhaps aptly, her lyrics are often rooted in themes of loneliness, sadness, and love/relationship issues.

UPCOMING
Megan Hamilton plays the Wolfe Island Music Festival Friday Aug. 7.
Visit her Facebook page for more information about her new album, Forty Warm Streams to Lead Your Wings, and tour dates.

“I usually start with a visual image,” she says. “Then a scene unfolds, and generally the lyrics flow pretty quickly from that. I also love playing with rhyme and rhythm. I play games – like working with syllables, trying to figure out how to structure a line. I think these things all stem from my childhood, things I used to do. On long car rides, I would count telephone poles – there’s this rhythm there – and then chop the poles down in my mind.”

Through promoting her own music, Ms. Hamilton has become an expert organizer, and those abilities extend into her work in Queen’s Law, where among other administrative duties, she helps with event planning and payroll. She also provides public-speaking coaching for law students who are preparing for moot competitions. 

“I really love that, working with the students,” she says. “I’m really grateful for my position in the Faculty of Law. Everyone is really supportive of my musical career, and when I do have accomplishments to share, they are always there to celebrate with me.”

Drama professor earns provincial arts award

Daniel David Moses is being recognized as one of Ontario’s key figures in Aboriginal arts and as an advocate for Aboriginal culture.

Daniel David Moses is the 2014 recipient of the Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award. (Supplied Photo) 

The associate professor in the Department of Drama at Queen’s University recently received the Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award for his work as a poet, playwright and essayist.

Mr. Moses, a Delaware who hails from the Six Nations of the Grand River, arrived at Queen’s in 2003 as a Queen’s National Scholar. Adding to the significance of the award, he says, is that the jury was composed of fellow Aboriginal artists from a broad spectrum of art forms.

“Often an artist spends their time in their room, working away just making things,” he says. “You don’t necessarily know if the audience is there, but this is evidence of it.”

Created in 2012, the $10,000 award celebrates the work of Aboriginal artists and arts leaders who have made significant contributions to the arts in Ontario.

Mr. Moses credits his time at Queen’s for helping him get to where he is today in an arts career that has spanned more than 30 years.

“It’s been a wonderful supportive time for me,” he says. “It’s allowed me to clearly think about the art forms I work in and find ways of communicating the ideas I have about them – poetry, plays and essays.”

In selecting him, the jury noted that Mr. Moses is: “one of the key figures of Aboriginal theatre, both artistically and academically, and is developing an essential Indigenous archive. He is committed to telling the stories that created this country and is an advocate for Aboriginal culture.”

Mr. Moses is also co-editor of An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English, a founding text for the study of Canadian Indigenous literature, the fourth and 20thanniversary edition of which was published in 2013.

Among his 13 published plays are Coyote City, a 1991 Governor General’s Literary Award nominee, The Indian Medicine Shows, the 1996 James Buller Memorial Award winner, and Almighty Voice and His Wife, which in January and February 2012 completed a national Canadian tour. His most recent poetry collections are River Range and A Small Essay on the Largeness of Light and Other Poems.

Work on the Isabel earns awards

[Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts]
The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts at Queen's University officially opened in September 2014. (University Communications)

The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts at Queen’s University continues to win awards as the architects who designed the facility were recently recognized for their outstanding work.

Ottawa-based N45 Architecture Inc., in association with Snøhetta Architecture Design Planning, an international design firm with offices in Oslo, Norway and New York City, were presented with the inaugural Lieutenant Governor’s Award at the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) Celebration of Excellence in May.

“We are very honoured to receive the OAA Lieutenant Governor’s Award,” Robert Matthews, partner at N45 Architecture Inc., says in a media release. “The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts was designed not only as a beautiful place for the public to enjoy music, but as a versatile space for the students of Queen’s University’s music, drama, film studies and fine arts departments to learn and experiment. We were inspired by Kingston’s geography and wanted to make sure the building related to its environment. The main performance hall is wrapped in wood reminiscent of the rock you see throughout the city.” 

Also receiving recognition is Queen’s University’s marketing department for the video it created for the September 2014 grand opening of the Isabel.

The video team received a bronze Circle of Excellence Award in the General Information Long Videos category from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), an international competition that attracted 3,200 entries from 700 institutions worldwide, as well as a second bronze in the Best Use of Multimedia category of the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education's Prix D'Excellence.

“A lot of heart and soul went into the creation of the Isabel grand opening video produced for the opening event at Queen’s held in September 2014,” says Helena Debnam, Executive Director, Marketing, University Relations. “It is a great honour to win a CASE award such as this, particularly given its international recognition and scope in higher education. This award is a testament to those in the Marketing, University Relations and North Summit Productions, who were involved in the creation, coordination and planning of this video – and also significantly the late Jerry Doiron.”

Mr. Doiron, the inaugural director of the Isabel, passed away on Oct. 9, 2014.  

The video features before and after images as well as drone footage and footage captured from a ferry travelling along the lake. A wide array of stakeholders were interviewed including professors, students, project managers and architects, including lead architect Craig Dykers, who was not available until the day before the opening.

The video can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywTSrcKcsZk

The design of the Isabel incorporated the best features of the world’s greatest facilities and combines them with advances in modern technology to create a world-class building. The 80,000-square-foot facility features an acoustically superior 560-seat concert hall and a 100-seat studio theatre, as well as an art and media lab, a film screening room, laboratories, classrooms and rehearsal space.

The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts was made possible by a transformational gift from Alfred Bader (Sc’45, Arts’46, MSc’47, LLD’86) and his wife Isabel (LLD’07) as well as the financial backing of the federal and provincial governments, the City of Kingston and additional philanthropic support. The Isabel is a hub for artistic study, creation, exhibition and performance at Queen’s. It is home to the Department of Film and Media and also provides learning and working space for the university’s other creative arts disciplines.

 

Waste not, want not

New production from Chipped Off Performance Collective examines our wasteful world.

When Dan Vena arrived at Queen’s University to start his master's in gender studies, he was surprised to find the queer theatre scene in Kingston was seriously lacking. He teamed up with Queen’s drama professor and theatre artist Kim Renders, and fellow master's student Robin McDonald and formed Chipped Off Performance Collective to address the void.

Presenting wasteAWAY at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts are (l to r): Dan Vena, Robin McDonald and Professor Kim Renders.

Now, three years later, Mr. Vena and Chipped Off are presenting their third show, simply titled wasteAWAY, at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

“When I moved here, I wanted to create something like Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (the Toronto-based queer theatre group) here in Kingston,” explains Mr. Vena. “We are committed to presenting work that speaks to the needs and concerns of marginalized or underrepresented communities in Kingston.”

Running from June 4 to 6, wasteAWAY brings together a collection of talented artists, presenters and performers to weave together a story about waste. The show is designed to make the audience think more seriously about their relationship with waste.  It was when Queen’s environmental studies professor Myra Hird invited Ms. Renders to participate in genera Research Group (gRG), a transdisciplinary research group focused on waste, that the idea for wasteAWAY was born.

 “We have focused for the past three years on shows that are provocative and intense, shows that challenge the audience,” says Mr. Vena, “and this year’s show is no different. All the artists are given an equal opportunity to present their message.”

The show starts at 8 pm each evening, and admission is $10 or pay what you can, with tickets available at the door. In keeping with Chipped Off’s focus on accessible theatre, wasteAWAY is being presented at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, a fully accessible venue, and an ASL-English interpreter will be available upon request.

For more information on Chipped Off Performance Collective visit the Facebook page.

Making themselves the subjects

Bertha May Ingle, Self-Portrait, around 1902, oil on canvas.

When The Artist Herself: Self-Portraits by Canadian Historical Women Artists opens at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (the Agnes) on May 8, it will not only showcase the art of 42 women artists who produced work from the late 18th century through until the mid-1960s – it will also pay tribute to an exhibition that made history 40 years ago.

With The Artist Herself, co-curators Alicia Boutilier, Curator of Canadian Historical Art at the Agnes, and Tobi Bruce of the Art Gallery of Hamiltion set out to mark the anniversary of From Women’s Eyes: Women Painters in Canada, an exhibition unveiled at the Agnes in 1975.

“It was really the first exhibition to look at the history of women’s art production in Canada,” says Ms. Boutilier, “and it’s now recognized as a landmark exhibition for Canadian feminist art history.”

Paraskeva Clark, Myself, 1933, oil on canvas.

Rather than merely mounting a broad follow-up exhibit on women’s art, however, Ms. Boutilier and Ms. Bruce chose to refine their focus on looking exclusively at women’s self-portraits.

“There have been many international exhibitions on the subject, but there has never been a project to focus on women’s self-portraits in Canada,” explains Ms. Boutilier.

Instead of just assembling a collection of self-portraits, the curators decided to expand their definition of what it means for an artist to depict herself in her work. While the exhibition includes more traditional self-portraits, including the 1933 painting Myself, in which the artist, Paraskeva Clark, leans jauntily in a door frame, it also includes less conventional depictions, including an early self-portrait by Emily Carr, in which she depicts herself standing at an easel from the back, and a mid-1930s painting by Pegi Nicol MacLeod in which only the artist’s torso and hand are visible.

The exhibition includes needlework ‘samplers’ that would have been created by young colonial women who were honing their domestic skills, because, as Ms. Boutilier explains, each one includes an element of individuality and tells you something about the woman who created it. It also includes two costumes – an “Indian princess” costume and a Victorian-era dress worn by Pauline Johnson, a 19th-century poet of Mohawk and British heritage, when she was performing her poetry for settler audiences.

Bobs Cogill Haworth, Self Portrait, 1936, oil on linen.

“She would perform her dual identity,” says Ms. Boutilier. “She used the performances as a way to educate her audiences on the atrocities indigenous people were facing.”

The exhibition is designed to take the visitor on a meandering path designed to elicit questions. “It is not intended to be a comprehensive history or retrospective,” she explains. “We really are proposing possibilities. We want people to think ‘what makes this a self-portrait’?”

The exhibition concludes with a portrait by Inuit artist Pitseolak Ashoona, in which the artist is depicted with a friend, both women holding up drawings.

“It is a clear depiction of the artist as an artist,” says Ms. Boutilier. “Women in art history have so often been the object with the male artist as the subject. For a woman to depict herself as the artist is a powerful assertion of her own identity."

The Artist Herself: Self-Portraits by Canadian Historical Women Artists runs from May 2 – August 9, 2015 at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Also on-view is I’m Not Myself At All: Deirdre Logue and Allyson Mitchell, an exploration of sexual identity and domesticity curated by Sarah E. K. Smith, and Vanitas: Margaret Lock, an exhibition of prints by the long-time Kingston artist, curated by Sunny Kerr

For more information, visit the Agnes Etherington Art Centre's website

Conference looks at creativity and mental illness

[Dr. William Kenny]
William Kenny (Psychiatry) is hosting Creativity and the Mind, a conference looking at mental illness and creativity, at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on Friday. (University Communications)

As a professor at Queen’s and counsellor for the past four years at Health, Counselling and Disability Services, William Kenny (Psychiatry) has been immersed in the workings of the mind, including when it comes to mental health and creativity.

On Friday, Dr. Kenny is hosting the academic conference Creativity and the Mind, the first of its kind at the university, which will take a closer look at mental health from a spectrum of approaches.

The conference is inspired by similar events Dr. Kenny has attended in the United States that offered a view of mental health and treatment at odds with the mainstream approach where a patient is assessed and often treated with a pill.

This will be the focus of Creativity and the Mind, Dr. Kenny says.

“The conference is an attempt to bring together mental health people, artists, scientists, people who look at this from a different management (perspective), as well as the general public, and then try to come to grips with ‘What do we mean? How do people think?’ this sense of ‘What are we understanding, what are we labelling?’ and trying to broaden the dialogue, really, about mental illness both from a scientific standpoint and a humanistic standpoint within the general public.”

A conference he attended in Syracuse, NY, brought together mental health professionals and creative people, including a poet and a professor in fashion. It changed not only the way Dr. Kenny viewed mental health treatment but the links with creativity as well.

“Whenever I visit an art museum, especially modern art, which really deconstructs the mind actually, I come away a better therapist, with a better way of approaching people,” he says.

The Queen’s event, held at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC), will follow a similar path and offer a broad range of discussions connected to mental health and creativity.

One example is Anne Koval, a professor of art history at Mount Allison University and a poet herself. Her discussion will be on ekphrastic poetry, a form where the writer focuses on a visual work of art.

During the interactive sessions following her talk, Dr. Koval will lead a group to different paintings within the AEAC and encourage them to write their own poetry.

The key for the day, Dr. Kenny says, will be for participants to be willing to explore a wide range of ideas.

“They should come with an open mind, hopefully, and also a hopeful one,” he says. “Instead of seeing mental illness as a dead end, they’re seeing that it can open a doorway to understanding ourselves better, not just people who have an emotional illness.”

Creativity and mental illness have long been linked. Dr. Kenny explains there is a theory that the link is genetic but that the gene can affect members of the same family very differently.

“Creativity is usually the product of off-the-wall thinking, asynchronous thinking, for creative people.  Whether it is an artist or Steve Jobs, they think out of the box, so they are (considered) a genius,” he says. “Well that same out-of the-box thinking in another member of the family, they are overwhelmed, they can’t deal with it and therefore they develop an  illness as opposed to their brother, sister or cousin who becomes a very creative force.”

The all-day conference starts at 8 am and will conclude around 5:30 pm. Registration is required for the conference. Fees are: $140 - Mental Health Professionals/Family Physicians; $90 - General Public; $70 - Students/Residents

Beginnings and endings

  • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
    Francesca Pang and her painting "Apertures of Interest".
  • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
    Emily Gong creates a meditative sand mandala.
  • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
    Jonas Azeredo Lobo, "Eu Tembem Era Grande".
  • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
    Iris Fryer, "Untitled".
  • [Begin Anywhere 2015]
    Lauren Rosentzveig, "Standoff", "Withhold", "Conceal".

The culmination of four years of study, creativity and hard work is on display this week as the graduating class from the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program hosts their annual year-end exhibition.

Begin Anywhere has transformed Ontario Hall into an art gallery featuring the work of 20 fourth-year students. There is an impressive range and depth to the artworks, from delicate fabrics and multi-layered print to paintings that take up an entire wall and a massive male form created out of layer upon layer of wood.

According to Otis Tamasauskas, a professor in the BFA program, the exhibition marks a transition point in the students’ lives and potential careers.

“This is their moment, where they get to participate as professionals,” he says. “This is what the program has been culminating to: to get them to be professionals. That’s the end result.”

He adds that the exhibition also offers an “oasis,” where students, staff and faculty, as well as the public, can step away from the status quo and absorb the creative works.

Paintings, sculpture, prints and mixed-media installations “physically and intellectually illuminate” the halls and rooms of the building.

Reflecting on the graduating class, Professor Tamasauskas says they are a “good group,” adding that a number of students will be moving on to post-graduate studies in Saskatchewan, Calgary, Montreal and New Zealand.

“They sort of live through the credence of creativity. You have to be independent, and individual, you have to think outside of the box. Well, they certainly do,” he says. “They have maintained their individuality after the four years. It shows. They definitely are more sophisticated and mature in their interpretations of aesthetics now.”

For Francesca Pang (BFA’15), the exhibition not only marks the end of her studies at Queen’s but a new beginning as an artist on her own. She says she has learned a lot about herself through the process as well.

“It’s very rewarding I think. It really helps me figure out how I see my art and how people are going to be able to view it. I think setting something up like this it becomes very professional,” she says. “I think for myself, seeing my work up like this in relation to each other, I’m seeing the original intent of my work and then, as a series, how they are coming together.”

Begin Anywhere continues through to Saturday, April 25 at Ontario Hall 9 am-4 pm daily. A closing reception will be held on Saturday from 7-10pm. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

What's old is new again

More than 400 students have graduated from Queen’ University’s Master in Art Conservation (MAC) program and founder Ian Hodkinson has proudly kept track of many of them. For 40 years, graduates of MAC - the only program like it in Canada - have gone on to important positions at museums all over the world.

“We have students in key museum positions all over,” says Mr. Hodkinson with a smile. “I’m just over the moon with how this program has turned out thanks largely to the talented colleagues who helped get it started and have improved it over the years.”

Mr. Hodkinson felt there was a better way to train conservators than he had experienced and realized that Queen’s had all the ingredients necessary for an integrated interdisciplinary conservator training program within the Department of Art. In 1970 he met with Duncan Sinclair- then Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, who encouraged him to approach then Principal John Deutsch with his proposal

Second year students Laura Hashimoto (l) and Lauren Buttle discuss a painting with Ian Hodkinson during a visit last week.

“He was enthusiastic about the idea so we continued the process of approval,” says Mr. Hodkinson. “I presented the proposal within Queen’s and to various organizations and levels of government – 28 times in all – until it was approved.”

However it was not until 1972 with the announcement of a new National Museums Policy and the creation of the Museums Assistance Program that funding became available to realize the dream

The first intake of 12 students was in 1974 and the first cohort graduated in 1976. The students spent the first year in the basement of Gordon Hall before the program moved to its current location on Bader Lane, behind the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

Rona Rustige, Curator of Cultural Property at the Glanmore National Historic Site in Belleville, has worked with Queen’s MAC students for more than 25 years. She has first-hand knowledge of the skill and dedication of the students as they have worked on a wide range of Glanmore pieces.

“When Queen’s works on our pieces, I always put them proudly on display, they never go back into storage,” says Ms. Rustige.  “Queen’s has worked on about 100 of our pieces. It’s expensive to get conservation work done so we are fortunate Queen’s has such an exemplary program. Museums just don’t have a lot of money to spend on conservation.”

Ms. Rustige said it’s also a benefit Queen’s has three streams of conservation – fine art, paper and objects. Glanmore currently has nine pieces undergoing conservation at Queen’s.

On a recent visit to the MAC labs, Mr. Hodkinson took a number of opportunities to interact with students and ask questions about their work. The professor emeritus says his favourite memories are summers spent with his students, doing internship work in the field. Two project highlights include the conservation of The Croscup Room, a group of scenic wall murals in Nova Scotia, now in the National Gallery of Canada, and the Church of Our Lady of Good Hope in the Northwest Territories. The church is now a national historic site.

“Those are special memories. They were wonderful experiences for the students,” says Mr. Hodkinson, “and an important extension of their studies in the labs at Queen’s to help them achieve the success that they have.”

The public is welcome to visit the MAC labs and interact with staff and students during the open house Saturday, April 25 from 12:30-2 pm.

Queen's University offers the only Master of Art Conservation program in Canada. Students specialize in the conservation of paintings, artifacts or paper objects or carry out research, for example in conservation science.

A hidden gem

  • Masters of Art Conservation students work to prepare a mural by Kenneth Hensley Holmden (1893-1963) for removal from 16 Bath Rd.
    Master of Art Conservation students work to prepare a mural by Kenneth Hensley Holmden (1893-1963) for removal from 16 Bath Rd.
  • The image of a Mediterranean port is 3.4 by 1.8 metres and was created using oil paint on a canvas which was then affixed to a plaster wall.
    The image of a Mediterranean port is 3.4 by 1.8 metres and was created using oil paint on a canvas which was then affixed to a plaster wall.
  • A Master of Art Conservation student prepares the mural for removal from the wall.
    A Master of Art Conservation student prepares the mural for removal from the wall.
  • Mural being removed.
    The mural was slowly removed from the wall and wrapped around a large cardboard cylinder for transportation.
  • Mural is tied up
    After the mural was wrapped around the cylinder, it was secured to prepare for transportation.
  • Removing the mural from 16 Bath Rd.
    Removing the mural from 16 Bath Rd. took about three hours in total, which included two hours of preparation and one hour of removal.
  • Group shot
    Seven Master of Art Conservation students will have the opportunity to restore the painting under the supervision of an art conservation professor.

It came as a surprise to renovators when, on a wintry day in Kingston, they uncovered a Mediterranean port hidden behind a false wall.

The Mediterranean port makes up the scene on a long-forgotten, 3.4 by 1.8 metre oil on canvas mural that had hung hidden behind the wall at 16 Bath Rd. for approximately 40 years. Queen’s students will have the opportunity to give the painting a new lease on life by the Springer Group of Companies, the property owner which has donated the mural to the Master of Art Conservation Program.

“Restoring this painting is a perfect degree of complexity for a beginner’s project,” says Michael O’Malley, a professor of painting conservation. Restoration is expected to take about 100 hours or more.

Kenneth Hensley Holmden (1893-1963) is the artist behind the mural. Born in Ottawa to British parents, Mr. Holmden is credited for his decorative murals in Montreal and in the original Ruby Foos Restaurant, the now demolished York Cinema, and the Imperial Bank of Canada building on St. Jacques Street. One of his works is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

“The painting is not in great condition. It has a very yellowed varnish, some tears and flaking paint, and a small missing section of the canvas in the lower left corner,” says Amandina Anastassiades, assistant professor of art conservation (artifacts) at Queen’s. “However, in its present condition the mural is of great value to the Art Conservation Program. It will provide a wonderful opportunity for Queen’s University and the students of its Art Conservation Program to be involved in preserving a piece of Kingston and Canadian heritage through the rescue and conservation of a large painted mural by a well-known Canadian artist.”

Removing the mural from 16 Bath Rd. took about three hours, which included two hours of preparation and one hour of physically removing the canvas from the plaster that had been its home since the building housed the attached diner for the then-Kingston Bus Terminal.

“I remember visiting the diner with my grandfather when I was younger and now we’re happy to be able to donate the mural to the Master of Art Conservation Program,” says Bryon Springer of the Springer Group of Companies.

For now, the mural will be restored in the labs of the Master of Art Conservation Program on campus, where a team of seven students under the supervision of the incoming professor of paintings conservation will restore the mural to its former glory.

Upon further investigation, the mural was found to be based on an image originally created by artist William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854) entitled Fish Market, Toronto.

Queen's University offers the only Master of Art Conservation program in Canada. Students specialize in the conservation of paintings, artifacts or paper objects or carry out research in conservation science. 

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