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Festival celebrates all things Group of Seven

Sudbury and surrounding areas had a significant impact on a number of renowned painters, including Franklin Carmichael, A.Y. Jackson and the rest of the Group of Seven.
Killarney-based artist Pierre Sabourin gave an animated presentation about the Group of Seven during the Art Gallery of Sudbury's summer festival launch. From June to September, the Gallery will be celebrating all things related to the Group of Seven during the Festival of the Seven. Photo by Jenny Jelen.

Sudbury and surrounding areas had a significant impact on a number of renowned painters, including Franklin Carmichael, A.Y. Jackson and the rest of the Group of Seven.

To celebrate the importance of their work, the Art Gallery of Sudbury is playing host to the Festival of the Seven.

“The AGS invites Sudbury and area art groups, tourism partners and the business community to participate in this yearly celebration of local and Canadian art inspired by Carmichael and the Group of Seven,” a media release from the Art Gallery said.

“Franklin Carmichael was inspired by and celebrated the unique landscape and culture of Sudbury and district basin,” said Karen Tait Peacock, AGS director.

“We envision, as part of the AGS' initiative of renewal to create an exciting, sustainable art gallery and launching Festival of the Seven is part of this is, as it serves to celebrate this special part of Northern Ontario and its art.”

The summer-long festival boasts a busy schedule of exhibitions, concerts, excursions and other special events.

Highlights include:

The Group of Seven Awkward Moments by Diana Thorneycroft – June 21 to Sept. 2 - Winnipeg-based artist and photographer Diana Thorneycroft investigates the relationship between the Canadian landscape and national identity. Reproductions of famous paintings are used as backgrounds for the dioramas she photographs. Guests are welcome to become part of the festival by tweeting their most awkward moments.

The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson by George Walker – June 21 to Sept. 2 – Original Group of Seven works will be displayed alongside George Walker's contemporary prints, which are inspired by the Group. Walker's work is full of national pride.

Ian Tamblyn Live at the AGS – July 8, 7 p.m., tickets $35/AGS members, $45/non-members - Juno winner Ian Tamblyn will perform live at the gallery, singing songs inspired by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. The evening includes food and inspired drinks of the season.

Retract the Group of Seven – Limited dates – Tour La Cloche, Killarney and French River to visit some of the actual locations where Group of Seven artists worked.

Come Paint with us! Discover A.Y. Jackson Lookout at Onaping Falls – May 27 to June 6, for 10 to 30 people, $10 per person – Students and community groups can learn about plein air painting techniques.

Plein Air Excursions to Grace Lake – July 19 and Aug 23, $75, includes land and water transportation - Pack pencils, paints and cameras, or simply put on hiking shoes, to join the AGS on a historical tour around Grace Lake, a favourite painting spot for Franklin Carmichael.

In the Footsteps of the Group of Seven by Jim and Sue Waddington – The Waddington's have spent 40 years tracking down the exact locations from which members of the Group of Seven painted their iconic representations of the Canadian landscape. Read all about it in their book.

West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson – Aug. 26, 7 p.m., Rainbow Cinemas, tickets $7 – Join the AGS for a special film screening.

Connections to the Group of 7: Taking the Fear out of ART – July 18, 6:30 p.m., AGS – Lecture and demonstration by Killarney artist Pierre Sabourin.

For more information about the summer season featuring all things Group of Seven, phone 705-675-4871 or visit


What Jenny Thinks

An entire summer worth of programming dedicated to the Group of Seven?

As I opened the schedule of events from the Art Gallery of Sudbury, I couldn't help but wonder how on earth they could make it exciting.

Even as I scrolled through the pages and pages of activities, I was a little concerned about how engaging a bunch of artists relegated to the history books could be.

I have since learned they can be pretty compelling.

AGS staff, board members and art supporters gathered at the gallery May 23 to launch the Festival of the Seven.

Situated in a makeshift campsite inside the main floor gallery, on a tree stump in front of an easel that once belonged to Franklin Carmichael, Killarney-based artist Pierre Sabourin captivated the audience with his stories about the iconic group of Canadian artists.

He spoke about visiting natural sites around his home turf, standing in the very spots Arthur Lismer and Frederick Varley were when they created history.
“They were painted up here,” he said.

When Sabourin studied fine art at the University of Ottawa, he had the opportunity to see many pieces in galleries nearby.

“Damn, these things look familiar,” he said. “I identified with the collection there.”

At this point, I realized what was happening. I had plunked myself down on the floor in front of Sabourin to shoot a photo, and remained there, watching with starry eyes as he spoke charismatically about the land he proudly called home.

Between Sabourin's passionate presentation, and informative talks by AGS Director Karen Tait and local artist Jon Butler, I learned more than ever about the Group of Seven. And I was eager and anxious to learn more.

All of a sudden, I wanted to go on the seemingly bland excursion to Onaping Falls to sketch where A.Y. Jackson once painted. I want to meet Jim and Sue Waddington, the couple who spent 40 years researching for their book In the Footsteps of the Group of Seven.

I want to know more about of our nation's most acclaimed artists, the very painters who celebrated our landscapes for the rest of the country and world to see.

We live in such a cool place, and are unquestionably privileged to have so many amazing resources in our back yards. Art Gallery of Sudbury, I give you a huge thanks for making art interesting.