For the first time since the renovations, patrons of the arts were happy to enjoy the exhibits at the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre.
Marketing coordinator Aimee Medina and the staff finally opened their doors Sunday afternoon to show off the building updates and their new exhibits. Although 120 people preregistered for the event, “approximately 150 people (give or take) attended the reopening. The guests came at various times of the day, which helped us ensure that social distancing and mandated indoor gathering requirements were met. We were even able to accommodate guests that didn’t pre-register, if space was available, when they arrived, or by advising them to come back at a time when space was available,” says Medina.
She, the board and staff felt the reopening was a success. “The support of the community was overwhelming, and guests expressed their delight and appreciation that the Niagara Pumphouse has finally reopened after months of closure. I saw happy faces at the event on guests, instructors and members who finally got to see the updated facility and enjoy the exhibits at the Joyner Gallery, Walker Room and lobby gallery.” Members eager to renew their membership or register to live classes and workshops once again also came to the opening. Students of the online art class, with their families, were proud to see their artwork on display at the children’s studio; and enthusiastic volunteers helped with welcoming guests and conducting the tour, she says.
The featured artist for the reopening was Niagara resident Beverley Barber, who won first place in the 2019 Walker Industries Art Competition. Her exhibition, Communication in The Quantum Leap, invites guests to use their imagination when viewing her pieces in this collection. She wants “people to feel vibrations when they look at her mixed media paintings.”
“I describe my art as vibrational, and always changing,” Barber says. “My ultimate goal in art is to raise the vibrations to a level that allows the viewer to feel happier and good about life. I feel that is what is really needed today.”
She explains that when the implications of COVID-19 were beginning to be felt, “time slowed down.” Barber, who usually spends time in the winter months with her daughter’s family in California, found she had the time to try something a little different for this exhibition. She created the pieces for this show during her pandemic isolation. The show was supposed to feature acrylics, but it became something more as she added watercolour and other media to the pieces. Barber explains she first painted in watercolour, then in acrylic paints. She ripped up the watercolour paintings and added them to the acrylic paintings along with bits of other pen and ink drawings, scraps of newspaper and
images from magazines. She sees the symbolism of destroying the original watercolours as “destroyed to relate to a new reality.”
She likes to switch styles, she says, and likes to keep it “fun and full of surprises,” not wanting to be predictable in her style. The result is paintings that became more surreal, and she felt it was more important to begin to question reality as we are living “in a time that questions reality.” She strived for her images to be non-personal, so the viewer could use their own sense of imagination and “go beyond their own sense of reality.”
She described that through this process, she used the non-logical part of her brain, and “for the first time it feels more authentically myself.” She expressed a real need to make a comparison between today, and our new reality going forward. She found the media covering COVID-19 overwhelming, and her work reflects that. As she began to look at her work in a new light, so should we start by “looking at new problems we have in a way that would be creative.”
Also, she found that for this exhibit, she focused on composition more than ever before, and found that as an artist it is “more interesting where I’m going than where I’ve been.” She feels she has learned a lot from this work, and in these times of the unknown, she has made a great advance as an artist, a “quantum leap.”
Her exhibition runs until Aug. 30.
Medina commended Barber on her exhibit, and mentioned there were “visitors (not just from the Niagara area) to attend her opening reception and show support for the artist. Barber talked to guests about her journey as an artist, and how her collection, now on display at the Niagara Pumphouse gallery, came about.”
“The show is the art centre’s first exhibition this year, since the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the centre’s season, and will be part of a reopening, renovation tour that weekend. It’s oddly fitting, then, that the first exhibit’s theme is “random versus predictable in art,” as this year has been anything but predictable,” says Medina.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero and Eduardo Lafforgue, resident and CEO of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce, were at the event to admire Barber’s exhibit, as well as the works of other artists, such as Niki Kingsmill, whose art was featured in the gallery’s lobby. Kingsmill is also the host of the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre’s online watercolor workshop series. In addition, the walls of the Walker Room displayed the work of Niagara Pumphouse members and the Children’s Studio exhibited the work of online art students.
Donations made to the gallery during the event will be used to support operating expenses during COVID-19. For according to Medina, “like other galleries and cultural facilities, COVID-19 derailed plans for the first half of 2020. We were looking forward to reopening in March after undergoing renovations over the winter. Community art classes and workshops for adults and children had to be cancelled. Solo exhibits planned since last year had to be postponed. Major special events that the centre relies on to raise funds for programming had to be called off. This included its Art at the Pumphouse art show and sale that takes place each August and its Moonlight Picnic in September. Upcoming events such as the online fundraising auction will reconnect the Arts Centre with art lovers and collectors, as well as raise funds to help offset revenue lost due to the pandemic.
The centre’s first online auction will begin taking bids on Aug. 17 and end on Aug. 31. Bidding will take place using the Charity Auctions Today platform. Many of the works have been donated by local artists. The gallery will be auctioning off 25 art works in all media in the first event. Due to the overwhelming response for submissions, another auction will take place later in the fall. In addition to the donations acquired through the reopening reception, this fundraising initiative is a first for the gallery, and will also help offset the lost revenues during the closure due to the pandemic.
The works up for auction are available for viewing online or in person at the gallery. The Pumphouse is open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. To ensure the safety of all guests, Medina says
the new schedule allows staff to effectively follow provincial/municipal guidelines. Some of the measures we have implemented include mandatory face covering for staff and guests; availability of sanitizing stations in each room; observance of physical distancing; cleaning and disinfection of supplies, and displays and work stations touched by the public, among others.”
For more information, visit niagarapumphouse.ca, or to register to bid at the auction, contact support.charityauctionstoday.com or call 905-468-5455.