“The idea for RiverBrink Reads is to develop a reading group with titles that relate in some way to art,” says Debra Antoncic, director and curator at the RiverBrink Art Museum.
“Unlike a book club, attendees change from session to session, depending on interest and availability.”
This month’s selection was Jane Urquhart’s work, The Underpainter. Recipient of the Governor General’s award in 1997, this bestselling novel was the subject of the virtual discussion. The synopsis on RiverBrink Events page describes the novel telling the “story of an American painter in his later years, who is haunted by memories of the past and by those whose lives most deeply touched his own. Spanning decades, the story moves from upstate New York to the shores of two Great Lakes, from France in World War I to New York City in the ‘20s and ‘30s.”
The lively discussion centred on the novel itself and the history and culture of the time the novel was set.
The online discussion took place via the Zoom meeting platform last Thursday. With only three participants, attendance was down from last month, when six people joined in to talk about Akin by Emma Donoghue, the 2019 novel that rolls travel, history and photography into a story about an octogenarian and his young great-nephew as they travel together to Nice.
The idea for RiverBrink Reads was already in the planning stages before the necessity of moving toward a virtual world was apparent. Antoncic believes this initiative fit in “very well” with the other online programming that they had been developing since early April. She stated that this is just one of the projects that they have developed during the pandemic. “We have made good use of Zoom to reach and engage our members through Coffee with the Curator sessions and recorded mini-lectures on selected art works in the collection.” These lectures are posted on the art museum’s YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC57VsBddeePSYxPNj2UU6tw.
Antoncic laments that the opening of RiverBrink will not be going forward as planned but the museum will open by appointment. In addition, the art museum has several other projects in the works. The Coffee with the Curator sessions featured several of the artists with work in the exhibition, Illuminations and Colour with a U-Too. She also points out the museum hosted an artist talk with Dr. Eric Feng Fan, joining from Bejing via the Zoom platform.
As the Niagara Region moves through Stage 3 of the Province’s Reopening Ontario plan, Antoncic anticipates more programs and courses, either online or in person. They are planning courses for the LearnMore Series which are six-week courses in art history, geared toward adult learners. Upcoming artist workshops are also being held outdoors and social distanced. This month students can sign up for workshops to explore Mandela drawing with Lenore Walker on Aug. 22, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or go on a photo-walk with Niagara wedding photographer Josh Bellingham, as participants explore the outdoor scenery of the park at Queenston Heights for the perfect shot.
Along with these workshops, outdoor Hatha yoga sessions with instructor Sonya de Lazzer on Thursdays at 9 a.m. will run until Aug. 27. These yoga sessions may be extended into September, depending on the weather and demand.
As for the next RiverBrink Reads series, Antoncic states that they are planning to discuss the new biography of Andy Warhol, by Blake Gopnik. “This book has been described as the definitive biography of one of the most influential artists of his age. Art critic and author Blake Gopnik digs deep into the contradictions and radical genius that led Andy Warhol to revolutionize our cultural world.”
The date has tentatively been set as Sept. 3 but may be changed due to availability of the book and interest. Antoncic says that she has chosen the books so far in this series but she welcomes suggestions from the community.
Further details and updates are on their website: http://www.riverbrink.org/education.html.