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Annual Headwaters Arts Festival winners announced

September 30, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

A pillar of annual art events, the Headwaters Arts Festival held its juried competition this year, with winner announcements and an in-person art show in the Headwaters Art Gallery, within the Alton Mill Arts Centre.

The Citizen had the chance to speak to Susan Powell, Media and Communications Manager for Headwaters Arts. It was Susan Powell who powered through the application for the Trillium Grant that was given to the Alton Mill Arts Centre and Headwaters Arts to raise the roof over the Court Yard immediately outside the Mill.

“I’ve been doing these applications for 30 years,” Ms. Powell told the Citizen, “So, it was easy.”

Easy or not, it is a great boon to Headwaters as a space for art display and to the Alton Mill to host a whole line up of concerts and entertainments, bringing both revenue and new attendees to this Arts focal point. Late in October the canopy will be removed, cleaned and stored until Spring of 2022, when it will be returned and re-installed.

The current Covid protocol allows for only 38 people to visit the interior of the Mill at one time. This gives a chance to visit the many studios safely, while learning what goes on in the Mill, with the very fine and diverse artists who are set up there.

Said Ms. Powell, “Thirty-eight people for the whole building inside but outdoors, under the tent with the bar was nice. And people wanted to go in and spread out. The exhibition is on for another week, until the 3rd of October. It’s a good show.” 

She went on to say, “One thing that you’ll love, which was part of the Trillium money: if you go on the website there’s a 360 virtual tour. People may go to the see images; there’s real dimension to them.”

However, for all her work on behalf of Headwaters Arts, Susan Powell “was shocked.”

She told the Citizen, “I submitted [one of my own pieces of] work to the Festival Art Show and the Juror, Olaf Schneider, award three prizes.”

In a tone of disbelief, she told us: “I won first prize for a watercolour – watercolour never wins first prize! It’s never happened to me. This was the Juror’s Choice and you can see the three choices and an honorarium – the virtual tour shows all the display – it’s very nice.” 

Having won first prize with her submission, she shared about its background.

“I’m on this journey of natural pigments. I got involved with an Indigenous group on Manitoulin Island, putting in a medicine healing garden. I’ve always been interested in plants, ever since I was a little girl in the U.K., digging into my father’s gardens – all those beautiful flowers, their textures, colours and smells.

“I went to Manitoulin in the past 18 months, as a result of COVID and the quiet isolation. I read about Indigenous Peoples traditional plants, used for foods and medicines, connected with Indigenous Peoples, to help my partner develop a medicine/healing garden. My understanding of Indigenous wisdom and scientific plant knowledge grew.”

Withal, still an artist, although Ms. Powell is not doing as much painting recently, with her other responsibilities, “I experimented with new found pigments and plant-based paints from BEAM Paints at

“This young woman takes Indigenous plants and other natural products to produce plant-based-paints. She has made a business of it.

“I bought some of these paints, natural brown and other colours,” she said and added her personal history, saying, “I grew up as an artist. My parents were artists.”

She reminisced, “My father would go to collect natural material to make paints and [this Indigenous woman] she started this company. So, I was using paint from this entrepreneurial woman – there were really interesting colours.” 

This was how Susan Powell produced her winning painting and this is what it is about: “The Mullein is quite an interesting weed,” she instructed us.

Once found, she spent time reading about it. Like many traditional medicines and use of plants, it is dried and smoked and helps with chronic asthma…at a certain point, she started to understand its use.

In her artist’s statement, titling the painting “The Great Mullein,” Ms. Powell explains, “The painting depicts the plant in its early growth stage and the pattern of the leaves become feathers. I hoped to present the power of this plant, it’s soul and purpose, and what it offers and what it teaches us.”

Nancy MacNabb won second place in Olaf Schneider’s placing for her abstract piece. She called it “Chaotic Me,” an acrylic on canvas, which sold pretty quickly. In her artist’s statement, she tells the observer that she is a physician, used to thinking, yet also admitting to her emotional life. With the exceptional conditions Covid has imposed on (especially health professionals), Nancy MacNabb has found an outlet in her artistic and abstract paintings. This one combines a flow of emotion, yet with a sense of continuity within her own psyche. 

She says in her artist’s note: “I was incredibly inspired by the struggle for hopefulness during the pandemic, shared by so many – the roller coaster of emotion that is the human journey through chaos into light.”

For his third choice, Olaf Schneider highlighted, “Early Spring on the Pond,” an oil – and more – painting by Carolyn Daniels of ducks on a pond, using also “free-motion cross-stitching,” with clever optics, seen within the water, a ship shown differently, between one century and another.

“This art piece is an optical, pixelated mosaic – intended to let our imaginations roam in both centuries,” says Ms. Daniels.

For an Honourable Mention comes a blown glass by Kathryn Thomson – her Messenger Life III.

The Message is heavy and, yet, hopeful when hope is what is left: “Life can be difficult, fraught with heavy loads. Its seriousness can weigh us down. But hopefully there are also new beginnings to help us lighten that load. The years 2019-2021 have been difficult ones. My loss has been especially heavy. Yes, life weighs a ton. ‘They’ say the load becomes lighter…”

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