An artistic find – and a birthday present!

Sea to Sky by Sherrill Girard

This lovely little painting by Sherrill Girard, called Sea to Sky, was my birthday gift from Raymond. We found it during a happy Sunday-afternoon drive not far from the Manse in Queensborough. Note the turquoise!

There is a place on Highway 7 just a bit east of Actinolite and the intersection with Highway 37 (running south to Belleville) that Raymond and I have passed dozens and dozens of times now but, until one very recent weekend, had never ventured into. It is an art gallery called Studio 737 (you can probably figure out from my first sentence where the name comes from) and its sign proclaims “Fine Art Gallery” and “10 Rooms of Art to Enjoy!” But its appearance is very nondescript, so we always kind of wondered how “fine” the “fine art” would be.

But after the 123rd-anniversary service at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough, we decided we needed a Sunday-afternoon drive. And we decided that Studio 737 would be our starting point. (Our end point was the hamlet of Johnson’s Corners, or [in latter-day nomenclature] Elzevir, but that’s another story.)

Well! What a discovery!

Owners Arja Palonen and Joe Kurek (Arja is one of the artists, and a very talented one at that) have a little wonderland of Canadian art in their nondescript (from the outside) gallery at Highways 7 and 37. The rooms just go on and on, and a visitor is overwhelmed by the colour and the beauty of the work. It really is fine art – in the middle of almost nowhere in the centre of Hastings County. Which, when you come to think of it, is kind of at the heart of Canada.

We had a lovely time looking through it all. And I came away from the visit with a birthday present! Because my birthday was coming up at the time – and is in fact today, which is the genesis of this post – Raymond bought for me a lovely little painting that I was admiring very much. It is by Sherrill Girard, an Ontario native who now, as it happens, lives in the next neighbourhood over to us in Montreal. And it is called Sea to Sky. And it has a lot of turquoise in it.

And it now hangs very happily at the Manse – a wonderful gift from my husband, and a reminder of a happy Sunday drive, and a great discovery.

26 thoughts on “An artistic find – and a birthday present!

  1. Bonne fête, Katherine, as we say in these parts (Verdun, Quebec). I’m sure you know this, but you share a birthday with Alice Munro, one of my favourite writers. (Actually, you share an anniversary; I’m sure your birth”day” came long, long after hers.) … And Raymond, well done. I’m sure your gift will keep on giving.

    • Thank, you, Jim! You know, I’d been reading all that stuff that’s been around lately about Alice Munro saying she’s done with writing, and I never twigged to the fact that she and I share a birthday. I am honoured by the knowledge (and I thank you for it); she is a great, great writer.

      • I agree, Katherine. A great writer, and a class act. I got to interview Alice Munro back in 1982 at the Château Lacombe in Edmonton, and will never forget how charming she was. I also remember how nervous I was when I called her room moments before we got together. How do you address a multi-Governor General’s Award-winner? “Miss, Mrs. or Ms.? I went with “Mrs. Munro.” Wearing a sportsjacket and tie, I was surprised to be more formally dressed than Munro, who appeared in corduroy pants and sweater with a button that said, “Fiction lives.” We chatted for about an hour. She drank a glass of white wine and soda, and I nursed a couple of glasses of Dubonet. We discussed a wide range of subjects, but mostly we compared notes on life in small-town Ontario, and she asked me about as many questions about Penetanguishene as I did about the Clinton, Wingham area. Her interest seemed genuine. I guess this was part of the secret to her success – taking a real interest in what other people say and do. I hate to think that she’s done writing. Where am I going to get my Alice Munro fix?

      • How cool to be able to say that you’ve interviewed Alice Munro, Jim! (And at the Chateau Lacombe yet – wasn’t that the one with the revolving restaurant on top?) Perhaps not surprising that she wanted to pick the brain of a fellow writer about growing up in small-town Ontario, given that that’s been the focus of so much of her work. She sounds like a genuinely nice person.

  2. An excellent choice Raymond as it certainly seems to be bringing much joy today and for many years to come. To Katherine, Hope it has been a Very Happy Birthday for you and the coming year is just as joyous.

    • Chuck took the words right out of my mouth.. Happy Belated Birthday Katherine.. I am an artistic person as well and a little odd they tell me since I am a lefty.. Jos is too so we sit very well at tables. Maybe that is why we find old general stores so intriguing. I think now that my kids will not knock over my easel I can get out my paints again. Not just doors.. lol

      • Thank you, mk! Yes, you should definitely get out your easel. I must tell you, when we saw you painting the front doors of the old general store that happy deep red colour the other day, you looked like a painting yourself! I should have taken a photo. And your newly painted doors look lovely!

  3. Happy birthday, Katherine. You too, Alice. That is a very nice miniature. Talking about CanLit (I’ve recounted this to Jim), my first job out of university was in the PR department of the Royal Bank. Fourth floor of PVM, double windows, and sharing a very attractive secretary with an elderly gentleman named Jimmy Ross, who wrote copy for advertising flyers and posters distributed to branches across Canada. The three of us would lunch together perhaps twice a month for the three years I worked there. He would regale us with accounts of his travels and, recurringly, his conversations with Margaret. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that Jimmy’s nom de plume (his given name, actually) was Sinclair and that his dearest friend was Margaret Laurence. I belatedly found a copy of As for My and My House, and read it. (Hey, it was never assigned reading!) I never let on that I’d been totally ignorant of his literary credentials, much less that I found his novel depressingly grim. Jimmy and I left the bank within months of each other, me motorcycling to San Francisco for the tail end of the summer of love, him to a Greek island to write the great novel he was sure he still had in him. We were both somewhat disillusioned by the results — sadder for him, though, since I had many decades left to reorient my life and he did not. A really nice guy, though. I wish he’d been able to pull off the novel he thought he had in him.

  4. Huh! I’ve been driving by that spot for about 150 years, but, like you, was picturing lots of paintings of misty-eyed, long-haired young women in gauzy dresses and winsome kittens. Shame on me! What a lovely painting.

  5. Happy birthday, Katherine! I’m guilty, too, of driving past the gallery many times without stopping, even though it’s been recommended to me by others. I’m glad you brought it back to the front of my mind.

      • And now we’ve been and are more than suitably impressed. Now let me see, I just need to put my hands on about $3,000 so we can buy those paintings we fell in love with. Sometime I’ll tell you about the interesting possibility my tour today of 737’s website raised for an artist friend of mine. She and I may be thanking you even more for writing about it.

      • Now you’ve got me all intrigued, Brenda – I hope to hear more! Meanwhile, I’m very glad you enjoyed your visit. Though I know what you mean about how it would be that much MORE enjoyable if one had a spare few thousand dollars to spend…

  6. Hi Katherine, and happy, happy birthday, slightly removed! Being a painter (with no time to paint lately) Lillian was aware of the potential quality of that gallery, and when we stopped a few years ago, we were equally amazed at the quality. It is so good to hear they are still there. Lovely temperature here today… finally. Hope it stays this way till your return to your Ontario home. Perfect summer weather.

  7. Happy birthday Katherine – You also share a birthday with our son Theo – See you at the beach!

  8. An interesting description as to the location of Elzevir and Studio 737 “at the heart of Canada.”.
    Enjoy your season of birthdays.
    Regards
    Gerry and Bev

    • Thank you, Gerry and Bev! Yes, I suppose my description may not be totally accurate geographically (i.e. distance-wise), but the area really does feel like pure and archetypal Canada.

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