As I write this, Queensborough is very quiet. From the front porch of the Manse I can hear nothing save the water of the Black River running over the dam at the centre of the village, some crickets, and the occasional barking of a small dog, sometimes answered by a slightly bigger bark from a slightly bigger dog. Not a soul, walking, biking or driving, has crossed my field of vision for quite some time. But one week ago today – wow, was that ever a different story! If you click Play on the video at the top of this post (shot by Raymond, the best husband ever), you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about. You should definitely press Play. Though I’ll warn you that the video was shot very early in the day last Saturday – just before the multitudes arrived in Queensborough.
Visitors to Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art enjoy the glorious weather and the Orange Garden. In the background is the lovingly restored Orange Hall, where the art exhibit was held. Photo by Jamie Grant
The streets of Queensborough were plugged with vehicles a week ago, as people from all over Ontario visited to see the hamlet that has attracted so many artists over the years.
On a glorious sunshiny summer day, Queensborough was absolutely packed with people. They strolled through the village, stopped to take photos, pointed out buildings and views to each other, consulted their Queensborough walking-tour guides, and just generally looked like they were having a wonderful time. Which – given that added to the mix was a stunning show of Queensborough-themed art (including a painting by A.Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven) and some great food to enjoy – they were. Our first-ever Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art event was a success beyond our wildest hopes. It was a spectacular day for Queensborough.
The Orange Hall was filled all day long with people taking in the more than 100 artworks on display.
It was a lot of work to put together, though, which is the main reason it’s taken me a few days to get around to composing this report for you. I was exhausted! The handful of volunteers who make up the Queensborough Community Centre committee, supplemented with a small number of invaluable outside helpers, really outdid themselves putting the show together and ensuring the day went off well. In about the 14th straight hour of the arduous process of hanging and arranging and otherwise displaying the more than 100 artworks in the show at the historic Orange Hall, one of the key helpers commented wryly, “I think we might have bitten off more than we can chew.” At which we all chuckled – and then doubled down again to get the job done in time for the huge influx of visitors on Saturday.
To the hundreds of people (we estimate at least 600) who came from near and far to enjoy the show and the day: thank you so much! Your appreciation for the art, and for Queensborough, made all the work worthwhile. A huge number of attendees were first-time visitors to our hamlet, and it was thrilling to see how much they enjoyed discovering it. “It’s beautiful!” “It’s magical!” I heard that over and over again, all day long.
Visitors were able to enjoy a barbecue at the historic Queensborough Community Centre (our village’s former one-room schoolhouse) and church-basement sandwiches served at the Orange Hall. Stephanie Flieler and Tyler Walker were among the hard-working barbecue crew.
To those who worked so hard to make the show a success – the QCC volunteers; the owners of the Orange Hall, Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, who have done an amazing job of restoring the historic building and beautifying the grounds attached to it; to Judith Almond Best, who spent an entire day meticulously making labels for each of the artworks; and most especially to Tonny Braden, a former Queensborough (now Madoc) resident without whose endless hours of hard work and expertise about art and art shows we never could have pulled this off – what can I say but: a job well done, gang. Just brace yourselves, because almost every visitor I spoke to said something along the lines of, “You have to do this again!”
But now, because images can tell this story so much better than words, I want to show you what this glorious Queensborough day looked like. Some of the photos are mine, and some are from others who attended or otherwise took part in the show. Enjoy!
Just a few of the glorious paintings on display. At top left is a particularly meaningful one for us Queensborough folk. It’s by artist Barbara Whelan, and shows the auction that took place when McMurray’s General Store closed. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
Our strolling troubadours for the day, Robin and Clara. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
One of my favourites from the show: Maple Syrup Time at Ramsay’s Sugar Shack, by Robert Tokley, a brilliant artist with deep Queensborough roots. The late Harold Ramsay is the figure depicted in the door of the sugar shack. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
Folk artist Goldie Holmes’s famous Queensborough quilt (which I’ve written about before, notably here) greeted visitors at the entrance to the show. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
One of the events of the day was yours truly (at left) interviewing well-regarded Tweed artist Audrey Ross about the time she spent learning her craft in Queensborough (thanks to the nearby Schneider School of Fine Arts) and her life in art. Audrey, who is 91 and proud to tell you so, is a great painter and a wonderful storyteller! (Photo by Jamie Grant)
There were several works in the show by Donald Fraser, a renowned artist and art teacher who chose to make Queensborough his home and found the landscape of the area a great inspiration. This piece, titled simply Queensborough, was my favourite. I am pretty sure the scene it depicts (painted in the early 1960s) is the barn of the late John Thompson. It no longer stands but I remember it well from my childhood here. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
This painting depicting Queensborough’s one-room schoolhouse and the former St. Henry’s Roman Catholic Church (now a private home) is by Debra Tate-Sears, a well-known artist who comes from Tweed. It was kindly lent for the show by the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
Tweed artist Bob Pennycook, who produces gorgeous canvases, was one of the artists who got out their easels and did some painting during the day.
Another of my favourites from the show: Mrs. Holmes’s Washing by the great Poul Thrane. The artist is well-advanced in years but, I am delighted to report, was able to attend the show. “Mrs. Holmes” was the late Jessie Holmes, who lived at the eastern end of Queensborough. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
Another lovely Poul Thrane canvas. This one is called Winter Day at the Rockies. The Rockies is a “suburb” of Queensborough, a few miles east and north. This painting truly captures that area. (Photo by Diane Sherman)
Visitors enjoying the Orange Hall deck (note the orange umbrellas on the picnic tables!) and the Orange Garden. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
Artwork by James (Jamie) Cipparone of Queensborough, and the amazing woman who was doubtless (at age 99) the oldest visitor, Ruth Holmes of Cooper. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
Elaine Kapusta (left), a driving force behind all that the Queensborough Community Centre Committee does (including Art in Queensborough), with Audrey Ross, who brought wit, sparkle and great art to the show. (Photo by Diane Sherman)
Festival Elephant, an intricate and gorgeous piece of fabric art and handiwork by Queensborough’s Judith Almond Best. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
Visitors to the art show enjoyed strolling through the village and meeting its residents. Here, Jos Pronk and Marykay York-Pronk welcome some of them at the site of their home and business (Pronk Canada Queensborough Machine Shop). This great building in “downtown” Queensborough was for many years Bobbie Sager Ramsay’s general store.
Old Anderson Home by Donald Fraser. I love the painting (showing a home on Rockies Road), but I also love how one of the Orange Hall’s amazing original 16-over-16-pane windows shows up in reflection in this photo. (Photo by Jamie Grant)
Artist Alex Bulzan, who divides his time between Toronto and Queensborough, at work on a plein-air painting on the bank of the Black River.
There was so much to see. The show was truly dazzling. (Photo by Jamie Grant)