Although their flagship event has been cancelled this year, the Merrickville Artists Guild (MAG) is still working on ways to spread art in all its forms throughout the community. MAG President, Nick Previsich, says that the group was formed over 30 years ago to help organize their studio tour, which remains their most important event of the year. Set for the last weekend in September and the first weekend of October this year, MAG made the difficult decision to cancel the event to keep all their members and the public safe from COVID-19. “Many of the artists were not comfortable having people in their studios,” Nick says.
Even though the studio tour has been cancelled, MAG is working on several other initiatives that will allow them to remain an active part of the Merrickville-Wolford arts scene. They are working with merchants in the Village to secure window space to display their member’s art along St. Lawrence Street. The Merrickville Food Market is the first to agree to allow MAG artists to display their work in their window, along with the artist’s contact information, should someone want to purchase one of their pieces. “This initiative will not only help artists during the COVID-19 pandemic, but will also keep the Arts relevant to residents and visitors to Merrickville-Wolford,” said a press release announcing the partnership.
Although the artists are not able to invite the public into their studios physically this year, Nick says they are working on finding a platform for an online studio tour. “We have decided to try and experiment,” he says. They are hoping that the online platform they choose will allow artists to not only showcase their work, but also pair it with a recording of them introducing themselves and their art.
The MAG artists are not giving up completely on in-person events this year. They are hoping to hold an outdoor art fair to give members a chance to showcase their work in the Village. At this point, they think they are going to be able to go ahead with it on Sunday, August 9, in the empty space next to The Merry Christmas Shoppe on St. Lawrence Street. Sunday is usually a busy day for tourists in the Village, so Nick says they are hoping to be able to give a few of their artists lots of exposure with this new event. “The art fair is something that is really exciting”.
MAG is not only there to support their members, but also to support future artists in the community. They are working with the local high schools in Kemptville, and have committed to giving three bursaries of $200-250 every year to a young budding artist. “It’s a way of encouraging the next generation,” Nick says.
Before the COVID-19 shut down, MAG started hosting this year’s series of MAG Conversations, artful talks featuring various speakers from both inside and outside the community. Nick says they had a very interesting panel of writers share their thoughts in January, and had a playwright turned screenwriter speak to the group in March. They had four other MAG Conversations planned, which they hope to either offer virtually, or to pick up where they left off in the new year.
MAG also wants to honour and recognize some of their older members who have been around since the group began in the 1980s, and are hoping to organize a series of retrospectives to showcase their work. They had already set up the first one for MAG member Peiter Doef, which they unfortunately had to cancel due to COVID-19.
Although the pandemic has disrupted many of their activities, MAG is still focused on ensuring that art remains at the forefront and is an integral part of people’s lives, both in the Village and beyond. Nick says Merrickville is the epitome of an arts and crafts community, a trend which focused on the decorative and fine arts in the late 19th and early 20th century. “We are trying to maintain that feeling of the importance and relevance of art in our daily lives,” he says. “During COVID-19 it is doubly important.”