HISTORY of the RIDEAU LAKES ARTISTS' ASSOCIATION

In the fall of 1993, the Brockville campus of St. Lawrence College held a watercolour painting class in Westport.  As part of the course curriculum, local artist Marg Grothier had her students organize and participate in an art show.  Pleased with their efforts, the classmates pondered 'Why not create an art club?'

The ten people present at the January 12, 1994 organizational meeting agreed on the name of the club and on membership fees, and selected the first executive and committee chairs: President: Shirley Johnson,
Secretary: Jody Boyer and Treasurer: Sandra Yaxley.  Suggestions for possible future group activiies included exhibitions, workshops, newsletters, exchange of books and videos, and the purchase of bulk art suppplies.

During that inaugural year,  the Associations’ artwork was displayed at The Cove Inn in Westport, and an exhibition was held at the Old Fire Hall in Perth. Workshops with Martina Field and Ed Cronk were offered and classes with Marg Grothier continued.  A club logo was chosen and membership rose to 49 by the end of the year.

Over the years, classes and workshops have been taught by notable artists such as Henry Vyfvinkel, Jack Reid, Margaret Rosemond, Evangeline Munns, Charles Spratt, Art Cunanan, Andrea Mossop, Linda Kemp, Barbara Greene, Hanna Olszewski, Stewart Beatty, Bonnie Brooks, Stephen Rothwell, Mary Chaikowsky, Linda Banfalvi, Suzanne Powell, Judith Versavel, Doug Mays, Bonnie Steinberg, Donna Lynd, Debbie Ottman Smith, Sharon Fox-Cranston, Maria Mask, Brian Smith and many more. Members could select workshops in various media such as watercolour, oil and acrylic, or even painting on silk, coloured pencil, flower arranging, print-making or collage.

Guest speakers at the monthly meetings have included artists, framers, gallery owners, suppliers of artist materials, print makers, etc. Some club members shared their expertise, or talked about their travel experiences.

Plein Air experiences over the years brought the RLAA members to the scenic Rideau Canal lock stations, parks, museums, conservation areas, waterfalls, an old mill and other member’s country and lakeside properities.  Sketching excursions of a longer duration took artists to Algonquin Park, Charlevoix and Val David. The RLAA also organized bus trips to enjoy special exhibitions at the National Art Gallery or private viewings in artist's studios.

The association has organized numerous art shows in local venues: in Westport, they held shows in the Town Hall Complex, The Cove Inn, the United and Anglican Church Halls, and The Old Fire Hall.  They also exhibited artworks in Perth at Stoney’s, The Crystal Palace, Fiddleheads and Code's Mill, and in Smiths Falls at the Railway Museum and the Smiths Falls Golf Club.  The group held shows in Newboro at the Stage Coach Inn and in the Community Hall, as well as in the Balderson Art Gallery, and in Brockville at the City Hall and at the Brockville Arts Centre.

Every July from 1997 to 2010 RLAA members participated in the Art-On-The-Lawn Show in Perth and contributed part of their proceedings to the Perth Hospital.  In 2011, this show moved to the Lombardy fairgrounds and became know as the annual Art In The Barn show and sale.

For 15 years, the RLAA held its monthly meetings, weekly paint-ins, classes, workshops and several art shows at the Town Hall Complex in Westport.  In 2009, the association moved its activities to the North Crosby Community Hall.

 The organization continues to thrive with a membership of over 100 artists.  Members can display their artwork in two annual shows or at 8 local venues including restaurants, hair salons, and various offices.  The RLAA continues to provide education and networking opportunities for its members and depends on the efforts of volunteers to ensure its ongoing success.

PRESIDENTS  
Shirley Johnson 1993-1996
Hanna Olszewski 1997-1998
Jim Rowat 1999-2000
Ben Brackenbury 2001-2002
Stuart Vallentgoed 2003-2004
Nora Brown 2005-2006
Peter Gillespie 2007-2008
Jill Ferguson 2009-2010
Linda Rush 2011-2012
Wayne Willams 2013-2014
Louise Mantha 2014-2016