Frankville, Ont. Art Gallery opens its doors to the public for Ontario Culture Days

Culture Days are underway in Ontario, with more than 1,200 free events happening across the province until Oct. 24.

"We have major institutions participating, but also community galleries and small collectives," said Ruth Burns, executive director of Ontario Culture Days. "It's a real reflection of the vibrant arts and culture scene that we have in Ontario and in Canada."

Provinces and territories celebrate throughout the year, with Ontario events taking place from Sept. 24 to Oct. 24.

"We have dances, we have hands-on workshops, we have exhibitions," Burns added. "It's a real opportunity to go out and explore with your neighbours in a safe way as the arts and culture sector reopens and welcomes back people into their facilities and into their communities."

Just east of Frankville, Ont., near Brockville, the AOG Gallery is participating, involved with the event since 2017.

Owner Bill Gibbons' personal collection is on display for anyone who wants to learn about Canadian history.

"Every fall we've been opening up, usually with a new guest artist plus the permanent collection at the gallery," Gibbons said.

Paintings, photography and interactive sculptures line the walls and floors. The doors open to anyone by appointment wanting to learn about local and national talent, including pieces from Indigenous artists like Ottawa's Katherine Tekpannie and British Columbia's Sonny Assu.

"Especially with all the news we've had about not treating Indigenous people very well, I think it's important to recognize them and realize they are a vibrant part of our Canadian culture," Gibbons said.

"I go into major galleries in cities and there will be dozens of people and school kids taking tours of the gallery and seeing this good artwork, and I'm disappointed that school children in this area don't get that opportunity."

Upstairs in his gallery, Frankville resident Celia Godkin is showing off her work, which includes oil paintings, botanical illustrations and children's books.

"We need to work together to solve our problems and we need to treat everyone with respect, so that's the message of this painting," Godkin said, referring to an oil painting with a fetus attached to planet Earth by its umbilical cord.

"I've known Bill for a few years since he's had the gallery and so he offered me the opportunity to show here," Godkin said, offering most of her items on display up for sale.

Godkin started her career as a biologist, and transitioned into scientific illustration.

"We formed the botanical artists of Canada to promote botanical art through workshops and exhibitions," Godkin said. "Botanical art encompasses both art and science, so the work has to be scientifically accurate and aesthetically pleasing."

She's also authored and illustrated children's books, and taught art classes at the University of Toronto. Godkin's even been commissioned by the Royal Canadian Mint, with her artwork appearing on more than 20 coins.

"They just found me this week to use a design I had submitted to their design bank," Godkin said. "It will be coming out next year. I'm not allowed to tell you on any details because it's all top secret."

Burns says it's important for Canadians to learn about and recognize all parts of Canada's history, and help artists get back on their feet.

"It's just a really unique initiative of different organizations and groups from across the county coming together to celebrate that arts and culture is for everyone and it's in every community throughout the country," she said.

"The artists would really benefit from the support as we reopen and recover," Burns added.

Ontario Culture Days runs until Oct. 24 and all events including travel guides can be found on the website.

To book an appointment at Bill Gibbons' AOG Gallery, visit his website at https://aoggallery.ca/