THE SUDBURY ART CLUB (1945-present)

  In the early days of 1920, in the town of Sudbury, with a population of 8800 a small art group began meeting in their homes. The Sudbury Woman’s Art Association was organized, eventually fading away, and in May of 1945 another group formed calling itself the “Sudbury Arts and Crafts Club”, because there was a need for an organization for people who had some painting experience. Nellie Keillor, Vi Erickson, Margaret James, Allan Wilson and others were instrumental in organizing a club for painters and crafters. The first president was Allan Wilson, who also taught an enthusiastic class in Art at night school at the Technical school.

  In wording the constitution there was no overlapping of any existing activities. The aims were to sponsor and correlate arts and crafts activities in Sudbury, to foster interest in and appreciation of art, to make people of Sudbury art conscious, to promote exhibitions, competitions, week-end courses, movies, visits from prominent artists, etc., to establish an Art Centre in Sudbury, to develop ability of local artists by arranging courses of instruction, week-end sketching trips, etc.

  Members met in a variety of places from basements, school rooms, and playground huts to the Sudbury Council Chambers. Due to the lack of quarters, it was difficult to own equipment, and as such the lack of meeting quarters was a handicap. In 1945, there was no art exhibition facility in the city so the new club devoted much of its effort to this end. Since the majority of active members for the first two years were teachers and teacher’s wives, the program was of an educational nature, and courses were offered in leather-craft, shell-craft, felt-work, weaving, plastic clay work, folk dancing, linoleum block printing, Christmas decorations and many other handicrafts. A photography club was also organized by the executive in January 1947, and a Hobby Fair was held in Silverman’s store during the Winter Carnival of 1947. Successful courses were held in later years in metal craft and sculpture. The club had kept in close touch with the Sudbury District Weavers Guild, exhibiting with them annually. The Club also encouraged exhibitions of creative crafts. The pre-Christmas Craft sale was a big feature in the first few years, but interest soon waned. Miss Inkster started a course in leather crafts at night school at the Technical School to relieve the members of the responsibility.

  The influence of the Club extended to other small communities in the North and in 1949 a group of artists met, founded, organized, and obtained a charter for the Northern Ontario Art Association (NOAA), a regional umbrella group, in order to have a strong unit whose aim was clearly to raise the standards of art in these communities. To encourage, educate, develop and promote artists producing quality work, they were provided with workshops and juried exhibitions. Each year the prominent artists judging these entries agree that the standards of painting among these Northern groups have been rising and show honesty in execution and a sensitive fidelity to environment, with creative interpretations becoming stronger with each show.

  An annual exhibition of paintings by Northern Ontario artists, Elementary school art, and Secondary school art was organized and judged. Prizes and scholarships were awarded to school children for Lino-block and Poster design annually. The Club sponsored an annual summer school of art for school children and adults that opened in 1952, which continued for over 10 years, with the attendance growing steadily. Summer schools were an important part of the Sudbury Arts and Crafts club (SACC), with Robert Paterson, Rolly York and John Watson as regular instructors. For some years murals were painted and hung in the Arena, the Civic building and at the Sudbury High School Board of Education. The early summer school programs were recognized by the Department of Education with credits awarded to teachers who participated. There was also a “Rembrandt club” which provided summer school for paraplegics, but this dissolved in 1957. The practice of sending art work to other Northern Ontario centres began in 1947. The first shows were mostly made up of painted copies. With the elimination of copy work from the Annual exhibition, the number of painters exhibiting on a local level decreased noticeably, rarely with a roster of more than ten members at any one time. There was Gladys McKay, Hilda Menzies, Fiona de Vletter, and Nellie Keillor Lowe, the club founder, whom Bruno Cavallo recalls as the most accomplished of the local artists. “She was painting a lot of watercolour while others were painting in oils”, said Bruno. Doris McCarthy, who juried the 1947 Exhibition, suggested that copy work should not be included in future exhibitions. Membership was further decreased due to the practice of awarding stars, for paintings of merit, and verbal criticism by visiting artists. It is interesting to note the list of winners of awards in the original works category: Jessie Lee, Frances Holmes, J.B. Smith, Mrs Herb Johnston, Mrs. E. Cox, Mrs. R.J. Inkster, Mrs. M. Erickson, W.H. Bain, Nellie Keillor Lowe, Allan Wilson and J. Gatenby.

  Henri Masson said in 1950, in the judging of the 6th annual exhibition, “The worst enemies of some of the painters who have hung canvasses here today are their relatives and friends who praise their work too highly. Some of this rank horrible, amateur work should be eliminated, and then the exhibition judged”. In 1955, Dr. A.Y. Jackson hung the best work in one section, but all work submitted was hung. This show was sent on tour to Southern Ontario. It was not until 1956 that a local show was juried before it was hung. In 1956 and 1958 some paintings were exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition. In 1957, Northern artists’ paintings were juried by three jurors in the first NOAA exhibition in Sudbury, and this practice of hanging only the best work from Northern Ontario and Quebec in the annual exhibition has been continued.

  “Original work dominated seven years later and by 1962-1963, a record of promising coaches and more ambitious programs were established and the Club, eventually, became provincially important”, quoting the Star of May 23rd 1963. Art work in this years NOAA was judged by Allan Collier, President of the Ontario Society of Artists. Winners of awards in 1963 were Francis Smith, Eileen Inkster, Vi Erickson, Margaret James, Nellie Keillor Lowe, Bruno Cavallo, Allan Wilson, Mildred Hamlin and Jean Sayers. The Club lost some of these fine painters when they moved away.

  Sudbury Art Club went through a period of “difficult days” when the majority of members who were not painters, did not realize the aims and objectives of the Club, and got side tracked on social activities, without doing any painting. In 1956 membership was by invitation only and there were only seven members painting, and less than a dozen still carrying on the educational program that had become traditional. Members convened almost weekly for many years. If the number attending didn’t require the hiring of a hall, the workshops were in members’ homes.

  Many workshops, lectures and sketching trips were organized. The Club raised funds to bring in recognized artists in the early days such as, Fred.H. Varley, Dr. A.Y. Jackson, Carl Schaeffer, J.W.G. MacDonald, Sydney Watson, Gerald Scott, Eric Aldwinckle, Doris McCarthy, Stewart Bagnani, Jack Bechtel, Claire Bice, Yvonne McKague Housser, William Winter, Gordon Couling, Thor Hansen, Allan Collier, Henri Masson, William Ogilvie and others. The Club members would arrange room and board for these visiting artists. Bruno Cavallo remembers in 1950 “the club members went to the old Creighton town-site. Mr Jackson loved old houses and head-frames and Yvonne Houser liked water, so we would paint by the Vermilion River, which runs through Capreol”.

  Exhibitions sponsored by the Sudbury Art Club were held in many places around Sudbury including The Sudbury Public Library Auditorium, in Civic Square, Rue la Ronde in the New Sudbury Shopping Mall, Rothmans of Pall Mall on the corner of Paris and highway 69, the Auditorium of the Inco Employees Club, Galerie du Nouvel – Ontario, the Sheraton Caswell Hotel and in later years the Sudbury Theatre Centre and the Laurention University Museum and Art Centre (LUMAC). Lectures and courses of instruction to the general public through club sponsorship were also arranged. It loaned art work to hospitals, the Public Library, Civic offices and other venues, and participated in many other art-related activities, like teaching in the hospitals and senior citizens residences.

  For more than twenty years from its founding until 1967, when the LUMAC opened, the Club had always hung at least three out-of-town exhibitions each year, generally at its own expense. Many exhibitions from the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Royal Canadian Academy, The Ontario College of Art, the London Art Gallery, and the Art Institute of Ontario were among some that were brought to Sudbury. One of the most important was the late Helene Scherfbeck, from Finland, in 1949.

  After several years it became evident that the interests of the members would be better served by separate organizations for visual art and for crafts, and as a result, The Sudbury Art Club evolved in 1973 as a separate organization dedicated to visual arts.

  The Club has always supported the creation of an art centre in Sudbury. It played a part in organizing support for the “Laurentian University Museum and Art Centre”, when the latter was just a concept, and then participated in its development. With the opening of the Centre, the Club’s role in bringing outside exhibitions to Sudbury greatly decreased, but it still brings an annual, regional juried exhibition of Northern Ontario art to Sudbury. In recent years the Club joined with LUMAC, the Drawing Circle and Inco to initially fund a new teaching facility, known as the Inco Art Annex, which has subsequently closed.

  Regional art competitions give artists an opportunity to develop and compete against others. Like athletes, artists need to enter competitions in order to test their progress and proficiency. Several corporate sponsors have been very supportive of the visual arts though-out the years.

  The Sudbury Art Club’s annual exhibitions of members’ work, together with numerous other Club or member shows and instructional workshops, have provided local artists of all stages of proficiency with opportunities to display their work and develop their skills. Many members continue to teach children and adults in Northern Ontario and the club itself has brought a sense of common purpose, fellowship, and career development opportunities to many.

  Although most members have been primarily part-time painters, some have been full-time professional artists, earning their livelihood from the creation of art and enjoying distinguished careers. Albert Klussman, Robert Paterson, Bruno Cavallo, Charles Paxy, Ivan Wheale, Oryst Sawchuk, and Brian Atyeo were former club members who have gone on from early membership in the club to become important regional artists, with followings well beyond the Sudbury area. So members come and members go, but the artists who are interested remain with a sincere desire to improve their art. Throughout its history the Sudbury Art Club has resurged with a growing membership in its 65th year of 73 strong.

Sudbury Art Club Presidents

1946-1947 AL WILSON
1947-1948 NO RECORD
1951-1952 NO RECORD
1954-1956 NO RECORD
1956-1957 KAYE CARSON
1968-1969 FRANK HOMER
1971-1972 IVAN WHEALE
1973-1974 FRANK HOMER
1976-1977 LORNE HADDAD
1983-1985 RAY LABBE
1987-1988 PETER GIBLIN
1988-1990 CHRIS GRANT
1990-1991 BERT HAGEN
1993-1994 MONICA SWAN
2000-2002 CAROL BROWN
2002-2004 JIM COOK
2004-2006 DOUG GOODALE
2006-2008 LIZ PEEKSTOK
2008-2010 RAECHEL REID
2010-2012 DEBBIE AUGER
2015-2017 TONY CHEZZI
2017-         JUDITH VAN BOXEL

Revised by Joyce Poulin with the help of Peter Giblin Nov 23, 2011