At the attractive Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant, surrounded by fanciful outdoor sculptures and well-manicured gardens, Karen Bell, a graduate of Toronto's
Ontario College of Art,
enthusiastically describes her extensive educational outreach program (ArtReach) while vivid results of her success hang on the walls, student art displayed in full gallery mode. What a thrill for the children.
Kathryn Hogg, Glenhyrst's curator, studied at the Banff School of Fine Arts and is a
Fine Arts graduate as well as a professional exhibiting artist herself. She has little room to expand inside but much more room for sculptures outside.
By the entrance gate, I marvel at local resident, Dave Hind's "Meg's Pause," a crowd pleaser. It's a two-dimensional depiction of hands in space growing up from the earth with a tender exchange of a rock, perhaps a metaphor for the gentle passing of an idea or ideal.
The gallery was formerly the mansion of local industrial magnate,
, who bequeathed it and the surrounding 16 acres to the City of Brantford in 1957. Open year round, Glenhyrst regularly hosts public exhibits of fine art as well as art classes for adults and children. The work of area artists and artisans is also made available through the gift shop, and the art sales and rental program.
Kathryn is proud of Canada's largest collection of paintings by 19th Century artist Robert Reginald Whale and his family. Their landscapes, portraits and animal studies document the cultural heritage of the Brant County area.
At the Woodland Cultural Centre, Executive Director, Janice Montour, guides me on an informative tour of the well-organized facility. Part museum, part gallery, and part performance space, Woodland is a fascinating cultural facility where historic exhibits are displayed alongside the work of contemporary First Nations artists.
Over thirty-five thousand artifacts are accessioned in the museum collections, making the Museum at the Centre one of the largest facilities in Canada managed and administered by
A proficient historian, Janice helps dispel some of my misconceptions concerning Joseph Brant and First Nations high altitude steel workers while later displaying how Hollywood grossly misrepresented First Nations in movies. Captain Brant, not a chief, but a leader fluent in most of the indigenous languages, was compelled to leave New York after the American War of Independence because he fought with the British. In 1784, he brought his tribes to the Grand River basin where they crossed the river to reach their new homeland. The crossing became known as Brant's ford and the village subsequently built there became Brantford.
From Woodland, a natural progression leads to Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, which celebrates it's 225th anniversary this year. I met Audrey Bomberry, a Mohawk guide, who was married inside this chapel 40 years ago. Built in 1875 and originally called St Paul's, this chapel was the first Protestant church in Upper Canada. It's now the oldest surviving church in Ontario and the only Royal Chapel in North America. At the rear of the Chapel there is an observation deck that allows a view of the ox-bow in the Grand River, where the natives disembarked from canoes when they came to the Chapel Services. Eight stained glass windows were installed from 1959-1962, depicting events in the history of the Six Nation people. Outside, we viewed the tomb of Brant and his son, originally interred in Burlington as well as a memorial to poet
E. Pauline Johnson
, who is buried in Vancouver.
Located in the heart of Southern Ontario on the picturesque Grand River, Brantford is close to major highways, rail lines, and three Canadian ports of entry, Windsor, Toronto and Niagara Falls. My first visit was a charming surprise; it's a vibrant community with a population of 96,000 and it appears to be an ideal place in which to live, work, play and visit!
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.
If you go
Visit Brantford: http://www.discoverbrantford.com/Pages/default.aspx
Glenhyrst Art Gallery: http://www.glenhyrst.ca/
Hampton Inn: http://www.hamptoninnbrantford.com/
The Olde School Restaurant: http://www.theoldeschoolrestaurant.ca/
The Royal Chapel of the Mohawks: http://www.mohawkchapel.ca/
The Woodland Centre: http://www.woodland-centre.on.ca/index.php
For guided tours of our city's gardens, or more information about parks, contact Tourism Brantford at 1-800-265-6299 (519) 751-9900