Canada’s Coming of Age Commemorated in Art Exhibition

1867: the year of Canada’s confederation. It’s a year that has been in the forefront of the Canadian consciousness for the entirety of 2017, with the current year marking the True North Strong’s 150th birthday. But 2017 also marks the anniversary of another important year for our country, and a dual-city, multi-artist exhibition aims to bring it to the public.

1917: Canada Comes of Age is comprised of artwork from 14 Toronto- and Ottawa-based artists, who have interpreted various events that shaped Canada in its 50th year of being. It includes Canadian artists such as Sue Miller, Ken Kirsch, Erin Crysdale and Lydia Pépin, who was featured in Ottawa Life earlier this year.

Those who are familiar with Canada’s national history know that 1917 was a challenging one for the country. It was a time of great hardship, with tragedies such as the Halifax harbor explosion shaking the nation, and the controversial introduction of conscription being a source of rioting and dissention. It was also the year in which Canada stepped onto the international stage, with the battle of Vimy Ridge being a source of bittersweet pride, a place where many lives were lost in order to achieve victory.

World War I in general plays a large role in the exhibition, as it includes depictions of craterous battlefields and war-torn cities. But the exhibition has more to offer than commemorations of national tragedies. 1917 also focuses on the more romantic moments of Canada’s 50th anniversary, in the form of depictions of everyday life in Canada, including paintings of downtown Toronto, and the idyllic farms in the countryside. 1917 is also the year of the NHL’s founding, and this fact does not go undocumented in the exhibition.

In some cases, the art involved is not simply a contribution to a themed exhibition, but created by artists who have a personal connection to the events that they are portraying on canvas. Take, for example, Linda Finn, whose “Please Use Both Sides” is based on correspondence between her grandmother and a soldier who survived the storied battle at Vimy Ridge.

1917: Canada Comes of Age is open to the public for the August long weekend (July 31-August 2) at the Inspiration Village Installation in the ByWard Market. With the list of contributors growing, a bigger exhibition in Ottawa is set to happen in the fall. For more information on the exhibition, visit its Facebook page.