Laying the Foundations
In February of 1986, artists Keith Moreau, Kate Taylor and Maggie Bol called for a meeting of Brampton artists to establish a community art group. After attracting many new members through events and art exhibitions, Visual Arts Brampton (VAB) officially opened a studio at Central Public School's Studio G. The grand opening of this new studio to the public was held on October 18, 1986.
1990 brought wonderful changes to VAB. In May the group announced the acquisition of a brand new printmaking press made possible through a generous grant from the Ministry of Culture and Communication.
On October 20th of the same year, VAB moved the studio into its new (and current) home at 1 Bartley Bull Parkway, Unit 10 in the Bartley Square Mall. On June 26th of the following year, the Ontario Ministry of Commerce and Commercial Relations formally incorporated Visual Arts Brampton as a non-profit organization.
Portrait Drawing in the Visual Arts Brampton Studio
After the closing of the Chinguacousy Library Gallery in 1997, where Visual Arts Brampton would often showcase artwork and hold juried shows, VAB decided to open their own public exhibit space. After fundraising $5,500 to refurbish display cases, City Centre Artway, at the Bramalea City Centre, opened in 1998. The eventually renamed Artway Gallery was lauded by Toronto newspaper The Roncesvalles Voice for helping break a mall out of its stereotypical generic nature. After much success with the Bramalea City Centre location (which has unfortunately since closed due to mall development), a new Artway gallery was opened in 2004 at Shoppers World Brampton, where VAB continues to exhibit today.
In 2010 VAB's presence at Shoppers World expanded into the Artway Invitational Gallery an additional exhibit space at the East end of the mall. Artway Invitational Gallery plays host to many local artists invited by VAB to display their work. The gallery has also exhibited work from production companies, and visiting artists from around the world.
Artwork by members and visiting artists have also graced the walls of the Golden Pheasant Gallery, which was opened at the VAB studio in December of 2004.
Artway Gallery in Shoppers World Brampton
Over the years, VAB saw the donation of bookshelves, which started VAB's reference library collection now comprised of many books and magazines ranging in subject from vehicles, landscapes, animals, and cartoons to art historical texts, periodicals, and how-to books.
Embracing advancements in technology, in 1999 VAB launched a new website, which settled in to its permanent home at www.visualartsbrampton.com in 2001. Through an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, in 2009 VAB launched VAB Learn, a series of educational art videos available free through YouTube and our website.
2011 saw VAB celebrate its 25th anniversary with exhibits at the Rose Theatre, City Hall and Artway. Studio sessions were held at Shoppers World Brampton, to give the public a look at the many programs and talent VAB has to offer.
Today, Visual Arts Brampton continues to be an active member in the art community, providing excellence in programming for children and adults alike.
Building a Community
Throughout Visual Arts Brampton's 25+ years, the group has established itself within the community by offering educational and entertaining programming to artists of all ages & skill levels, and participating in events & exhibitions across the city and province.
It all started with Info Art '86, an event kick-off for the group, attracting new members and offering free workshops, the chance for artists to talk with suppliers, and a Sheridan College art program exhibit. Soon after, in June of 1986, VAB participated in the Pine and Rose Show at Shoppers World, the group's first time offering programming outside of the studio. Along with displaying artwork by members, artists were working on site, and demonstrating screen printing.
Thus began Visual Arts Brampton's relationship with Shoppers World Brampton. Through the generosity of Shoppers World, VAB was given the opportunity to open Artway Gallery and Artway Invitational Gallery spaces, as well as participate and hold events in the mall over the years. At Shoppers World, VAB exhibited at Wake Up to the Arts, a Brampton Arts Council event, took part in calendar competitions and performed live demonstration events such as drawing from costumed models & holding youth sessions. In 2012, the War of 1812 art event was held in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the war and Visual Arts Brampton's 26th anniversary. The re-enactor centred event was facilitated through Richard Feltoe, author of Redcoated Ploughboys. In 2006 Visual Arts Brampton participated in the Shoppers World Santa Claus Parade for the first time. Our youth students participated with entries in the following years.
Santa Claus Parade Float Made By Students and War of 1812 Event
VAB also has the pleasure of featuring artwork by members, art groups, up-and-coming artists, established artists, local and international artists in our Artway Galleries in Shoppers World. Artway Gallery hosted the Great Canadian Mail Art Show in 1999, receiving over 800 works from four provinces and fifteen countries. Due to its popularity the show moves to the Art Gallery of Peel in 2001, becoming it's in the mail..., which receives 1200 works. In addition to artwork by our incredible members, Artway Gallery has hosted a number of other art groups & individuals over the years including Halton Woodcarvers Association (2006), Clarkson Society of Artists (2008), Brampton Quilters Guild (2010), Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Sandra Bell-Lundy (Between Friends), Editorial Cartoonists Steve Nease (The Brampton Guardian), Patrick Corrigan (The Toronto Star), Peter Emslie (Disney storybooks), Dick Gibson (The Toronto Sun), Tony Jenkins (The Globe and Mail), and Colin McClean (Share), Illustrators Alex Milne (Transformers titles) and Marcio Takara (The Incredibles: The Family Matters), independent creator C. A. Seaman (Sargasso), Gary Alphonso (digital scratchboard), Wesley Bates (wood engraver), Glenn Bernabe (pastel artist), and Gerard Brender à Brandis (wood engraver).
The Artway Invitational Gallery also has an impressive list of exhibitors including VAB Studio instructors & members, Alysa Bartha's book Petal's Wish, portrait artist Brian Michon, Jim Caswell (storyboarder), Anthony Jenkins (cartoonist and portrait artist), Jean Liang and Shirley Liang (illustrator and animator), Patricia Storms (book illustrator, writer), Charles Weiss (animal artist), Ruth Ohi (book illustrator, writer), and VAB members. Featured guest groups include Image Matrix printmaking group, the Ontario Plein Air Society, the Purple Painters Society, and the Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrators, Credit Valley Artisans and the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives, and Runs in the Family featuring member artists and their artistically inclined relatives.
In addition to Shoppers World, Visual Arts Brampton has held many different events, workshops, and classes in our own studios and has participated in events around the city. In the months after opening in 1986, VAB had the pleasure of hosting Art in Motion, an animated film festival, as well as Juried Art Shows. VAB also began providing life drawing sessions, portrait workshops and participated in exhibits at the Brampton Public Library and Four Corners library.
Youth Achievement Award Winners and Youth Art Class in Session
These events set the foundations of the great programming that would be offered by VAB both inside and outside the VAB studio. The VAB Studios have hosted Art Movie Nights, hands-on product demonstrations featuring art supply representatives from Curry's Artists Materials, and career day seminars for students from local schools. In 1998, VAB started offering youth classes which have become so popular as to necessitate opening up additional classes on multiple days to accommodate demand. 2002 saw Crea8tif Open Studios launch at VAB, allowing artist's studio space & time to work on whatever they desire. That same year, Animex - an animation workshop for Animation Exploration - began. Dave Quesnelle, Sheridan instructor and former lead animator at Nelvana, Don Bluth, and Disney studios, volunteered his time to teach the year long session. VAB has also participated in and hosted a number of studio tours and Show & Sale events.
In addition to the numerous events at Shoppers World and Artway, VAB has participated in many events outside of the VAB Studios. An exhibit of the winning works from 1986's Visual Arts Brampton Juried Art Show were displayed at the Four Corners Library auditorium, kicking off semi-regular weekend exhibits at the space. In 1988, VAB members were invited to help paint the hording for what was to become the new City Hall in downtown Brampton. The grand opening (in 1991) included an art exhibit and slideshow of Visual Arts Brampton member works. VAB closed out the 1980s with Gold Mine '89, a gala event at the Art Gallery of Peel held on December 6th, 1989. Proceeds from the night's successful art auction went to Visual Arts Brampton. The evening's guest of honour was Ontario Premier William G. Davis. In 1992, VAB portraiture was featured on stage for a six day run of Bramalea Little Theatre production "Fatal Attraction". In 1993 VAB took part in the Canada Pavilion at Carabram for the first time, and continues to be a part of the Pavilion today. Work by VAB members was featured in the Art Gallery of Peel's show, Printmakers of Peel, and the studio participated in silent auctions at the Art Gallery in 2003-4. In celebration of the City of Brampton's Sesquicentennial anniversary in 2003, VAB exhibited floral art in the City Hall Atrium Gallery and has been doing so each June since. In 2010, 2011 and 2012 the floral art show had the honour of also exhibiting in the Heritage Court of the Direct Energy Centre at the Canadian National Exhibition.
Floral Art Show
Over the past 28+ years, Visual Arts Brampton members have excelled in the arts; receiving various accolades and opportunities. The late 80s produced a number of exciting opportunities for VAB members, such as a painting by member Stan Adams being purchased by the War Museum of Calgary, and member Bill Harrison acting as an escort runner for the Olympic Torch Relay.
In the 1990s, VAB members Keith Moreau, Mary Taylor, and Conrad Mieschke received City of Brampton Arts Person of the Year awards, and in 1991, members Kate and Mary Taylor received 5-year Volunteer Service Awards from the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Communications. This decade also saw VAB naming Jack Reid the group's first honourary member. In 1996 The Brampton Flying Club celebrated its fiftieth year, and member Jack Reid created their poster. After receiving nominations from VAB in 1997, Mary Taylor won a City of Brampton Long-Term Volunteer service award, and Christopher Seaman won an Arts Acclaim Award (for being accepted into Artflight 96 · Art en Vol 96 at the National Aviation Museum).
In the new millennium, VAB released the ABC Fun Things Book, an alphabet book featuring artwork by 26 Visual Arts Brampton members, and in 2001 six VAB youth (Amber Menezes, Jennifer Cuthbert, Jason Rocha, Andre Teague, Illichna Moraski, and Nicholas Moreau) are among the winners of a purchase award competition, My Brampton, My Life, held by HACE and Coca-Cola Canada. That same year, Carol Biberstein won a City of Brampton Arts Acclaim Award for illustrating Great Grandma's Rocking Chair.
ABC Fun Things Book
In 2002, member Bridget Aube Doughty received the City of Brampton Long-Term Service Award (10+ years) for helping to run the group's portrait and still life sessions. Youth member Jennifer Cuthbert launched The Adventures of Lollipop, her first comic book, at the VAB studio. Member Keith Moreau was accepted in the national show Art of the Automobile.
The following year, VAB member Scott Taylor received the commission to create a free poster for Brampton's Sesquicentennial anniversary, member Colin McClean's comic strip Life's Lighter Side began appearing in worldwide publication Ambassador Magazine, and members Conrad Mieschke and Scott Maxwell were accepted into the final year of the nationally-touring Art of the Automobile show.
Youth member Emily Kowalik won her 5th gold medallion as a Visual Arts Brampton student in 2004, making her the first ever recipient of a Visual Arts Brampton Youth Achievement Platinum Award. VAB has gone on to give Makini Calliste-Wollard, Priya Mistry and Nicole D'Souza Platinum awards for the same achievement. Our youth members continue to shine with artwork being created for the Credit Valley Conservation Authority Floating Island Project. Our teen members have also had work on display at Queen's Park in Toronto.
In 2012, member Keith Moreau received the 25 year Ontario Volunteer Service Award, while in 2014 member Jaqueline Veltri was included in volume 8 of International Contemporary Artists. Our members continue to impress us today with everything they accomplish, and we are proud to be a part of their growth.