easel on hill overlooking lake

Go wild for art!

Not knowing the conventions of beauty, he found it all beautiful.

— A.Y. Jackson speaking about his friend Tom Thomson

What better way to help celebrate Ontario Parks’ 125th anniversary this summer than by exploring our parks’ rich art heritage and creating your own personal masterpiece?

It’s time to Go Wild for Art in provincial parks!

Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven

There is no larger iconic figure in Canadian art history than Tom Thomson. Thomson has painted his way into every classroom and doctor’s waiting room. He has helped shape our vision of the north.

painting of camp within forest
Tom Thomson, Canadian, 1877 – 1917. The Artist’s Camp, Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, c. 1915. Oil on wood. Overall: 21.9 x 27 cm (8 5/8 x 10 5/8 in.). The Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario, AGOID.69189. Image © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

Canada’s first unique art movement represented by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven actively sought out the northern landscape of Algonquin Provincial Park, Algoma, Lake Superior and Georgian Bay. The artists helped define Canada as a culture which is embodied by the rugged unforgiving landscape of the Canadian Shield.

It was to this mythic north that Thomson and the Group of Seven were drawn to find a new inspiration and expression in their landscape painting.

Killarney fall forest and lacloche mountains

Ontario’s parks became a natural canvas of inspiration, forever intertwining the words “nature,” “wild” and “north” with Canadian art.

When the famed group of painters first gathered in the 1911-13 period (Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, Frederick Varley and Tom Thomson) they were known as the Algonquin School, named after the provincial park where they first found their muse. The Group of Seven was formed in 1920 (without Thomson who drowned in Algonquin in 1917).

Our shared drive to create

Homo sapiens have been driven to represent what they see and experience, from the time of our days in caves. To leave a record. To share a story. There is something in plain view, but it remains unseen until the artist’s hand puts down the lines that focus our own understanding.

Petroglyphs Visitors Centre
Some beautiful works by Indigenous artists are visible within parks and protected areas. Some of the oldest are in Petroglyphs Provincial Park, so-named because it contains the largest known concentration of Indigenous rock carvings in Canada

An artist is not constrained by time but slows down, contemplates and distils the emotional essence of the subject matter — a portal to deeper understanding. There is not much that separates a non-artist from an artist other than the artist dares to show us how they feel about what they see.

Art connects our spirit to a sense of place. It’s time to escape the hustle and bustle of your everyday existence and try on the artists’ life!

Person sketching

Our provincial parks cherish these artistic traditions and protect the landscapes that inspired them. Follow the path of the paddle and the paintbrush this summer and help us celebrate our 125th anniversary with a brushstroke of your own!

Ontario Parks’ OP125 art program

This is your chance to break the mould!

A select number of Ontario Parks will be hosting family friendly art programs “framed” around painting en plein air (painting outside) on July 20, 2018 — Healthy Parks Healthy People Day.

student painting on shoreline
Ontario College of Art and Design student at work during Awenda Inspired! at Awenda Provincial Park. Photo: Bill Ivy

You can capture the special connection you share with Ontario Parks on a natural “tree cookie” canvas and showcase your collective efforts at an outdoor or “trailside” gallery.

Thomson’s legacy will be honoured in a pre-registered mini-paddle painting workshop which will invite participants to create a personal keepsake combining both art and their own park experience.

children painting on beach with teacher
Young artists get a lesson from Group of Seven patron “Aunt” Edna Breithaupt at Awenda Provincial Park’s Painting with the Past program

In another natural fit, select parks will be offering a pre-registered nature journalling children’s program, which will marry sketching and written observations to help sharpen natural awareness.

Visit the Ontario Parks Event List later this spring for times and locations for individual park programs.

Sharing your masterpieces? Use hashtag #GoWildForArt!