Art from the heart

Women’s Art Festival aims to empower female artists

Local artist Penny Gorman makes her architectural-folk art from recyclable materials including broken shutters and pieces of old hardware.
Local artist Penny Gorman makes her architectural-folk art from recyclable materials including broken shutters and pieces of old hardware.

The 30th Women’s Art Festival will host around 200 female artists next month at Kingston’s City Park. Art installations will be on display throughout the park and a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to local women’s charities.

This year will see over 60 newcomers to the festival along with returning artists. The non-juried art show has more than quadrupled in size since a group of women started it in the late 1970s.

It’s since introduced a variety of new artists and entertainers each year, ranging from painters to environmentally friendly artists.

“There’s everything from belly dancing to the Shout Sister Choir,” said festival veteran Penny Gorman.

Gorman was first introduced to the festival seven years ago after hearing about it from friends.

Several other artists have been turned onto the festival by older family members. As a result, the show often exhibits multiple generations.

“It keeps me in touch with all the new artists coming through,” said Gorman, whose artwork is made of salvaged materials from antique buildings.

The show has kept its original concepts of fundraising for local women’s charities, celebrating women’s creativity and embracing sisterhood. Since the festival’s start, over $75,000 for charities like Dawn House, the Elizabeth Fry Society and Breast Cancer Action Kingston has been raised.

Many of the charities supported by the Women’s Art Festival rely on non-government donations, like Breast Cancer Action Kingston, an organization that heads several charitable events in the area, notably the annual Walk for Awareness.

Dawn House Women’s Shelter provides 24-hour services for homeless women and their children and the Elizabeth Fry Society helps at-risk women transition back into the community.

Each year, artists donate 20 per cent of the money they make selling their work. This year, the committee created five $1,000 scholarships for female students who are either enrolled in or joining into an art-based program.

“I think in this day and age you can set those goals [of being an artist and practicing art] when you’re young and be able to explore your craft and your art,” Gorman said, adding that she believes the festival continues to be a valuable experience for artists.

"30 years from now we still want to be there.”

The Women’s Art Festival in City Park takes place on Aug. 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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