Small Movements: a tribute to environmentalism and turtle conservation in Ontario

Small Movements is a multi-medium exhibition running from July 28 until October 1st, 2022 at the Marilyn I. Walker Visual Arts Gallery, featuring the work of Amy Friend, and Donna Szoke. These artists collaboratively worked on projects meant to raise awareness on how community, children and the environment all play a role in the goal of turtle conservancy in Ontario.

The theme of the exhibition as explored through both projects, centers around turtle preservation and the landscapes where these animals reside. This is due to the fact that the mascot for the Canada Summer Games, Shelly, inspired the artists to bring awareness to the natural world as well as the large variety of turtle species found in Ontario.

“Interactions” by Amy Friend

The first project, “Interactions,” was directed by Amy Friend alongside committed research assistants such as Sarah Martin, Qiushuang Xia and Laurie Morrison. According to Friend’s written statement on the project, Interactions was funded through Brock University’s Canada Summer Games Grants, and the main inspiration for her project, came about through thinking of the relationship between those who participated in kayaking throughout the Canada Summer Games, and the ecosystem that the participants were sharing with mother nature, as well as turtles.

Likewise, the gallery coordinator for the space where Small Movements was hosted, Sonia Delazzer, worked closely with Amy Friend and her research assistants, since her role was to curate and organize the creative team. When asked to explain the creative process behind Friend’s stunning photographs, this is what she had to say about it:

“It is very experimental, so some of the photographs for Amy’s project were done with a kayak and photo paper fixed to the kayak, and the motion of the water and sunlight, and the photo paper would capture the image. Then it was given to Amy and she would work with the image and play with scale and cropping and editing. Then they were enlarged, and that’s where we get these really interesting photographs.”

Further into Friend’s written statement, she explains that the editing process that occurred after gathering the initial photographs always had as a musethe perspective of a turtle swimming in the lake. This unique perspective created beautiful abstract photographs in varying shades of blue and green, which immediately grabbed the attention of anyone who walked into the exhibition, probing their curiosity around how the images were created in the first place.

“Painted Turtles” by Donna Szoke

The second project, “Painted Turtles, mixes a variety of mediums, such as animation, video work, and colouring, to bring a playful, but impactful take on the relevance of protecting this turtle species found in Ontario.

Szoke’s project means to explore the connection between community, children and the environment. Through Szoke’s project, young children were granted the ability to visit the Ontario Turtle Conservancy online to colour pictures of various turtle species that they learned about during their visit:

“Donna and the research assistants collected the images, scanned them and animated them into a looping animation featured in the exhibition- the animation was given back to the community, it came back to the exhibition, the school and the turtle conservancy, and that’s the community and collaborative element there with children,” said Delazzer.

Undoubtedly, the people who watched the video at the exhibition certainly were invited to reflect about the things that children can teach us about environmentalism as well as the role that we have in our community to protect the species that live within it.

Project Takeaways

Delazzer communicated what she wishes that people who saw the exhibition take with them:

“I think there is a strong message here about the sort of blending of worlds. I think this exhibition and both these projects cross education, they cross the arts, they cross sport, they cross environmental concerns and awareness. I think that’s a really strong takeaway that both projects successfully do.”

The Marilyn Marilyn I. Walker Visual Arts Gallery will maintain the exhibition open until Oct. 1, 2022, meaning that the Brock community, and those in the Niagara Region, will get the opportunity to visit the exhibit and reflect on the themes of nature, environmentalism and species conservation through the perspectives crafted by Amy Friend and Donna Szoke, for an extended period of time.

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