Exhibit displays fruit of church’s first artist-in-residence program

GUELPH, ON—The fruit of Sylvia Woods' term as artist-in-residence was literally hanging in Lakeside Church's atrium.

The program, which ran from September to June, saw the church provide studio space, materials and a small stipend. Woods, in return, acted as a resource person, hosted a workshop for local artists and, in addition to the smaller pieces at the exhibit, completed a large (72"x36") painting which will be permanently displayed in the church.

The June exhibit, "Fruit: Renaissance Symbolism," drew Woods' time as the congregation's first artist-in-residence to an end.

"I feel like it solidified a lot of the things I'd been thinking lately," says Woods about the program. "It gave me an opportunity to connect with the community-at-large in Guelph and in the church."

The exhibit featured a "collection of paintings using images of fruit that had symbolic meaning during the Renaissance," wrote Woods in an explanatory note for those attending the exhibit.

"Fruit" had its roots in Woods' year of study in Florence while studying at the Ontario College of Art and Design. She wrote how she'd become "fascinated by the rich collection of paintings that emerged from the Renaissance."

An experienced painter with work in private collections throughout North America and Europe, Woods spent her residency researching the sacred fruit symbolism from these paintings. The collection—15 paintings in all—featured everything from pomegranates (resurrection) to figs (abundance) to strawberries (incarnation) to plums (charity).

The permanent piece—"Canaan, Hope"—featured grapes, pomegranates and figs, fruit carried out of the Land of Canaan by Joshua and Caleb. "The gorgeous, lush fruit represented promise and hope to the Israelites, and was meant to encourage them on their venture forth," wrote Woods describing the piece.

Woods felt she did "the things I set out to do with the paintings and the workshop." The February workshop was set up to help people learn to read a painting's symbolism, as well as being given the chance to paint with Woods on hand to coach. About 40 people from the church and community took part in the workshop.

What she didn't expect was how much and how often she'd need to teach the church and the community what an artist-in-residence program was.

"Because [the exhibit] was at the end of the year, I could see forward to that. I don't think other people knew where I was coming from or how it was going to work.

"I think it'll build," says Woods. "The more years we have under our belt, the more people will understand. Maybe the curiosity as to what's happening throughout the year will be piqued so people will come and say 'hey, let me see what you're doing' or 'how's it going?' or 'what are you working towards?'"

Chris Deeves, Lakeside's creative arts director, used the exhibit as a chance to introduce the next artist-in-residence. Noting a process which produced "some great applicants" Deeves announced that Nick Law, a graphic designer, photographer and artist will begin his term in September.

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