History of the Tour
When we began planning the first Studio Tour for Pontiac County (held in 1990), we had a number of goals in mind. These goals remain with us today and are the inspiration for continuing. As professional artists we are aware that the promotion of an artist is almost entirely up to the individual. We also feel that it is our responsibility to encourage emerging artists and to promote the arts as a whole in our community.
By working together on the Studio Tour through the promotion of its artists, we raise their profile in particular, of the arts in general and help to educate the public through this exposure.
The Tour offers the public a unique opportunity, over two weekends each June, to view the works of professional artists where they work and at the same time to enjoy the beautiful Pontiac countryside driving between the studios. Admission to the studios is free. Artwork is on exhibition and for sale. Artists also welcome visitors who call ahead year round.
The Pontiac is located in the picturesque Outaouais region of West Quebec, Canada. It runs west from the Ottawa-Gatineau area on the north shore of the Ottawa River. Less than an hour’s drive from our nation’s capital city, it is an area of sparse population, pristine lakes, beautiful rolling hills, farmer’s fields and unending forests. It was first settled little more than a hundred years ago by immigrants of Irish, French, German, English and many other origins on territory used by the Algonquin Indians. Today it has thriving populations of both French and English speaking people, as well as it’s own ‘Valley’ dialect.
Since the first Tour in 1990 a total of 58 artists have participated; including 6 student artists and 18 writers at our unique writers’ corner which we featured four different years. All of the artists who have participated on the Tour throughout the years agree that it has been a rewarding experience.
Part of the Tour’s appeal to the public lies in the high quality and unique character of the art. All artists are welcome to apply for the Tour, especially Pontiac residents. Participants are juried annually, ensuring the quality of work on exhibit at the studios. The jurying process emphasizes originality, professionalism and excellence in the artist’s medium as shown by a body of work indicating both growth and change. Visitors have been treated to such varied media as marquetry, sculpture, pottery, handmade paper, Japanese wood cut prints, lithographs, woodworking and handpainted silk along with the more traditional visual arts of oil, watercolour and acrylic painting. Over the years, our writers’ corner has featured poets, novelists, historical writers and the world of telecommunications and electronic publishing.
The Tour members promote art locally by participating in community arts-related activities. Since we began, we have offered free workshops to area high school students; assisted in organizing, leading and judging community art contests; donated art related material to local schools; consulted on the setting up of public art spaces; spoken on behalf of the committee to community groups and promoted music concerts in the region. These activities are in addition to our goal of encouraging emerging artists through their participation in the Tour itself.
Since 1998, Tour members have hosted a day of “Art in the Park” rotating among the Pontiac’s numerous parks as part of Quebec’s “Journées de la Culture” program. Children and adults alike joined us for a day of paper making, mural painting, painting on glass, printing and playing with clay.
In 1997 some of the artists welcomed four Russian artists in our region, and two members made an exchange visit to St. Petersburg in 1999.
In 1996 we set up a web site on the Internet for all past and present members of the Tour. We now provide a world-wide audience with a taste of what the Pontiac and its artists have to offer.
In 1995 we were honoured with The Jury’s Special Prize at The Grand Prix du Tourisme de l’Outaouais. The prize was awarded in recognition of the years of hard work by the committee in promoting the Pontiac and for it’s success in popularizing the appreciation of Art in our community.
The promotion of the Pontiac, as well as our artists, is achieved through the publication of our annual Tour brochure, as well as an extensive media campaign. Over the years, the Tour, and many of it’s individual members have been featured on radio, television, newspapers, and magazines, both local and national. You may have seen some of the artists on Regional Contact, Wayne Rostad’s “On The Road Again”, Rockburn and Company, Vue d’atistes, Magazin’Art, Ottawa Life and Canadian Living Magazine, to mention a few examples.
We have been visited in our studios by people from as far away as France, Japan and Lithuania and as close as our next door neighbours.
Each year the Tour brings upwards of a thousand people into the area. They have come during sweltering hot days and cold rainy ones. We have welcomed bus tours large and small. Visitors have picnicked in our yards or at nearby sights or parks, and have lunched at many of our sponsor’s restaurants listed on our brochures. We have listened to them rapture over the magnificent countryside, and marvel over the tranquillity and beauty of the environment at each studio. Sometimes as much time is spent viewing our gardens and houses as is spent in the studio. In an attempt to educate people about the history and geography of the region as well as the artists and their work, some members have guided tour buses organized by groups like The Friends of the National Gallery and The Ottawa Board of Education.
Each visitor receives personal attention from the artist at the studio and can comment either directly to the artist or in the guest books. This feedback assures us that the Tour is satisfying our goals and their desires and allows us to adapt the Tour to the visitors needs and wishes. Special needs such as assisted access, special parking (buses) or, most commonly, refreshments and washroom facilities are handled by the artists at each studio. We also guide them to local stores, restaurants, picnic sites, accommodation, recreation and attractions as requested.
We have a mailing list of over 3000 names. All have either attended the Tour before or have expressed an interest in coming. We distribute the rest of our 10,000 brochures to pick-up places such as tourist information centres, hotels, restaurants, art supply stores, community centres and libraries. Some brochures are included with the mailings of other organizations such as historical societies and arts groups. We also send out 1500 invitations by email.
All funding is used for printing and mailing our brochure and the promotion of the Tour, assisted by the volunteer efforts of the artists themselves. Since the first year of the Tour in 1990, the bulk of our financial support has come from within our community. Individuals and small businesses (over 100 sponsors this year) have remained constant in their support and each year we add new sponsors to our list. Each sponsor of the Tour, along with recognition on the brochure and our website, can display a small advertisement on the bulletin boards located at each studio and can distribute hand-outs (brochures, flyers, business cards). We also receive funding from the Ministère de la Culture du Quebec and their representatives have referred to the Tour as “the most significant cultural event” and “the best packaged tour in the Pontiac.”