An annual public art installation featuring artists with strong ties to Oakville.  

Celebrating community though art

Building on the success of previous years, the Town of Oakville invited a fresh cohort of artists to showcase their photographic murals in neighbourhood community and cultural centres. Each facility features a striking artwork prominently displayed on a window, allowing for easy outdoor viewing.

This year's theme of "Connextions" resonates with the current times, as it urges us to reconnect and strengthen our community bonds. Through this exhibition, the town aims to foster a sense of community spirit and elevate the public realm.

The photo murals coincide with Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, which celebrates the art and profession of photography, and Culture Days Festival, a national celebration of arts and culture.

Current locations, works and artist bios

Following the Public Art Procedure, a public art call was posted for four weeks for artist applications. 

Cultural Services led the selection process with a jury comprised of local artists and arts professionals in the community.

Rainbow Connection, photo-collage, 2020 by Erin McGean for Connextions 2023

Location: Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre

Erin McGean studied Fine Art at York University in Toronto and although originally trained in painting and drawing she has been producing analogue and digital collages for over 15 years. Along with teaching high school art and collage workshops for adults, Erin has exhibited in Canadian galleries and sold her work to private and corporate collectors. She is also a frequent contributor to Elle Canada and was selected to exhibit at Fashion Art Toronto in 2019 and 2020. She has recently had her art published in Kolaj Magazine and Create and Resident Magazine. Erin has lived in Oakville for over 18 years.

The artist offers about her practice:

Rainbow Connection is a series of six vibrant collages that celebrate diversity and inclusivity within the local community. Through the use of vivid colours and abstract compositions, each collage weaves together people of different ethnicities with textures and patterns, creating a visual metaphor for the beauty of diversity within our community.

The rainbow scheme used throughout the series not only speaks to the LGBTQ community but also represents the spectrum of human experiences and identities. The series aims to promote understanding and acceptance of all people, regardless of their background, and to celebrate the unique qualities that each individual brings to the community.

Ultimately, Rainbow Connection is a visual celebration of the power of diversity and the importance of inclusivity. It serves as a reminder that our differences are what make us unique and beautiful, and that we should embrace and celebrate them. Through this series, I hope to inspire a sense of unity, acceptance, and love within the local community and beyond.

Visit Erin McGean’s website

Untitled, 2022 by Kayla Whitney for Connextions 2022

Location: Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre

Kayla Whitney is a graduate of OCAD University in Drawing and Painting. She is also known as Koe Design, a passion project turned dream career with a focus on creating public art, engaging with communities to beautify neighbourhoods, and creating safe, inviting and inspiring places all over the greater Toronto Hamilton area. Public projects include the cities of Toronto, Hamilton and Collingwood as well as work for The Globe and Mail, Holt Renfrew, The YWCA, and many others. Her goal as a publicly engaged artist is to facilitate a safe, supportive and encouraging space for other artists, community members and the general public where they can come fully into their own unique potential.

The artist offers about her practice:

I am especially interested in creating community focused art. I love to create work that is for everyone; work that makes everyone feel good, represented, beautiful, at home, safe and welcome.

I’m interested in art as a way to express shared experiences of positivity and learning as they exist within community. I think we are one another’s greatest source of connection and inspiration and, to me, art is the perfect space for us to take time and notice this, to reflect on what we give to our communities, and what they in turn give us back. We all live within and amongst connection but to see it is to grasp it, this most essential and important truth. Community and beauty are synonymous to me and in my work I try and bring this out, to watch objects, colour, faces, actions, environments, ideas and spirit all become one as this is the way I experience the world, and I think the way most people experience the world. I believe it’s important to take the time to notice this, it helps us to live with a little more awareness and a lot more appreciation.

Visit Kayla Whitney’s website

Hydrangea Hosta Black Eyed Susan from Flower Carpets Tapetes Floridos, photography, 2019 by Danny Custodio for Connextions 2023

Location: Trafalgar Park Community Centre

Danny Custodio is a practicing mid-career photo-based artist born in Toronto now based in St. Catharines. His artistic work is about understanding and exploring cultural traditions, from the centrality of immigrant manual labour to faith-based cultural practices through the lens of a first-generation Canadian born to an immigrant family, and how those cultural traditions can be adapted and recreated outside of their regional specificity.

His work is a unique glimpse into the personal and artistic processes of incorporating family connection and cultural heritage into a life in Canada.

The artist offers about his work:

Each year during religious festivals, citizens on the island of Sao Miguel, Azores, line the streets with carpets made of flowers for people to walk on during processions. The whole neighbourhood works together to blanket the cobblestone streets with wood chips, and seasonal plants found within the region. Wooden frames are built or inherited and are unique to each home. Flowers that are commonly used are hydrangeas, calla lilies, roses, and daisies.

As the son of Portuguese immigrants from Sao Miguel I have always been fascinated by this tradition. During a visit to the Azores as a small child, I remember helping my aunt and uncle create their section of flower carpet that spanned from one end of their house or the other. The smell of the freshly picked flower petals and greenery was intoxicating and intensified once they were tread upon.

Each frame is created by hand and passed down from generation to generation. Typical motifs are circles, diamonds, and squares. Plant life is harvested seasonally from gardens, and wild areas. Coloured wood chips are used in combination to add bright colours. The sheer magnitude and hours of work involved in creating these flower carpets are a true testament to the love and devotion felt by the inhabitants of the Azores.

Growing up in Toronto, in Little Portugal, gave me a strong sense of belonging within the Portuguese community. Since moving to St. Catharines, I’ve felt disconnected from my heritage. As a way to reconnect I’ve created my own flower carpets. After many months of research, I have been creating the wooden frames using designs and motifs passed down to me by my family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins have shared with me their traditions to incorporate into my contemporary context. I have been collecting plant life from my own garden and the Niagara Region to continue this tradition by creating my own personal interpretation of this familial art making. In addition to collecting seasonal plant life from around the Niagara Region to use in my work, I have also included plant life commonly found within the suburban landscape. Coincidentally, the hydrangea is the national flower of the Azores and very commonly used in suburban gardens yet not native to the Niagara Region. Once I've assembled the wooden frames and flowers and plants, I photograph them in my studio and digitally assemble the long paths of the flower carpets.

I want the viewer to take away a sense of cultural history, family, and pride while tapping into a feeling of nostalgia that connects traditions from one’s past to their present.

Visit Danny Custodio’s website

Untitled, 2022 by Yeram Kwak for Connextions 2022

Location: Trafalgar Park Community Centre

Artist Yeram Kwak (she/they) is an illustrator from Oakville, who is constantly inspired by the bold mark-making of lines and shapes made by playing with brushes. Using play and scribbles as the starting point, they focus on using digital media to express immediate emotions and using a variety of shapes to celebrate and accentuate the vast experiences of diverse communities. Recognized by American Illustration, Applied Arts, and World Illustration Awards, Yeram strives to create an immersive experience to share with the audience by creating work that one can enjoy exploring.

The artist offers about their work:

Community requires connection with one another, and nurturing relationships. Through repetition of bright colours and shapes, the diptych on this community centre expresses the positive ongoing relationships of people with one another and its surrounding nature. Connecting the activities found in the community centre through circular motifs, the left image creates a rhythmic tie of the diverse community found in the neighbourhood. The right image reflects this rhythm, and alludes the shapes as acorns - the connection between one another becomes a growing seed. While acknowledging the vast nature surrounding the environment of the town, the artwork portrays the communication and collaboration of the community and how it takes all to start growing a tree.

Visit Yeram Kwak’s website

Hidden Complexity: Circulation, Connection + Community, photo-digital, 2019-2023 by Kim-Lee Kho for Connextions 2023

Location: Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts

Kim-Lee Kho is a Canadian multidisciplinary artist of Chinese-Indonesian and British descent, exploring personal experience as a gateway to broader human concerns. She’s participated nationally in exhibitions, residencies, and mentorships; and won a number of awards.

Kho's recent projects include: Burnt Offerings, also the title of her multidisciplinary solo show at The Red Head Gallery; and a photographic series My Father’s Things which was part of the View Find[H]er exhibition at the Art Gallery of Mississauga; both in 2022. Her next solo exhibition Burnt Offerings will be at Station Gallery in Whitby, in fall 2023. Kho is a popular and experienced speaker, juror, and art educator, teaching art to adults in both digital and traditional media.

The artist offers about her work:

Human connections are the lifeblood of any community. Circulation and connection, which has been so challenging for individuals and communities during the pandemic, is represented here by the multi-layered intricacy of the tree branches. Hidden Complexity is made up solely of photographs I shot, pieced together, layered then transformed digitally. I often use bare-branched trees as metaphors for complex networks (organic, like human communities), as well as for the human circulatory system – our actual lifeblood.

Visit Kim-Lee Kho’s website

Bloom, 2020 by Lucas DeClavasio for Connextions 2022

Location: Oakville Trafalgar Community Centre

Lucas DeClavasio has been photographing for half his life, discovering his inclination for double exposures through the use of broken and plastic cameras. Many of the cameras used, being from second hand antique markets, didn’t work well, but that was the appeal; sometimes there would be extreme light leaks or the film wouldn't wind to the next frame. He enjoyed being surprised by the results. For a long while, Lucas took a hiatus from photography, and it was the pandemic that got him back into it. He needed a creative outlet. The overarching goal is to embrace the chaos around us, reconnect with our surroundings, and hopefully discover a peaceful rhythm.

Bloom is part of an ongoing series called Chaos & Decay. The artist offers about the work:

It's about the attempt to discover peace and harmony amidst the randomness in our everyday lives. I aim to find the delicate balance between aggression and tranquility in the same image, while tying together nature and the human form. Our connection with nature is universal and undeniable. The more conscious we are of this, the easier we can focus on improving and maintaining our physical and mental health, which resonates deeply with the need for community and access to recreation. This photograph relates to the recreation centre setting because of the nearby 16 Mile Creek, the community gardens, and the existing bird sculpture above the space. I also see participating in community activities on physical and social levels as healthy choices for your mind and body.

Visit Lucas DeClavasio’s Instagram

Summer Connextion Oakville, photo-digital, 2019/2023 by Alex Neumann for Connextions 2023

Location: Glen Abbey Community Centre

A first generation Canadian, born in Montréal, now living in Toronto, Alex’s camera-based art has been exhibited in Canada as well as in Europe. He has been associated with artist run galleries both in Montreal and Toronto - Véhicule Art (Montréal) Inc., Toronto Photographers’ Workshop/Photography Gallery, Harbourfront (founding member, chairman of Exhibition Committee) and Gallery 44. More recently, he worked as a web development coordinator at York University. Past work included freelance photography, and teaching photography at University of Toronto/Sheridan, Dundas Valley School of Art, and Toronto Board of Education. His daughter, her husband and their children live, work and go to school in Oakville.

The artist offers about his practice:

The idea I am working with in these images is the propensity of humans to create symbols and attach meaning and affiliation to them, primarily the star-like patterns that represent several spiritual faiths and cultures. There are also other influences, household crafts such as embroidery, lace, samplers as well as the phenomena of pareidolia. And of course, the kaleidoscope and paper snowflakes. I wish to have these images inspire people to see and interact with their surroundings with a new vision.

These images start as photographs of nature, taken during one of my walks, then are manipulated by a computer software. There are countless possible images that can result from a single photograph. Like DNA, we are all different but at the same time, alike.

Visit Alex Neumann’s website

Pollinator Painters by C.M. Duffy for Connextions 2022

Location: Glen Abbey Community Centre

C.M. Duffy holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has created art and illustration for a variety of projects for over a decade. His paintings are included in private collections in the United States and Canada and he has accomplished many public works in his home city of Toronto. In 2021 he worked with the Department of Canadian Heritage to bring a large installation of his work to both Ottawa's Confederation Park and Frankfurt, Germany to celebrate Canada's Guest of Honour status in the Frankfurt Book Fair.

C.M. Duffy’s current work blooms from the buds of daydreams that reveal an observant love of nature and overlooked worlds where the real becomes surreal and illusion delves into allusion.

The artist offers about his practice:

My visual musings are inspired by Mother Nature’s handiwork, her creative cast of characters, natural settings and the stories that unfold in under-explored wildernesses. The work often playfully explores themes of camouflage, illusion, and survival to impress upon the viewer an acknowledgement of humankind’s fallible perceptions, delusions and beliefs. The trickery and visual wit in my work act as a reminder that we must be vigilantly cautious in our obsessive seeking of objective truth and concrete understanding because there still are elements of magic left for us in this world to discover.

Without flowers our lives and the rest of the planet's balance would not be possible. So many species rely on flowers and in turn these flowers depend on their pollinators. We all benefit from this symbiotic embrace. And so within my image the pollinators give vibrant colour to the flowers as they team up together to create the final expressions of them within the painting. The flowers return the favour by giving the pollinators their own hues. Through this whimsical scenery I hope to evoke thoughts about our own symbiotic relationship with art itself. Art can nourish and sustain us all by providing meaning, communication and beauty. It is a vital bedrock and wellspring that will continue to be foundational for our understanding and expression as long as we share this planet with one another and with the birds, bees and flowers - and for as long as there is blank canvas, paper or cave walls!

Visit C.M.Duffy’s website

A funny thing, photography, 2011-2015 by Darren Rigo for Connextions 2023

Location: River Oaks Community Centre

Darren Rigo is a Toronto-based artist who creates work inspired by the absurdity in everyday life. His practice focuses on collaborative relationships with people and places as a source of inspiration while considering the endlessly evolving nature of photography. He received a BFA from OCAD University where he majored in photography and recently completed residencies at AIAV (Japan), Leveld Kunstnartun (Norway), AIRY (Japan). His work has also been included in the collections of the Canada Council Art Bank, Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton and the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Japan.

The artist offers about his work:

I grew up on Fred Rigo’s Farm, nestled into the escarpment, just north of Oakville in the headwaters of Bronte Cheek. Fred Rigo is my grandfather and the hundred-acre parcel of land that he bought and later built a house upon for my family was more of a weed lot than a farm. There were no animals and the fields were left untended for years before I was born, but it was a marvelous place to grow up. As a child I would explore the woods and swamps pretending I was on a quest for a treasure, a lost civilization or on an odyssey home. Along the way I would encounter monsters, thieves, steep cliffs, and bottomless pits, all of which were just exaggerations of the features I discovered around the property. A gnarly tree became a giant to fight. A series of stones became the only way across a raging river. A hunter’s shelter became a hermit’s camp. I always persevered in the end and made it home for dinner.

My grandfather, having grown up in the depression, was a bit of a hoarder. Our barn was filled with just about anything he found a good deal on: metres of fire hose, a long wooden ladder, a wine press. But by far what he had the most of was endless boxes scrap fabric and string. Tucked in the corner of the barn there was a loom and on it he would weave these scraps into colourful rugs. I’d visit him while he was working and he would tell me about his plans for what he could do with all this stuff or his own theories about the farm: how something was buried in the hill east of our house by an ancient civilization, or how the skating pond was formed by a huge meteor. These childhood experiences and the relationship I formed with that land foremost inform my practice today.

It is part of my nature to seek solitude once in a while. If I am stuck in the city for too long of a stretch, I feel compelled to go roam the woods near my childhood home. Every time I go for a walk in the forest I often happen upon a funny thing or two; this could be an unusual mushroom, tree that grew in a strange shape or an unusual marking left behind by some unknown creature. Nature always offers up surprises that draw me back and keep me interested in spending time away from it all.

Visit Darren Rigo’s website

We are all connected. To each other., 2022 by Catherine Cachia for Connextions 2022

Location: River Oaks Community Centre

Catherine Cachia is a multidisciplinary artist who works in many mediums: mural painting, hand lettering, illustration, photography and more. The thread that runs through her work is embracing what’s imperfect, messy and human. She considers art making to be a spiritual practice that can bring a sense of healing and balance to both artist and viewer. She aims to unburden and uplift people, if only for a moment, when they encounter her work.

The artist offers about her mural We are all connected. To each other:

The diversity that we experience living Canada is a beautiful thing. But with this comes a responsibility to acknowledge our own internalized biases in order to treat each other respectfully. Instead of being ashamed of our biases or denying that they exist I think we should recognize their presence simply as part of being human. The more we can get to know our biases, the better able we are to interrupt and interrogate them, and not let them unconsciously dictate the way we interact and respond to one another. This piece is intended to make viewers pause and look closely to read what the words say. An invitation to step outside our own point of view and a reminder that we all owe each other a pause.

Visit Catherine Cachia’s website

Messages/Passages, photography, 2023 by Maureen O’Connor for Connextions 2023

Location: Iroquois Ridge Community Centre

Maureen O’Connor is a graduate of Sheridan College from the Applied Photography Program and a graduate of OCAD in Toronto. Maureen is a lifelong animal lover. These photographs are produced with the cooperation of local sanctuaries.

The artist offers about her work:

Many of the animals in these images are rescues from fur farms and others are non-releasable wildlife. They were brought to the chosen location to be photographed. Several of the locations are homes in Toronto before they were redeveloped but this gyrfalcon was photographed onsite in Hamilton.

By photographing Canadian animals in abandoned and crumbling domestic architecture, I raise questions about how nature and the built environment intersect. I see these spaces as transformative, evoking memory and showing the beauty and fragility of the animals and the architecture. While the juxtaposition may appear odd, my images convey a sense of calm, and have a fairy tale like quality. We are invited to cross the threshold and imagine new narratives where the natural world and the domestic world meet, and consider how this informs our identity in a country defined by both its wild landscape and its orderly cities.

My work is photographed with traditional medium format film and my photographs are printed on Chromogenic Paper, traditional darkroom emulsion- based paper.

Visit Maureen O’Connor’s website

Untitled, 2022 by Natalie Very B. for Connextions 2022

Location: Iroquois Ridge Community Centre

This mural is based on the five main colours and six words of Culture Days: connection, celebration, creativity, collaboration, collective care, and inclusivity.

Natalie offers about her work: “The artwork exemplifies our unique, yet often overlooked, connection to Mother Nature and reminds us that we ought to take care of the land that we call home. The mural aims to inspire passersby to tend to the natural environment as much as we tend to human rights, all while embracing one another from a place of dignity and respect.”

Natalie painted her first mural at the OCADU building in 2015 and has continued with working large scale ever since. Her experience in painting on a variety of exterior and interior surfaces includes concrete, brick, metal, wood, and glass. She has worked with the City of Toronto, City of Hamilton, City of Innisfil, City of Midland, Arts Etobicoke, East End Arts, Lakeshore Arts, North York Art Council, Museums of Mississauga, and Stonegate Community Health Centre; all in addition to her work with numerous Toronto BIAs and dozens of private clients.

Natalie Very B. is an award-winning Polish-Canadian illustrator and muralist. Having grown up in a country with a strong patriarchal regime and a social system based on inequality, she strives to make public art that promotes feminist values, self-acceptance, and anti-oppressive practices. As an immigrant who for many years did not feel like she belonged anywhere at all, she found solace in painting colourful landscapes inspired by the soothing quality of nature in Canada, her second home.

Visit Natalie Very B.’s website

Untitled, 2022 by Asli Alin for Connextions 2022

Location: Sixteen Mile Sports Complex

Asli is a multidisciplinary artist working in painting, installation and photography. She has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture. Originally from Turkey, Asli lives and works in Toronto. She has been commissioned to create public art in Canada and Europe and her work has been featured in a number of galleries throughout Toronto and abroad. Successfully completed projects include digital media for corporations such as The Daniels Corporation, municipalities such as City of Mississauga, City of Waterloo and City of Pickering, as well as many business improvement areas (BIAs) throughout the City of Toronto and Mississauga, which usually involves artworks being printed in large-scale formats.

Asli offers about her mural design; “I wanted to create an artwork that reflects a strong relationship to the site and context, while celebrating an inclusive community, connectivity and self-expression.”

Visit Asli Alin’s website

Past exhibits

Minor Alterations: Oakville, painted picnic tables by Heather J.A. Thomson for Connextions 2021

Location: This exhibit is no longer available. It was displayed at Shell Park, 3307 Lakeshore Road West.

This installation of six painted picnic tables at Shell Park invited the public to learn more about sustainable changes and contribute to an online sustainable habits resource. Each table featured graphics corresponding to a specific change residents can make in their daily lives. Environmentalism and climate change are important issues to Thomson and her artwork. She feels that, “society places responsibility on institutions, companies and governments to make large scale policy changes and expects for us to wait for them to do so. I believe we have power. Our decisions, our lifestyles and our habits influence our world.” Minor Alterations: Oakville provides actionable changes that everyone can participate in.

Thomson’s practice combines her passion for history and her desire to use a visual language. She feels that “conversations about the past can inspire us to reflect on the present, question our values and challenge us to adopt historical methodologies for a more sustainable future.”

Heather J. A. Thomson received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Guelph in 2017 and was awarded the 2017-2018 Don Phillips Scholarship at Open Studio, Toronto. She is a former art instructor for the Town of Oakville and currently teaches printmaking at Open Studio. She lives in Oakville.

Visit Heather A.J. Thomson’s website

Stronger Together, upcycled plastic bag textile, by Melanie Billark for Connextions 2021

Location: This exhibit is no longer available. It was displayed at Westwood Park, 170 Wilson Street.

Responding to the existing Westwood Park pavilion/gazebo, artist Melanie Billark collected and upcycled single-use plastic shopping bags into a new textile that she wove through the existing structure. Bags were donated from surrounding communities and individuals. Each bag was deconstructed, tied, and sewn together to create a new fibre-based textile. For the artist, the weaving intertwines the contributions made by community members and individuals, and is a message of hope, demonstrating that by working together, positive solutions and a stronger community and future is possible. The intention is to repurpose this new plastic textile for other projects following this installation.

The artist offers this about their work:

"With Canada’s single-use plastic ban coming into effect this year [2021], there will be piles of plastic items that will not be properly recycled. And in light of the world-wide pandemic, curb-side shopping and deliveries increased, and has made it difficult for individuals to shop sustainably. The increased use of these plastics has risen due to the way we were forced to shop and consume in the last year. Instead of all of these bags going into the landfill, I wanted to create a solution and a way to upcycle these bags in order to create a new life for them."

Melanie questions our impact and relationship with the natural environment and conveys these contemplations through sculpture, site-specific installations, and performance-based work. Her practice sheds light on social and political issues that affect and surround principles of ecology, saying “I attempt to bring awareness to ecological issues by bringing them into the public sphere. I often create works that activate public spaces and encourage public engagement, while conveying a message of hope and rewilding.”

Melanie Billark is a Toronto based multi-disciplinary artist. She received an advanced Diploma in Crafts and Design from Sheridan College (Oakville Campus) in 2011, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture and Installation from Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) University in 2016. Billark taught several art classes at Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre for many years. She has exhibited her work across the GTA and the US. She has received a number of awards for her work including the Climate Arts Award in 2019 and The Ontario Association of Landscape Architects (OALA) Ground Award in 2017.

Visit Melanie Billark’s website

Untitled from Botanical Light, photography, 2023 by April Hickox for Connextions 2023

Location: This exhibit is no longer available. It was displayed at Oakville Museum.

As a lens-based artist and a dedicated environmentalist, this work reflected April Hickox's interest in our relationship to wilderness in urban culture, land stewardship, and sustainability. She has been producing work in the landscape that questions what is ‘wild’ and how we need to re-negotiate out relationship with our environment.

An active community leader and associate professor at Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) University in Tkaronto/Toronto, she is the Founding Director of Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Tenth Muse Studio, and a founding member of Artscape, the founder of Women’s Photography Residency, now in its third year at Gibraltar Point Art Centre on the Toronto Islands. Exhibiting extensively with notable exhibitions including Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Surrey Art Gallery, Harbourfront Centre, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Oakville Galleries, and Tom Thompson Memorial Art Gallery. Recently a survey exhibit of her work was curated by Crystal Mowry for the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Recently her work Observance was presented as a 45-channel video installation in downtown Toronto and her video Avion was included in Nuit Blanche 2023.

Hickox was born at the Oakville Trafalgar Hospital, grew up in Lorne Park, and moved to Toronto Island for university. All these locations have heightened her awareness of ways to build community that support the renewal and care of our green spaces

The artist offers about her practice:

"With this work I am reimagining photographically the history of botanical drawings done by women like Marianne North in the Victorian area. At the time women were not able to paint on site because of social pressure and they were thought to be too frail to travel. North’s mother knew her daughter Marianne was talented and how much she wanted to do plein air painting so before she died, she told Marianne she had to take care of her father. This allowed her to travel all over the world with her father, the head botanist of Kew Gardens, as he collected plants specimens for Queen’s Garden in London, England."

Visit April Hickox’s website

Keesa at the Lake, photography, 2015 by Madeline Benevides for Connextions 2023

Location: This exhibit is no longer available. It was located at Oakville Trafalgar Community Centre.

With an Honours Bachelor of Photography from Sheridan, Madeline Benevides', fine art photographic work explores the intricacies of nature. Her poetic process is a deep, respectful listening. Benevides was born in 1996 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

The artist offers this about the work:

"Photographed along the lakefront, Oakville's winds kiss Keesa. Nature swoons for her heart with the blues sung in the water and sky. We explored the Downtown Oakville area together as new Sheridan students and created this portrait to cherish the moment. Her golden skin wrapped in an oatmeal coloured natural cloth, paralleling our new home softly whispering its embrace."

Bridge Obscura, video, sound and plywood arches (11 minutes: 19 seconds) by Shahrzad Amin for Connextions 2021

Location: This exhibit is no longer available. It was located at Oakville Centre for Performing Arts at Centennial Square.

This multimedia installation referenced ethnographic filmmaking and historical Persian architectural design to express ideas about connectivity between Iranian culture and Canadian identities by artist Shahrzad Amin. The video featured footage taken in Isfahan, Iran on the Khaju and Allahverdi Khan bridges on the Zayanderud River. Serving as both bridges and dams, they also function as public meeting places.

The soundtrack captured by Amin is a combination of mixed ambient sounds of birds, water, people walking, clapping, dancing, and singing. According to the artist, the inclusion of an arched bridge acts as a metaphor for overcoming cultural distances, and for global international connectivity. The vignettes the artist features from the Isfahan’s arched bridges, depict how people socially connect and engage in a public place. For the artist, the multimedia installation is a way to connect residents in her new homeland in Oakville with residents from her birthplace in Iran.

The artist offers this about their work:

“As an immigrant artist with an Iranian background, I leverage the mediums of filmmaking, pattern making, architectural design, and language to connect contemporary and traditional Iranian culture. My research utilizes these mediums to draw attention to the interaction between artwork, architecture, and society to underscore the importance of culture, place, and memory in connecting cultures.”

Shahrzad Amin is an Iranian-Canadian interdisciplinary artist. Her interest in fundamental social issues such as democracy, human rights, equality, and migration has informed an art practice examining diasporic and socio-cultural subjectivities through the lenses of art making, sensory ethnographic filmmaking, architectural design, and language. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Tehran University of Art in 2010 and a Master of Fine Arts from Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) University in 2020.

Visit Shahrzad Amin's’ website

An Echo of Oakville, wood, plaster, mirror shards, super glue, caulking, and resin, and digital sculptures by Ignazio Colt Nicastro for Connextions 2021

Location: This exhibit is no longer available. It was displayed at Glen Abbey Community Centre.

An Echo of Oakville was a multidisciplinary installation situated at the exterior front entrance of Glen Abbey Community Centre by artist Ignazio Colt Nicastro. The sculpture was made from mirror shards, fostering a space of self-reflection, compelling viewers to think more deeply about themselves and the spaces that surround them, specifically Oakville. This installation was both physical and digital.

A sculpture was co-created with contributions received from community members sharing key words, places, and feelings about Oakville. The artist says that “the process allows community members to see themselves reflected in the pieces, both conceptually and literally. The mirror shards provide a shattered complexion that speaks to how this representation of Oakville is not yet whole, as it’s always shifting and evolving with new community members.”

Alongside the sculpture, there were a couple of digital sculptures painted in virtual reality. These pieces displayed the hidden histories of Oakville that can only be activated through Augmented Reality, a feature allowing users to unlock stories of the town by using their digital devices to scan a QR code.

The artist offers this about their work:

“As we continue to live and thrive in this town, I believe it is imperative that we first acknowledge and honour the histories of it. These digital sculptures offer the opportunity to recognize the histories while allowing the physical installation to exist.

"In both my fine art and curatorial practice, I aim to create spaces that engage my viewers with the opportunity to reflect on their own sense of identity or their surrounding environments. Our identities and experiences are unique, but how often do we take the time to reflect on them? With my mirror sculptures, these shattered perceptions are intended to urge viewers to consider how the world impacts them and how they impact it in return.”

Ignazio Colt Nicastro is an emerging multidisciplinary artist, curator, and writer based in Oakville. In 2013, he moved to Oakville to pursue his Honours Bachelor of Arts through a joint program at Sheridan College and the University of Toronto. Nicastro started working for Oakville Galleries in 2017 and has since become the Interim Office and Facilities Manager. He has also curated exhibitions in a local Oakville café to support Halton-based, emerging artists. More recently, Nicastro has delved into digital galleries through the launch of IC Contemporary, where he creates spaces to exhibit emerging artists with themes tied to identity.

Visit Ignazio Colt Nicastro's’ Instagram

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers, paintings, by Tazeen Qayyum for Connextions 2021

Location: This exhibit is no longer available. It was displayed at Memorial Park, 120 Oak Park Boulevard

Tazeen Qayyum transformed one of the sheds at Memorial Park into a sanctuary of care and storytelling through her signature miniature painting style. The installation was inspired by the Ragamala miniature paintings, from the South Asian tradition, and conveys a festive mood with the message of hope and love. For this project, the artist invited residents of Oakville and beyond to collaborate by sending their used masks along with short personal narratives, reflecting on their experience of the pandemic. The collected narratives continued to grow on the project’s website as a way to highlight the community’s ongoing struggles, resilience and inspirations.

Qayyum explains:

"Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the face mask has become the symbol of the pandemic. Obligatory in many countries, the mask culture has now become part of our daily lives, customs, discussions and practices. On one hand it represents the hardships, separation, distance and restrictions, but at the same time it is also a symbol of survival, care, resilience and protection. It can be rightfully said that this simple, inexpensive object has become a powerful image and representation of our collective experience.

"As a community project, it celebrates the spirit of community building and the unquestionable strength in coming together as a nation in such difficult times. Like Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘Hope Is The Thing With Feathers’, the installation portrays a hope that lives within us all and that must be protected, nurtured, cherished and shared no matter how hard the times get."

Tazeen Qayyum’s art practice is conceptually-driven, socially engaging and critically examines the relationships between art and observation of her lived experience. Primarily trained as a miniature painter of the South Asian and Persian tradition, she continues to explore new materials and processes through mediums such as drawing, installation, sculpture, video and performance. Drawing from complex issues of belonging and displacement within a socio-political context, her art is a way to navigate identity and beliefs living in the diaspora.

Tazeen Qayyum is a contemporary artist living and working in Oakville. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts from the National College of Arts Lahore, Pakistan in 1996. She was nominated for the Jameel Prize (2013) and K.M. Hunter Award (2014), and received the Excellence in Art Award by the Canadian Community Arts Initiative (2015). Her work has been exhibited around the world and is part of several public collections.

Visit Tazeen Qayyum’s website

A Seat in Serendipity, drawings on wood bench by Hannah Veiga for Connextions 2021

Location: This exhibit is no longer available. It was displayed at Pondview Pond Walk, 490 Pondview Place

Hannah Veiga uses the technique of pyrography also known as wood burning, to illustrate the plants and animals found in the surrounding Pondview Pond park area. As she explains, “I pursue ideas of growth and decay through subject matter of flora and fungi. And I tend to work with the fascinating patterns that occur naturally in the wood grain.” Visitors were invited to take a walk, find this bench, take a rest, and enjoy the view. Members of the public also shared photos of themselves on Instagram sitting on this bench using #PondviewBench.

The artist states:

"During these challenging times I wanted to create something that would inspire others and provide a moment of observation to the elements of nature that we often overlook. Frequenting this park on walks and bicycle rides, I've found many moments of tranquility here. This bench is in a prime location of the park; a front row seat to the undisturbed nature that surrounds you."

Hannah Veiga is a multidisciplinary artist and a graduate of the University of Waterloo Honours Fine Arts program. She works in various methods of making but is primarily interested in the processes of pyrography, printmaking, and sculpture. She has been a resident of Oakville for the past few years while working as an art instructor, animateur and special projects associate for Oakville Galleries.

Visit Hannah Veiga’s Instagram

From the series Skating By, photography, 2017 by Shay Conroy for Connextions 2023

Location: This exhibit is no longer available. It was located at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex.

Shay Conroy is a Canadian-Māori emerging photographer who develops intimate long-term documentary photo projects. She is interested in representing various communities and untangling diverse family relationships. Her visual storytelling explores common themes of defining home, community, identity, belonging, and reconnection. Shay is passionate about advocating for those with disabilities, mental health struggles and financial hardships, prioritizing ethics and respect for vulnerability. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Photography from Sheridan College and is also a member of Women Photograph.

The artist offers about her work:

"Skating By showcases two images from my longer series on local skaters in paused moments within the skate park. Instead of the classic high energy sports images we see with skateboarding, I wanted to highlight the moments of stillness within the people and parks. There is a contrast of softness in skaters themselves, despite the blunt sport. Whether growing in one city or moving to another, a skate park is a place of fresh connections. Skate parks promote community within their city, and gives people a space to feel a sense of belonging. These spaces are essential to local cities as acting grounds for deep connections and personal expression amidst the subculture. Much like photography, skating is about building trust with yourself and can be a tool for connecting. There’s a tenderness to forgiving yourself for each fall, and a high following each landing.

"Throughout my life, skateboarding has followed me in the people I find myself around. While I simply ride, I have loved watching my friends land tricks since I was a teenager. When I moved to Oakville, I found myself subconsciously drawn to other skaters in my new friendships. Riding around Oakville on my board often brought fresh perspectives to my work, and helped me appreciate areas of the city I may have not otherwise come across. The skaters featured in these images are a combination of strangers and friends, both brought into my lens through skating and connection during my time at Sheridan College in Oakville."

Visit Shay Conroy’s website

Untitled, stretcher made from tarp and natural branches, with Augmented Reality on Instagram by Quinn Hopkins for Connextions 2021

Location: This exhibit is no longer available. It was located at Lions Valley Park, 1227 Lions Valley Road

Artist Quinn Hopkins presented a sculptural mural with Augmented Reality aspects utilizing the construction wall along the Sixteen Mile Creek in Lion’s Valley Park to tell a story about the land and the people that inhabit it. He created a hide stretcher out of construction materials to highlight the resilience of the Indigenous culture. This work also referenced the Moccasin Trail, which is located in this park, by showing how moccasins are traditionally made.

This installation revealed a connection between people, animals, and the land. According to the artist, during the pandemic “… there was a surge in the use of outdoor spaces which we must remind ourselves that we share with other living things. It is our responsibility to take care of our parks. It also reflects on the important history of these waterways for Indigenous people and settlers as a source of vitality and connection between settlements.”

Hopkin’s recent work explores and utilizes new technology to tell his story and the stories of his people. This includes Augmented Reality and/or Virtual Reality, Machine Learning and Computer Graphics Design, sometimes integrated with painting and sculpture. His projects usually revolve around the themes of reconnection, spirit, and culture. These themes reflect Hopkin’s values of teaching, health, and diversity.

Quinn Hopkins is a 23-year-old multidisciplinary Anishinaabe artist from Oakville. Although his ancestral roots are from Batchewana First Nation on Lake Superior, he grew up in Mississauga and Oakville, struggling to find his identity as an Indigenous person. Quinn considers his art practice a “medicine that creates balance in life and remedies mental health struggles.” He was recently featured on CBC for his innovative work using NFT's. Quinn is currently attending Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) University for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and resides in Oakville with his family.

You might be interested in