Published July 7 2016
Once the manse of the United Church then a law office – 15 Newcastle St. has lived many lives. And today on July 3 it opens its doors for a sneak peek at its latest incarnation – Finn Artists’ Centre.
Carole Finn greets friends and clients with champagne punch served in Japanese tea bowls chocolate fondue with fresh strawberries and walls bursting with art.
“These are Carole’s silkscreens” Finn’s sister says from her post on a rustic wooden bench.
Passion vine cana lily azalea straw flower aster. Artworks she says inspired by the flowers of the garden Finn left behind earlier this year.
Carole Finn left many other things behind – Persian carpets a mahogany dining set for 10 a red canoe. She left behind 50 years of a life with her late husband Don and moved to a condo.
“Selling my house has occupied my life for so long” Finn posted on Facebook in March. “Now I can breathe and do what I love.”
Love is what drives Finn.
“You don’t paint what you don’t love” she says while in the studio adjacent to the gallery space. We’re surrounded by paintings of the Great Bear Rainforest – spirit bears eagles sea lions – the colours of ocean and cedar so vivid you can almost smell the air.
In 2013 Finn spent three weeks in this 21-million acre tract of temperate rainforest stretching for 400 kilometres along Canada’s northwest coast. She points to a pack of coastal gray wolves their heads bowed toward the river fishing for Chinook.
“It’s a love affair” she says “between the animal and the painting. You have to have been there to get it into your soul.”
The Haliburton Highlands is well-lodged in Finn’s soul. She paints its autumnal forests its curves of Canadian Shield. She hikes its cliffs and canoes its lakewaters transforming love into brush strokes linocuts sculpture – into one of the numerous techniques she’s mastered since launching her career in the ‘60s.
But anyone who knows Carole Finn knows all of this. She’s an icon in a community renowned for its thriving arts community. A community she has enriched with half a century of service: co-founder of the Haliburton School of the Arts founder of the Rails End Gallery member of the prestigious Ontario Society of Artists. A wall of Finn Artists’ Centre is decorated with her honours and awards including a 2013 Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award.
But Finn doesn’t want to talk about the past. Today the walls of 15 Newcastle formerly her husband’s law office are whitewashed and ready for new life. Finn talks of artists’ residences in the “pied-a-terre” upstairs of a sculpture garden of renting out gallery space of supporting student programs. She talks about other spaces where artists are free to roam and thrive such Artspace in Peterborough.
“This isn’t a new concept” she says “but it’s a growing one.
And Finn will be there ushering in a new crop of artists nurturing established ones.
“This room is for printmaking” she says “and champagne drinking.” She laughs and tries to clear away the bottle but it’s perfect just where it is.
Today is a day to toast the arts and to toast the love that makes a woman like Carole Finn want to share them.