Art is Everywhere: Museum Week 2021

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Since 2014, Museum Week has been an online social media movement – 7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags. The Oshawa Museum has participated for many years, and 2021 has been no exception. The themes vary from year to year and often challenge me to think outside the box for ways that the OM can share content related to the theme, while other times, the themes are squarely in our wheelhouse and content for the day comes naturally.

The theme for Saturday, June 12 is #ArtIsEverywhereMW. This made me reflect on our community and art that can be found all over Oshawa.

We could start with the grand idea of ‘what is art?’ and consider the built heritage and historic buildings that survive in our community. Many churches spring to mind when thinking of architectural examples, as do our unique museum buildings, and buildings with rich histories, like the Regent Theatre.

If we consider art in the traditional form of paintings, looking around the downtown, one can find murals, new and old, adding colour and vibrancy to our community. I’ve always been partial to the mural by Tony Johnson, found on the side of Brew Wizards, on Celina Street, just south of Athol. Looking at the subject, it becomes obvious why it’s a favourite, with a turn of the century Lakeview Park and two of our houses being depicted. Murals came about as a result of the Downtown Action Committee of 1993.  Their mandate was to co-ordinate improvements to the downtown area, and one of their first endeavours were the murals.  They felt the murals would beautify the downtown, add interest, and instill civic pride.  Five murals were completed by 1995; additional murals were completed by 1997. Murals continue to be added in recent years, the most recent being behind the Canadian Automotive Museum, part of the Signs of Life Mural Project, and created by local artists Dani Crosby and Chad Tyson.

Art doesn’t have to be ‘two dimensional’ as there are several sculptures around the community. In Lakeview Park, the Lady of the Lake statue has been a familiar site for over 60 years. The RMG has also added public art to the landscape around downtown, with installations like Upstart II (Meadmore), Group Portrait 1957 (Coupland) and Reverb (Harding). In fact, talking about Reverb might be one of my favourite parts of delivering the Downtown Walking Tour, as there are many different meanings and references that the artist, Noel Harding, captured with this impressive sculpture. Check out the RMG’s website to learn more about Reverb.

Art is everywhere in our community. I hope this might inspire someone to look a little closer at the beauty that can be found in Oshawa.

Student Museum Musings – A Wreath Made of What?

By Emily Dafoe, Visitor Host

When guests come through the Oshawa Community Museum for tours, one of the few artifacts that you can always rely on to elicits a large, and in most cases repulsed, reaction are the hair wreaths and jewelry. Within Henry House, one of the three historical houses at our museum, there are two hair wreaths hanging up, one in the Parlour, and a second one in the Dining Room, as well there are a few pieces of jewelry made of hair in the Bedroom of the house. Without fail, guests always feel the need to do a second take upon learning the materials of which these artifacts are made out of. While guests are usually quite freaked out by the hair artifacts, what most of the guests do not realize is that this type of handicraft was very common practice for young girls living in the Victorian Period.

970.49.5 - Hair Wreath on display in the Henry House Parlour
970.49.5 – Hair Wreath on display in the Henry House Parlour

Upon researching I came across this (https://archive.org/details/selfinstructori00campgoog) book from Internet Archive that was published in 1867, which is titled Art of Hair Work: Dressing Hair, Making Curls, Switches, and Braids, and Hair Jewelry for Every Description, and was written by Mark Campbell. This book from the Victorian Period acts as an instructional book for every hair craft related, and was fascinating to read through. This book walks the reader through the making of various different braids that can be done with hair, as well as various types of crafts and jewelry that these braids can help one create. Campbell teaches his audience to create these hair braids through the use of a braiding table. While there are other ways of creating hair crafts, a braiding table seems to be one of the most popular. Hair would be braided around wires, which gave the craft a stronger structure.

971.4.14 - Hair brooch on display in the Henry House Bedroom.  It is believed the hair came from members of the Ritson family (after whom Ritson Road is named)
971.4.14 – Hair brooch on display in the Henry House Bedroom. It is believed the hair came from members of the Ritson family (after whom Ritson Road is named)

Hair crafts, such as the ones displayed throughout Henry House, were a common way that loved ones were remembered by a family. At times when a loved one passed away some hair may have been saved to create a memorial wreath to remember them. However, that is not the only way that hair was acquired for the wreath. A lot of the hair used in a hair wreath would also come from hair from hairbrushes of Victorian women.

Something that I believe is lost in the reactions to the hair artifacts are the skills, time, and work that went into these crafts. Next time you’re down by Lakeview Park, stop by and come check out the hair crafts that we have in Henry House, you may be surprised by how impressive they are.

 

Works Cited

Campbell, Mark.  Art of Hair Work: Dressing Hair, Making Curls, Switches, and Braids, and Hair Jewelry for Every Description. (1867).