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Keeping old traditions alive Women's Art Association of Hamilton celebrates 125 years with annual juried exhibition  

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Photos C/O Catherine Goce

By: Natalie Clark

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Women’s Art Association of Hamilton. To kick off celebrations, the WAAH is featuring their annual juried exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The Celebrations! exhibit features art from current and past members of the WAAH.  

The WAAH was created in 1894 by a group of women who feared that cultural and artistic pursuits would be lost in Hamilton’s booming industrial growth. The ambitions of the organization at the time were simple.

WAAH wanted to create a general interest in art, establish art scholarships, hold lectures and seminars, hold exhibitions of paintings, designs and sculptures and develop art and handicrafts in Canada.  

125 years later, these ambitions still hold true, though there have also been some changes.

Zorica Silverthorne, WAAH exhibitions chair and vice president, notes that technology and digital media have contributed to the recent changes made to the organization.  

“Our website hosts online exhibitions featuring artist members, there is an online gallery for our members to exhibit their works and we are even digitally selecting some of our exhibitions,” mentions Silverthorne.

Meanwhile, old traditions are also being kept alive. From the tireless efforts of the founding women of WAAH to the current executive board have ensured that an annual juried exhibition has taken place every year since the organization’s inception.

For the past seventy-two years, the exhibition has made the AGH it’s home. Long before that, the organization played a crucial role in establishing the AGH itself. Needless to say, WAAH has a lot to celebrate.  

“Our exhibition statement is ‘it is in our nature to celebrate’… whether with a large group of people, small intimate gathering or solitude… ‘Celebrations!’ is open to interpretation,” said Silverthorne.  

Some of the works of past WAAH members are currently on display in the gallery’s permanent collection. Silverthorne notes that this is an important aspect worth celebrating.

“Even if the woman is no longer with us physically, her work and what she’s contributed should not be forgotten… it’s a chance to bring new life and new exposure to her legacy and not to mention looking to our past and learning from it is always an advantage,” said Silverthorne.

Silverthorne gives special mention to various different women presented in the exhibit but mentions that it’s difficult to mention only a few given the many talented artists that are involved in the WAAH.

“Some artists to celebrate are Maria Sarkany who had a coin design chosen by the Canadian Mint, well-known local artists Sylvia Simpson, Claudette Losier and our award winners Jodi Kitto-Ward, Jodie Hart and Susan Outlaw,” said Silverthorne.

Kitto-Ward, voted “Best in Show” for the exhibit, joined the WAAH in 2009. She currently has two of her pieces featured in the exhibit; “Celebration” and “In the Forest (The Bruce Trail 50th Anniversary)”. Kitto-Ward has a background in accounting and was employed at an accounting firm before her beginning her career as an artist.

“I always had a love for art and enjoyed drawing and visiting art galleries as a child, but I was very self-critical and didn’t think I had what it took to pursue art on a professional level,” explained Kitto-Ward.

Later in her life, Kitto-Ward decided she wanted to pursue what made her happy; art. As she began taking courses at Sheridan College, she finally started to feel more confident in her work as an artist. Kitto-Ward now balances art, accounting and being a proud mom.

“I have experienced the support and opportunities provided by the WAAH first hand and I am proud to be a member and part of this historical and celebratory exhibition,” said Kitto-Ward.

“It’s important for me to be included in this exhibition… because of what this organization has achieved with women coming together for a common goal of supporting the arts, bringing so much to this city and beyond.”

The Women’s Art Association of Hamilton 125th Anniversary Exhibition: Celebrations! Is currently on display at the Jean & Ross Fischer gallery at the AGH until March 3, 2019. Admission is free and more information on the exhibit, and future WAAH shows, exhibitions and events can be found at www.waah.ca.

 

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