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Ottawa based Teen artists Maia Weintrager and Leah Cosman debuted their watercolour and ink drawings at the Fritzi, opening their exhibition, Of Reverie, just this pass week on June 4th. What an opening night, it was a huge success!
As a curator it’s always amazing to see artists so well supported by their community and the city at large. The evening was in full swing around 6pm, with many guests there to help celebrate Maia and Leah’s accomplishments and congratulate them on their first professional exhibition. When I was 15 years old, I only dreamed about having the opportunity to exhibit my art in galleries! To exhibit in a space other than my high school gymnasium seemed extremely overwhelming and down right scary. As daunting as it seems, Maia and Leah took on the idea of showing their work in public for the first time with great bravery and integrity. Although this confidence was there to begin with, when I first met Maia and Leah back in September, like a lot of teenagers, they were very shy and reserved.
Maia and Leah are students at the Compass Centre for Self-Directed Learning, a centre that helps teenagers ages 12 to 18, live and learn without traditional school. The Centre supports teens by helping them create a customized education based on their interests, abilities and goals through classes, tutoring, mentoring, assistance with finding internships and volunteer opportunities, helping with university admissions, and giving them a safe and comfortable place to work and socialize. Their centre is located in the Bronson Community Centre. Every first or second Monday of the month, two very talented artists Jamie Hyde and Nathalie Grice, took the time to help me mentor Maia and Leah on the process of art making and exhibiting. From preliminary sketches to writing proposals to mapping out one’s process to learning how to write an artist bio and statement to creating a healthy body of work to notions of framing to branding oneself as an artist to the final exhibit- these girls took all of this on with stride! Not once did I hear from them “We don’t want to do this anymore, it is to hard.”
As I know through having the opportunity to be the resident-curator of the Fritzi Gallery these past two years, mentorship is key to growth and development. Having Don Monet, from the Cube Gallery as my mentor has been extremely valuable to my advancement as a curator and arts promoter. Having the opportunity to turn around and teach Maia and Leah what I know with the help of artists Jamie and Nathalie, was another great opportunity for all that were involved.
Maia and Leah’s artwork went from doodles in their sketchbooks to full-scale, wonderfully framed, imaginative portraits; fanciful birds and magnificent dragons, all done in watercolour and ink.
When asked about their artwork and inspiration, Maia says, “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in art. I’ve always drawn and I think art has been one of the only subjects I’ve been sure to always include in my class schedules. Pencil, pen and watercolour are my favourite mediums. I like to be outside. One of my absolute favourite places to be in autumn is on the rocks in a ravine by my house, when the water is low and the red ants are gone. It’s a great place to draw. I always listen to music while I draw and get inspiration from that. Lately I’ve been really into Edward Gorey’s dark sketchy style and stories.” You can see more of Maia’s work on her Instagram @fairlyindecisive.
Leah gave us some insight as well; “I have been interested in art for as long as I can remember. I have always had a fascination for the natural world and art allowed me to explore animals, birds and insects more in depth. Some of my first paintings, at the age of two, were of spiders and reptiles. I also had a deep interest in dinosaurs, which explains my current love of birds and dragons. At my home and cottage, there were many opportunities to create visual art with natural objects, providing me with experience using many different mediums.” Leah is also very interested in animation; she has a Deviant Art blog where you can see more of her art. Her username is Leahlark.
What was also nice was the fact that Maia and Leah’s artwork complemented each other very well, even though both artists worked in separate studio spaces and often on their own.
Let me not forget to mention, out of all the exhibits I’ve been able to organize for the past two years, this one out sold all of the others! Maia and Leah’s work practically flew off the walls opening night, selling 15 pieces within 2 hours, a total of $1380. The Fritzi Gallery is happy to say that 30% of the sales will be donated to the Compass Centre for Self-Directed Learning while the remaining goes to the artists! For an exhibition to end off the season, this one was fabulous, well supported, well attended and with great artists. This exhibit runs until the end of June, so if you’re in the neighbourhood, please drop by and view the artwork. Also although we sold a lot already, there are still a few pieces left. You will not only be supporting two talented young girls kick off their artistic careers, you will be supporting a centre that strives to help teenagers grow and take responsibility of their own education and build a life for themselves.