The meeting room on the main floor of St. Elizabeth’s Church is humming with activity on a Wednesday evening in early March: about a dozen people are huddled around a couple of tables, hard at work on a variety of stained glass, painting, mixed media and other creative endeavours. Lively chatter is interrupted as a Fender jazz ukulele comes out and someone begins to strum, or a drill starts up. A tray of homemade fudge is passed around the room.
Welcome to the Elizabeth Gardens Creative Collective, an informal group that was born online during COVID but has emerged as a strong network of artists who enjoy meeting in real life, supporting and promoting each other, and organizing events that enrich the community around them. They continue to be active online, and hold regular monthly workshops and socials (like the one in March) in person. The group charges a nominal fee (usually about $25) to cover the cost of the meeting space and supplies; many of the members donate their time and talents to lead the workshops.
“We started from a Facebook post,” confirmed Caroline Saint, an acrylics painter and one of the core members of the group along with Heather de Haan and Kelly Devenish (who got the ball rolling with that social media message back in the middle of the pandemic).
“Kelly started the Facebook group and then between Heather, myself and a group of others, we formed this group,” explained Saint. “We wanted some way to display our work and we had to navigate the COVID restrictions.”
The group wanted to establish a community event; thanks to a city grant, they were able to organize their first Art Walk in 2021 on the lawn at St. Elizabeth’s. In 2022 it moved to Burloak Waterfront Park and expanded to include several interactive stations and space for its members to host demonstrations such as stained glass, acrylic pours, rock painting and chalk murals. This year’s event is slated for Aug. 26, and will once again be held at Burloak Waterfront Park.
“We have 30 to 40 artists that are fairly active,” noted Saint. “When we do the art walk, different artists put on different stations. We have a bunch of different activities that the community can participate in and try something new and get messy.”
The Art Walk, which happens the last weekend of August, is focused on engaging the community, which means the artists don’t have an opportunity to sell their work on site. After receiving several enquiries from people who attended last year’s walk and wanted to purchase from local artists, the group decided it was time to host a sale. They held their first Artisan Market in November, which featured 16 artists and attracted about 300 people. They are planning their spring market at the end of April, and hope to have 25 artists participate. Mediums that will be on offer include acrylic painting, watercolours, mixed media, digital photography and art, woodburning and much more.
Apart from the public events, the mission of the collective is “to be a positive influence within Burlington, building up our community by fostering supportive connections,” and to shine a light on emerging artists and provide opportunities for their members to grow and learn.
“Another piece of what we have is we are a collective, so we’ll have people that might launch some of their own initiatives or look for opportunities for us to expand,” said Saint. “It’s all grounded in building an art community.
“A lot of artists who were just doing stuff in their basement as a hobby suddenly now have this community to build them up and remind them that they’re artists,” she continued. “There’s not somewhere to get to; we call ourselves artists. We don’t have to have a display in a big gallery to call ourselves that so it’s kind of nice to have that community that holds you up.”
The Elizabeth Gardens Spring Artisan Market takes place Saturday, April 29 from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Church, 5324 Bromley Rd. Admission is free, and there will be a cafe lounge and a free kids’ art station.
Visit the Elizabeth Gardens Creative Collective website or find them on Facebook to learn more.