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Tom Thompson at VASA Hemingway Centre

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The film documentary about Tom Thompson offered by VASA last night as part of ArtWorks Festival was excellent(Thank you VASA Board!).   Another  biography but a well done biography -- a film done in way that lets you almost be at his side as he made his journey from rural Ontario to Seattle back to Toronto and finally Canoe Lake.  Without going into great detail about the life of this legend and great inspiration to the Group of Seven and generations of Canadian painters since his death in 1917, I would like to make one comment about what suddenly struck me about him.

This realization is not a hidden or lost detail come to light but it may be something played down or glossed over.  Tom Thompson, our legendary hero, son of a gentleman farmer was  never enrolled in a formal art training institution.  The film shows us his informal training and the importance and the essential significance of community.  We see him as a boy wandering around the country-side immersed in nature; something key in later life when he returned to wilderness environments.  His training as a man of "letters" and advertizing design led him to Grip Limited in Toronto and the fellow workers in graphic arts with whom through sharing interaction and personal  and group relationships developed a way of regarding art and the world around them.  Thompson learned a great deal from them and was significantly encouraged  by a wealthy Toronto supporter of the arts.  That was his art schooling!

The film mentions Thompson moving through serious hobby painting to the realization of his true calling.  It also makes the point that Thompson grabbed his dream, tackled risk and moved forward through doubt and uncertainty to that realization.  This film and the life portrayed has a lot to say about what VASA, and the community of artists that it represents, can do to further  each of us in our art-making  journey.  How important it is to have a goal but also how important it is to have a community for learning and encouragement to reach that goal.  The film shows us the start of a promising career cut short.  We at VASA have just barely started in the Hemingway Centre a project that may go for a long way and a long time to establish a flourishing art community.  I hope that we can work together to nurture our art as we grow our relationships here.