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Participants in a MacLaren VanGo Access workshop at the Barrie Native Friendship Centre (left). Artwork by Conrad Fox (top right) and Evelyn Bolton (bottom right). Photos: Tyler Durbano

Connecting people to art and art to people is what the MacLaren Art Centre does as a cultural cornerstone within the city of Barrie. And that’s just what happened last month at the Barrie Native Friendship Centre during a complimentary hands-on art workshop delivered through the Gallery’s VanGo Access programme.

Led by MacLaren VanGo staff, fourteen adults participated in the afternoon of artmaking, offered in collaboration with the Friendship Centre’s Cultural Resources department. Participants had the opportunity to explore mixed-media watercolour painting, while reflecting on their connection to the land and region they call home. The unique results were abstract visual maps inspired by aerial views of the regional landscape. All artworks now make up Chromatic Landscapes, a community exhibition on view at the MacLaren until February 29.

VanGo Access is an outreach programme that offers an outlet for creative expression, while enhancing quality of life for participants. An extension of VanGo, the MacLaren’s signature education programme in the schools, VanGo Access brings practicing visual artists from the region to lead hands-on art workshops for community groups that would otherwise not have these opportunities.

The MacLaren Art Centre offers VanGo Access workshops to non-profit organizations free of charge. MacLaren Education Officer Tyler Durbano comments “the Barrie Native Friendship Centre was selected this year because of the amazing work that they do within the region for the Indigenous community. We were thankful to work with them because it allowed us the opportunity to strengthen our community partnership with them and show off their artistic talent.”

The Barrie Native Friendship Centre improves the quality of life for all Indigenous and Métis people in the region by providing a gathering place, which promotes unity and holistic healing in the community at large. Within the Friendship Centre, the Cultural Resources program supports awareness of traditional teachings, planning and cultural knowledge. Supports are offered in areas of language, cultural-based healing, violence prevention and the well-being of others, with a strong focus on meeting the needs of families.

The MacLaren would like to give special thanks to Vanessa Kennedy, Cultural Services Coordinator at the Barrie Native Friendship Centre, and regional artist Heather Riley for helping to make the workshop possible. Appreciation is also extended to the participants of this special project.

For more information on the MacLaren’s VanGo Access programme or sponsorship opportunities, contact Tyler Durbano, Education Officer at