a peek inside the fishbowl

30 Oct, 2006

Sunday outing: Enriched Bread Artist’s studio tour

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Oh! Things!|Photography

I think it’s really important to expose our children to art (and culture in general) that is different, creative, and decidedly non-mainstream. Not only will the ideas subtly imprint on your kids, but as a family you will undoubtedly share something amazing and special.

That being said, I have distinct memories of my parents dragging me kicking and screaming to the McMichael gallery outside of Toronto. Lor’ was it ever BO-RING! No one explained to me that art didn’t have to be boring. I remember flopping from couch to couch while people spoke in hushed whispers around me. It was hot. And tiring. And I didn’t get it.

Art doesn’t have to be “art” in the traditional sense. It doesn’t have to be a picture-perfect portrait. It doesn’t have to be a sculpture done in marble. It doesn’t have to be a fresco. It can be all of these things and more. And in terms of materials, art doesn’t have to be paint and paper. It can be words, sounds, or other artifacts. It can be a pile of felt, rows of oranges, or a collection of artfully-placed keys.

Non-traditional art, conceptual art, is hard to explain. And people have debated the question forever. What is art and what isn’t? I tell the girls that if we create something with the intention of it being art, it is art.

French fries arranged on a plate between strategically-place dots of ketchup can be art. So can food-colouring spritzed on snow, macaroni glued onto cardboard, or a red stripe painted down the middle of a large white canvas.

And with all of this swirling in my mind, the girls and I went to the annual Enriched Bread Artists (EBA) open house.

I wrote about it last year. At the time I remember not really understanding one particular artist’s collection of toothpicks. (You will see that throughout this post I have neglected to remember almost everyone’s name. Gah!) But this year I get it. It’s art because it’s created with planning and soulfulness. It’s not just a bunch of toothpicks. It might appear that way to you or to me, but to the artist it represents something else. And I think we have to respect that.

In one exhibit last year there was a corset covered in thousands of dressmaker pins. I loved it. This year there was a scarf crocheted out of long narrow ribbons cut from old maps. What, conceptually, is the difference between these two things and a wall full of toothpicks? Not much.

The EBA open house is one of the best (free!) things you can do with your kids in Ottawa. (And if you didn’t make it, sorry, but it’s too late. You’ll have to wait until next year.)

Last year we somehow missed the bulk of the first floor. It’s no wonder, the place is a warren of halls and doors and studios. This year the first floor was filled with interactive exhibits. The kids were beside themselves with excitement. They wrote on a giant blackboard with slim white chalk and pasted silver stars on it. They punched holes in paint chips and hung them on a nail. They listened to wind howling outside, brought indoors by hidden means. They listened to the deafening clarity of their whispers in a small soundproof hall. They were all over the place. It was quite a thrill.


Not only are there lots of different kinds of art on display, part of the delight is seeing the environment in which the artists do their work.

Also on the first floor is one of my all-time favourite artists, Amy Thompson. We went there once, and returned for a second time on our way out hoping to meet her.

I love her work. I loved absorbing it all. I loved her workspace. It’s surrounded by bits of her own inspiration, pinned on the wall each like a tiny window into her imagination.

I asked Emma what she liked best in Amy’s studio.

“The little girls with owl heads.”

I liked those too. Somewhat related (in that it was an image of a person without a normal human head) was one particular piece that featured an illustrated little girl with a bird head on a wood-coloured piece of wood. Stars and wispy smoke were flowed out of her body towards the sky, which was a dark panel of wood placed above.

Some parents may never venture into an art gallery with their kids and this makes me incredibly sad. If you’ve never done it, do it. It doesn’t matter how young your kids are. Seek out galleries with free or cheap admission so you don’t feel tempted to stay and get your money’s worth and can duck out if you need to. Snack your kids up and don’t burden them with warm clothing or backpacks. Accept that you’ll have to go again later by yourself. Let them wander where they want and don’t expect them to sit and revel in a masterpiece. Teach them the rules of art appreciation: admire, think about what you like or dislike, ask questions, and never ever touch unless your parent gives you explicit permission.

Mark and I asked Emma what kind of art she liked best. I didn’t expect her answer. She said she liked landscapes. And that she liked the Group of Seven the best.

“Is there a gallery where we can see all of them?” she asked.
“I don’t think so. Not around here,” I said. “But I do know where we can go to see a whole bunch of them.”

She can’t wait. And neither can I.

6 Responses to "Sunday outing: Enriched Bread Artist’s studio tour"

1 | Anna

October 30th, 2006 at 2:39 pm


We went last weekend, it’s one of my favourite events during year! We took N. and he led the way the entire time, going back and forth and back to certain studios. He loved it “let’s go look at art mom”!

2 | Sharon

October 30th, 2006 at 5:23 pm


Gosh i wish I had known. Nathan would love it and so would I.

Actually my little guy aske to go and see some Art a week or so ago. i was floored. I guess he takes alittle bit after me too.


3 | Marla

October 31st, 2006 at 9:47 am


Next time can I come too?

4 | a peek inside the fish bowl

October 22nd, 2007 at 9:42 am


[…] [Last year’s open house was particularly fabulous. Read about it here.] […]

5 | Sunday outing: Enriched Bread Artist’s studio tour at a peek inside the fishbowl

July 26th, 2008 at 7:08 am


[…] This one is about kids and art, and still rings true. Filed under Misc. life | […]

6 | New giveaway: Family adventures at the NAC >> a peek inside the fishbowl

October 30th, 2009 at 12:10 pm


[…] to the arts. I’ve written about our visits to the National Gallery before, as well as other galleries here in town. I can’t say enough about it. Exposure to the arts fosters creativity, open mindedness, and […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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