Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Public Art for the Public's Sake

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, January 20, 2016, by Sara Jewell.

Inside the gallery at the opening on Friday, January 15.
          Every time I interview artist and high school teacher Mathew Aldred, I come away with an infection – because his passion for creating art is contagious.
            Now he’s brought his infectious determination to inspire and encourage others to create art into the public domain.
            “I’ve wanted to have an art gallery here in Oxford for years,” he explained during a lunch break in his classroom at OREC last week, “but every time I looked into it, I realized I wouldn’t have the funds for rent and heat. Then I found out there was some space in the town hall.”
            Mathew sent a proposal to the mayor and council for turning part of the under-utilized Visitors’ Centre into an art gallery, and, six months later, after a fresh coat of paint and new lighting, the Riverside Art Gallery opened Friday night.
            The inaugural exhibition, entitled “Oxford Now”, features the art of 29 people. The 60 black-framed, white-matted photographs create a stunning collage against the red brick interior wall of the gallery.
            Mathew’s purpose in opening an art gallery in Oxford is simple: to inspire everyone in the community to practice art.    
“Everyone can take a photograph,” he said. “It’s just practice and experience; you don’t have to go art school to learn photography. That’s why we’ve started with it to get that message across.”
Mathew is emphatic that the gallery is for everyone, not just students, but he recognizes that this gives local students a unique opportunity. Visiting an art gallery is part of the art curriculum, but for rural students, that means a long bus ride and missed classes.
 “I think it’s going to be inspirational for all the students at the school. It’s a different experience going to an art gallery rather than seeing the art on the Internet. There’s a lot to be learned from other people’s art. It raises your own game.”
            Educational assistant, Archan Knotz, a painter, woodcutter and print maker, didn’t even realize she had game until Mathew insisted she borrow a school camera and take some photos.
            “In my previous life, someone told me I didn’t have an eye for photography so when Mr. Aldred said my pictures were really good, I was like, Really?” said Archan who has since bought her own camera. “I’m very excited about the Oxford gallery. We hear so many negative comments about things we are passionate so it’s important to have this as a positive outlet for the students and for everyone in the community.”

"Boy", by Kat Hickman. Used with permission.
            For Grade 12 student Kat Hickman, being able to study art at school has opened up new possibilities for her. She only began taking photographs for a class project, yet one of her photographs in the exhibit, titled Boy, was voted Best In Show by those attending the opening last week.
“I want to bring in as much contemporary fine art as possible,” said Mathew, who is currently working on his Masters degree in Fine Arts. “It’s going to be an educational experience so I’d like to get some emerging artists from the art schools in Halifax and at Mount Allison.
“It is my hope that this puts Oxford on the map culturally.”
The Riverside Gallery is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 4:30 at the Oxford Town Hall. For more information, check out 
For more on the art program at Oxford Regional Education Centre, check out
Mathew Aldred in his home studio in Shinimicas, NS, in 2014.

1 comment:

  1. This is so great a gallery in Oxford, and students,local artists bringing art to their community. Thank you for your sharing of this venture through word and pictures. Hugs, mary