by Douglas Pugh
The RightEyedDeer Press
Path to Put In
An almost typical rural road in the Haliburton Highlands, lined with leafy trees and a gravelled driveway, leads you to a superb house where you’re greeted by enthusiastic dogs at the screen door. This is the home of Carole Finn, artist and, to many people, the main driving force behind the establishment of today’s fabulous arts community in the Haliburton Highlands.
“I only came here within days of marrying my husband,” reminisces Finn. “He was just opening up a law practice in Minden and within a day or two of the wedding, we were right up here in the Highlands.”
Starting out in teacher training for her own career, Finn got into the arts by learning the craft of wood in sculpture form as part of an extramural program for talented children under the patronage of highly esteemed Canadian writer, Robertson Davies, at that time editor for the Peterborough Examiner in Ontario.
“My first show was held at the Peterborough Library,” says Finn. “But after that, life started to take over from art for a while.”
After teaching at the high school level for some time, Finn stepped away to raise children, keeping her hand in from time to time with summer schools to learn more nuances of art. During many happy summers she took courses at The Doon School of Fine Arts in Kitchener.
“Then there was a tea party, and once the subject of art in the Highlands came up, and we all started saying what a marvellous place it was for inspiration,” Finn smiles broadly, “and then we made a sort of leap of logic – and the idea for a local arts college, with an emphasis on growing a talented community around it – took root.”
Finn was instrumental in the founding of not only an art college in Haliburton, but also in the creation of a Guild of Fine Arts, all part of the growing abundance of talented artists in the area.
How instrumental was she in the founding? Very hands on, that’s for sure.
“I needed to learn pottery, principally because at that time there were no potters in the area to teach anyone.” Finn smiles ruefully. “But then you have to learn everything so well, because you’re going to teach others, too. The intricacies of glazing pottery, even making Japanese teapots. Then there were other subjects that came along – quilt making, rug hooking, dyeing fabrics and weaving, graphic and website design – I’m not afraid to try and learn anything.”
After the intimidation of throwing salt into a kiln, adding variation to a glaze, and the resultant vortices as the kiln roared away at 2200C, Finn decided that she needed to get back to her principal form of expression, painting.
Her most current project, the production of an art book ‘Walk by Water’, encompasses two places that have totally engaged her artistic senses – The White Water Preserve in Minden, Haliburton Highlands (shortly to become the white water course for the next Pan-Am Games), and The Pacific Rim Trail in Ucluelet, British Columbia.
“I was inspired,” says Finn, “not only by the dedication of two gentlemen that drove these projects through against all odds, but also by the wilderness, the motion, the energy in these places.”
Having had much experience in graphic design in her past, Finn found herself having to update her knowledge of the required software, the complexities of page layout and editing. Not that she was alone. Finn has a wealth of talented friends that helped her out when she hit a few impasses.
“I truly could not have gotten it done without them. I just hope,” Finn blushes, “that they didn’t think I was too much of a nuisance.”
The Pacific Rim Trail is a story in itself, with surging development threatening an old trail as hotels and golf courses boomed.
“The municipality was not really interested for quite a while,” says Finn. “But then the lumber business in the area started drying up – like many places it was ‘logged out’ – and suddenly tourism is important, and the environmentally aware tourist is a new and growing market.”
Finn was impressed particularly by the efforts of one particular fellow, known more by the soubriquet of ‘Oyster Jim’ than by his real name.
“He’s not even a Yukie,” said Finn, “but he was plain determined that some things need preserving.”
(Yukie being the colloquial label for someone from Ucluelet)
Finn held an exhibition of her many works in Ucluelet, showing the Pacific Rim Trail, all in an effort to raise awareness with not only the local community but the tourists too.
In between her campaigning, teaching and everything else, Finn has been the curator at The Rails’ End Gallery in Haliburton, along with exhibiting in numerous locations and developing her own gallery at home. She is after all an artist first and foremost, though she only went into the profession as a full time artist in 2008.
“My ambitions? Oh, I’d love to get some of my art into a few more galleries. I always think that I need to improve. You never, ever stop learning and developing. I am particularly inspired by artists such as Joyce Wieland and Claude Breeze, but more than anything I love trying to harness energy, the wilderness, the power of nature in storm and water. It’s hard to capture,” says Finn, “but that’s the challenge.”
After joining Chuck O’Neill in exhibiting works in the Haliburton Forest, Finn has a couple of further potential projects – her work on The Pacific Rim Trail has not gone unnoticed and she may be doing something similar for The Cross Canada Trail and perhaps The Grey Bruce Trail – but those are just maybes for now.
“As an artist, I have learned a few things – never expect to make a living out of it, always bring passion, talent and dedication – art is hard work,” says Finn.
We are interrupted … there are dogs to walk, a soup being put together on the counter, some silk screen prints being finished, and then Carole Finn has to get her art put together for the Studio Tour … who better to harness energy than this veritable human dynamo?
You can find Carole Finn’s book of stunning art, ‘Walk by Water’ on the www.MadeinHaliburton.ca site, and Carole has her own website www.Carolefinnartist.com . While on the MadeInHaliburton website, don’t forget to check out all the other works by Carole, alongside her fellow artists.