The art of giving and receivingPublished on September 20, 2011

  • Barbara Gamble. (Photo by Steve Gerecke)

Most people assume that artists are born, not created, but Ottawa artist Barbara Gamble doesn't like to be painted with that brush. "Not all artists know that they are meant to be artists," she affirms. "Some of us just come to discover it."

Barbara, who won the Y Women of Distinction Award for Art, Culture and Heritage in 2009, was first exposed to art when her father served in Europe as a member of the Canadian Forces. In addition to the regular list of must-see museums that pepper that continent, the family visited smaller, less well-known galleries, all of which opened Barbara's eyes to artistic possibilities. 

"I was totally amazed at the communicative power of art," she remembers. "Art involves knowledge of history, culture and society, but it also explores beauty, fear, anxiety, concern - all imaginative feelings that every person shares."

While her European experience left an indelible imprint, it wasn't until her late teens that Barbara discovered the artist within; enrolling in what was then the visual arts department at Algonquin College. "I loved making things, loved the materiality of it," she recalls.

From the very beginning, Barbara chose to focus on the theme of landscape in her art. "I was exposed to a lot of different landscapes as a childand I feel that the connection to nature and our relationships to land are important to everyone, particularly Canadians," she says.

And while artistic endeavours colour her life, Barbara's career has extended far beyond canvas and paint. She has balanced raising a family with working as a certified teacher, along with many years spent operating the much-loved Ottawa Christmas Craft Show which she started with her husband in 1975.

For all these reasons, Barbara has a keen understanding of the kind of support that artists require to be successful, and has dedicated significant time to various local and national initiatives that promote and sustain creative output. These initiatives include the Ottawa Art Gallery and Canadian Artists' Representation/le Front des artistes canadiens, which addresses the legal and economic issues facing visual artists.

"In my own art career, generous clients and friends have supported and encouraged me, and I want to reciprocate by helping to foster and support the careers of other artists in my community and across the country," explains Barbara.

"Finding out that you can make a positive and lasting difference in your community has been one of the big benefits of giving back," she concludes. "And I've always got back more than I've given."

Catherine Clark is the host of Beyond Politics on CPAC, airing Sunday nights at 8 p.m.

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