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Let's talk about wetlands

...those marshy spots, maybe grassy or tree-covered, maybe around the Maitland River or rimming our fields, that cover 6.5% of the ground in Huron County. They’re essential to the hydrological regime – the regularly-repeated variations of our bodies of water. They’re vital to the reptiles and amphibians that breed and overwinter here. They’re critical to carbon storage. And they’re important to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Van den Broeck knows that wetlands story water on the landscape and encourage infiltration, thereby reducing flooding. She knows that they improve water quality by retaining sediments and excess nutrients, filtering out contaminants and bacteria. She doesn’t really talk about it, though: she will, however, give you the chance to see it all through her eyes.

Her vision begins, invariably, with a camera and a pair of hip waders. Thus suited, she makes her trek to the Maitland River, upon which she has spent her whole life. From photography and printmaking to oil and acrylics, encaustics and pencilwork, her award-winning body of work has centred upon the river and its wetlands.

"The Maitland River is my heart and soul," says Elizabeth, who tore herself from it only long enough to graduate Art at Sheridan College and Art History at the University of Toronto, then missed closing ceremonies to open her gallery in downtown Goderich.

Her good friend Natalie Hussey, who staffs the gallery, also has water running through her veins. “Much of my childhood revolved around growing up along the St. Clair River. I then graduated from Sheridan College’s Interpretive Illustration program in Oakville, which is on Lake Ontario, and now I live in Goderich on the beautiful shores of Lake Huron with my amazing husband and three incredible children. As a young girl I remember being confused when a friend said she lived far from any water. Up until that point, I believed that everyone lived with water to one side of them.”

These two women have joined WorldRooted: the Art Project for People to advocate for a cause that is dear to them: the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation. At “Toast the Coast” on May 4th at Beach Street Station in Goderich, they will participate in a group exhibition celebrating what the Coast means to them.

United under the theme “Carried”, the art is beautifully divergent (and you can watch it flow at “#carriedtothecoast” on social media). Elizabeth and Natalie each paint in clear, vibrant gemtones, highlighting complex forms through clarity of colour and cleanness of stroke. Whereas Elizabeth strives for an organic, “painterly” approach, Natalie carefully carves into hand-poured plaster to form dimensional foundations for her paintings. Upon this she layers colours inspired by textile patterns from around the world. Her subjects dance or embrace in ode to Mother Nature and to Family. Her art is a quiet carnival.

You can join the celebration: pre-purchase tickets to “Toast the Coast” at Beach Street Station or the LHCCC office on the Square, or works from the “Carried” collection at Every sale will benefit the science, conservation and education work performed by the LHCCC all across the Canadian shoreline of our Great Lake.

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