Alchemy is an artist residency committed to community engagement by making and sharing art, food and ideas. When the first wave of COVID 19 arrived in 2020, Alchemy suspended traditional residency programming and created Table Settings to recognize the contribution of farm and vineyard labourers, many of whom come from outside of Canada and all of whom work alongside local farm and vineyard owners. A small brigade of (volunteer) artists and chefs prepared more than 600 suppers in 2020 in appreciation for hard work during a stressful harvest season. In An 2021, an expanded Table Settings invited seven artists to create collaborative site-specific artwork and lead community-engaged activities. The artists also contributed their time and culinary creativity to more then 1300 suppers for seasonal agricultural workers. Alchemy's programming 'provides a setting to explore new ideas, connect with residents, farm and vineyard owners, and seasonal agricultural workers -- all of whom are essential contributors to this unique wine-producing agricultural community.
Table Settings brings simple, healthy and delicious suppers to Hillier, Prince Edward County farm and vineyard workers after a long day in the fields. Prepared by a volunteer kitchen brigade of artists/chefs/makers, these meals are offered with thanks and recognition of hard work during a time of COVID related social distance and physical isolation. Our menus are based on the availability of seasonal ingredients purchased from local farmers and makers and prepared in a donated Hillier vineyard kitchen. Through documentation and conversation, Table Settings also provide observations about this multi layered work in a rural community setting.
Alchemy is grateful to Linda Downey and the Storehouse Foodbank and the Prince Edward County Community Foundation for their support. To find out how you can contribute to Table Settings, please contact Claire@makealchemy.com
Photo: Pizza Supper at Closson Chase, October 2021, Hillier, PEC.
Click on the artist's name for more information.
Barbara Brown’s current work is photographic documents of ephemeral arrangements using natural materials as a visual meditation in and about the landscape. Dealing with themes of memory and the passage of time, referencing the growing season and the inevitable decline of all things as observed in the garden. Ultimately she explores the question of belonging and making home in the place known as Canada. Through close observation and complex compositions she offers an immersive view of the more than human world. Her larger purpose is to become enchanted again with the environment and to not only see but to be seen by the land.
While at Hinterland Wine Company in Hillier, Barbara Brown plans to create Growing Connections a series of triptychs which combine three common genres in photography; landscape, portraiture and still life, to explore the connections between the land, the farmer and the food on our plates. By foregrounding the connection to the land and the farm workers she proposes to articulate the relationships between them and the food we come to enjoy. This project offers an exploration of where food comes from and intends to humanize the perception of contemporary food and the culture that ensues.
Here are a few things that Barbara likes to do in PEC:
About Hinterland Wine Company
Hinterland produces premium sparkling wine in Prince Edward County, Ontario. They are terroir enthusiasts, and their real passion is seeing vines grown in the appropriate geographical region and making wines from these regions. Their wine is made in the vineyard and each wine vintage is a historical snapshot of that particular season.
They planted their vines back in 2005 and the objective was to make wine that was consistent in quality year to year. One consistency about Ontario summers is that the summers are inconsistent! What they have found is that the soil and climate in Prince Edward County produces grapes with the kind of ripeness suited to making balanced and elegant sparkling wines.
Alchemy’s latest blog installment is a true to life illustration of how Alchemy brings artists and cooks into community settings. We constantly examine how the making and sharing art and food makes a difference on two fronts: in the community itself, and in the creative practices of our collaborating artists and makers. In our newest post below we take you behind the scenes to meet one of our visiting artists – Barbara Brown. Barbara spent two weeks creating a site specific piece that will be part of the public art exhibition Field Notes
scheduled for the Culture Days Festival September 25 – October 25. She also spent four days in the kitchen contributing to Alchemy’s twice weekly suppers for 40 farm and vineyard workers.
Lisa Wood is a visual artist and Assistant Professor at Ishkaabatens Waasa Gaa Inaabateg, Department of Visual Art at Brandon University. With an MFA from Yale University and a BFA from the University of Manitoba, her art practice focuses on figurative painting and drawing that investigates interpersonal relationships, social exchanges, and the role of food. Lisa has been the recipient of many awards and scholarships and exhibits her painting and prints nationally and internationally.
While in Prince Edward County this summer, Lisa was partnered with Closson Chase Vineyard. Shadowing four of Closson Chase’s seasonal farm workers from away, she walked up and down the rows of vines with the workers, listening to their stories and taking photos of them through the vines as they worked putting up protective netting. In her responsive art piece, a 5.5' mixed media drawing titled Walking the Vines, Lisa focuses on the workers’ hands in action. While the workers are largely hidden from view by the lush foliage, their contribution to the county and the vineyard is integral and is shown through this representation of each of the workers' strong nimble hands.
Lisa's favourite things to do in Prince Edward County include:
About Closson Chase Vineyards
Closson Chase is a quality-driven winery that helped spearhead the birth of the Prince Edward County wine industry, using centuries-old European traditions and sustainable, innovative techniques to create world class wines using only the finest Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes. An early advocate for sustainable practices, Closson Chase Vineyards is situated on south sloping land with good drainage, and on gravelly soil on a limestone base It is approximately five kilometers inshore, and on land that was once the Closson family farm, early settlers to the County. Closson Chase crafts fine wines that reflect each individual vintage, capturing the distinct qualities imparted by the soil and climatic variations of the year.
Mary Macdonald lives in Prince Edward County, and has the great fortune of farming a vineyard known as Stanners Vineyard on Station Road in Hillier. She says about her studio work:
My practice begins in found objects/materials and place; ideally it is situated with site specific responses and made with local, readily available and possibly overlooked materials. I am interested in ephemerality, the power of art and beauty to draw people together, to invite inquiry of oneself, of place, of the relationship therein. I am interested in engaging people with art outside of the traditional art spaces like 4 wall galleries - so as to tease out an individual’s capacity to see themselves in art, as a way to feel the intrinsic creativity of being alive. I live in Prince Edward County, have the great fortune of farming a vineyard and, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, am trying my best to keep my focus in today. I am aware of my position as a settler and my hope is that in my art I will be able to investigate this aspect of my relationship to the place I call my home.
For my Culture Days participation through Alchemy’s Table Settings/Field Notes, in addition to my four day stint in the kitchen at Closson Chase winery cooking meals for a cadre of vineyard and farm workers I have an installation of two sets of walls, 2 meters high, made from wood, recycled bottles and mattress springs at Stanners Vineyard which will be “permanently” on display beyond the scheduled month of Culture Days. Here I must thank my wonderful Colin, for without his construction skills I’d have nothing to show! I have the privilege of engaging with winery visitors just a little bit over this work and it would be really sweet if my project can inspire someone to work with their own overlooked materials and think on what draws us together beyond the wine we share and the meals we prepare in the place we call home.
A quick to do list for this summer from Mary includes:
About Stanners Vineyard
Stanners Vineyard is a small family vineyard and boutique winery dedicated to producing premium wines, especially Pinot Noir. The story began in 2003 with the purchase of a parcel of farmland in the village of Hillier in Prince Edward County. The "terroir", that is, the soil, terrain and weather, seemed ideal for their quest to produce a Pinot Noir that would rank comfortably with any in the world. Winemaker Colin Stanners is making polished, complex, award winning wines, allowing each vintage to speak clearly and with purity. The winery was built in the summer of 2009, using the Straw Bale construction method for the barrel room, which offers excellent insulation for maintaining temperature equilibrium. Stewardship of the land, maintaining and protecting habitat and creatures with viticultural practices and sensitivity in landscaping with native plantings and wildflower protection is a very important aspect of the operations at Stanners. Keenly dedicated to allowing the grapes to express their terroirwith patience and focus, Stanners lovingly produces small batches of wine, approaching 1800 cases in total per year. Each vintage is unique and very limited in supply.
Jane Macdonald lives and writes in Wellington, a small town 15 minutes from Hillier. What does being a writer in residence look like? Jane says: “it looks like some sitting, some walks through town and in the woods, and lots of looking."
Macdonald’s writing is saturated by the inhabitants and habits of a place marked by disappearance and loss. She is currently at work on a short manuscript of forty poems, the final requirement of a certificate in poetry from the University of Toronto (U of T). In 2020, Jane was awarded the Janice Colbert prize for poetry, an award for which she was first named as runner up in 2019. This prize is given by the Creative Writing Program at U of T.
Jane plans to use her time at Hillier Hall in the production of her manuscript, revising existing poems and creating new ones. She offers, "I am not so concerned about the poems’ subjects – mostly I am eager to try new ways of writing by copying certain craft techniques and to try out others’ poetics. In particular I will look at the poems of Seamus Heaney, and Elizabeth Bishop, and the poems and essays of Anne Carson and Jane Hirshfield.” A stunningly delicious baker, Jane will be contributing her culinary skills to the Table Settings kitchen.
Five things Jane will see on PEC this year:
About Hillier Hall
Built in 1867, Hillier Hall is the second oldest town hall in Prince Edward County. It was built during the year of Canada’s inauguration, and has been a central municipal facility in Hillier for over 140 years. It was once a school and has been marked as a national historical site. The hall is activated by the local community for events and meetings. Hillier Hall remains a community hub for the hamlet of Hillier. It is a common meeting place for the Hillier Women’s Institute and Rec Committee, amongst others.
Alchemy Artists Residency believes the sharing of art and food makes a difference on two fronts: in the community itself, and in the creative practices of the artists and makers they collaborate with. In this blog, Alchemy takes you behind the scenes to visit one of their collaborators—writer Jane Macdonald.
“In my work I explore the disquiet between line and empty space and between colour and form. Much of my work starts with gestural life drawings, and using intuitive embellishment the work becomes both representational and very much abstracted.”
At Broken Stone Winery in PEC, utilizing V. Jane Gordon’s, The Artist’s Inquiry Book, as a guide, Patti Randazzo Beckett plans to explore the elements of sound, kinetic wind energy, sun and shadow as a form of creative exploration on paper. The process is an integral part of and very much informs the final results. Patti first joined us in 2018 in PEC and then participated in Alchemy 2019 on Toronto Island. In addition to Hillier and now Broken Stone, her PEC favourite places include:
About Broken Stone Winery
Broken Stone is located on a quiet backroad in Prince Edward County.
"The people, the soils, and the vines conspire to create the magic we call wine. The web of life is our terroir. We continually improve our vineyard biodiversity and soils. We will live in harmony with the earth and leave a legacy for future generations. Hard work and care for the land creates a vineyard whose beauty is captured in the bottle. "
"Sharing time and space with others to create art and food in community settings, propels me to consider and document my work. Working with plants, rust, textiles and found objects, I document what I grow, cook and forage through mono-printing, eco and rust dyeing, installation, and collaboration."
Claire M. Tallarico is the founder and co-facilitator of Alchemy, an international artist-led residency. Founded on the Toronto Islands in 2015, Alchemy has found a home in rural Prince Edward County, Ontario, a unique residency at the intersections of culinary and creative practices and fueled by community engagement. While in Hillier this season, her studio work will be inspired by the land in and around Hillier including Cold Creek Vineyards.
About Cold Creek Vineyards
"At Cold Creek Vineyards, we believe in apples as an art. Our passion for crafting exceptional beverages, coupled with our love for restoring historic buildings and appreciation for the past, has brought us to a cidery housed in a former dairy barn built in the 1800s.
Our love of wine and viticulture first attracted us to the Prince Edward County region, rich with terroir comparable to Burgundy, but a desire to share our property and swap stories with our guests was ultimately what inspired Cold Creek Vineyards."
Lynn Hubbs is a multidisciplinary artist based in Collingwood Ontario working primarily in textiles. When she is not experimenting with various mediums, her work often explores friendship, family and community building. While at Casa Dea Estates Winery in Hillier for the harvest, Lynn will be experimenting with mono-printing and cyanotype processing on fabric to use to create stitched artwork.
Lynn’s favourite things to do while in Prince Edward County are:
About Casa-Dea Estates Winery
Casa-Dea is one of the largest and most established wineries in Prince Edward County. They have been growing with pride since the year 2000 and with over 65 acres of planted vines including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. They are focused on making VQA wines from 100% County grapes. The Founder of Casa-Dea, Domenic Di Pietrantonio, grew up in the small village of Lettomanoppello located in the Abruzzo area of Italy. At an early age, he left home to study with the monks and as he entered the priesthood, he was assigned to the wine cellar room at the monastery. The experience stayed with him and he fell in love with the true art of wine making— this underlying passion is why Casa-Dea Estates Winery exists today.
Tonia Di Risio's work has developed through ongoing investigations of the growing, making, preserving, celebrating, and sharing of food. She employs time-based media including photography and video. Currently, her work has developed through ongoing investigations of gendered ethnicity in relation to domestic issues, including housekeeping, home maintenance, food preparation, interior decoration and relationships to the miniature. She is also one of the coordinators of Alchemy, an international artist-led residency devoted to exploring the synergy between artistic practice and the sharing of locally grown food in a community setting. She will be creating new work to be installed at Redtail Vineyards that reflects the past two years of collected documentation in Hillier.
About Redtail Vineyards
Redtail is a 5-acre farm winery off the beaten path on beautiful Partridge Hollow Road. Re-opened in 2018 under new ownership, Redtail focuses on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris produced in an old world-style with low intervention methods.
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All photos courtesy of Donna Greenstein, Peggy Taylor Reid, J. Pierre, Kirstyn Mayers and Tonia Di Risio