For three years now, TD Thor Wealth Management and Quest Art School + Gallery have partnered together on an annual juried exhibition. Quest Art had run a juried exhibition previous to that, but it was through the sponsorship of TD Thor Wealth Management that we were able to take it from a primarily regionally focused exhibition to one of national reach.

Since 2018, the exhibition has received submissions by artists from across Canada – literally from Newfoundland to British Columbia. Each year, the number of submissions continues to grow and last year we received over 400 submissions. Prior to TD Thor Wealth Management’s support the number of submissions was significantly lower.
While there are three cash prizes for the top three artists, many of the participants are motivated to take part in the submission process because of the excellence and high standing of the jurors. Since 2018 these have included: Olga Korper (Director, Olga Korper Gallery; Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Art Dealers’ Association of Canada); Miklos Legrady (Visual Artist & Writer; Toronto Editor of Chicago’s New Art Examiner; and Carrie Shibinsky (CEO for ArtBombDaily; Corporate Curator for Air Canada); Stuart Keeler, the Senior Art Curator at TD Bank Group; Renee van der Avoird, the Assistant Curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario; and Carol-Ann Ryan, an art advisor and project manager for Kalaman+Demetriou. Jurors consistently comment that “The quality and skill level of the submissions were both impressive and inspiring.”
This year, for the first time, we are introducing a theme for our juried exhibition: Quest for the Environment. Artists will be asked to create submissions that reflect the material and ecological consequences of what the role of the artist is, and can be, in this new age of the “Anthropocene”, a recently proposed term indicating that we have entered a new geologic era in which human impact on the planet measures at the scale of the geologic. We will be challenging artists as to how they can respond to this unprecedented moment of ecological crisis. While this exhibition is on view, we will also be running an “environmental boot camp” for youth.
Issues around the environment are a key component to the programming that we do here at Quest Art. Our Artist-in-Residence programme is delivered in partnership with Wye Marsh & Conservation Area and Georgian Bay Islands National Park. In addition to looking at our relationship with nature, a number of those residencies also explore Indigenous and Settler relations, and how Reconciliation can be enacted in a meaningful, positive way.
Given that concern with the environment is a significant component in the kind of projects and programmes that we undertake as part of our ongoing operations, choosing the theme “Quest for the Environment” seems timely and appropriate.

Earl Miller Statement on Ava Roth:
Ava Roth’s Honey Bee Collaboration stands out for the artist’s visually dynamic, mesmerizing process of having bees “collaborate” with her on a piece that thoughtfully reflects on the competition’s environmental theme. What is particularly striking is the artist’s surrender of some of her creative control to both the chance and ordered forces of nature—bees making honeycomb in the hive she encased the piece in. Such an artistic modus operandi is certainly timely in the dawning of the Anthropocene, an age that elicits an ethical need for artists to consider how they can produce work that harmonizes with rather than imposes on nature.

John Hartman Statement on Gerald Vaandering:
Gerald Vaandering’s burnt salmon ash, encased in epoxy with mercury drops floating in the epoxy is startling and a bit unsettling at first glance. It is clearly a fish but obviously no longer a fish. Gerald tells us it is a salmon caught downstream from the hydro electric dams on the Churchill River in Labrador, then burnt to ash. This work is part of Gerald’s larger series, Ashes, Memory and Penance. There is cleverness in the process and the story that Gerald tells, and that is attractive, but I think that the real power of the work is, more simply, the persistence of the image in the memory of those who see it.

Pamela Edmonds statement on Maria Simmons
With Density Test, Maria Simmons has created a stunning and poignant performance to camera video, an evocative reminder of how humanity’s consumptive wants and needs are re-engineering the planet and upsetting the earth’s ecological balance. Deceptively simple, deeply resonant, unsettling yet seductive, the artist’s moving images provoke a wide array of sensations – awe, disgust, curiosity, sympathy, and more as we watch her agonizingly fill her mouth and eventually spit out a mass of delicate white tufts of milkweed seeds, which float magically and elusively around her. Knowing that milkweed is disappearing from North American landscapes due to in part to pesticide use, urban development, and shifts in climate patterns, Simmons’ creative endurance test is a viscerally charged encounter with risk, intaking the bitter plant that is toxic to humans but a main food source for monarch butterflies (whose populations are subsequently declining). It is an affective portrait of human’s appetite for destruction, the struggles of conservation, as well as the possibilities for redemptive transformation.  


Pamela Edmonds: Senior Curator, McMaster Museum of Art
Originally from Montreal, Edmonds holds a BFA in studio art/art history and an MA in art history from Concordia University. She began her curatorial career in Halifax beginning in the late 1990s, holding programming positions at the Anna Leonowens Gallery (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Mount Saint Vincent University and the Centre for Arts Tapes to name a few. She has also held curatorial positions at A Space Gallery, Toronto, the Art Gallery of Peterborough, and most recently at the Thames Art Gallery in Chatham, Ontario where she served as the Curator/Director. Edmonds has been an advocate for inclusive curatorial practices and cultural equity throughout her career, which is evidenced by her work with numerous collectives and grassroots organizations including Third Space Art Projects, a curatorial collective focused on program development from a intercultural perspective, and most recently with the We Curate, We Critique Collective, a mentorship and networking initiative for Black Canadian writers and curators. Besides authoring numerous exhibition publications, her writing has appeared in Canadian Art, Prefix Photo, Arts Atlantic, M,I,C,E, magazine, RACAR (revue d’art canadienne / Canadian Art Review), and she currently serves on the Editorial Advisory for C Magazine.

John Hartman: Artist
John Hartman is one of Canada’s preeminent painters, known for his gestural and impasto depictions of some of the country’s most iconic landscapes. In his early pastels, etchings and paintings, Hartman seamlessly intertwined stories and place, depicting personal and more generally-known narratives in his skies. While narrative elements still occasionally appear in his work, Hartman’s most recent series, The Great Divide Traverse and Canadian Authors, focus on place as experienced by specific individuals who have captivated Hartman with their encounters. Hartman paints their portraits, larger than life, above the landscapes they describe. Hartman was born in Midland, Ontario in 1950. He has exhibited extensively in Canada as well as in New York, New Orleans and London, England. His work was the subject of two widely acclaimed travelling museum exhibitions, CITIES (2007-2010) and Big North (1999-2001). In 2008, Hartman’s drypoint etchings were shown alongside those by David Milne in the exhibition, Invention and Revival at the Carleton University Art Gallery. Collections include the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax.

Earl Miller: Critic and Curator    Earl Miller is an independent curator and art writer based in Toronto. He has curated exhibitions across Canada in public galleries and institutions such as the Doris McCarthy Gallery, the Yukon Art Centre, the Tree Museum, and the Art Gallery of York University. He has written catalogue essays for galleries and institutions including the National Museum of Romania, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, and Le Crédac: Centre d’Art Contemporain d’Ivry. His essays have also appeared in books, and he has contributed to numerous visual arts periodicals including Art in America, Canadian Art, and Flash Art. He is a member of the International Association of Art Critics, through which he presented a paper at AICA-Korea’s 2014 AICA International Congress in Seoul, South Korea, in 2014.

Virginia Eichhorn, Executive Director at Quest Art School + Gallery, sat down with all three winners to discuss their work/practice. To see those videos, please click on the links below to visit our Vimeo page.