These 17 paintings by Ojibway artist Blake Debassige are from the Gallery’s Permanent Collection. The Collection comprises more than 1600 works.

My sister Susanne and I visited the Thunder Bay Art Gallery on Friday afternoon. It was a picturesque experience.

It’s been years since I visited the Gallery, but two reasons prompted me this time. One, the Gallery’s location will soon change ̶ from Confederation College campus, or thereabouts, to the Waterfront and a facility soon to be constructed. Two, I was intrigued by media accounts of an exhibition of paintings by an Indigenous artist, and two juried exhibitions ending today, Sunday, April 23rd.

Thunder Bay Art Gallery is located at 1080 Keewatin Street. Tel. no. is (807) 577-6427. Their website says, “Every day, the Gallery provides school tours, hosts artistic events or shares our space with community groups”.
The Gallery is open every day except Monday, starting at 12 noon. I inadvertently captured a selfie in this snapshot.

When we entered the Gallery, we faced a wall of 17 paintings by Indigenous artist Blake Debassige, who passed away last year. Born in 1956, this artist was a member of M’Chigeeng FN on Manitoulin Island. A plaque informs us, “Many figures in these paintings live in our world and beyond it . . . [in] dreams and interpretations of dreams of others”.

Blake Debassige, “Turtle Medicine Man, 1976”, acrylic on paper.
Plaque describing this Indigenous Woodland artist.

After paying the $5.00 entry, we picked up ballots for the juried collections. Then we visited the Community Room where many local artists and aspiring artists display their work. A bank of paint-spattered tables attests to their industry. A plaque informed us of “The Group of Stephens”, a pun on the famous Group of Seven of Tom Thomson et al fame.

Plaque describing the origin and make-up of The Group of Stephen.

The Group was formed by artist Stephen J. Krasemann during the Covid lockdown. Twelve artists, with Stephen as mentor, executed an array of paintings. “Red Fox Listening” struck me as outstanding, but there was no ballot prescribed for this workshop.

Michelle Gillard’s “Red Fox Listening”, oil on canvas. The artist belongs to the Group of Stephen.

Some of the works in the Community Room were quite amateurish, but the three grouped panels of autumn foliage drew my eye.

Autumn colours.

We next passed through the glass wall to the three galleries featuring Lakehead University Student Juried Exhibition and Lakehead University Juried Honours Exhibition, but which work belonged to with exhibition, we could not determine. Susanne and I filled in two ballots apiece, one for Galleries 1 and 2, and one for Gallery 3.

In each gallery, besides paintings mounted on the walls, there were three-dimensional works (perhaps “sculptures” is the word that I’m searching for) mounted on individual pylons.

Overview of Gallery 1.

In Gallery 1, I was captivated by the perspectives depicted by Ashley Gerolami in “Awakening”. She got my vote.

Ashley Belluz-Gerolami, “Awakening, 2022”, oil on canvas.
Overview of Gallery 2.

Susanne chose to bestow a vote on “Nonno” in Gallery 2, which happened to be by the same artist.

Ashley Gerolami, “Nonno, 2022”, graphite on Fabriana paper.
Overview of Gallery 3. Susanne is absorbed in “Company”, a cat.

In Gallery 3, I chose Keria Strickland’s “Grosse Morne”. I sank into the serenity of the placid bay and of the cleverly isolated islands and capes. Susanne voted for “Company” ̶ why, she never said, but my guess would be that her house-bound cat, Ginger, played a role.

Keira Stickland, “Grosse Morne, Newfoundland, 2023”, acrylic on canvas.
Ashley Erickson, “Company, 2022-2023”, acrylic on plywood.

This painting in Gallery 3 would have gotten my vote if I had had a second ballot,”Nothing Gold Can Stay”. I made this judgement without looking up its provenance. It turned out to be another winner by Ashley Gerolami. And the title, an allusion to a poem by Robert Frost, a New England poet, refers to this scene from Northern Ontario. If the scene had depicted tamaracks in the fall, the “gold” would make sense. What was going through the artist’s mind when she conjured the title is a mystery. The work again shows her mastery of perspective.

Ashley Gerolani, “Nothing Gold Can Stay, 2023”, acrylic on canvas.

The Gallery’s website has a description in Ashley G.’s own words of her manner of working: “For both painting and drawing I always use a reference photo. I find that following a reference photo gives me a clear direction on how to proceed with the work, and if I decide to make changes, I can do that easily. I begin my work by drawing a grid on top of the reference photo that I am using. From there I grab my canvas or paper and draw the same grid and the image that I am depicting. This helps me to make sure that everything is proportioned correctly.”

The Gallery’s website states that it receives over 30,000 visitors every year. Well, during our visit, we caught sight of only a couple or three visitors, but we trust that statement. The website also states, ” Every day, the Gallery provides school tours, hosts artistic events or shares our space with community groups”.

Our last stop was the Gift Store. Lots of lovely stuff.

A perfect end to a picturesque experience.

The Gift Store . . . Susanne browses.
Fridge magnets . . .
Jigsaw puzzles . . .
Other crafty stuff . . .


  1. Very Nice Edger

    We have been coming to this Gallery since 1985. We have many memories here. We always stop in Geraldton on our way home. we normally drive through my original home town of Hearst.
    Thankyou for sharing
    Rudy and Gloria Bies


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