Artists paint coast-to-coast tour of Canada: on show at Arta Gallery

During the 150th year celebrations of Confederation, artists and lifelong friends Carol Loeb and Alison Grapes are traveling along the Trans-Canada Highway from coast to coast from St. John’s to Victoria, stopping every 150 km to find the subject and inspiration for a painting.

Trans-Canada 150 x Two launch exhibit runs June 28 to July 3 at the Arta Gallery in the Distillery District.

The Highway is 7493 km long, meaning the project will end up with a series of 52 paintings by each artist. Their route will take them through every province from coast to coast, including a side loop through Prince Edward Island. They have already started on this journey in short legs around their home bases of Sydney, Nova Scotia and Montreal, Quebec, with the main trip planned for the summer of 2017.

As of this writing, they have completed roughly one-third of the paintings from stops in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

The paintings are being created during the two years that straddle July 1st 2017, visually describing Canada’s sesquicentennial.

“The series may include a few grand scenic vistas that Canada is known for, but we’ll focus mainly on the common things we often neglect to acknowledge as worthy subjects for painting,” Loeb observes. “We’ll paint the everyday Canadian landscape in all its glorious, mundane character.”

The road, and life along the road itself, is becoming more than the muse for the project; it is emerging into a familiar and thought-provoking character within the landscapes.

Grapes adds, “This project has reopened my eyes to seeing the parts that make up the whole, whether it is looking down, straight ahead, or upwards.”

The idea for the project came when traveling through rural Quebec on a rainy weekend while listening to the radio and Loeb heard the call “What are YOU doing for Canada’s 150th?” During a roadside stop, Ms. Loeb challenged herself to find something that could inspire a painting despite the gloomy weather. The resulting work is a close-up of muddy tire tracks filling with water, with the road disappearing around a bend in the distance.

Inspired to expand this concept into a series of works documenting contemporary Canada at its 150th anniversary along the road that spans and unites the country, she invited Grapes to join in.

“I didn’t have to think twice before accepting the offer.” says Ms. Grapes. “The opportunity to create something larger than the two of us is exciting. I am being pushed to see more, to find that nugget of inspiration that sings to me, and to believe that I can communicate my excitement for the inspiration to canvas.”

Exhibitions are planned for the beginning and end of the 150th year of Confederation celebrations.

A launch exhibition is planned for the week of Canada Day at the Arta Gallery in Toronto’s Distillery District with the opening reception on July 1 to introduce the project to Canada and the art community.

A small selection of these paintings will also be put on display at the Colouratura Gallery in Cape Breton later in the summer. The grand finale exhibition of all 104 paintings will travel to different cities across the country during 2018 and 2019, beginning with the first exhibition on Canada Day 2018.

Digitally included in the project’s finale will be artworks from participating artists across the country displayed in the gallery along side the works done by Loeb and Grapes. There will be three categories for those who wish to join: professional artists, amateur artists, and artists under the age of 18. The details for anyone who would like to join the project are available on the website. The website, available in both English and French, is a work in progress and will continue to grow and evolve throughout the duration of this venture.

Loeb and Grapes have been close friends since they were in elementary school together in Galt (now Cambridge), Ontario, and are now both art teachers. Loeb is the senior school art teacher at Lower Canada College in Montreal, and Grapes is currently teaching art in the Saskatoon Public School Division, but her permanent home is on Cape Breton Island.

As art teachers, they feel strongly that the arts are a vital part of every child’s education and so they will donate a portion of sales from the opening exhibition to programs that help develop the passion and skills of young artists in Canada, especially those who are at-risk.

Loeb recently had a solo exhibition in the Untied States in January and a group show in New York City, was a finalist in The Artist’s Magazine 2016 art competition. She is represented by the Arta Gallery in Toronto and The Amsterdam-Whitney Gallery in New York City.

Grapes is a published illustrator of children’s books, a contributing artist to the Post Media Group, a member of the Saskatchewan Arts Educator Association. She is represented by the Coloratura Gallery in Cape Breton.

For more information about the project or to contact either artist, go to their website or visit them on Facebook at