Director of Sir Wilfred Grenfell Art Gallery has found ...

A home in Western Newfoundland

(May 13, 1999, Gazette)

By Pamela Gill

Gail Tuttle could have chosen a number of places to further develop her career in the world of art.

But she chose Corner Brook's Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. Ms. Tuttle doesn't hesitate for a second when asked why she picked Newfoundland, the province farthest away from her previous home, Vancouver, B.C.

"Because of the people, and the position," she said. "It's wonderful to work with a visual arts team and support the college's programs. The gallery gives all students a valuable learning experience at Grenfell."

More specifically, the gallery provides a learning environment for the students of Grenfell's visual arts program, she said.

"This is a somewhat isolated city when it comes to accessing the works of provincial, national and international artists," said Ms. Tuttle. "It's important that the gallery expose the students to a broad range of contemporary art."

Ms. Tuttle, a graduate of the University of Victoria and Mount Allison University, has enjoyed an active career in the Canadian visual arts community, contributing her expertise in administrative, curatorial and academic positions across the country. She has served recently as an assistant curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery, director and curator of the Keyano Theatre Gallery in Fort McMurray, Alta., and general manager of Pink Ink Theatre Productions in Vancouver.

Ms. Tuttle has a lengthy track record as a highly regarded instructor in art history, studio art and arts-related programs for such institutions as the University of Victoria, Keyano College, Mount Allison University and St. Clair College in Windsor, Ont. A practising visual artist and studio art instructor, Ms. Tuttle was the first artist-in-residence at Nova Scotia Teachers College in Truro, N.S.

All this said, what does she think of our small corner of the world, now that she's gotten almost a year at Grenfell under her belt?

"Last summer I had one of the most beautiful summers of my life," she said with a smile. "I arrived in May, and spent most of my free time visiting the areas surrounding Corner Brook, as well as some other parts of the island. I believe Newfoundland is one of Canada's best-kept secrets."

She also made time to drop in on Newfoundland's own talented artists in order to become familiar with their work, a prospect she finds exciting.

"I love working with professional artists in the community and across the country," said Ms. Tuttle. "That's what's really exciting about this job working with artists and organizing exhibitions."

A visual artist herself, Ms. Tuttle is looking forward to taking advantage of the natural environment around her now that she's settled in Newfoundland.

"I'm looking forward to buying a house here and planting some roots. And I'm really looking forward to getting back into painting in Newfoundland. I am a visual artist and always will be," she said, adding that her work will be part of a group exhibition at the Natural Bean, a Corner Brook coffee shop, in June, along with the works of local artists Linda Foulds, Tess Middleton and Shawn O'Hagan.

Coffee shops are one way to broach the subject of art with the public, but nothing would please Ms. Tuttle more than a community eager to burst through the doors of the college gallery.

Ms. Tuttle has already achieved a measure of success in this regard with the introduction of the Young Marks exhibition. The event was an opportunity for more than 2,500 children throughout School District 3 to create art individually or in groups and see it displayed in a "real" art gallery.

"It was the most amazing experience for all of us," she said, referring to the students, teachers and organizers at the school board level. "We had more people through the gallery for that exhibition than we'd had for the previous decade up to that point. In addition, we had 13 school tours of 60 to 90 kids each."

Her enthusiasm won't let her stop there. She already has visions of family art days and children's art classes taught by local artists and Grenfell visual arts students dancing in her head. Plus there are three major exhibitions around the corner to which Ms. Tuttle believes people will be drawn Artists of the Western Coast, a Soiree '99 Project; Merchants, Mariners and the Northern Seas, also a Soiree '99 project, held in conjunction with the International Maritime History Conference taking place at Grenfell this summer; and Tracking Ten Years, which chronicles the 10th anniversary of the visual arts program at Grenfell.

"We have to reach out to the community and be welcoming," she said, looking around the gallery. "I love it when this place is full of people that's when I'm happiest."