Have you ever stood in front of a work of art and thought, “I wish I could do that”? You can. Not in a theoretical, you can do anything you put your mind to kind of way. We mean, actually. Art is equal parts innate talent and learned skill. You might be surprised to find that if you master the latter, you’ll discover a well of talent you didn’t know you had. Don’t believe us? Meta4 Gallery in Port Perry has been teaching the art of passion for over a decade to people just like you who never thought they could create, and who now cannot imagine life without it.
If you’re not familiar with the small but mighty phenomenon that is Meta4, it is a gallery dedicated exclusively to Ontario makers of fine crafts and visual art. Unlike many typical galleries, it is broader than a collection of painted canvases. Step through Meta4’s doors and you will find pottery, glass, wood sculptures, handmade jewelry, mixed media works and more. Approximately 130 artists are represented by two Meta4 Gallery locations—one in Port Perry and one in Peterborough.
In addition to being an art gallery, Meta4 is a studio. It is a place for anyone who wants to learn the techniques of art in its many forms. You don’t need to be an expert. You don’t even need to have picked up a brush before, or stuck your fingers into a mound of raw clay. The aspect of education has always been important to founder and co-owner Birgitta MacLeod and her fellow Meta4 owners. She says, “It was always our plan, right from the get-go, that we wanted to not just sell work, but also offer workshops and classes so that people could learn.”
Scugog is a region overflowing with talented professionals, to which the Lake Scugog Studio Tour (which occurs each May) attests. But, as Birgitta puts it, what do people do the rest of the year when they want something beautiful and handmade? It is serendipity that she credits with the gallery’s inception. “There were originally four of us who were interested in opening up a store,” she recalls. “When the opportunity came along, we sat at my kitchen table and decided we were going to do it.” From decision to grand opening, everything was completed in a mere two months. All of the moving pieces inexplicably fell into place. It was as though Meta4 Gallery was meant to be.
For Birgitta and her co-owners, being able to teach someone to create art is incredibly rewarding. “I can’t even explain how fulfilling it is to see someone come in who has never picked up a paintbrush before, and to show them how many skills are learnable,” she says. “I always say that the ability to make art is about ninety-eight percent desire to do it. The rest you can learn. To see people who started off as beginners, who have taken different classes and have learned different things, and to see what they produce—it’s wonderful to see new worlds of possibilities opening up for them.”
Meta4’s workshops and classes cover all types of artforms. From painting and drawing, to jewelry-making and silversmithing, to pottery both on and off wheel, there is something for everyone. “We try to offer many options for people,” Birgitta says. “You can sign up for just one afternoon and go home with something fabulous that you made. Or you can sign up for a one-day workshop. We also have weekend courses and weekly classes that range from four to six weeks.”
Classes come in all levels of skill from introductory to advance. But the aim is always to show participants that creating one-of-a-kind art is not only fun, but easier than they think. “I hear it all the time,” Birgitta says. “People will come into the gallery and tell me they can’t even draw a stick figure. But it has been my experience that people who can’t draw, for example, do well in other art forms like pottery and glass fusion. We try to show people that perhaps their idea of what art is, is rooted in what they did in elementary school. But this world of art and making things is much broader than just drawing pictures.”
She also points out that one of the perks of learning to create in a setting like the one Meta4 provides is that participants have the opportunity to meet likeminded individuals, and make friends of them along the way.
Twice a year, Meta4 hosts a student show at its Port Perry location called Studio Soiree. Students are invited to choose two of their pieces to include in the show. “It’s quite a thing to see your painting or the ring that you made on display in a gallery setting with other pieces,” Birgitta states. “Our students are always amazed at how good their work looks when it’s on display in a professional setting like that.”
If you’re itching to try your hand at making a one-of-a-kind piece of art, visit Meta4 Gallery online at www.meta4gallery.ca to view their upcoming classes and workshops. Want one-of-a-kind art from professional local and Ontario artists? Visit Meta4’s Port Perry location at 200 Queen St., or in Peterborough at 164 Hunter St. W.
Story by Katherine Ryalen