Bluewater District School Board

Bluewater's Upcycling TOM Student Art Exhibition page

Upcycling TOM Student Art Exhibition

Upcycling TOM Student Art Exhibition
Posted on 04/04/2024
Keppel-Sarawak student art of Northern LightsUpcycling TOM poster; click for pdf versionOwen Sound's Tom Thomson Art Gallery was a busy spot on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 as approximately 300 students and their families from Keppel-Sarawak Elementary School dropped in for a special art-themed family night.  

The celebration was part of the gallery's recently launched Upcycling TOM student-focused art initiative involving the recycling, reducing, and repurposing of materials through creative exploration and innovation.  Through a partnership with the school and the environmentally focused concerned citizens group, Owen Sound Waste Watchers (OSWW), art work submissions from the entire school were encouraged in the spirit of recreating one of Tom Thomson’s most iconic paintings, Northern Lights.  Students were asked to use only recycled materials, such as single-use plastics, old clothing, books, and magazines.

Throughout the winter months, students worked on creating these upcycled versions of Tom Thomson’s famous painting resulting in 16 outstanding recreations, which are now on view at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery for the month of April.

In keeping with the gallery’s mission to be an open landscape for exploring art, and the goal of OSWW to educate the community on sustainability, the student art project is a creation of environmental mindfulness.  In connection with this project, OSWW also launched an online platform to help teachers focus attention on the issue of single-use plastic pollution, with helpful teacher aids and project details.

“We can’t wait to see the students’ works displayed at the TOM, turning a real problem into creative expressions of hope for all to enjoy,” said Deborah Eaton, OSWW Planning Committee Member.

Upcycling TOM will be on display in the Tom Thomson Art Gallery’s Atrium until April 30, overlapping with Earth Day festivities on Saturday, April 20.  Starting in May, the student works will be moved to several locations within Owen Sound's River District.

“This project is a visual catalyst for both celebrating Canadian landscape artist Tom Thomson and connecting with students through an exploration of the single-use plastics problem.  The TOM and OSWW are proud to present this student art exhibition, which inspires people to think differently and shows that small changes can have a big impact,” said Heather McLeese, Curator of Public Projects and Education at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery.

“It feels deeply resonant to use Tom Thomson’s landscape art as the means through which the next generation can explore how to make our environment better today.  Their creativity and talent are overwhelmingly evident in the stunning works they have created,” said Aidan Ware, Tom Thomson Art Gallery Director and Chief Curator.

“This opportunity enhanced our learning in Visual Arts and the history of local artist Tom Thomson while increasing our awareness of environmental stewardship.  We are honoured to have our students’ work displayed in the Tom Thomson Art Gallery as part of their Earth Day celebrations,” said Laurie Gilkinson, Principal at Keppel-Sarawak Elementary School.

For more about the Upcycling TOM student art exhibition, please visit

Source: Tom Thomson Art Gallery media release
Bluewater District School Board is located on the traditional land of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which is represented by the communities of Saugeen First Nation and Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.
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