I admired a house under renovation – a typical Ontario 19th Century Gothic cottage near Cobourg’s West Beach. Going forward six months, on another walk, I passed the house again and noticed a “For Sale” sign. The renovation had been completed but the house stood empty. While standing across the street and looking at it, the house, in essence, spoke to me, saying: ‘You could live here’.Douglas Syrota
Today NFOTA’s Cynthia Reyes interviews Douglas Syrota, Chair of Pine Ridge Art Association.
In this series we feature interviews and discussions with Individual Artists, Leaders of Arts Groups and Organizations, Civic Leaders, and other Arts Lovers in our county.
Northumberland Festival of the Arts will take place across Northumberland County from September 16 – October 2, 2022.
How did you come to move to Cobourg – and how do you feel about living there?
As I approached retirement, the thought of moving out of the city became appealing. It was mainly a daydream. In the interim, my sister, who was working with the Canadian Red Cross, moved her job to their Port Hope office and took up residence in Cobourg. So I visited the town often. (I had childhood memories of visiting Cobourg because my aunt and uncle had owned a business here.)
Visiting Cobourg often involves walking the town. On one of these walks, I admired a house under renovation – a typical Ontario 19th Century Gothic cottage near Cobourg’s West Beach. Going forward six months, on another walk, I passed the house again and noticed a “For Sale” sign. The renovation had been completed but the house stood empty. While standing across the street and looking at it, the house, in essence, spoke to me, saying: ‘You could live here’.
That day I took a virtual tour. The next day I arranged with a local real estate agent for an in-person tour then offered a bid. Basically it was an impulse buy.
I don’t regret moving to Cobourg (6 years ago) and enjoy the many aspects of it. The town relates beautifully to the lake with its extensive beachfront and marina. Within 4 minutes of leaving my garage I’m driving through the picturesque hills of Northumberland. Plus great golf courses nearby and lots of clubs and activities to choose from. The town seems to be pro-active in making it a good place to live.
How did you become part of the arts scene, and then chair of the Pine Ridge Art Association?
I always had an interest in art, especially cartooning. At one point in my twenties I considered a career in it but chose broadcasting instead. Like many others, I later in life decided to re-kindle my interest in art and painting.
One of the first things I did as a new resident was to seek out an art group to join. Pine Ridge Art Association, now nearing its 30th year in Cobourg, had membership openings. About a year and a half later I became their organizational chair and have been leading the group, in concert with an Executive Committee, for over 4 years now.
Why do you think the association is important to the Northumberland arts scene?
Northumberland County has a rich established arts scene. Pine Ridge Art Association provides an outlet for its members to paint together in our weekly open painting days. The group is non-judgmental, and the only requirement is sharing an interest in art.
While not mandatory, the open painting sessions in a large studio-like environment, allow for the exchange of ideas.
Part of our mandate is to mount at least two public shows a year, facilitate workshops with teaching artists in various mediums, arrange life drawing and costume drawing sessions, plus arrange for screening of training videos for those interested in further developing their skills.
What does the association do that you feel proudest of?
The group tries to bring art to public spaces as much as possible. Besides our annual showcase show and sale at the Cobourg Public Library, we’ve sponsored a large scale art sale at the Northumberland Mall, provided art for store windows in the historic town, occupied a booth at the Port Hope Art Fair and mounted shows in the Capitol Theatre lobby. Covid has curtailed our initiatives but we have hopes for a restart in 2022.
Why does the association limit its membership to 50?
There’s a simple reason. The weekly painting is our biggest feature and for many it provides motivation to continue their projects at home. Club fees basically cover the rent and provide a small operating budget. But there’s a capacity limit on the space. If all members turned up, it would be over-crowded. Any extracurricular workshops and life drawing sessions are usually open to non-members as well as members.
How can NFOTA help support the goals of your association?
Hopefully the NFOTA can provide connectivity between all artists. Groups and individuals shouldn’t feel isolated in their thinking, ideas and endeavours.
Although our Association caps the membership for practical reasons, there’s always an interest in refreshing the group with new members.
The club is constantly searching for teaching artists, and NFOTA might be able to provide a networking basis for this.