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Icelandic art exhibit, a year in the making, comes to refurbished Sidney Museum

Connected Heritage brought the Articulation Textile Group as far as Manitoba for their research

The Sidney Museum reopens its doors Sept. 1 after three months of refurbishing work, welcoming the public to it’s first Icelandic collection.

From Sept. 1 to Dec. 27, the refurbished museum’s debut exhibit, Connected Heritage, will educate patrons on Canada’s cultural and historical links to the Nordic island nation. A year in the making, the exhibit is comprised of 30 pieces made by the six members of the Articulation Textile Group, a group of textile artists and historians from across western Canada.

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“We’re trying to increase our diversity and what we’re showing,” said Sidney Museum executive director Alyssa Gerwig. “I think people will be really surprised at what we’ve got on the show.”

The Articulation Textile Group spent a week in Gimli, Man. on Lake Winnipeg to collect information and inspiration for their artwork, said Leslie Turner, one of the group’s coordinators.

After the first European contact of Icelandic Norsemen to what is today Canada in 1009 CE, the next largest migration of Icelanders to Canada came with the eruption of the island’s Askja volcano in 1875, according to the museum’s press release. The calamity caused several to migrate to Canada and establish settlements throughout the prairies, including New Iceland on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. The attic of Gimli’s town hall still holds a display of Huldufólk (hidden/little people) central to Icelandic folklore, Turner said.

“You really need to talk with a lot of people and experience the landscape,” she said. “When you’re going to respond with your art, you need to feel it quite deeply.” She and her peers of the Articulation Textile Group are trained in European methods of embroidery. Their Icelandic works include blankets, handknitting, quilts and clothes dyed through the batik wax method.

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“You get a really nice variety, in both styles and interpretations,” Gerwing said. The artwork was displayed in Gimli’s Icelandic Museum before coming to Sidney this fall, Turner said, and may eventually find a home in the North American Icelandic Society Convention.

Prior to the upcoming exhibit, the Articulation Textile Group lent an exhibit of World War-inspired textile work to the Sidney Museum.

In addition to Iceland, the Sidney Museum will be showcasing newly refurbished permanent exhibits on the history of Sidney and North Saanich. Beginning on Sept. 1, the museum will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., subject to change based on public health recommendations.

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