Andrea Craig-Wammes

General Amherst art students do something “uncommon” for upcoming festival



By Ron Giofu


A group of General Amherst High School art students will have a presence at the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival whether they are there in person or not.

Grade 11 students Mackenzie Szwed, Antonio Simone and Grace D’Alimonte created three large paintings depicting scenes from the film “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and they will be displayed during the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival that will be held Aug. 3-5.

Teacher Andrea Craig-Wammes pointed out that students Vanessa Favot and Ryan Sinasac helped out when they could. Craig-Wammes worked with tourism co-ordinator Jennifer Ibrahim on developing a project for General Amherst art students then the students took it from there.

D’Alimonte said working as a team made the project enjoyable and Szwed called it “really fun” to be a part of.

The group spent about 40-45 hours after school on the project with preparation work starting as early as January.

Amherst art students created work for the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival. From left: Mackenzie Szwed, Antonio Simone, Grace D’Alimonte.

“We knew it was going to be a big project,” said Simone.

The paintings depict “three establishing moments in the story,” he added with D’Alimonte stating “it tells the story just by the three (paintings).”

Ibrahim said the paintings will be displayed by the straw maze during the festival.

“It’s something we can look back on,” added Szwed.

Simone said Craig-Wammes encouraged them to “think outside the box” and that it paid off.

“This is a community project,” stated Ibrahim.

Ibrahim added that it showcases the “best in Amherstburg” in terms of artwork and that visitors from around southwestern Ontario and Michigan will be among those to view their work. The plan is to display the paintings annually.

Craig-Wammes added that the project was student-led and that they used outdoor acrylic paint to create the subject matter.

“Artists of the Future” shine at Gibson Gallery



By Ron Giofu


About 100 students from St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School and General Amherst High School had an opportunity to show their art work at the Gibson Gallery the last several weeks.

The “Artists of the Future” exhibit closed Sunday with a reception where artists and their teachers stopped by to look at the exhibit.

“It’s a nice ray of sunshine on a cloudy day to see so many people come out to see the art,” said Lisa Bastien, one of two Villanova art teachers that turned out.

Bastien said about 70 students from Villanova participated. She picked out various works from first semester art students and came up with a variety of work to submit, though noted there wasn’t a competition. The students created acrylic paintings, water colours, sculptures, mixed media and more.

Jessica Dass, a Grade 10 student at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School, stands with her work that was part of the Artists of the Future exhibit.

Many of the students came up with their own original ideas, she said.

“The students were encouraged to problem solve in creative ways,” Bastien noted.

The art program is thriving at Villanova, she continued.

“We have about 150-200 students going through the art program every year,” said Bastien. “The arts are alive and well at Villanova.”

Pam Burke, the second Villanova art teacher in attendance, said she was impressed to see the quality of work in the exhibit. She said it was fun for the students to be part of the “Artists of the Future” exhibit.

Burke said she was at the gallery a few days earlier and overheard people talking about some of the works.

“It makes you feel a sense of pride,” she said.

Some students enter high school stating they are unable to draw, but Burke added she sees the skill level in them. There were those with work in the show who previously believed they couldn’t draw at all.

“For me, it’s trying to get them confident in their skill level,” she said.

Sophia Fallea, a Grade 12 student at Villanova, shows her work during the recent Artists of the Future exhibit.

Andrea Craig-Wammes, art teacher at General Amherst, said there were about 25-30 of her students involved. She said she teaches 70 students this semester and had 120 last semester.

General Amherst students submitted everything from drawings and photography to sculptures and paintings. Craig-Wammes said she likes to keep art interesting for the students and makes choosing what gets into the exhibit part of the curriculum.

“It’s very important,” she added, of seeing the works on exhibit. “They absolutely love it.”

Craig-Wammes added she brought students to the gallery recently on a field trip so they could see the exhibit and experience the ambience of the gallery.

“We’re just thankful to be part of the show,” she said. “We’re just excited. Amherst keeps growing and a lot of kids are involved in the arts.”

The current exhibit at the Gibson Gallery is “Flashback: Threadworks 2016.”  It runs through May 13. The gallery is located at 140 Richmond St. in Amherstburg.

General Amherst students repainting fire hydrants for Canada 150



By Danica Skakavac


In honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the Grade 12 art class at General Amherst is taking part in the opportunity of re-painting the fire hydrants stationed throughout the town.

Twelve fire hydrants in total were painted in the past with a pre-War of 1812 theme, many portraying soldiers. The art class will be taking on ten of these hydrants, due to the farther location of some hydrants. It is actually part of their classwork curriculum to take part in community involvement having to do with the arts and the hydrants happened to be a perfect fit.

Maddi Couvillon works on a fire hydrant along Dalhousie St. There are 12 downtown fire hydrants being worked on by the local high school students.

Maddi Couvillon works on a fire hydrant along Dalhousie St. There are 12 downtown fire hydrants being worked on by the local high school students.

Art teacher Andrea Craig-Wammes was approached by Amherstburg’s visitor information centre manager Jennifer Ibrahim, with Ibrahim suggesting that the art class be the ones this year to redecorate the fire hydrants that were painted a few years ago.

“It allows a sense of community as well as have artwork on display and gives a taste of the different mediums that it takes to produce something that’s going to be outdoors and sustain the elements for a good amount of time,” said Craig-Wammes. “I expect that the town will be thrilled because it is such a talented group of young artists and the ideas and designs have definitely surpassed what I envisioned.”

So far, the hydrants are coming along great and students have started to trace out their designs before painting them on. It is a long process but they are expected to turn out amazing in the end.

Fire Hydrants2

“It’s more difficult than any other project we’ve done,” said Olivia D’Alimonte, one of the participating students. “We’re really weather-dependent but it’s also really fun and really exciting.”

Another student, Mitchel Leblanc, added that, “I feel honoured and excited because I get to show my artwork to the entire town and it’s going to be there for a couple years. I get to show off what our school can do and how proud I am to be part of a great town.”

So, next time you’re taking a stroll through the downtown area, keep an eye out for some wonderfully painted fire hydrants.

Gibson Gallery showcasing “Artists of the Future”



By Ron Giofu


Work of art students from a pair of local high schools is on exhibit at the Gibson Gallery through March 19.

“Artists of the Future” is the opening exhibit of 2017 at the gallery with roughly 100 pieces of work by General Amherst High School students on display with 200-250 pieces of art created by St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School also featured.

Jessica Dass sits beside one of her works that are exhibited as part of the Gibson Gallery's "Artists of the Future" exhibit.

Jessica Dass sits beside one of her works that are exhibited as part of the Gibson Gallery’s “Artists of the Future” exhibit.

“The Grade 12’s worked really hard to put this show together,” said General Amherst art teacher Andrea Craig-Wammes. “It’s part of the curriculum to get pieces ready for an art gallery.”

While the show features work from students in Grade 9-12, Craig-Wammes noted the Grade 12 students were the ones getting the pieces titled, mounted and ready to be showcased.

“They’ve put in a lot of effort,” said Craig-Wammes.

The work that came from General Amherst students was chosen either by the students or Craig-Wammes herself. Students didn’t have to have their work exhibited, but Craig-Wammes didn’t recall any student taking that option.

“They had the opportunity to deny it but everyone is excited about showcasing their work,” she said. “It’s a huge honour for them to have their artwork in a gallery and to be able to showcase their talent.

A wide range of mediums was used by General Amherst students from sculptures to painting to scratch art and more, with the Villanova students also displaying their talents through a number of ways.

“We have a lot of variety of work,” explained Villanova art teacher Lisa Bastien. “Our students are encouraged to think outside the box. They are posed problems and have to solve them independently.”

Concepts are presented to the students with students able to work with the concepts in their own way, Bastien said, adding they also work with the students on their technique as well.

Kyra Breshamer shows the artwork she created for the "Artists of the Future" exhibit at the Gibson Gallery.

Kyra Breshamer shows the artwork she created for the “Artists of the Future” exhibit at the Gibson Gallery.

Roughly 400 students per year enroll in Villanova’s art program with the show being much of what has been done in the first semester. While work is showcased in the school, exhibiting it in an art gallery puts a different context on it, Bastien added.

“It makes the kids feel important to have it in a gallery space,” she said. “I’m just really proud of the kids and the families who came by and supported them.”

The Gibson Gallery is located at 140 Richmond St. Their hours are Thursday-Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, call 519-736-2826, e-mail or visit

High school artist on the “cutting” edge thanks to latest work



By Ron Giofu


A local artist has found a new way to display his talents and it put him on the cutting edge.


Aaron Hunter, a Grade 12 student at General Amherst High School, recently completed a painting with the work being done on a saw blade. He was approached by art teacher Andrea Craig-Wammes last December about doing the work after the school was approached by local resident Dennis Richardson about having the work done.

Hunter said a nature scene was requested and he took the project on from there.

“He didn’t specify and I had to come up with what I thought was nice,” said Hunter.

Hunter said it took “two or three days” to plan it and chalk it out then he painted it from there. He said he worked on it for about for a few hours every day.

“It is also my first oil painting,” said Hunter.

Aaron Hunter holds the saw blade he painted for a local resident. It was the first time the General Amherst High School student had done an oil painting.

Aaron Hunter holds the saw blade he painted for a local resident. It was the first time the General Amherst High School student had done an oil painting.

Painting in oils was different for him, he added, with the surface also being different. The saw blade had small pits on it he had to work with and was an overall rougher surface than what he is used to.

Craig-Wammes said Hunter had to sand and spray paint the blade to prepare it before he could actually oil paint on it.

“I’m actually pretty pleased with it,” said Hunter. “I’ve never done oil paintings before so I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.”

Art is something Hunter plans to continue doing as a hobby, but his future plans are to attend St. Clair College and become an industrial millwright. He would welcome other projects such as the saw blade project as freelance opportunities he could do on the side. Hunter said he likes being creative, starting out with an idea and developing it from there. He recalled drawing fire trucks when he was in Grade 1, moving on to pirates in Grade 3 and then more fantasy type scenes in Grades 6 and 7 before entering high school and drawing more realistic-type works.

Craig-Wammes added the art program would welcome discussing future opportunities for outside work for their students, noting Hunter’s project was the first outside piece done during her tenure as Amherst’s art teacher.