Oshawa artist tasked with bringing 175 years of blacksmith history in Pickering to life


Published July 26, 2022 at 1:11 pm

An Oshawa artist and educator known for creating portraits of people based on their experiences rather than what they actually look like has been tasked with bringing to life 175 years of history at the Greenwood Blacksmith Shop at Pickering Museum Village.

Dani Crosby is a commercial illustrator, fine artist and Durham College art instructor who looks to emotionally involve her audience as well as her subjects in creating her art, which has been displayed in art exhibitions all over Ontario as well as the Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery in Oshawa.

Emotionally involving her subject matter for this project will be difficult but though 175 year-old blacksmith shops may not talk they do have stories to tell. So do the people working at Pickering Museum Village and so does the community at-large and Cosby will be tapping into all those resources for the job.

Crosby will be creating a ‘suite’ of images that tell the story of the blacksmith shop, which was built on Concession #6 (right across the road from the museum) and donated to the museum by Edna Mills, whose family owned Greenwood Mills.

The community feedback is crucial to the project and that suits Cosby just fine, as collaboration may very well be her middle name.

“The goal is to reflect the stories and experiences of residents through art, so feedback from the community is central to the project,” she said, noting she had to wait for the public to respond before she could get started. “Thankfully the public started responding within 24 hours of announcing the project. So my process has begun.”

Artist Dani Crosby installing her work at the McLaughlin Gallery for the Body Languages Exhibition in 2019

The result will be five original artworks that take shape based on community feedback and consultation. These images, she said, will be used for banners to be installed in the city and two murals to be installed at the Pickering Museum Village.

“The more feedback, the richer the process will become,” she added. “I will also be conducting a few in-person interviews and spending time in the Pickering Museum Village.”

With 175 years of history Crosby is expecting a lot of feedback, as nineteenth century Greenwood was a bustling community and at the very centre of it was the blacksmith and wagon-making shop. Local businesses, industries and residents relied on the ‘smithy’ to supply and repair essential tools and equipment for their homes, farms and businesses.

Crosby’s background in collecting stories and experiences to create composite images rich with symbolism will help celebrate this important site, its legacy, and continuous impact in the community.

The City of Pickering invites anyone interested to provide information, stories, and feedback through this survey form: https://letstalkpickering.ca/gbsanniversary

This will be the second time this year the Pickering Museum Village and its blacksmith shop received a little special treatment.

The museum received $100,400 from the Digital Museum of Canada and $33,000 from Young Canada Works in the spring to create a virtual exhibit and educational resource. The website invites users to explore the evolution of blacksmithing in Ontario and includes curriculum links and lesson plans for grades 7-12.

Available in both English and French, the website will feature an interactive timeline that takes users on a journey from the 1860s to today to discover how blacksmiths adapted their trade to meet the changing needs of their communities. The website will launch in December.

“It is fascinating to see the change from small rural smithy to blacksmithing as an art form,” says Ellen Tayles-Armstrong of the Pickering Museum Village. “The Greenwood Blacksmith Shop at the museum, for example, was used as an art studio by artist Bill Lishman after the last village blacksmith retired in 1959. This website will give new life to stories such as these in a fun and exciting new way.”

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