Joanne Dennis. (submitted photo/Surrey Art Gallery)

MINTY: ‘Opening the Doors’ at Surrey gallery with local artist Joanne Dennis

Also, a called for submissions in Arts Council of Surrey’s ‘Just Gates’ exhibition

By Melanie Minty, arts columnist

“Still round the corner may wait a new road or a secret gate,” is a wonderful bit of wordage from J.R.R. Tolkien. You know, author of The Lord of the Rings, creator of Middle Earth and Hobbits. Tolkien did create a whole new world from his creative imagination and had the exquisite ability to transform thought into words. He painted a picture with words.

I like the gate analogy, and secret gate is even better. What worlds we might discover when we get in touch with our own creativity. Open the door, throw open the window, find your own secret gate. Create art.

The Arts Council of Surrey invites all members to enter the next “Just Series” of juried art shows. This one is Just Gates. Thank you, Tolkien. Artists are encouraged to be creative in their interpretation of gates only. Does it mean that your artistic interpretation does not have to be a gate? That is up to you. It just has to be an original artwork. Contact the Arts Council of Surrey (604-594-2700) for more information and entry forms, which are due March 1. The Just Gates exhibition will be in the gallery at Newton Cultural Centre, which also houses the arts council office. If you think you would like to enter the Just Gates competition, but are not a member of the arts council, you can join now. This may be the new road that leads you to a secret gate.

Sometimes we just need a bit of a push to get in touch with our artistic side. Surrey Art Gallery Association (SAGA) hosts monthly talks by artists at Surrey Art Gallery, at Surrey Arts Centre in Bear Creek Park. SAGA’s Thursday Artist Talk for February is with Surrey resident Joanne Dennis, on Feb. 7 from 7:30 to 9 p.m., in an event titled “Opening the Doors.” Admission is free.

Dennis is currently SAGA’s president, and a truly gifted and inspired visual artist. “Doors are portals than open us up to curiosity and reflection,” Dennis says. “Where do they lead? What do they represent? What goes on behind these doors?” She has created a series of paintings inspired by the doors that have caught her attention in her travels. Her paintings are made from rich acrylic glazes, textures and oil pastels. Open that door, find a secret gate. Intriguing, isn’t it?

Just as you want to know more about Surrey’s arts council, it won’t hurt to know something about Surrey Art Gallery Association. SAGA is a non-profit society that offers its members the opportunity to participate in and respond to contemporary art, and be part of a community that actively supports Surrey Art Gallery, like the Thursday Artist Talks, the SAGA gift shop and art rental program.

SAGA and Surrey Art Gallery operators like to get the younger set involved in visual art. Family Days at the gallery are growing in popularity and are a fantastic (free) opportunity to involve your family in arts education. It is truly like finding that secret gate.

Families are invited to join an art scavenger hunt drop-in event at SAG called “Art on the Loose,” on Feb. 9 from noon to 3 p.m. Admission is free, and everyone is welcome (children must be with an adult).

Given a list of clues, participants will have to use their senses and detective skills to complete the challenge. Through the process, they’ll discover a variety of artwork in the gallery and around the arts centre, such as a responsive sound piece and a spinning artwork. Participants are welcome to dress like a detective! Oh, please, put on a Sherlock hat at least. Have some fun.

Detectives can visit the ArtMaker Stations around the arts centre, where participants will get a hands-on approach to encourage creativity. This event is co-hosted by SAGA and Surrey Art Gallery.

“Surrey Art Gallery Association has been in action almost as long as Surrey Art Gallery,” says Dennis. “In celebration of our 35th anniversary this year, we are pleased to work with the gallery in offering this free and fun event for families in our community to connect over contemporary art.”

There you are. Now it is up to you to step around that corner, find a new road and discover the secret gate to your creativity. You don’t have to create a masterpiece. Just open the door to possibilities.

Melanie Minty writes twice monthly for the Now-Leader. She can be reached at


Joanne Dennis’ “Porte de Paris” painting (acrylic, 2015).

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