My introduction to Fog Forest Gallery was through family friend Laura Kenney’s solo exhibit “It’s All About Judy” in October 2019 during my first year at Mt. A. What I remember from that evening was that the gallery space (as well as Kenney’s art) was overwhelmingly beautiful and that the gallery owner Janet Crawford was positively welcoming and inviting. As I was leaving, she told me to come back whenever I felt like it, even if I just needed directions or had questions about the town.
Fog Forest Gallery is tucked into a cozy little nook alongside a line of cafes and restaurants on Bridge Street. Crawford, born in Sackville, started her private gallery and custom frame shop in 1984 and has now sold and shipped works across the globe. Crawford has “dedicated [her] working life to establishing a top quality exhibition centre to showcase the talents of Canadian artists within a small Eastern Canadian town.” Hosting her business in Sackville is very important to her; the town is a wonderful arts community. “There is an appreciation for what Fog Forest stands for and I am grateful for that respect and support,” Crawford said.
Kenney practices rug hooking and uses her art “to talk about contemporary issues like climate change and feminism.” A recurring character in her rugs is “an alter ego named Judy [who] helps tell the stories.” She currently has a piece in Fog Forest’s Winter Show of the Gallery Artists titled “Swimming.” One of Kenney’s favourite works is a piece she did in 2010 of a naked woman sitting on a toilet. Rug hooking can be a conservative art form, so creating this rug felt “a bit risque at the time.” These days, however, “rug hookers are doing a great job of pushing boundaries.” The rug was bought by the Art Bank of Nova Scotia and “now hangs at the Cultural Federations of Nova Scotia office in Halifax.”
Keeping art galleries open is more important now than ever before. Crawford affirmed that having exhibition opportunities “allows [artists] to personally process and interpret the world in all its craziness and to try and maintain some financial security.” For viewers, too, galleries are crucial during these trying times. As Kenney said, “art galleries are a quiet space where you can get a break from everyday life.” Crawford added that “art reminds us that there is beauty in the world. […] Art adds a new dimension to our lives and gives us a reason to wonder.”
In my experience, art is essential to mental well-being. As Crawford put it, art, “in all its forms, is an expression and a reflection on the people who create it and the people who experience it.” Art can give the viewer a deeper understanding of a topic that Kenney said is “truly such a wonderful experience. It makes you feel less alone in the world.” Crawford commented that art is a way to help people find a balance within themselves. Different people work with different emotions in creating art. Some explore peace and tranquility with the intention of calming themselves and their viewers while other artists face their negative feelings in order to challenge their own thought process. Rug hooking, said to be a healing art, has become something Kenney does “to feel grounded.”
For Crawford, her gallery has never been separate from the community. The fact that a “small, private gallery can not only survive but flourish in a small Eastern Canadian town is something [she is] very grateful for and proud of.” During my visit to Fog Forest Gallery in 2019, my mother ran into the owners of Over the Rainbow, a shop she visited frequently while at Mt. A. that was once across the street from Fog Forest. All of us in the gallery spoke for a long time, catching up with each other and discovering even more community and family connections. Art can bring people together in unexpected ways; galleries and communities have a reciprocal relationship. As Crawford claimed, she “wouldn’t be here without the community.”