Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Tom Thomson Art Gallery Unveils Collaborative ‘Upcycling TOM’ Student Art Exhibition

The Tom Thomson Art Gallery has announced the launch of Upcycling TOM: a student-focused art initiative involving recycling, reducing, and repurposing of materials through creative exploration and innovation.

The Gallery partnered with the Owen Sound Waste Watchers and local students from Keppel Sarawak Elementary School to undertake this major project. The entire school, which included all classes ranging from Junior Kindergarten to Grade Six, was asked to recreate one of Tom Thomson’s most iconic paintings, Northern Lights, using only recycled materials such as single-use plastics, old clothing, books, and magazines. Throughout the winter months, students worked on creating these upcycled versions of Tom Thomson’s famous painting and it resulted in 16 outstanding recreations which are now on view at the Gallery for the month of April.

In keeping with the Gallery’s mission to be an open landscape for exploring art, and the Owen Sound Waste Watchers goal to educate our community on sustainability, this student art project creates environmental mindfulness. In connection with this project, the Owen Sound Waste Watchers (OSWW) also launched an online platform to help teachers focus attention on the issue of single-use plastic pollution, with helpful teacher aids and project details.

We can’t wait to see the students’ works displayed at the TOM, turning a real problem into creative expressions of hope for all to enjoy,” said Deborah Eaton, OSWW Planning Committee Member.

Upcycling TOM will be on display in the Gallery’s Atrium until April 30, overlapping with Earth Day festivities on Saturday, April 20. Starting in May, the works will be moved to several locations within the River District.

This project is a visual catalyst for both celebrating Canadian landscape artist Tom Thomson and connecting with students through an exploration of the single-use plastics problem. The TOM and OSWW are proud to present this student art exhibition, which inspires people to think differently and shows that small changes can have a big impact,” said Heather McLeese, Curator of Public Projects & Education.

If you have any questions about the Upcycling TOM project, please contact Heather McLeese, Curator of Public Projects & Education at the TOM by phone 519-376-1932 ext. 5006 or email


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