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Folk Art Festival by the Sea
Until the middle of October, you can stroll around the indoor and outdoor spaces at Kingsbrae Garden Art Gallery to intimately immerse in the 3rd annual Folk Art Festival/Exhibit. The St. Andrews, New Brunswick-based event is a partnership between Kingsbrae Garden patron Lucinda Flemer, and Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder of Jarea Art Studio.

In addition to creating works alongside her daughter and son-in-law, leading art activities for school groups and at-risk youth, and painting murals around St. Andrews, Jantje spends her winter months tracking down folk artists around the Maritimes to feature in the festival. (She says she’s hoping to be able to reach out to Newfoundland for future exhibits). Jantje spoke with Arts East about what visitors can expect when they attend the festival, the adventures she’s had collecting folk art and the seaside Dutch town where she grew up and where her creative passion was born.

Has art and creating always been a part of your life?
JBM: I grew up as part of a large family in a small seaside town in The Netherlands. We had little access to ready-made toys, and so scraps of paper, empty boxes and sticks and stones became a source of play for my brothers and sisters and I. Also, there were people in my town who made art from discarded items. I remember them making wonderful dollhouses and collages of colourful happy scenes from found objects. Those pieces always made people smile. It was my great uncle, who spent all of his free time painting, who really sparked my interest in art. He showed me examples of all kinds of paintings and told me to never worry about the opinions of others, but to just create. Seeing all those images made me realize that there was no right way or wrong way to make art and I was inspired to create.

What inspired you to start the Jarea Art Studio?
JBM: Life has a way of taking away your free time. As I grew older, I stopped doing what I loved the most as the need to earn a living and raise a family took over. When my daughter Andrea was attending art school, she urged me to once again take up art. When she graduated in 1993, we decided to combine our talents and our names, and Jarea Art was born. When Andrea married Geoff—a fellow artist—in 1997, he joined our studio/gallery and we have worked together as a family ever since. Prior to my husband Hank’s passing in 2009, he too was part of our creative group. A writer, he also worked along with us, building picture frames and other modes of displaying our work.

“He showed me examples of all kinds of paintings and told me to never worry about the opinions of others, but to just create.”

When did you start the annual folk art festival and how have you enjoyed the experience since its beginnings?
JBM: The annual Folk Art Festival started in 2011, when the opportunity arose to showcase Maritime folk art in St. Andrews at Kingsbrae Garden.  The event at Kingsbrae is a partnership between Jarea Art and the Garden's patron, Lucinda Flemer. Finding folk artists from across the Maritimes is a great deal of fun. As an example, our search last year brought us to a small home north of Moncton where 83-year-old grandmother Beatrice McFadden lived. Beatrice had a home full of art created by her and her two sisters, her son, her daughter and her grandson.  In the corner of the small living room was a small arborite table with chrome legs, piled high with small paintings of the area. She reminded me of the people I had seen creating art in my hometown many years earlier. Beatrice’s cupboards were full of art and we left her place with 127 pieces of folk art destined for the festival. We included eight folk artists that first year and increased that number to ten in the second and third years.

What's the
Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder setting up the Folk Art Festival
Exhibit at Kingsbrae Garden, St. Andrews NB.
geographic range of places you investigate?

JBM: This year, we have folk artists from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. We are hoping to add artists from Newfoundland next year.

To you what is the meaning of ‘folk art’?
JBM: Folk art by definition is the art produced by self-taught people—in other words, those who have not studied at art school, learning instead through trial and error or by watching others work. However for me, the meaning of folk art goes much deeper than that. Folk artists have a desire to create, without worrying about whether or not their trees are in perspective or the colour of the sky is “just right.” Some pieces of folk art have a strong spiritual message while others simply tell a story about a certain person or a specific day. Folk artists are often compelled to decorate their surroundings and they see possibilities for creating art not just with paint and paper but also with rocks, twigs, discarded shovels, bits of wood and old oil drums. There is no mistaking a piece of folk art because what you get is a peek into the soul of someone who is driven to create.

“There is no mistaking a piece of folk art because what you get is a peek into the soul of someone who is driven to create.”

What are some examples of pieces showcased at the festival this year?
JBM: This year’s festival features colourful painted carvings created by husband and wife team Laurie and April Thomas. There are also two large-scale metal sculptures crafted by Kerras Jeffery. Doug Dorken makes humorous relief carvings featuring images of fishermen and golfers. Holly Everett paints pictures of her seaside town using wild and wonderful colours while Maureen Newman produces lovely images of rural living. Leo Narcisse Robichaud’s work is that of a man capturing childhood memories, while Lorraine Ebbett Rideout creates cheeky woodland creatures on wood and stone. Brian Allen Adams shares unique images of the spirit of Canada, and I work with found objects and paint to make collages like the ones that made me smile back when I was a child in Holland.

For those who have never been to the folk art festival yet, what would you like them to know?
The folk art festival is a summer-long event. It begins in mid-June and continues through mid-October. People are welcome to come to Kingsbrae Garden to see the folk art located inside the gallery and outside on what is known as Memory Lane. If there are any folk artists who are interested in taking part in the 2014 Folk Art Festival, I would encourage them to contact me at

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