August 16-September 12

Sonja Rainey describes herself as “a bit of a visual chameleon” trying out new techniques and working with a broad range of themes.” She thrives on collaborations, whether it is creating visuals for a play or a film.  

The Collaboratorium is an experiment in combining fragments of work from various art forms and giving them new meaning. This exhibit showcases the works of more than 100 talented artists and community members who have been a part of the making of the objects on display.

“I’m interested in bringing together and looking at the objects on display as specimens because they’re small pieces of what remains of a collaborative process of storytelling and art making, celebrations large and small and evidence of the time people have come together to share, create and mark a moment,” explains Sonja. ““The idea of placing these items out of context is almost absurd but like a sample in a Petri dish, they point to something we are drawn to, curious about, could study to uncover but are never to able to recreate completely. Hopefully they promote curiosity and questions about their larger context, what’s missing and the stories they came out of.”

Sonja studied at Concordia University in Montreal, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a specialization in Design for Theatre. While there, she took sculpture and drawing classes as well as design, directing and performance courses. The design course focused on the designer as an originator, visionary and creator of work just as much as any director or writer. This expansive approach led Sonja to a Design for Theatre Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Texas that concentrated on the designer as a generative artist. “Designers are every bit as much storytellers as the writers and directors and we have so much to offer and to learn from each other,” says Sonja. “These are the collaborations, where there is significant cross-pollination between artist and forms, that continually inspire me, challenge me and offer me an incredibility rich learning environment.”

The show is grouped into clusters of objects and imagery around major performances and events. “Each cluster attempts to piece together a story of the performance or event with the remains of specimens that might traditionally fall into the category of props, costume elements, puppets and process ephemera such as rough maquettes and sketches or working drawings. These objects are created by many hands and through the sharing of many people’s stories over a series of weeks or months,” describes Sonja. “My role is often to create a context for these stories to be unearthed and a form within which they can come together. This is an experiment and I’m interested in what happens when these objects travel outside their initial context and have space around them to take on a new life as a series of historical storytelling and collaboration artifacts.”

For the past three years, Sonja, who was raised in Bracebridge, has been working on a variety of theatre based projects that includes set design, costumes and prop making in Toronto. In 2012, she was nominated for a Dora Award for Outstanding Scenic and Outstanding Costume Design.

Sonja thrives on her work that requires constant adaption to new circumstances be it the people, project goals or a fresh story to tell. “This keeps me on my toes in a really inspiring way,” says Sonja. “The beginning of a project often feels like I am following a delicate series of threads with a flashlight. Some threads are so dainty they almost disappear, others become tangled with each other and some stop short unexpectedly. It’s often not until I’m near the very end that a broader beam of light can show how these threads have all been working together and lent themselves to the complex patter of the whole.”

The works on display are dear to Sonja and she is excited to share them with a different audience. “I’m hoping that the viewers to this exhibition will have a curiosity to create,” Sonja reveals. 


Sonja Rainey

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Located at 15 King Street in Bracebridge, the gallery is open year-round, Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm. It is closed during the last week of September and the second week of October as well as between Christmas and New Year’s Days. Please check the Calendar of Events for the actual dates. For a map, please follow this link.

Exhibitions are booked one year in advance.  To learn how to apply for a show, please follow this link: Exhibition Application.

The Chapel Gallery was opened in September, 1989. Housed in a reconstruction of the first Presbyterian Church in Bracebridge, the Chapel Gallery hosts exhibitions of art and craft by our members and other local and provincial artists. Exhibitions are selected by the Gallery Committee and change every three to four weeks.

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