Artistic alchemy brewing in Vermilion

Vermilion Arts
Photographer
Jeremy Derksen

Artistic alchemy brewing in Vermilion

Jeremy Derksen for ZenSeekers’ #TakeItToTheLake Expedition

Vermilion, AB - Kim Chomyk breaks into a grin as the shape of a bowl begins to emerge from the potter’s wheel, under the careful coaching of Heather Milan at the Pottery Guild in Vermilion. Chomyk and her husband Eric have come to Vermilion for the day to explore the local arts scene.

A quiet renaissance is underway in the tiny prairie town. Painters, sculptors, distillers, cheese-makers, and restaurateurs are taking inspiration from and building on the raw materials they find in the region.

But ask locals “why here?” in this eastern Alberta town of just 4,150 wedged between nearby roadside attractions and prairie farmland, and they are hard-pressed to explain.

It’s very Vermilion to love fall. #TakeItToTheLake and start your plans here.

“There are a lot of artists, a lot happening artistically in this town and I don’t really know why, but I think it’s great,” says Cindi Plant, who teaches art classes at her Heartworks Studio.

Even the town’s mayor is into the scene. Caroline McAuley drops into Heartwork Studio during the batik workshop Kim is attending, ties on a Heartwork apron and gets to work. You can try your hand at batik by signing up for the next workshop on Oct 26.

Vermilion
Photographer
Jeremy Derksen

Pottery classes at Heartwork Studio.

“It just began as a bunch of things that started brewing,” says McAuley, “and now it’s become a place and other communities are looking at us, asking how come?”

Down on Main Street, the Red Brick is buzzing with lunch patrons in a space that could easily fill in as a set on Portlandia, the popular TV show that parodies life in Portland, Ore.

Early afternoon finds Kim and Eric browsing wares at Art in the Park, an annual arts festival held each September. Steaming cinnamon buns come out of an open-air, brick oven in the centre of the park, mixing with the pleasant smell of early fall.

The Red Brick, a popular meeting place in Vermilion has a Portlandia vibe. 

There is a quiet artfulness in many aspects of daily living here in Vermilion, it seems.

Perhaps Todd Ree sums it up best. “A plumber, an electrician and a builder were sitting at a bar, and in walks a reproductive physiologist,” he begins.

It sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s actually his way of explaining how Copper Cork Distillery came into being. Ree is the reproductive physiologist; his partners comprise the other three. The distillery is set to open fall 2019, with creative, tasty concoctions that could only be the brainchild of such a unique pairing.

Vermilion
Photographer
Jeremy Derksen

Copper Cork Distillery is set to open in late September. 

Maybe it’s the alchemy of land-based craftsmen, artisans and academics that is spinning a new kind of prairie gold here in Vermilion.

“You make something with your hands, you do it on your own, and when people try it, the reaction they have… that is what drives me,” says Patrick Dupuis, founder of Old School Cheesery, only the sixth cheesemaker in the province of Alberta. The high demand for his products, in grocery stores and restaurants across the province, speaks for itself.

Back at the Pottery Guild, with clay-covered hands but a smile on her face, Chomyk’s reaction is obvious and immediate. When you channel the head, the heart, and the hands into a tangible product, there is something deeply satisfying about it. Whatever the cause of Vermilion’s transformation into a burgeoning art community, you can’t argue with the results.

When You Go

Check out Vermilion’s home page to get a copy of its business and community guide, which will make planning your visit here a snap.

Try your hand a Batik, a cool form of fabric painting, at Heartworks Studio on Oct. 26. Check out their Facebook page for details. 

How many communities do you know that have a Good Life Institute? This community hub produces a ton of events and programs to keep citizens and visitors engaged in everything from learning workshops to sporting events.

For more on how to #TakeItToTheLake this summer, search the tag on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or read more here.

Our friends at Travel Alberta want you to #ExploreAlberta this summer. Get going by visiting www.TravelAlberta.com

Be sure to let us know what you find and share your adventures with the hashtag #TakeItToTheLake and #ExploreVermilion because you might be featured on ZenSeekers and our partners' social media channels.