The Story Behind the Trees: Art Installation Reflects Strong Ties to Oro-Medonte Forests & Culture

The Story Behind the Trees: Art Installation Reflects Strong Ties to Oro-Medonte Forests & Culture

family of three looks at art tree in front of HQ restaurant and motor bikes

The groundbreaking Art_Trees public art project that brought seven outdoor art pieces to local businesses in Craighurst continues to attract visitors sharing artistic depictions of local culture, history and natural wonders.

The seven-foot tall trees sculptures are on display for self-guided tours, they were created as part of an initiative to enhance public spaces through the My Main Street Program. Each sculpture was painted by talented local artists with ties to Oro-Medonte, depicting scenes that reflect the natural beauty and rich history of the Township.

Forest Connection

The Art_Trees project draws inspiration from the thriving local forests that Oro-Medonte is known for, while celebrating the pristine woodlands and trails locals and visitors can enjoy. As Simcoe County Forest turns 100 years old in 2022, the timing of the Art_Trees unveiling was auspicious. Many of the artists chose to lovingly render scenes of trees and natural creatures in their art pieces.

colourful art tree of heron by Angela Aujla in Craighurst Art tree of silhouette of trees with colourful background in front of Foodland grocery store in Craighurst

Artist Angela Aujla created a design that showcases the wonderful birds and native plants that live in our area such as barred owl, bobolet, green heron, purple coneflower and spotted Joe pye weed. She explains, “I think this design represents how significant and meaningful the natural landscape, such as the Copeland Forest, the moraine, and also farm fields are as habitats for unique and diverse species.”

Margaret Ferraro’s delightful work also conveys a connection to nature, displaying light and colour peeking through leaves one would find while enjoying the canopied forests. Margaret has a love for nature and enjoys conveying this in her work. She has a studio located in Oro-Medonte, the Ice House Studio Gallery, and was excited to participate in this local project.

Art tree of black and white osprey birds by MJ Pollak in front of Loobies Restaurant

MJ Pollak, in her Art_Tree design, showcases the beautiful local birds that she meets regularly on her waterfront bike rides along the Oro-Medonte Rail Trail. Her inspiration she says was reflective of the “wonderful nature of this area, I get to see herons, osprey, trumpeter swans, bald eagles and wonderful rare species regularly in the area.”

Meg Leslie a local mosaic tile artist and project coordinator completed the fascinating work on a smaller two foot tree that travels throughout the area.  Meg’s inspiration came from a local Oro-Medonte conservation property, the “East Coulson Swamp Nature Reserve” and she found a quote about trees from Margaret Atwood, “Take me to your Trees” which fit perfectly with this project.


Portraits of Local History

art tree of old building by Kathryn Kaiser in front of Dwellings shop in Craighurst Art tree of golf courses by Paul Baxter in front of HQ restaurant in Craighurst art tree of farm scenery by Marlene Bulas in front of Craighurst convenience store

Artist Kathryn Kaiser painted her tree with inspiration from her ancestral family tree. She recently discovered that her estranged grandfather was among the first settlers to the area. Her one side of the tree also depicts The Oro African Methodist Episcopal Church, which is now a designated National Historic Site of Canada. “This art project has led me to a deepened connection of the area in which I now find myself living. There is still much to discover,”  she explains. (Kathryn has written her own blog about her tree and the connection to family history and stories of Oro-Medonte)

Artist Paul Baxter painted his tree to show special cultural moments and locations in Oro-Medonte. His paintings include a magical moment when Neil Young played piano in the woods at Burl’s Creek. Claiming a special personal connection to each space and place, he also depicts Settler’s Ghost Golf Course in Horseshoe Valley, McCutchen’s Farm & Maple Syrup and Milton’s Maple Syrup Shack. Paul shares that he is “forever inspired by what Oro-Medonte has to offer – the landscapes and traditions.”

Marlene Bulas a local artist who grew up in Oro-Medonte on Robert Miller’s Farm, channeled her own family history in the creation of her art tree which affectionately shows her father and the pastoral property of her childhood. This piece shows the rural character one can find when driving or cycling through the rolling hills of Oro-Medonte. She also included a general store which is now the Ye Old Country Store B&B and an old school house which is now Oro-Medonte Veterinary Services.


Gateway to Four-Season Fun

Artist Tanya Cunnington, grew up in the hills of Moonstone and has found memories of epic bike rides with her mom. She was excited about participating in this public art project sharing, “it was the rolling hills and beautiful landscapes that inspired her artwork.”

Oro-Medonte is a mecca for outdoor activities all year round. Visiting the art trees installation is the perfect segue to explore the area to trace the local places and scenes that inspired the artists. The Copeland Forest protects 4,400 acres of woodlands that are wonderful for hiking, cycling, horseback riding, snowshoeing, mountain biking, birdwatching and more. Hardwood Ski & Bike and Horseshoe Resort offer bike and ski rentals for use on local trails, and the resort has overnight accommodation and mouth-watering dining options on site.

To indulge your senses in more local art, visit the Images Studio Tour which takes place in Oro-Medonte on Thanksgiving weekend.  This year, over thirty outstanding artists and craftspeople, including Art_Trees artists Margaret Ferraro and Marlene Bulas, will exhibit their work over four days at over a dozen different studio locations. Visitors can browse and shop for original art, pottery, sculpture, jewelry and many other locally made fine arts. Some artist studios are open year round.

Self-guided car tours, motorcycle rides and walks are all excellent methods of exploring the region. Fall is a wonderful time to visit as the tree canopies glisten with enchanting shades of red, orange and yellow, check out local fall tour ideas. Many local businesses are open all year and visitors are welcome to explore the region’s culinary, shopping and outdoor activities. Destinations like Quayle’s Brewery offer a seasonal food and drink menu that incorporates ingredients grown on the land in Oro-Medonte, while enjoy indoor and outdoor spaces.

Plan a day or overnight visit to Oro-Medonte to see the Art_Trees project and more.

While you’re planning your visit, get the whole family involved and print an art tree colouring page. You can create your own design! Visit the Township of Oro-Medonte website for more information. Take your own photo with the Art_Trees of Oro-Medonte and tag #Art_Trees and share your own story of the trees.



Make sure to visit the local businesses in Craighurst where the Art_Trees are displayed – Loobies Restaurant, Guardian Pharmacy, Corner Gas, Foodland, Dwellings, HQ Tap House and Chelsea Chocolates.


The Craighurst Art_Tree Public Art Project was made possible through My Main Street Community Activator program as part of a $3.5-million investment by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

My Main Street Ma Rue Principale