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Art & Culture

Climate Activists Target Art at National Gallery of Canada in Wildfire Protest

  • Marilyn Walters
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  • September 18, 2023
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  • 2 minute read
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Climate Activists Target Art at National Gallery of Canada in Wildfire Protest

Climate activists from On2Ottawa target Tom Thomson’s painting at the National Gallery in Ottawa to spotlight Canada’s worsening wildfire crisis. One man arrested.

Key Takeaways
  • On2Ottawa climate activists target renowned painting "Northern River" by Tom Thomson at the National Gallery in Ottawa as part of their latest protest.
  • One man, Kaleb Suedfeld, arrested and charged with criminal mischief, while the group insists the paint used was washable.
  • The protest aims to call on the Canadian federal government to establish a national firefighting agency amid the country's most severe wildfire season ever.

A Vivid Stance at Noon: Art and Activism Intersect in Ottawa

It was an ordinary afternoon at Ottawa’s National Gallery until climate activists decided to make their concerns visible—quite literally. A bright hue of pink now graces “Northern River,” a classic 1915 landscape painting by the famous Group of Seven artist Tom Thomson. This bold action was part of a larger movement by the Canadian activist group On2Ottawa. Their call to action? They’re urging the Canadian government to roll up its sleeves and set up a national firefighting agency as wildfires ravage the nation like never before.

Washable Paint, Unwashable Concerns

Kaleb Suedfeld, the man who brought the paint to the canvas, was promptly arrested and is now facing criminal mischief charges, according to reports from the Globe & Mail. On2Ottawa took full responsibility for the splash of activism, asserting that the paint used was washable. In a video clip posted on their Facebook page, a protestor can be seen daubing the painting, subsequently gluing one hand to the gallery floor while reading a prepared statement with the other.

“Fossil fuel industries are gutting the living art that is our planet. And what’s the government doing? Absolutely nothing to curb these atrocities,” said the activist. On2Ottawa promises that more disruptions are scheduled to take place in the Canadian capital soon.

Climate activists from On2Ottawa target Tom Thomson’s painting at the National Gallery in Ottawa to spotlight Canada’s worsening wildfire crisis. One man arrested.

A Wave of Art-Protesting Activism

This isn’t the first instance where artwork has been the canvas for climate concerns in Canada. From drizzling maple syrup on an Emily Carr painting in Vancouver to coloring the tusks of a woolly mammoth model in Victoria, activists are growing increasingly creative in their methods of protest. And the stakes are rising; two individuals in Washington, DC, who targeted an Edgar Degas sculpture, are now facing federal charges and potential jail time. A collective of over 90 museum leaders have voiced their dissent, arguing that such tactics risk damaging irreplaceable works of art.

The National Gallery has since assured that the Tom Thomson painting, displayed behind a protective glass, suffered no lasting harm and will be returned to public view shortly. Meanwhile, public opinion remains sharply divided on whether the end justifies the means in this burgeoning form of protest.

Marilyn Walters

Marilyn Walters

Marilyn Walters is a seasoned news journalist with over two years of experience in the field. Known for her investigative reporting and insightful analysis, Marilyn has covered significant global events with an objective lens. Her relentless pursuit of truth and dedication to journalistic integrity have established her as a respected voice in today's dynamic news landscape.

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