With the renaming of a famous art gallery, Hilda Woolnough, a P.E.I. artist, is being recognised and honoured 14 years after her death.
The Hilda Woolnough Gallery has been renamed at The Guild in downtown Charlottetown. The gallery opened a retrospective of Woolnough’s work on Nov. 18.
“I think it’s about time,” Gail Rutherford, a P.E.I. artist and Woolnough friend, remarked.
“Without Hilda, we wouldn’t have The Guild because she was convinced that she could make it work.”
Woolnough was crucial in the founding of The Arts Guild in Charlottetown, which is today known as The Guild, as a home for artists at a time when the capital lacked much of the same.
Rutherford, the late artist Erica Rutherford’s partner, recalls going to Charlottetown with Hilda to look at properties that may be used as an arts space. A Royal Bank branch used to be housed in the building that currently houses The Guild.
“Hilda had the wisdom to understand that [the building] was available despite its difficulties,” Rutherford added.
“She went and got this enormous deal where she got the place for absolutely nothing,” says the narrator.
Woolnough’s son, P.E.I. filmmaker John Hopkins, recalls the crucial moment when the space was acquired.
“Somehow, in her lovable style… She had a certain attitude about her. It’s a three-and-a-half, four-million-dollar structure, and she persuaded the bank out of buying it for a dollar “On Mainstreet P.E.I., Hopkins told host Matt Rainnie.
The Guild grew a thriving artistic community as a result of the transaction, which is still going strong today.
Woolnough was born in England and moved to P.E.I. in 1969 after immigrating to Canada in the late 1950s.
She mostly used sketching and printmaking in her artistic career. She established a printmaking studio in the Guild’s basement, which is now the location of the gallery.
She started an art journal, multiple galleries, and a publishing firm with her partner, writer Reshard Gool. She also taught painting to multiple generations of children on the island.
“She could sense skill and desire and she would support it,” said Pan Wendt, curator at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, who met Hilda when he was in his mid-twenties.
“She bolstered my confidence. She was forever encouraging me to keep writing, “Wendt stated.