Arend Nieuwland

Sculptor, Painter, Teacher

arendnieuwland

Published, EAC Communiqué, May 1992

I

In his home studio overlooking the Grand River between Elora and Fergus, Arend Nieuwland works to carve a loon from a rock of Brazilian steatite. Within the irregular shape he has seen the bird, its head turned downward over the left wing. In the rock the form of the loon has been roughed out with a saw, then refined with rasps and chisels. When polished to a fine finish with sandpaper of varied grades it will be a smooth, compact shape in grey-green variegated stone, a sculpture of beauty in form, texture, colour and interpretation.

Arend uses art media with true versatility; large acrylic canvases, finely detailed pencil portraits, sculptures in clay, limestone, soapstone and bronze all reflect a man whose secure technique frees him to communicate complex insights with directness. He sees the critical difference in art to be in objectives. Many of his works speak of time, remembrance and evolution. They sell extensively, but little importance is given to marketing or competition. When his works leave the artist’s inner world of creation, they leave his focus. In inner dialogue he asks himself, “is personal fame really important?”

arend_work2k

Arend was born in South Holland, land of islands and dykes. His family were housepainters who spent their leisure time painting Dutch landscapes. In 1959 Arend came with his parents to Canada. Entering high school in St. Thomas, he explored Commercial Art through a strong program offered in the curriculum. After working a year in a factory to fund further education, he extended his art studies by two extra years at H.B. Beale school in London. He attended the Ontario College of Art for four years, majoring in sculpture and winning the Emmanuel Hahn and Goldman scholarships. Two further years of fine art at the University of Guelph led to a Bachelor of Arts degree.

While considering teacher’s college after graduation in 1975, Arend took a part-time job as art instructor at the Guelph Correctional Centre (GCC). He has continued to work there for 16 years. When he arrived, inmates of GCC worked at limited crafts in their cells. He began drawing instruction in a small room, which became increasingly crowded as the creative arts program grew in popularity. The unexpectedly strong response of prisoners and the positive effects of Art Therapy led Arend to promote the idea of a true studio space within the Centre. In the early ‘70s, the present enhanced facility was constructed as part of a new recreation area, and Arend became a full time instructor. The studio is also a creative centre for his own work.

Teaching at the largest middle security Correctional Institute in Ontario, Arend has been trained in security procedures, but he reflects that there is little conflict in the studio, because the inmates participate by choice, on their own time. There are no guards in the studio. The freedom inmates experience here contrasts with the restraints of prison discipline and revives desirable orientations towards life. Achievements in the studio give offenders a chance to establish themselves on a new foundation. Feelings of satisfaction, personal uniqueness and pride begin to replace perceptions of worthlessness as the creators become aware, “This is mine! I am producing something meaningful from my own inner self.”

Arend was born in South Holland, land of islands and dykes. His family were housepainters who spent their leisure time painting Dutch landscapes. In 1959 Arend came with his parents to Canada. Entering high school in St. Thomas, he explored Commercial Art through a strong program offered in the curriculum. After working a year in a factory to fund further education, he extended his art studies by two extra years at H.B. Beale school in London. He attended the Ontario College of Art for four years, majoring in sculpture and winning the Emmanuel Hahn and Goldman scholarships. Two further years of fine art at the University of Guelph led to a Bachelor of Arts degree.

While considering teacher’s college after graduation in 1975, Arend took a part-time job as art instructor at the Guelph Correctional Centre (GCC). He has continued to work there for 16 years. When he arrived, inmates of GCC worked at limited crafts in their cells. He began drawing instruction in a small room, which became increasingly crowded as the creative arts program grew in popularity. The unexpectedly strong response of prisoners and the positive effects of Art Therapy led Arend to promote the idea of a true studio space within the Centre. In the early ‘70s, the present enhanced facility was constructed as part of a new recreation area, and Arend became a full time instructor. The studio is also a creative centre for his own work.

 The unexpectedly strong response of prisoners and the positive effects of Art Therapy led Arend to promote the idea of a true studio space within the Centre.

 

 

Teaching at the largest middle security Correctional Institute in Ontario, Arend has been trained in security procedures, but he reflects that there is little conflict in the studio, because the inmates participate by choice, on their own time. There are no guards in the studio. The freedom inmates experience here contrasts with the restraints of prison discipline and revives desirable orientations towards life. Achievements in the studio give offenders a chance to establish themselves on a new foundation. Feelings of satisfaction, personal uniqueness and pride begin to replace perceptions of worthlessness as the creators become aware, “This is mine! I am producing something meaningful from my own inner self.”

In approaching art, Arend teaches his pupils to look for the simple essence of a complex entity in order to solve problems. This skill can be transferred to problems in relation to society as well. Arend says: “When I resolve problems I face in my own art at the studio, the students learn as I learn. They feel my creativeness and see it as a patch to their own freedom.” He projects o the prisoners a strong belief that bad can be a positive force when analysed in constructive ways. In all bad there’s good, it is the underlying need that must be understood. His many years of work with offenders have affirmed Arend’s conviction that people who fall afoul of society should not be isolated in prisons, but should be brought closer to communities to discover more productive and satisfying ways of life.

Arend is a Director on the Board of the Prison Arts Foundation, which displays artwork of prisoners throughout the country. He is active in promoting and raising funds for the Foundation’s annual Juried Art Show in Brantford. The show not only provides incentives for the inmates, but also contacts with the public that diminish the prisoners’ fears of dealing with the outside world. When possible Arend takes one or two inmates at a time to visit galleries and exhibitions.

Arend parallels the effectiveness of art in fostering self-worth and identity in prison inmates with similar needs he sees in our own communities. He observes that the elements of building a foundation are the same for a village as for an individual. Public art in parks, streets and buildings should affirm the identity of the community as a true cultural stronghold and cannot be puppetry. He believes tax structures should provide funds for the artistic enrichment of a community and the preservation of cultural heritage.

The Nieuwland family has lived above the Grand River near Fergus for 15 years. In the garden where Arend planted many trees, deer can frequently be seen. An Osprey visits the river below the steep rock face, and a Great Horned Owl lives by a familiar cove. Inside the large, white house are many of Arend’s pencil portraits, sculptures and paintings. A striking, large acrylic canvas hangs on the wall by the upper staircase in which are depicted his sons, Justin, Roben and Jordan in bright sun hats, remembering themselves rushing in from the waves of a lake in summer. Gulls in the sky, a dragon, a unicorn barely seen in the clouds, convey the fantasy element of childhood. When Arend himself was a child in Holland, he and his wife Janny, were neighbours and playmates. They met again when Arend returned to visit Dutch relatives at 17. They wrote letters. In a few years Janny came to Canada and they married.

 When I resolve problems I face in my own art at the studio, the students learn as I learn. They feel my creativeness and see it as a path to their own freedom.

The loon sculpture Arend will soon finish is one of a series focusing on Canadian wildlife. Interpretations of buffalo, great horned sheep, stags, bear, and dolphin have already been completed. This sculpture series will be part of a group show at the Paul Burdette Gallery in Orton, May 29, as well as a show at Wellington Place in September with David Bloem. His work is represented in Waterloo by Aaron’s Gallery.

For Arend Nieuwland art is an international language, like laughing and loving. Through it we acknowledge and communicate who we really are.

by Beverley Cairns, May 1992

UPDATE – 1997

Arend is still teaching art at Guelph Correctional institute, and busy creating modern clay and soapstone sculptures in his Fergus studio. Recently Arend has ventured into his own custom art business, Newland Fine Arts, which specializes in paintings and drawings from customers’ favourite photographs, objects, and/or interests. Arend enjoys visitors to his studio, where he has a fine collection of works on display. He also shows his pieces professionally at various galleries.

UPDATE

In 2004, Arend Nieuwland retired after 26 years of teaching art at the Guelph Correctional Institute. He is pursuing painting and sculpture, and planning an expanded studio at his home.

arend_workk1