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Renowned local artist Brenda Wainman Goulet has died, eliciting an outpouring of grief and disbelief from Huntsville’s arts community and beyond. Her death was confirmed by Billingsley Funeral Home. “We’ll be meeting with the family tomorrow,” said Kevin Billingsley.
Brenda was a graduate of Ontario College of Art and Design and a founding member of the Artists of the Limberlost. Her love of Algonquin Park influenced much of her bronze on stone works. Brenda’s life-like bronze sculptures have also received international acclaim. Locally, she created the statue of Tom Thomson at Civic Square, George at The Table Men’s Shelter, Donnie Eagles’ broom at the entrance to River Mill Park, and others across Muskoka including statues of Norman Bethune in Gravenhurst and nurse Rene Caisse, developer of the essiac herbal formula, in Bracebridge — a legacy that will keep her memory alive.
She also created, in collaboration with glass artist Susan Higgins, a new award to recognize long-standing volunteers and supporters of the Huntsville Festival of the Arts for its 25th anniversary last year.
Friends and fellow artists took to social media today to express their grief over her unexpected death.
Nancy Tapley, Lake of Bays Councillor, shared a personal story of a sculpture created for her family-owned Bondi Village Resort that captures Brenda’s passion and work ethic. “When Brenda created this incredible sculpture for us at Bondi Village, it was the largest outdoor piece she had done to date. Now it is small in comparison to the work she has done…but it holds such special meaning for us, as it honours our father Paul Tapley, who loved to fly, who loved and cared for this piece of Earth. Brenda brought the wax model out to be ‘tested’ in various poses. We went together to find the stone to mount it on. When it was installed, there was a live red tail hawk strutting his stuff on the statue, courtesy of a local falconer. Brenda made magic…
“Brenda caught memories in bronze and stone — heavy materials that she made transcendental and light. We were all so much richer for having her in our lives. We are all dimmed by her passing. Thank you, Brenda, for sharing even a small part of your time here with us. We think of you whenever we look at ‘our hawk,’ which is daily. In this place, Immortal means remembered. Rest in Peace. Fly free.”
Many mentioned her kindness and thoughtfulness; others pointed to her great talent, calling her a brilliant star and a gift to Canadian culture.
By mid-afternoon on Friday, several people had left bouquets of flowers in her memory on the Tom Thomson statue in Huntsville’s Civic Square. One bore a card reading, simply, RIP Brenda.
Brenda had a long artistic career that spanned 30 years. Her beautifully crafted pieces were sought after by collectors, but one didn’t need to be an art aficionado to appreciate the warmth and vitality of her work. It takes a talented artist to give such life to such unyielding materials.
She will be greatly missed by the Huntsville arts community and beyond. Our condolences to her daughters, extended family and friends.
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