Muskoka’s art community mourns beloved local sculptor Brenda Wainman Goulet

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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.

This sculpture of a hawk was created by Brenda Wainman Goulet for Bondi Village Resort in Lake of Bays (Photo: Nancy Tapley on Facebook)

This sculpture of a hawk was created by Brenda Wainman Goulet for Bondi Village Resort in Lake of Bays (Photo: Nancy Tapley on Facebook)

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.

By mid-afternoon Friday, January 19, several bouquets of flowers had been placed on the Tom Thomson sculpture in front of the Algonquin Theatre in memory of Brenda Wainman Goulet

By mid-afternoon Friday, January 19, several bouquets of flowers had been placed on the Tom Thomson sculpture in front of the Algonquin Theatre in memory of Brenda Wainman Goulet

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.

Brenda Wainman Goulet with some of her sculptures (Image: artistsofthelimberlost.ca)

Brenda Wainman Goulet with some of her sculptures (Image: artistsofthelimberlost.ca)

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42 Comments

  1. Hi Mallory and Dee, Bob Balena here writing from the Cook Islands South Pacific, so sorry to hear about your Mom, she was a wonderful artist, her work will speak for itself for many years to come. Dee I am loving your jewelry , will be back in Canada mid April, you both know you can call on me for any help you might need, love Bob

  2. Elizabeth Shulman on

    Brenda Wainman Goulet

    I imagine it started with an acorn ,like the one that adorns my neck. A beautiful piece that Brenda created without realizing how deep this seed would go.
    Brenda’s love of nature resonates through all of her artwork..and she was the first in many decades to capture that love of Muskoka.
    Over her lifetime she was able to reveal all that deep love and joy.
    The joy you have on a walk and look up at a tree, the fleeting sight of a hawk as the wind beneath its wings like magic sails across the sky.
    Through her sculpture she could envelope the emotion we have as we dashed down to the lake…heard the screen door slam and watched the wind stretch out the limbs of our majestic pines.
    Brenda didn’t miss a thing.
    She would see the beauty in everything and all of us,
    Often when I could not find any kindness in my own acceptance…she would..with few words .. Brenda would set the record straight and set me off into better days.
    How lucky can one be but to be a friend of Brenda Wainman Goulet.
    But you can be.. she would be delighted to see your expressions as you look at her sculptures.
    You can catch her spirit there on the wind beneath her creations and feel her deep love of humanity in all its miraculous forms .
    Brenda left us way to soon. My heart aches for her children , brother and grandchildren. Especially her mother Joyce Trafford who nurtured her children no matter what the weather .
    Muskoka has to endure a great loss.
    Her contribution will move us for generations to come
    I know she would want you to enjoy.
    Sincerely, A childhood friend xo

  3. Brenda you truly will be missed you were always so friendly and nice to me and everyone around you. You truly did beautiful works of Art.

    Sorry for your loss Joyce and Michael and family.
    Nancy Zepp Mokriy

  4. Like so many others I found out this sad news late on Friday afternoon. It is so very hard to believe and it leaves such a big hole in my heart. The art community grieves with this terrible loss. Thinking about Brenda all weekend and her loving and kind ways; her incredible talent and the legacy she has left behind in the beauty of her sculptures and her wonderful daughters. My condolences to the family.

  5. Cathy & Eric Lindgren on

    It’s really hard to comment on the loss of such a wonderful and dear friend. Brenda would have had an eloquent speech, a thoughtful poem, witty memories to share in such an event. She would get to the heart of the matter. I guess the thing is that we gained so much from everything we shared with Brenda- happy or sad. Her example of an exuberant life joyfully lived will always be with us. She was the best! Our sincere condolences to her family.

  6. It came as a shock to me (like many others, to hear of Brenda’s passing. I was well aware of her exquisite creations in many places, and I was thrilled and honoured when she invited me to collaborate on the statue, table, and bench project for the Table Foundation Men’s Shelter. Her positive, optimistic outlook brought a higher level of joy to its creation, and inspired me to keep at it when I was mired in frustration trying to carve triple angles in the three part bench backrest two winters ago. As with Kareen Burns not long before, her absence will be keenly felt for a long time to come.

  7. So sorry to learn of Brenda’s untimely passing…she will be missed…
    Her art will live forever.
    My sincere condolences to her family and many friends.

  8. There are no words to convey the sadness and loss for the Wainman family and for Brenda’s Daughters. She was a bright light that shone with grace and beauty that she then turned into art to contained her spirit. The loss of Brenda will be felt far and wide. She inspired so many of us and so many ways…

  9. Our families were just beginning to get our footing again after the sudden and tragic death of our beloved Paul Goulet 5 yrs.ago, when the earth fell away below our feet .
    Our hearts are heavier than all her bronze and rock sculptures put together. She put as much love, passion and workhorse ethic into her family as she put into her pieces.
    ” Aunt Brenda never says No !! “. She was an amazing Aunt to Grace, Harland and Rose and a truly beautiful sister to me. She had such a lust for life and she was so looking forward to adding more chapters to her story. She will leave a huge hole in all our lives. Thank you so much for all the condolences and kind words. They are difficult to read but are very comforting to all our family.
    Far too soon to say goodbye. We love you Bren.

  10. Joyce Trafford on

    I am reading all the wonderful comments on my daughter Brenda Beryl Wainman and my thoughts go back to her earlier years growing up in the park.. and on many trips from Cache Lake, as I was driving the car I would say to her “what do you see” and she would say in her little 2 year old voice, Rocks, trees and snow.. and in reflection that it what she became famous for her Rocks, we will all miss her and her talent, but I am so proud of her accomplishments, and i am sure her legacy will be seen through her daughters, all of them with a talent in their own selves, especially Danelle with her creative line of jewellery,, Brenda’s spirit will be with them throughout their lives,, rest in peace darling beloved daughter of mine love from Mom ( joyce Trafford)

    • Patricia Fowler Pace on

      Joyce, I am Marg and Bob Fowler’s daughter, Patti. I’ve just come across this horrible news and can’t tell’you how sad I am for you all! I’ve followed Brenda’s wonderful’work for years, as of course, her rocks, trees, islands and canoes really touch me. I can only imagine what you must be going through. Stay strong.

  11. I will remember you Brenda, your infectious smile & twinkling eyes that I see you inherited from your Mom & passed on to your beautiful daughters.
    I will remember our coffee chats, your love for everything South West, & the brown paper bag Luminaries, flanking the pathway one evening to the front door of your’s & Paul’s warm & welcoming home on Walker’s Lake.
    The place that you indeed created such beauty through your art.
    You certainly were a Bright Star, & I bet if your loved ones look up some nights, to the Muskoka sky, they will look for the brightest star up there & it will be you!
    I know I will.

  12. michael woodside on

    Truly a wonderful artist and person who gave so much to Muskoka especially in the Huntsville area. She will certainly be missed but thank god we shall always be able to experience her talent an dedication and memory when we pass the Huntsville Town Hall an see her statue of Tom Thanks so much Brenda for everything!

  13. Brenda was a very special lady, always warm and welcoming whenever one would meet her. Not only was she extremely talented, she was an exceptionally fine person. We were blessed to have visited her studio many times on the annual Artists Studio Tour, and to have 3 of her sculptures – a small one of Muskoka trees and a cottage on a rock, Shanibel Shore which has a Great Blue Heron, and a 20″ replica of her Tom Thomson statue. I also came to know her mother Joyce from when she worked at the Village Shop with Eunice. Brenda always gave of herself to her community, a bright light extinguished at much too early an age. My sympathy to her family, she will be missed by all of Huntsville and beyond.

  14. Peter and I send our deepest condolences to Joyce and Brenda’s three beautiful daughters. A great loss to our community but we have her beautiful sculptures to remember her always.

  15. Peggy Peterson on

    Brenda has left us a legacy that no one will ever forget , she inspired so many others to follow their bliss. I cannot imagine how her girls are feeling , the shock of losing their mom so young is unimaginable. Sending them love , we have lost a very bright light far too soon…

  16. Heather Hunter on

    As well as having three outstanding daughters Brenda also has a loving, supportive Mum whose name is Joyce Trafford who has lost her only daughter and friend . Sincere condolences to you Joyce as you deal with this tragedy. My thoughts are with you as well . Many Blessings on dear Brenda.

  17. Brenda, I had never imagined the arts community in Muskoka without you. With your sensitive and masterfully crafted sculptures dusted like stars around Muskoka, in the worst way, and the best way, I guess I never have to. Small comfort today.

    My heart goes out to her family and friends, those who loved her, and those who loved and appreciated her art.

  18. Chuck & Dorothy McIlravey on

    Chuck & Dorothy McIlravey – Kiwanis Club of Barrie
    Dear Halley, we are all quite saddened in hearing about the passing of your Mother. Her generosity, warmth and passion for Art will leave a Legacy for everyone to enjoy in the future. We send our love and prayers to you and your Family.

  19. Both John and I send our sincere condolences to Halley, Mallory and Danielle on the loss of their mother. Brenda will be greatly missed, not only by her family but by the community at large. Already flowers are appearing at the feet of her statue of Tom Thompson …. just one indication of the regard in which she was held, and the affection she inspired. This legacy of love and respect, as well as the tangible fruits of her talent will however, remain always. RIP Brenda.

  20. Brenda was an incredibly talented artist, long time friend, colleague and loving soul. Her loss leaves me and all those who knew her heartbroken. The community and the world has lost a truly bright light and we will deeply miss her. My heartfelt sympathy and condolences to her adoring family. Love, Elizabeth (Betz) Siegfried

  21. Russell Nicholls on

    Dear Brenda. I am so saddened to hear of your passing! You were a neighbour of mine for many years,
    a lovely person and an exceptional artist. You have truly left your mark on Huntsvile’s town hall steps, We will never forget you Brenda. My condolences go out to your three lovely daughters at this sad time.

  22. Marlee Hamilton on

    Brenda, you will be always remembered for your beautiful art, but also for three of the most beautiful daughters and most amazing grandson. I will always be grateful to you for bringing into this world my best friend Mal who has been there for me through thick and thin and has the most amazing soul, which I can only believe is a testament to the type of people you and Paul were. You will be very missed grammie Goulet! May you and your love rest in peace together forever now…. My heart is with your family.

  23. Dear Brenda. our lives are so much sadder now that you aren’t here. You left behind not only a legacy of art and beauty but a lasting friendship that brought such joy and comfort to all that knew you. It is hard to imagine that we will no longer be able to laugh and hug and be together. Mallory, Dee, Halley your mother was an awesome talent, a rare and exceptional human being, a champion for the arts and one of the most loving people we have ever had the pleasure to know. You were so lucky to have had such a wonderful mom. How to we go on without her? Much love. Ed and Dawn Novak

  24. Condolences to Brenda’s family and friends. May we always remember her kindness, shining spirit and creative talent. Brenda you will be greatly missed.

  25. I worked with Brenda this past year because of her involvement with various projects of the Huntsville Festival of the Arts. She was a vibrant and talented artist who has left her mark on the Arts community of Huntsville. She was often with her grandson and seemed to really be enjoying the role of Grandma. She was looking forward to her newest grandchild. Brenda will be missed by so many. My sincere condolences to her daughters.

  26. So saddened to here of this news! Brenda I did not know you personally but from what I know you left a beautiful legacy behind for your girls and our town. It is people like you who make this life so beautiful. You will be missed and may your girls & Family be comforted at this most difficult time in their lives. May your kindness, creativity, generosity and smile always be remembered. My condolences XO

  27. Karen Wehrstein on

    Shocked. Wanting to cry “Nooo!”
    .
    But we are impermanent.
    .
    At least, because she worked in a permanent medium, we will never forget her.
    .
    Brenda left her mark — her magnificent mark — on Muskoka like no other.

  28. So very very sorry to hear that Brenda is no longer here. She leaves a marvelous artistic legacy to our town and in my heart even though I only had a few encounters with her. She was a warm, wonderful person.

  29. My thoughts go out to Halley, Mallory, Dee and Paul and the new baby to come. Thinking of you lots. Huntsville will not be the same.

  30. Another great one gone, condolences to her family and friends and a big loss to us, who loved her work. Rest in Peace beautiful lady.

  31. Beth and I are shocked and stunned. We enjoyed the studio tours at her house…and her explanations of her stunning craft work. Her work was exquisite, evocative, oft whimsical, and mirrored her joy of life and appreciation of the gifts of nature. Her memory will live on as we pass by her works of art. To the three daughters, and the rest of the family, we share your grief. A life well led…a life well shared..may you cherish the memories, for they shall never be taken from you.
    Happy to meet. Sorry to part. Happy to meet again in the great beyond.

  32. Brian Thompson on

    Brenda was so generous with her time. A few years ago we arrived on her doorstep thinking she was part of the Autumn studio Tour. Turns out she wasn’t but still opened her doors to her studio to show us around, explaining how she worked and what was involved in creating her beautiful work. An afternoon that I cherish especially now knowing there won’t be another.

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