Local artist inspired by Halifax’s north end

Halifax artist Emma FitzGerald’s new exhibit reflects the diversity and beauty she sees in her neighbourhood.

By Ariel Gough

A drawing from FitzGerald's latest exhibit.
A drawing from FitzGerald’s latest exhibit.

Emma FitzGerald has always been a world traveller. Whether it was visiting her birthplace of Lesotho, Africa or studying abroad in England and France, she never missed an opportunity to immerse herself in new surroundings.

Her pen and drawing pad became her best travel buddies.

“I studied fine arts at [the University of British Columbia], but my parents are actually Irish and I was born in Lesotho. So I’m use to travelling a lot,” she said Monday. “Drawing made me feel at home in all of these different places.”

She continued drawing after returning to Canada from her travels and has been doing her artwork full-time since 2013. Her work can now be seen on her website: Emma FitzGerald Art & Design.

The comfort of home

FitzGerald, 31, moved to Halifax from Vancouver in 2004 to study architecture at Dalhousie. It was in the north end where the artist found the inspiration for her latest art exhibit, In The Neighbourhood, opening at MP Megan Leslie’s Community Art Gallery on April 5.

“[The north end] is where I’ve chosen to live and I think that’s where I’m most comfortable,” she said. “I’ve started at my door step and I’ll be working my way out to other neighbourhoods.”

To highlight diversity, the exhibit will feature both new and old drawings mainly of Gottigen Street, including the Bus Stop Theatre and the Mi’kmaq Child Development Centre.

West African inspiration

FitzGerald says she describes her latest drawings as “whimsical, but highly detailed.” She is often inspired by the work of West African artist El Anatsui.

“His inspiration is just walking in the street and seeing what people are using every day,” she said. “For me to walk in my neighbourhood and respond to that very directly, I think it’s a really nice way to experience life and make artwork.”

Community response

FitzGerald said she received interesting responses on past drawings she posted online.

[pullquote] “I’m so glad that I never gave up on myself and just continued. It comes from a place of real joy” – Emma FitzGerald [/pullquote]

“When I post it on the Internet, there might be people in other countries that get excited,” she said. “For the people in Halifax, sometimes things get dreary in the winter and your lens changes.  To actually look and notice that we have these amazing heritage buildings and walkable neighbourhoods, people enjoy that.”

Halifax art scene

FitzGerald said that while Halifax’s art scene is less competitive than larger cities and the local art community is very supportive, local artists are still facing challenges.

“We are struggling a little bit right now for spaces where art can be exhibited,” she said. “I’m really grateful for an office like Megan’s opening up her doors. If we could get more of that, there would be more opportunities to get work seen.”

Despite these challenges, FitzGerald encourages aspiring artists to keep pursuing their passions.

“Keep doing it,” she said. “I’m so glad that I never gave up on myself and just continued. It comes from a place of real joy.”

FitzGerald is currently working on an illustrated book that will be released in 2015. In the meantime, people can buy her prints at the Halifax Craft Fair this weekend or e-mail her at emma@emmafitzgerald.ca