Could the art world’s next Picasso or Emily Carr come from Vankleek Hill? Judging by the talent currently on display at the Arbor Gallery, that is entirely possible.

The new exhibition called Collective Emergence which runs until March 5 at Arbor Gallery, features collective works from the students of art teacher Stephanie Pete’s Art & Dream Studio.

“I have 35 students aged 4 to 18 and six adults currently enrolled,” says Pete.

The vernissage held on Friday February 4, attracted a large crowd of people eager to support and admire the young artists.

Prominent among the works on display were several paintings by Vankleek Hill Collegiate (VCI) student Matthew Steele, age 14, a talented emerging artist whose skill and technique are remarkably mature. He has been studying under Pete’s guidance since the summer of 2021 and is considering going to art school after finishing high school.

Another accomplished work on display is a drawing of a lion by 11-year-old Sophie Smith, who has been attending classes for over a year.

“It’s just fun,” she says.

A stunning pair of Transformers drawn by 14-year-old Evan Yang attracted a lot of attention. The Grade 9 VCI student, who lives in Hawkesbury, has been drawing since he was seven years old.

“When I see something I like, I want to make it,” he says of his creative process.

Adults not neglected

The work of Pete’s adult students occupy the gallery’s reception area. They include several vivid human portraits and a fetching oil painting of retired racing greyhound Ditto, done by his loving owner Madelaine O’Connor of Hawkesbury. O’Connor worked for many years as a medical artist but she says, “I’ve been painting all my life. Both Ditto and I are enjoying retirement.”

The Art & Dream Studio in Vankleek Hill is modelled after a 40-year-old program in Kingston, Pete’s hometown. “Karen Peperkorn who started the Kingston Community Art and Design project is my mentor,” Pete says. A graduate of Toronto’s prestigious OCAD University, Pete herself is skilled artist who has exhibited in Toronto and elsewhere, including a recent show at the Arbor Gallery called Ontario Birds – A Series of Oil Paintings. For more information about Pete and the Art & Dream Studio, go to

Arbor Gallery – Galerie Arbor is located at 36 Home Avenue, in the heart of Vankleek Hill. The gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 4pm. More information about programming and events is available on Arbor Gallery’s Facebook page, website or Twitter, by subscribing to the gallery’s newsletter at or by email at [email protected].

“I love painting nature more than anything,” says Steele who lives in L’Orignal.

Sophie Smith with her drawing of a lion on display at the Arbor Gallery. Submitted Photo
A stunning pair of Transformers drawn by 14-year-old Evan Yang attracted a lot of attention. Submitted Photo