The crisp air carried the scent of the drying acrylic on a canvas. The sun would have barely risen and Mary Krohnert would already be covered in paint. While most children ran down to watch Saturday morning cartoons, Mary woke up to paint with her father, Pickering-based artist and graphic designer John Krohnert.
The same eclectic environment Mary spent her childhood in is mirrored in her new home, The Livingroom Community Art Studio. At the Livingroom, community members from every walk of life are welcome to come into the studio and create art out of the different materials available at the studio at no charge.
Her mother, Ruth, was a stay-at-home mom who always encouraged crafting among her children.
“There was always artwork in the house,” Mary says. “My mom was always making things with her hands. I remember making salt dough flower picture frames.”
Mary has always been an avid reader too. When she wasn’t reading poems from Shel Silverstien, she was reading and telling stories she learned from the Pentecostal church.
This was one of the catalysts then to her career as an actor.
Mary studied stage and screen acting at Ryerson University. Her most recent projects include the web series August in the Underworld and Nocturne, which is premiering at both the Kansas and Warsaw International Film Festivals and the Indie Spirit Film Festival in Colorado.
She began looking for an outlet where she could combine her two passions, art and acting. She began school at the Toronto Art Therapy Institution to become an Art Therapist.
The thought of the studio began in 2007 when Mary was studying there and came across an article by Janis Timm Bottos. Mary was intrigued by the concept of a place where members of the community could walk in from anywhere and make art, for free.
The article planted the seed in Mary’s mind six years ago, and it has grown into a flower in full bloom.
After years of having pop-up galleries in small venues across the Durham Region and filling out multiple grant applications, the Livingroom Community Art Studio now has a permanent residence at 149 Simcoe St. in Oshawa.
“I think we’re all doing a lot of amazing things in our own living rooms and our own living spaces and I liked the idea of coming together to do those things,” she says. “Art spaces like this tend to revitalize neighbourhoods and make the areas around them more colourful.”
The move was made possible by a Trillium grant for $38,000. She says the money is being used to hire a studio coordinator, pay for rent, fundraise and materials not supplied by generous community donations.
“You never know what kind of things are going to happen when people come together to make art,” she says.
Kat Gravel is an advertising student at OCAD in Toronto and has known Mary for just over a year. She has gotten to know her from attending and volunteering at the pop-up events put on by the Livingroom and now at the new studio.
“She brought a new establishment to the community,” she says. “No one has approached art publicly this way in Oshawa.”
She says that Mary has always been extremely mindful of those who come to make art by asking them if they need any help and to share their story, whether it is why they came or is there is any message or meaning behind what they created.
The grand opening of the space will not be until early November but is currently open for community members. Already she has seen people coming in and connecting over art.
Recently, there was a little girl, about five or six, making art with her father. He was teaching her new things and bonding over a paintbrush. It was in Mary’s new home, the studio, but this time it wasn’t her and her father but two strangers reliving the same memory that made her the artist she is today.