Travel Peterborough, ON: Mutt Day Among African Sculpture at ZimArt Rice Lake

How did I spend National Mutt Day, July 31, 2018?

Strolling through ZimArt Rice Lake Gallery outdoor sculpture park near Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. And I wasn’t even with my dog, Victor, a cocker-spaniel, Parson’s terrier, poodle, schnauzer mix. Now that’s a mutt.

But I could have been. Had I had Victor with me on my day tour checking out ZimArt, Elmhirst’s Resort (which is dog-friendly… more soon on dogtrotting.net) and Rolling Grape Vineyard, Peterborough’s newest – and only – winery, he would have been welcome.

Well, maybe not welcome at ZimArt but tolerated. (Check out Victor’s Guelph sculpture park experience here). Are dogs allowed to enjoy the privately owned outdoor sculpture park? I ask curator and owner Fran Fearnley, ‘Yes, if they are leashed, well-behaved and are picked up after.”

Standard rules, but I’ll admit Victor would love to run leash free past two ponds and through the treed park of stone sculpture, all imported from Zimbabwe. The gallery represents more than 50 artists and sells to regular collectors and one-time buyers (like me). “Some people who visit have never bought a sculpture before,” she tells me.

Works are hand selected by Fearnley during one of many, many visits to a country she’s been drawn to since first opening the gallery on her own property 19 years ago. Nine years ago, she made her passion project a full-time endeavour.

Zimbabwe is derived from a word that means ‘house of stone,’ primarily because the country is the only the African continent that has large deposits of stone – mostly Serpentines– suitable for sculpting. All artist selected by ZimArt hand tool all pieces using chisels and hammers, and Fearnley purchases work outright, participating in fair-trade practices.

Also, each year from May to September, one artist from Zimbabwe becomes the gallery’s ‘artist in residence’ – a program Fearnley started in 2001. Artists interact with visitors to the gallery, demonstrate carving techniques and lead workshops, one five-day for advanced artist and a two-day program for beginners.

The day I’m visiting (Mutt Day, remember?) artist-in-residence Tutani Mgabazi is at the park discussing his work that’s primarily inspired by beauty, specifically female beauty.

“The stone speaks to me,” he says, referring to rough uncarved stone void of any characteristic sheen associated with this style of African art. “This piece is about inner beauty,” he says guesting to several female faces in profile, “by capturing outer beauty.” Subtle curves and peaks in the polished stone defines perfect female cheek bones, jaw lines and suggestions of eyes.

peterborough 5What sculpture do I take home? Not one of Mgabazi’s, unfortunately. But a different artist: 33-year-old Thomas Nyamasoka from Guruve, Zimbabwe, who the gallery started representing this year.

Is it a dog? No, dogs (nor cats) are not popular subjects of these African artists, though hippos and wild bucks are. The odd mouse slips in here and there, and that’s the piece I select.

Although any of these sculptures can weather a Canadian winter as garden pieces (believe it or not), Nyamasoka’s ‘Mouse’ will stay in my office, maybe paying homage to the mice who’ve met an unfortunate fate thanks to my incredible hunter, Sally, a mini-black feline/panther who makes the field behind our house her personal Serengeti.

TRAVEL GUIDE: ZimArt Rice Lake Gallery is located at 855 2nd Line, Bailieboro, Ontario, about a 20-minute drive from Peterborough and a 90-minute drive from Toronto. The outdoor sculpture gallery is open June to October, daily from 11 am to 6 pm. Leashed dogs are permitted.

A short drive away but still in Bailieboro, you’ll find Rolling Grape Vineyard, the only winery in the area, opened in 2018 and specializing in orange wine. You’ll just have to try it.

Nearby, stay at Elmhirst’s Resort, a year-round family-owned cottage resort along the shores of Rice Lake, with designated dog-friendly cabins, spa and farm-to-table dining – literally, vegetables grown on site and cattle raised at the barn end up in the restaurant.

Or go totally eco at Island Spirits at Rice Lake and meet alpaca and sheep in charge of landscaping and shower in rain water. (Check out our experience on horsetrotting.net). Dogs also welcome, but most stay leashed to avoid chasing free-range chickens and rabbits.

Peterborough, site of Trent University, is also home to the Canadian Canoe Museum housing the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft including one dating back to the 1700s. Take a selfie with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s buckskin fringed jacket featured in the iconic Canadian photo of him paddling a … you guessed it … canoe. (Yes, he’s Justin’s dad).

Peterborough has a year-round Farmers Market in Marrow Park every Saturday 7 am to 1 pm and is dog-friendly outside during the summer. Check out the dogtrotting.net experience here: This Little Doggie Went to Market.


Bring your pet on your summer adventure and save 10% Off your next stay at Red Roof Inn with VP code 604673. Pets stay free at Red Roof Inn.

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