Local artist is turning her passion into a tourist attraction

Aggie Armstrong is one of three Tourism Oxford grant recipients

A local artist is hoping to use the winnings from an Oxford County contest to spread the word about art and artists in the area. Aggie Armstrong was recently awarded a three-thousand-dollar grant from Tourism Oxford as part of the “Spark” Mentorships and Grants Program.

Aggie, one of three local entrepreneurs to win the money, pitched the judges on an online course to teach her craft to others. She has been partnered with a mentor to help develop and market the course. The “Spark“ program is a partnership between the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab, Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation, Tourism Oxford, and Community Futures Oxford. “I am starting my online course at the end of March or the beginning of April. It is essentially the workshop I teach in person, but it will be a little more in depth. I can’t say too much about it and I haven’t launched it on my website yet, but it will be up soon for people to sign up,” she said.

Aggie Armstrong

Artist Aggie Armstrong paints at her easel in her rural Oxford art studio.

Aggie said what drives her is simply put, her love of art and she wants this area to be put on the map when it comes to art. “This is my passion. I want to spread art everywhere and show tourists that there is more than the old notion that in rural Oxford County everything is about landscapes and pastures with the arts. That is wonderful, but there is contemporary and modern art that is being made here by not just myself, other artists as well. There is bourgeoning diversity in our rural county.”

Aggie’s interest in art comes naturally. “I come from a long line of artists. My uncle is my role model, my mother’s youngest brother, he also has a fine arts degree and is a fine arts professor at the University of Philippines.” Despite that, her talents may not have come to fruition had it not been for her mother. “I was enrolled in an interior design program in the Philippines but when we came to Canada my mother took it upon herself to register me in the fine arts program at Fanshawe College in London. I was very annoyed by that because I thought the fine arts people were all weird, didn’t see the sun, and wore all black. But here we are today,” she laughed.

Aggie lives on a farm in Norwich Township which is normally a great place for her to work. She works out of an old milk house she and her husband transformed into an art studio. The pandemic has made it more difficult with her daughter in grade two and doing her French immersion classes remotely. “It’s quiet in the sense I am out here in rural Ontario, but my daughter is doing distance learning, so it has been hectic in balancing my business with her schoolwork and being a mother at the same time.”  Aggie teaches watercolour workshops, and she does some watercolour commissions now and then, but she has moved towards doing original artwork. “It is mainly painting with embroidery so essentially it’s mixed media. There are other people who do it on paper and I am not saying I am the only one who does this on canvas but there certainly aren’t many others,” she added.

Aggie was born in Manila, Philippines, and moved to London, Ontario when she was 18 years old. You can learn more about her artwork at https://aggiearmstrong.com.