Funding an artistic vision

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Liana Russwurm in her Alvinston home

It’s an age-old problem for artists, how to create and live at the same time.

And an Alvinston artist hopes she’s come up with an answer – crowd funding.

Liana Russwurm has always loved drawing. At the age of 36, she quit her job, moved to Toronto and enrolled in the Ontario College of Art. She completed a Bachelor of Arts and landed her first job as an artist painting murals.

Three months in, she fell from a scaffold, injured her back and suffered a concussion, bringing her dream of making a living from her art to a screeching halt.

For four years she dealt with the affects of the accident. After getting back on her feet and taking up her brushes again, she decided it didn’t matter where she lived as long as she could paint.

While visiting a friend in Blenheim, she found an old church for sale in Alvinston and decided she would put down roots.

She’s been working on a series of oil portraits called Dime Museum.

“It’s based on the old freak shows,” she says after reading through a series of old photos compiled in a book called Monsters.

Russwurm has painted a number of women – a tattooed lady and a woman who was born with shortened arms and legs – to challenge the world’s vision of beauty. “These are women who choose to look different…who embrace it,” she says.

“It’s beauty and strength – a different vision of beauty.”

It’s an issue she believes is important to explore through art since young women “don’t think of themselves as beautiful….girls still grow up without self esteem.”

Her work has already been widely acclaimed. One piece – Americana (seen at the right) – won the People’s Choice Award at the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery’s Juried Show.

Russwurm is anxious to complete the series – she has a gallery owner interested in showing the work. “He told me he hasn’t been this excited about someone’s art in a long time.”

As she approaches 50, Russwurm feels the need to finish the work but life gets in the way. The artist has to pay her living expenses and holds down two part-time jobs. And she’s been applying for government grants. But all that takes away from her work.

So she’s launched an online fundraiser to raise $10,000, enough she figures to keep her going until she can finish the Dime Museum series.

“I look at it like an Olympic athlete…the government pays them to train – why not an artist?”

She’s not expecting large donations, hoping only that enough people will share a little bit so she can continue her work. The campaign can be found at

“My work is not always pleasing to the eye and not everyone would like to hang one of my paintings over their couch,” she writes on the site, “but I believe that what I do is important, is a gift and is something that needs to be realized.

“I feel as if I have only had a chance to glimpse what it is I am capable of doing with my work.”