A Walk In The Woods

I went for A Walk In The Woods last night, and it was fabulous.  The latest exhibition at the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery presented by the Kirschner Family Corporation, A Walk In The Woods features work from artist in residence Heather Shillinglaw and the students she was working with at Composite and Westwood high schools.

Using measured marks, pastels, chalk, watercolours, acrylics and collage, tapping into the beauty of the boreal forest, the students have produced a body of work that is inspiring, captivating and absolutely evocative.

Ben went back and forth picking out his favourites, though he had a difficult time trying to choose - there were so many great ones.

It was fun watching the high school students standing near their creations getting their pictures taken.  Being featured in an exhibition was HUGE to them, and they glowed with pride being part of last night's opening celebration.

In talking to Heather, I discovered that she had only been in the community for about a week and a half. In that short period of time she worked with the students on three different exercises, all of which are featured and beautifully grouped in A Walk In The Woods.

First, they worked on self-portraits, exploring their animal spirit.  Then they ventured into the forest to create stunning tree studies, further developing their use of layers and a mix of drawing materials, fabrics and materials.

Finally, they observed the strength of flowers and created stunning representations combining all the layering techniques they had learned in the first two explorations.

A First Nations artist, Heather draws on spiritual lessons and traditions going as far back as her great grandmother who was a medicine woman.

One of the highlights of the evening for me - I had offered to emcee the proceedings as my friend Adam Hardiman had another commitment - was meeting artist Emma Carter.  I had seen her in Elephant's Graveyard a few weeks ago, the one-act play from Westwood that will soon travel down to Red Deer for the Provincial One-Acts Festival.  In grade 11, hoping to pursue a career as an evolutionary biologist, Emma was one of the talented artists whose work is featured in A Walk In The Woods.  Articulate, confident, and remarkably talented, this young lady makes me optimistic about the future of the arts in our community, region and province.

Once a week, MacDonald Island COO Tim Reid has a father-son day.  As part of the ritual that includes swimming followed by a treat, the two always end up in the Community Art Gallery.  Liam is a big fan, and often doesn't want to leave; it's a great place to visit.  You should plan A Walk In The Woods some day soon.  The exhibit is on display through May 18.


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