Empty Bowls Success

There was a moment when I looked up from my painting in McMurray Experience at Jubilee Plaza and observed what was happening at the Empty Bowls Festival in support of the food bank.  Directly adjacent to where I was painting with a few other people, scores of friends and neighbours were enjoying a hot beverage and conversation in Blue Mountain Bistro.  Out in the plaza, hundreds of people were sampling the tasty treats being offered up by multiple food vendors.  The place was packed, and the energy was super positive.

The importance of having a city square cannot be over stated.  As the community has become familiar with Jubilee Plaza, it is being used more and more in the way in which it was intentioned: as a gathering place for people, a place of celebration and festivity.  It felt like the Empty Bowls Festival was the pinnacle of that evolution.

My intention was to finish a portrait of Audrey Hepburn, famous actress and humanitarian, during the event.  However, you know what they say about best laid plans.  People kept coming in to watch us paint and the visiting became equally important to putting paint on the canvas.

"How many people do you think have come through?" asked Alix Murack, one of the McMurray Experience Coordinators.

"Gosh," I said. "I have no idea.  It's been busy.  A hundred?  Hundred-fifty?"

"Since this morning, 375 have come through," she said.

During most live painting events, I am a side attraction - a little something extra to add flavour to the event.  During the Empty Bowls Festival it was a little different.  Outside of the regular interactive features of McMurray Experience, our painting was the primary activity.  It made for a lot more engagement, which I absolutely loved.  The only downside was that the painting didn't get done.  I went back into the studio when I got home and brought it close to completion; I'll be finishing it up later today.

My participation in the Empty Bowls Festival turned out to be more about the act of painting and less about producing a painting.  People enjoyed coming over and looking over my shoulder, asking questions, and watching the scrolling slideshow on the wall with a selection of my previous works.  For Myra and Madison, it was about enjoying a creative, relaxing time in a great space.

My thanks to the folks at McMurray Experience for providing a brilliant space and being so helpful.  My thanks as well to the Wood Buffalo Food Bank Association and Arts Council Wood Buffalo for inviting me to participate.  It was a great day.


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