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New West art project showcases hope in a time of COVID-19

Visitors can check out the new works by the Garden Gals in the windows of the Anvil Centre, along Columbia Street, from Aug. 10 to 27
art, Hopeful Heart, Garden Gals, Brigitte Sterman
Hopeful Heart, by Brigitte Sterman, is part of the Garden Gals' new exhibition at the Anvil Centre.

At a time when no one could predict how long lockdown would be in effect and the world seemed to hold its breath, one woman had a vision: to create a mural that would inspire hope.

Merril Hall, a longtime New Westminster resident and facilitator of public art projects, was commissioned by the Arts Council of New Westminster to create an art project that could be accomplished within social distancing guidelines and eventually become an installation in one of the city’s public spaces.

Now New Westminster residents are invited to check out the result of that work with a new exhibition at the Anvil Centre, Aug. 10 to 27.

Hall is facilitator of the Garden Gals, a group of active sketchers and painters who share a passion for art in nature and who are all avid gardeners. Hall invited those artists to help create a mural project that would include images that evoke sentiments like thoughtfulness, kindness and appreciation.

Each painter created in isolation and was left to their own devices to choose a colour palette and format for their canvas. The only instruction was that each must include a heart and a flower and present an interpretation of the theme of Positivity During COVID-19.

With titles like Hopeful Heart, Downside Up, and The Window Between Us, the paintings carry the artists’ messages of how positivity can be witnessed in the world around us – and specifically right here in New West.

The mural project came about through the arts council’s Seniors Expressions Through the Arts program; the program’s advisory committee recommended it as a way to memorialize the experiences of living through the pandemic.

The mural is now being displayed in partnership with the Anvil Centre, thanks to an opportunity that’s available because of the facility’s closure. The paintings will be viewable through the centre’s ground-floor windows along Columbia Street.

“This is a unique way to showcase this timely project while the facility is closed,” said Todd Ayotte, manager of community art and theatres for the City of New Westminster.

Ayotte noted plans are underway to reopen the community art gallery at the Anvil Centre later in the fall.

For now, everyone is invited to turn out on Columbia Street to see the works; viewers are reminded to keep their distance and be responsible when occupying sidewalk space to view them.

After the exhibition, the paintings will be fused together to become an original mural.

“If we had all been together, I would have set the colour palette and drawn up the plan,” Hall said. “This way, each artist had their own freedom to choose their own way to connect with the theme. We thought of this as patchwork that would only all come together when the canvases were completed. In the end, we all feel incredibly proud of the work we were able to accomplish apart, together.”


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