Paint your part of Bowenia on Canada Day

From fish to flowers to maple leaves, the community painting takes on a different flavour every year, but all four (so far) have Rebecca Smith's fingerprints

What happens when you let five-year-olds loose with a Gustav Klimt painting? For the good of art lovers everywhere, let’s not find out, but Rebecca Smith’s come pretty close.

Every Canada Day Smith organizes a community painting. She paints a background, sets up the paint and brushes, sets out the water and then stands back.

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Anyone and everyone is invited to add to the piece of Bowenia.

“I love to see it on display and know there’s a memory attached,” said Smith.

The first year Smith did the project, in 2014, she set up a work inspired by Klimt’s Farm Garden. The result echoes the famous painting from the early 20th century but some of the flowers have smiley faces and the odd slug found its way onto the canvas.

Back in 2014, Smith stood by, waiting to provide guidance for shy young artists, but no such instruction was needed. At the end of the day she outlined the flowers to make them stand out against the dark green background, but otherwise didn’t correct any lines.

Ever since, July 1 has seen a new community painting.

For Smith, it’s also a sort of anniversary. The teacher, with a degree in developmental art, moved to Bowen on Canada Day 2013.

She and her husband came here in an attempt to redesign their life to suit the needs of their son, who has since been diagnosed with autism.

When she first arrived, Smith worked at BICS. Word spread she was an art teacher, and she was approached with the idea of a community painting.

“I really liked the idea of giving back to the community I joined,” said Smith. “My vision was that they could exhibit the works and then maybe auction them, putting the money toward a community centre,” she said. 

While some of the paintings have found permanent homes, including at the municipal hall, Smith still hopes that some of the paintings could be auctioned.

There’ve been four so far. There was a sea-themed painting, for which Smith collected fish stamps from India. There was a Canadian flag driftwood mosaic for the flag’s 50th anniversary in 2015. Last year featured the styled maple leaf symbol for Canada150 with graffiti-like painting around it.

This year’s painting will be inspired by Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom.

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