COLOUR and a Sense of Com­mu­nity

Arabella - - CLAUDE LANGEVIN - writ­ten by Mark Bla­grave

Ju­lia Veenstra has prob­a­bly al­ways known what it means to be a com­mit­ted and con­tribut­ing mem­ber of sin­gle mom, Ju­lia was 13 when her mother died. Her older sis­ters, whom she de­scribes as “strong women with­out whom I would not be who I am,” held the fam­ily to­gether. Ju­lia and her hus­band have pro­duced a large adults who care about serv­ing their com­mu­ni­ties and causes that range from the en­vi­ron­ment to cul­ture. my life and my val­ues,” Ju­lia says. Among other things, it in­spires her: “to be a good ste­ward of the gifts I have been given, the world I live in and the com­mu­nity I am part of. De­spite some hard things that hap­pened dur­ing my child­hood I am thank­ful for my faith and what it has taught me. I try to con­duct my­self ac­cord­ingly.” Over the years, Ju­lia has found ways of us­ing her gifts to make an im­por­tant dif­fer­ence in a va­ri­ety of com­mu­ni­ties in very dif­fer­ent places. with a mis­sion­ary group in East Africa. In Tan­za­nia, she taught art to home-schooled chil­dren, and then, in Kenya, at an in­ter­na­tional school. She also put her train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence as a book il­lus­tra­tor to work, il­lus­trat­ing books for the mis­sion and help­ing with the Per­haps her most last­ing con­tri­bu­tion to her Tan­za­nian

com­mu­nity was the work she be­gan with a group of Maa­sai women ar­ti­sans de­vel­op­ing a mi­croin­dus­try mak­ing and sell­ing or­na­ments. “We started with eight ladies,” she re­ports, “and now have over 200 ladies creat­ing and earn­ing a liv­ing.” On the other side of the world, af­ter her re­turn to Hamilton, Ontario, Ju­lia dis­cov­ered, and found a com­mu­nity in, the re­viv­ing James Street area of her home city. What had once been “a thriv­ing cul­tural place” but had suf­fered in more re­cent years “was be­gin­ning to have a resur­gence and the cre­ative sec­tor was a part rented stu­dio space in a build­ing that had been bought and ren­o­vated by a group of peo­ple. Later, she and her hus­band and a friend bought and ren­o­vated the build­ing on James Street North that now houses her gallery and stu­dio. “I en­joy a street-level pres­ence and a spot in my own ‘Sesame Street’ of friends and busi­ness own­ers,” she en­thuses. The street’s reg­u­lar art crawls and grow­ing core of artist stu­dios and notes that “the ex­po­sure changed my ca­reer.”

Chang­ing Lands, Chang­ing Sub­jects

The re­turn to Canada from East Africa was ca­reer. “We moved back to Canada,” she re­calls, “and I left a dry dusty land full of beau­ti­ful peo­ple where I was at­tracted to the chang­ing colours of the land and be­gan to paint land­scapes.” What hasn’t changed is her pre­ferred medium: acrylics. For her bold bright land­scapes, she typ­i­cally starts with a red base and then chalks in the im­age. Fol­low­ing an ink­ing-in of the im­age with thinned paint, the colour block­ing

Pre­vi­ous Page, Forg­ing the River, acrylic on can­vas, 60” x 48” This Page, right, Above the Moun­tain, acrylic on can­vas, 48” x 48”

Pre­vi­ous Page, Wash Over Me, acrylic on can­vas, 60” x 36” This Page, left, Tree Line, acrylic on can­vas, 48” x 36”

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