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PPE portraits: How a Vancouver art project is honouring front-line workers – CTV News



Julia Henderson said it began with an online post from her best friend, a Vancouver obstetrician.

It was in the early days of the pandemic, and the local doctor shared a photo of herself in her personal protective equipment, a mask obscuring part of her face.

“She wrote ‘Today, I’m not going to think about how awful it feels to approach distressed women in masks and gowns and face shields,'” Henderson said.

The message, which Henderson also shared online, continued: “I realized the degree to which I communicate by expression, by touch, it’s all gone.”

“She ended with, ‘I’m a scary robot,'” Henderson said.

The post, and the picture, became an inspiration.

“I had the idea to take that and try to make it look beautiful, and not scary and not dehumanizing,” she said.

Henderson, an occupational therapist and actor who is currently studying theatre as a post-doctoral fellow with Concordia University, had been transforming photos using an iPad app for years.

She re-posted her friend’s photo, but this time exploding with colour and surrounded by vibrant flowers, mask included. She also asked if anyone else on the page who wanted a similar portrait of them wearing their PPE. Right away, there were requests.

“I wanted to see how could I humanize it, how could I show that kind of internal character of these people, and their warmth and their sacrifice,” Henderson said.

Henderson has since started a Facebook page and Instagram account dedicated to the portraits, called Frontline Faces of COVID-19.

Portrait by Julia Henderson

Each image features a picture of a doctor, nurse or other health-care worker, wearing face protection and surrounded by bright, evocative imagery — oftentimes reflecting details about their own lives, and incorporating some of their favourite things.

“From that time, it just kind of took off. People who I don’t know have started to contact me,” Henderson said, and added some people get in touch to request portraits of front-line workers who hold a special place in their lives, including family members and friends.

“Some of them, I just look at them and they strike me a certain way. Some people will just say ‘surprise me.'”

Henderson said others provide details, such as a person’s favourite colours or love of the outdoors.

Health-care worker portrait by Julia Henderson

In one portrait, Henderson said she used imagery to symbolize the two children of an emergency room doctor who had to isolate from them.

“I did the little dragonflies to represent her children, who are always with her even when they can’t be,” Henderson said.


Henderson is producing and sharing the portraits for free, as a way to honour front-line workers during the pandemic.

“I know so many people personally who have been living apart from their loved ones,” Henderson said. “It’s an expression of deep gratitude and thankfulness.”

And a way, she said, to let people’s inner beauty shine through: “that even with the masks, we could see their humanity and what they were giving.”

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Art school in Penticton forced to vacate historic home during pandemic –



A 60-year-old arts school in B.C.’s Okanagan is scrambling to find a new home after the Penticton school district opted not to renew the lease.

The Okanagan School of the Arts says it’s being booted from the historic Shatford Centre in Penticton, B.C., where it’s rented space for community groups and hosted art, music and theatre classes for the past 10 years.

The school has leased the building from Okanagan Skaha School District 67 for the past decade. 

The district has asked the school to clear out by June 30 when the lease ends. Kim Palmer, the school’s executive director, says it faces the “enormous task” of emptying the building within weeks.

The school, she said, is filled with valuable and specialized equipment, including pianos, commercial kitchen appliances and art supplies. 

“At the moment, we don’t know where it will go,” she said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the school in March, eliminating its rental and programming revenue.

The school leased the century-old building for a dollar a year but was responsible for maintenance, utilities and insurance. When discussing the June lease renewal, the arts school asked the district to cover $80,000 in operating costs and keep the site running for the community.

Palmer said, in response, the district told her the lease would not be renewed and to vacate the building by the end of the month. 

She said the province’s  emergency order protecting small-business tenants from eviction during the pandemic does not apply to the school, given its yearly $1 lease.

Priority is spending on students, district says

School District 67 chair James Palanio said the district can’t afford to keep the school afloat.

The arts school has spent about $2 million on maintenance over the past 10 years but more is needed and the district can’t afford it, he said.

“We just can’t spend anywhere other than on the kids,” Palanio said on CBC’s Daybreak South.

Palanio said the district is not evicting the arts school. He said it failed to provide insurance information in January when the lease renewal came up. The school only submitted its proposal in late May, he said.

“We have our own deadlines to meet as well,” he said. 

The district has no plans to sell the building, Palanio said, and will be eyeing future plans for the site in late fall.

Palmer said the arts school is also looking at other locations.

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Inuit artist's works featured in Warsaw's Museum of Modern Art – Nunatsiaq News



This untitled drawing by Kinngait artist Qavavau Manumie is one of eight works by him included in an exhibition that opens today at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. The exhibit, “The Penumbral Age: Art in the Time of Planetary Change,” runs until Sept. 13. You can view the exhibition online. (Photo courtesy of the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative)

By Nunatsiaq News

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COVID-safe art viewing – The Kingston Whig-Standard



The Gaskin Lion, build to commemorate John Gaskin who advocated to create Macdonald Park in 1891, boasts a historical and cultural City of Kingston plague on Sunday June 21, 2015. Steph Crosier/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

It’s a good thing that not all art resides indoors, otherwise art lovers would really be in for it right now. Even if you have art decorating your home, it’s probably getting a little stale at this point – so what a wonderful thing it is that we can get outside and also enjoy some safe art viewing.

It’s true. Many of us are probably guilty of assuming that art is principally enjoyed indoors when viewed on the walls of galleries (public and commercial), businesses and institutions, and/or in peoples’ homes. While this is probably true a large percentage of the time, it is certainly possible to enjoy art in a variety of environments, and it is a welcome diversion to do so. Now – as the weather warms but before the heat of summer hits and while we are still practising social distancing – is the perfect time to discover some outdoor sculptural art.

The Kingston area has, you may be surprised to know, a good amount of outdoor, or Public Art (though not nearly enough, yet). Public Art is pretty much the norm in many European cities, so we have a lot of catching up to do, but the city is apparently working on it if the Public Art Master Plan is anything to go by. What we have so far is worth exploring, and herewith are a few suggestions.

East of Kingston on the west side of Gananoque is a little-known but captivating sculpture garden, just past the bridge if you drive in from Kingston on Highway 2 east, in Confederation Park. While much of the work dates from the late ‘60s, the 70’s, and into the ‘80s and will not appeal to everyone’s taste (which is OK), there is enough here to fill everyone’s cup of artistic enjoyment – particularly with the inclusion of work by local and regional artists. These latter works, such as Rick Lapointe’s “Pitch Pine,” celebrate the beauty and history of the local area through the unique perspective of the artist’s eye.

Within Kingston, there is an array of opportunities to view individual sculptures and sculptural groups. At Queen’s University (including the Agnes), there are at least nine outdoor sculptural works scattered across the campus. All of these are contemporary artworks, each very different from the other. You can find a map and some summary information at, and other internet searches will reward you with some unique interpretations of these Public Art objects.

Along Kingston’s waterfront, you can enjoy both the scenery and some large works – which you may have seen so often that you no longer notice them. It’s time to take another look, friends. The biggies are “Tetra,” at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, “Pollution,” in MacDonald Park and “Time,” in Breakwater Park. While these may not appeal to everyone, they do have a story to tell. With respect to myth-busting, however, the two arms of “Time” are not designed to eventually touch on the basis of its materials degrading (which is an oft-told story). Rather, the two pillars may eventually touch because the sculpture is built on a fault line, which puts a completely different spin on things. On a smaller scale is the beloved Gaskin Lion in MacDonald Park, featured in many family photos. While it may look like an animal left behind from a carousel, this majestic lion is a quite detailed bronze sculpture (restored in 2010), a media that requires some skill to achieve a good result.

In the core of downtown Kingston, you have to look a little harder to spy out some of our outdoor sculpture. An easy one is the Brock Street Art Project, with works by local sculptor Stefan Duerst. As for the others, I’ll give you a hint – look up! There is another work by Duerst on the exterior of Studio 22 on Market Square, but there are works by other artists scattered around on various buildings and in alleyways, many of which add an aspect of whimsey to their environment. If you want a little help in your sculpture scavenger hunt, check out the website of Martello Alley artist collective and watch the videos created by proprietor David Dossett, who himself recently sought out many of the sculptures in and around Kingston:

If bronzes are your thing, across the LaSalle Causeway on the campus of Royal Military College you will find at least two – the life-size bronze of a cadet, fondly known as “Brucie,” and a bronze and cast stone sculpture titled “To Overcome,” which has some resonance in present circumstances. There are also bronzes in City Park, including (yes) the large Sir John A. Macdonald memorial, and the 21st Battalion War Memorial. Memorials have an interesting place in sculptural art history – much too involved to get into here – because so much Public Art is memorial in nature. For example, Celtic Crosses (at least four in Kingston) are highly decorative memorial works but have a poignancy and depth of cultural history that goes far beyond their surface appearance.

This is just an overview of outdoor sculptural works that it’s possible to view in these days of social distancing. It’s the perfect time to get out there and explore them. Stay well, everyone!

And kudos to those folks who spotted the error in one of the image captions for my last column. The figure in the Ravenna mosaics is, of course, the Empress Theodora (not Isabella). The fault was mine – I can’t imagine where my mind was at the time.

Kamille Parkinson earned a PhD in art history from Queen’s University and is currently a freelance writer and art historian at large. You can find her writing at Word Painter Projects on Facebook, and can contact her at

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