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Saskatoon ICU nurse creates COVID-inspired art with vaccine-vial caps –



While the COVID-19 vaccine has been called liquid gold by those who anxiously await their shots, the colourful caps from empty vaccine vials have become the golden touches in a Saskatoon nurse’s pandemic-inspired artwork.

Shawn Toovey is a 51-year-old registered nurse who treats COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit of St. Paul’s Hospital. He and his co-workers collect clean medical plastics that haven’t touched patients, including IV tubes and syringe covers, so Toovey can recycle them into artwork.

“This is kind of the star of the show here lately,” he said, sitting in his art studio, holding up a purple cap from a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine bottle. He also likes yellow caps from bottles of saline that’s mixed into vaccines for injection.

Toovey said each vaccine cap “symbolizes hope” in his artistic pieces, which also feature discarded medical packaging from COVID-19 treatments.

“It has everything that we use at work during the day to keep people safe and alive,” he said, pointing to a piece of a dialysis bag and medicines that are used to treat COVID-19 patients. “There is antibiotics, there is sedatives … pieces of the ventilator … a lot of medications we use to keep them calm on the ventilator.”

WATCH | ICU nurse Shawn Toovey describes how he embeds medical materials in his art:

Shawn Toovey describes how he embeds plastic medical waste, including COVID-19 vaccine vial lids, in a piece of artwork 1:49

Nurse makes art to relieve stress

Creating art is a critical outlet for Toovey to relieve work-related pressure. He learned the hard way what happens when he doesn’t.

About three years ago, the ICU nurse realized he was burned out.

“I was crying on my way to work. I was crying when I’d be out for a run. Something wasn’t right,” he said. “I crashed and burned from [working in] an adrenaline area for so long, for so many years and trying to do too much.”

Toovey, who has been a registered nurse for 25 years, experienced burnout a few years ago and began to care for his mental health using medicine, physical exercise, and art. (Submitted by Shawn Toovey)

Toovey took a three-month stress leave and started managing his mental health with medication, physical exercise, and artwork.

His creative process combines two of his interests: he likes to recycle and compost, and he also likes to paint, draw, and sculpt. Eventually, it just made sense for him to merge those interests and repurpose used or scrap materials in his art.

The father of two made a piece of art for his wife using keys from a piano that her grandmother had bought herself in the 1930s with her first paycheque from teaching.

Toovey made this piece for his wife to preserve the piano keys of her grandmother’s piano, which had been in the family for more than half a century. (Submitted by Shawn Toovey)

“My wife could not part with her grandma’s piano, but we just didn’t have the room and no one was playing it,” he said. “Those are the keys her grandma touched and we get to keep that.”

A lot of plastic medical waste thrown in trash

Before the pandemic began, he and his co-workers had begun collecting discarded medical packaging at the hospital so he could work them into some pieces.

“We throw tons and tons of garbage out every day,” he said. “Every day I bring home bags and bags of it.”

Canadian hospitals generate huge amounts of non-hazardous waste. Even when health officials want to cut down on trash, they often discover there’s resistance to re-using sanitized medical equipment and that some recycling plants won’t accept small plastic pieces.

None of Toovey’s hospital scraps include PPE or plastics that have come into contact with patients or toxic materials.

“When I say medical waste, I don’t want it to sound like it’s icky,” he said with a chuckle.

When the pandemic started, Toovey knew pressure and anxiety would increase again — and they did — and that his artwork would become even more important to him. His co-workers — whom he calls “battle buddies” — rallied around him to help collect even more plastic waste to feed his creative process.

“I have thousands and thousands of pieces of plastic to work with and so many ideas. Sometimes I stay up at night thinking about ideas,” he said.

A vial of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine with its purple plastic cap, left, and a close-up of those same purple lids in Toovey’s artwork. (The Associated Press/CBC)

In November, Toovey rented a small studio in Saskatoon Makerspace, a collaborative workspace, to create his art.

He also sought advice from Ontario nurse Tilda Shalof, who collected small bits of medical waste for decades. In 2015, she teamed up with an artist friend to make a large mural inside Toronto General Hospital with 10,000 discarded medical pieces.

“To me, embedded in them are the many stories, memories, and moments I’ve had with patients over the years,” Shalof wrote in a blog post.

‘I felt my heart stop’

When Toovey showed ICU doctor Hassan Masri the piece of his artwork featuring COVID-19 treatments and vaccines in a red heart, the frontline physician was floored.

Masri said he had just finished a week-long shift where he had “delivered an incredible amount of sad news,” and that was weighing on him.

“I just felt my heart stop,” he said of the moment he saw the piece.

Masri was hit by seeing all the drugs and devices that kept COVID-19 patients alive. And for him, there’s a deeper message embedded in the piece. 

Toovey teamed up with his colleague, Dr. Hassan Masri, to auction off his heart-shaped art and raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association. (Submitted by Shawn Toovey)

“We have a bad situation but we can look at the bright side,” he said. “And if we don’t have a bright side, we can make one.”

The doctor and nurse teamed up to launch an online raffle for the artwork to raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Masri launched a call for donations to the CMHA on Facebook.

Toovey sees each piece of art as a tribute to the perseverance of his co-workers — “our battle, our struggle, our strength as a team” — and a memento of their patients. 

He has received lot of interest in his work from would-be buyers, who are often medical professionals.

He hunches over his desk with a glue bottle and a bag of yellow vial caps, from saline solution, and the more precious purple vaccine caps. He only has about a hundred right now.

“I have a nice lady that has been collecting them for me as she draws [the vaccine] up in the morning to do her daily work,” he said.

Vaccine deliveries are ramping up, and he hopes the lids from used-up vials will cap off his artwork instead of landing in the trash.

Toovey holds a bag of yellow lids from saline solution and the more precious purple caps from COVID-19 vaccine vials. He has a limited supply, for now. (Chanss Lageden/CBC)

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Imaginations, creativity of Mountview students on display at Cariboo Art Beat



Creative, imaginative artwork of students from Mountview Elementary School will be on public display at the gallery of Cariboo Art Beat until April 9.

“The students of Mountview elementary were all invited to participate in an art contest,” Tiffany Jorgensen said, an artist at Cariboo Art Beat.

Each class was separately judged by three professional artists at Cariboo Art Beat, Jorgensen said, based on the students’ creativity, techniques, use of space and originality.

“It was extremely difficult to select pieces from the abundance of beautiful art presented,” she said. “There is so much talent and fantastic imaginations.”

The artist of each selected piece was given formal invitations to their art show to distribute to whomever they choose, and Jorgensen said anyone is free to view the beautiful artwork throughout until April 9.

Honoured at the show were works from local artists Ryker Hagen, Annika Nilsson, Rylie Trampleasure, Angus Shoults, Izabella Telford, Isabella Buchner, Kai Pare and more.

“Come view their wonderful pieces to get a glimpse into the minds of our creative youth,” Jorgensen said.

“It’s been so fun. The kids have come in and seen their work on display with their grandparents, parents, and they’re all so excited.”

Following up on the success of the Mountview art show, Jorgensen said more elementary schools have been invited to participate.

April will feature the works of Nesika and Big Lake, followed by Marie Sharpe and Chilcotin Road next month.

Cariboo Art Beat is located at 19 First Ave., under Caribou Ski Source for Sports’ entrance on Oliver Street.

Rylie Trampleasure, Grade 2, has her work on display at Cariboo Art Beat. (Photo submitted)

Angus Shoults, Grade 4. (Photo submitted)

Angus Shoults, Grade 4. (Photo submitted)

Grade 3 student Izabella Telford. (Photo submitted)

Grade 3 student Izabella Telford. (Photo submitted)

Grade 6 student Kai Pare shows off her artwork. (Photo submitted)

Grade 6 student Kai Pare shows off her artwork. (Photo submitted)

Isabella Buchner

Isabella Buchner

Source:– Williams Lake Tribune – Williams Lake Tribune

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Launching the conversation on Newfoundland and Labrador art history



ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —

“Future Possible: An Art History of Newfoundland and Labrador” is a book that has been a long time coming, Mireille Eagan says.

While working at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Prince Edward Island, Eagan curated an exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of Newfoundland and Labrador joining Confederation with Canada.

“As I was researching, I noticed that there was very little that existed in terms of the art history of this province,” she said. “There wasn’t even a Wikipedia article.”

Noticing this large gap, “Future Possible” was a book that needed to exist, she said.

As the 70th anniversary approached in 2019, Eagan, now living in St. John’s and working as curator of contemporary art at The Rooms, envisioned filling that gap.

Over two summers, The Rooms held a two-part exhibition. The first looked at the visual culture and visual narratives before the province joined Confederation and the second focused on 1949 onward, Eagan said.

“At its core, it was asking, what are the stories we tell ourselves as a province? It was looking at iconic artworks, it was looking at texts that have been written about this place, and it put these works in conversation with contemporary artworks,” Eagan said.

In the foreword to the book, chief executive officer of The Rooms Anne Chafe described it as a complement to the exhibition and a project that “does not seek to be the final say. It seeks, instead, to launch the conversation.”

History and identity

One example of that conversation between the past and the present mentioned by Eagan is the work of artist Bushra Junaid, who moved to St. John’s from Montreal as a baby. The daughter of a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father, Junaid said her experience growing up in the province in the 1970s, where she always the only Black child in the room, was not like most.

“All of my formative years, my schooling and everything, took place in St. John’s,” she said. “It’s very much shaped my current preoccupation.”

Her interest in history, identity and representation led her to making “Two Pretty Girls…,” which used an archival photograph of Caribbean sugarcane workers from 1903 with text from advertisements for sugar, molasses and rum from archived copies of The Evening Telegram collaged over the women’s clothing.

In her essay “Of Saltfish and Molasses” published in “Future Possible,” she described the work as “(allowing) me to place these women and their labour within the broader historical context of the international trade in commodities that underpinned Caribbean slavery and its afterlife.”

It’s a direct connection between Newfoundland and people in the Caribbean, a historical line not often drawn through the context of the transatlantic slave trade, but one she knows personally through the stories told by her mother, Adassa, about their ancestor, Sisa, who “as a teenager, survived the horrors of the Middle Passage, enduring the voyage from West Africa to Jamaica in the hold of a slave ship (Junaid).”

A book like “Future Possible” allows people to interpret themselves and their past, present and future, Junaid says.

“I appreciate the ways in which they really worked to make it as broad and diverse as possible,” she said. “It’s also striving to tell the Indigenous history of the place, the European settler history … and then also looking for … non-Western backgrounds such as myself. It’s enriching.”

What shapes us

St. John’s writer Lisa Moore contributed an essay called “Five Specimens from Another Time” that weaves together moments from her own life, the province’s history and current realities and the art that has inspired her over the years.

“It’s really interesting to me to see all this work of people that I’ve written about in the past and whose work influenced me, even in my writing of fiction, and then newer artists,” Moore said. “I just think that the book is a total gift.”

With such a rich cultural history ready to be written, she imagines “Future Possible” is just the first of what could be many books about art in the province now that the “ice is cracked.”

“The writers that (Eagan) has chosen to write here are also really exciting critics from all over the province, talking about all kind of different periods in art history,” she said.

As time passes, the meaning of the works in the book becomes richer, she said.

Mary Pratt’s 1974 “Cod Fillets on Tin Foil” and Scott Goudie’s 1991 “Muskrat Falls,” for instance, are two images with seemingly straightforward and simple subject matter. But any viewer looking now, who is aware of the cod moratorium and the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam, would find it difficult to see and interpret these images outside of those contexts.

“Artists, writers, filmmakers … they’re keen observers of culture and the moment that we live in,” Moore said. “They present things that are intangible like the feeling of a moment, or the culmination of social, political and esthetic powers that come together at a given time and shape us.”

“Future Possible: An Art History of Newfoundland and Labrador” is available online and in stores.

Andrew Waterman reports on East Coast culture.
[email protected]
Twitter: @andrewlwaterman



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Parrott Art Gallery goes virtual to help flatten the curve – The Kingston Whig-Standard



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Feeling stir crazy because of COVID and the latest lock-down? Take a virtual trip to Morocco!

On Wednesday, April 14 at 2:30 p.m., the Parrott Gallery will host Lola Reid Allin’s Armchair Traveler online presentation: “Morocco: Sea, Sand and Summit”. Allin is an accomplished photographer, pilot, writer and speaker. Travel with her through the land of dramatic contrast and hidden jewels, busy markets and medieval cities, and enjoy some virtual sun.

For more information and to register for this free online event, please visit The Armchair Traveller Morocco photography exhibit is also available to view through the Parrott Gallery website until mid-May.

Even though our gallery is currently closed to the public, our exhibitions are all available to view online. Sam Sakr’s show “The Housing Project” is certain to bring a smile to your face. His collection of mixed media artwork will take you to a playful land of fantastical creatures that inhabit imaginary, stylized cityscapes. If your spirit needs uplifting, you need to see to see this show. I hope that everyone will be able to view Sakr’s work both online and then in our gallery after the lock-down ends in May. Without a doubt, it will be worth the wait to see it again in-person when we re-open.

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Another exhibition that you can currently visit on the Parrott Gallery website is the group show “Spring Sentiments: a Reflection of Art in Isolation”. This was a collaborative effort by the 39 artists who submitted their work, our staff who put the show together in the gallery and online, and our guest curator Jessica Turner. We are thrilled that Jessica was able to transcribe her experience with this show into a final paper for her Curatorial Studies BFA degree at OCADU.

The fact that we have had to close our doors just as this show was opening is a sad reflection of the theme as the audience must now reflect on this artwork at home, in isolation. The up-side to viewing this exhibition online is that one can read the artist statements that accompany the work and get a more in depth view of the artists’ perspectives. We encourage viewers to support our artists by sending in their comments and to vote for their favourites in the show by following the appropriate link on the webpage.

When you can’t come in to our building, the Parrott Gallery will bring the artwork to you. And then when the sun and flowers come out in May, and when it is safe to return to our gallery on the third floor of the Belleville Public Library, we hope to see you all again.

For questions about our online talk, our shows, or to purchase any of the artwork please call us at 613-968-6731 x 2040 or email us at

Wendy Rayson-Kerr is the Acting Curator at the John M. Parrott Art Gallery.

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