of the Month
May’s Community Member of the Month is our very own resident artist, Sharon Fortowsky. Sharon has inspired community members young and old to get creative and get involved.
As an art teacher for the school board, Sharon has experience engaging children in expressing themselves through art. We are lucky that she has also shared her passion and talents with the community.
Artifacts of Sharon’s efforts to engage the community are all around Canyon Meadows. For example, walking through our neighbourhood’s pathways and playgrounds, you may notice some trash bins decorated with maps of the pathways, along with footprints, handprints, and even bike tracks. Sharon collected these prints by setting up pop up tables with art supplies in outdoor spaces where passersby could leave their mark. “Some people left handprints, some people did some paintings, some people stopped to talk. I hope that they feel it’s theirs.”
Or, you might notice the colorful art medallions mounted on the chain-link fence along Canterbury Drive. In 2015, Sharon organized the On the Fence project, where members of the community painted circular wooden panels with designs of their choice. From toddlers to seniors to whole families, anyone could participate. In the end, Sharon collected dozens of painted medallions, which have hung along Canterbury Drive ever since. Sharon says, “In the whole 5 years only one [panel] has been torn down. There has been no vandalism. That also speaks to how our community takes care of it, and how other people take care of it. Art keeps a place more respected.”
Sharon has invited children from the community into her home to get creative with art supplies like paint and markers, tissue paper and fabric. From making paper, to using a sewing machine for the first time, Sharon’s generosity in donating her time and materials has inspired young artists in the neighborhood. During these art sessions, a few lucky kids helped build a life-size papier-mâché alien named Professor Green, who could later be seen around the neighbourhood in Babbling Brook Park and Robert Warren school.
Since the pandemic started, Sharon has been actively looking for ways to inject art and creativity into our community. Last March when schools moved online due to the pandemic, she applied for a grant from the city to create and safely distribute art kits for children in the community. “Instead of all of these families going out to buy things, we all reduced our contact during the first quarantine.”
We’re fortunate to live alongside such a committed artist and community builder. Sharon is always ready to share her time, her resources, and her talents with this community. When asked what inspires her to get involved in these types of projects, she says: “For me, I do see art-making as a way for us to be side by side working together and getting to know each other. If we know each other even a little bit, we are more likely to support each other and help each other out. The process of coming together is the most important part.”
Article by Dina Katsnelson