Jean Swalwell lives with dementia and has found creating artwork in her daughter’s Art Barn studio to be therapeutic. She has a piece in the Creston Valley Arts Council’s Memory show. (Brian Lawrence photo)

Memory show part of Creston Valley Arts Council 50th anniversary celebration

The memory theme was important to arts council board member and show organizer Anne Fetterly.

By Brian Lawrence

The Creston Valley Arts Council’s 50th-anniversary art show Memory is hosting an opening reception from 4-7 p.m. Jan. 11, and will feature work including textiles, woodwork, photography, and paintings inspired by a favourite memory.

For artist Jean Swalwell, the concept of memory can be frustrating — she lives with dementia and began painting to relieve the stress caused by failing memory.

“For me, it’s so helpful — it makes me feel like I’m doing something,” said the 79-year-old Swalwell.

She isn’t new to artistic endeavours, having been taught knitting at an early age by her mother. She later took up quilting, which she taught to women all over the Creston Valley after moving to the area 25 years ago with her husband, who passed away in 2017. She ran a quilt shop, Quiltview Corner, from 2000-2007 with her daughter, Beth, who owns the Art Barn in Erickson and encouraged her to start painting for therapy.

“She basically threw me back in,” said Swalwell. “She said, ‘You’re going to do this.’ ”

While in her daughter’s studio, Swalwell’s creativity is sparked by her favourite music, including dance music from the 1940s and songs from musicals, as she creates art using paint, markers or pencil.

“It pulls me together,” she said. “This is what brings me up a level, and the rest of it brings me down.”

Swalwell always loved colour in her quilting and continues to use colour and movement in her artwork, something she’d like to see others with her condition try.

“I can really see a lot of people feeling better doing this,” she said. “That’s how it makes me feel.”

Her painting will join about 40 other pieces in Memory, which runs through Feb. 15 in the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce building on Northwest Boulevard. The art show is the second event celebrating the arts council’s 50th anniversary, with another half-dozen event in the works.

The memory theme was important to arts council board member and show organizer Anne Fetterly, whose 94-year-old mother, like Swalwell, lives with dementia.

“It lends itself perfectly for an artist to use history, imagery, sensations,” said Fetterly. “It’s a lovely topic for any artist. What are we without our memories?”

Her take on the subject turned toward history, and her entry in the show uses indigo dye in honour of the black slave trade. Other pieces in the show include a First Nations cedar carving by Teddy Mahood, a hippie bus painting by Wendy Franz and a felted mountain caribou piece by Carmen Ditzler.

Visually impaired artist Ruth Bieber created a piece based on a visit to South America.

“She has light perception, and she did a beautiful piece on the Argentinean moon,” said Fetterly.

Fetterly is sure visitors to the show will appreciate the variety of work, as well as the opportunity to learn the story behind the artwork by reading short written pieces by the creators.

“The write-ups are so lovely,” she said. “They’re way deeper than I expected them to be.”

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