In the wake of the Fort McMurray wildfires Sharon Heading, a long-time Fort McMurray resident and artist, is using her art to heal and provide financial support for her community. Heading has created a piece inspired by Calgary firefighter Sara Durocher’s photograph of a rainbow in the midst of a smoldering forest that has been widely shared on social media over the past several weeks. In partnership with Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB), the charcoal and gouache (a type of watercolour) painting will be auctioned off online, with all proceeds going to help local artists rebuild.
Heading was immediately inspired by the original photograph: “I was amazed that in the middle of the heat and wet (she was dodging a stream of water) she took the time to snap a photo with her phone.” Heading said that throughout the tragedy that has befallen Fort McMurray, she has been “focusing on tiny perfect moments. A way to remind myself that it is important to take joy where we can and not be overwhelmed by life and what it can throw our way. This seemed like one of those moments.”
ACWB Executive Director, Constance Scarlett says she’s excited to support this project. “We have been absolutely humbled by the out pouring of support from the arts community across Canada asking to help Wood Buffalo artists. When Sharon, an evacuee herself, approached us with this auction we immediately wanted to make it a reality.” For Scarlett, providing support for the region’s artists is an important part of the rebuilding process; “we know that the arts will be crucial in rebuilding a balanced community in Fort McMurray with a remarkable quality of life. In order to be a part of that rebuilding process, our artists will need certain resources themselves.”
Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Heading has called the west home for the last 16 years. Art education came later in life when she took courses at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and the Visual and Performing Arts Program at Keyano College. Heading finds the process as rewarding as the finished work. Her art has been evolving over the years as she experimented with various mediums and styles. Water and nature have been a dominant theme but there was no consistent focus until a recent experiment with “poured” paint resulted in a new body of work. Heading likes to work large with bold lines and dynamic colour, and says that “inspiration is everywhere, staying focused is always the challenge.”
For Heading, the piece she has created for the auction is a departure from her usual work which normally involves poured paint. “Even if I had access to my studio or any studio, paint just would not work for this piece. I choose gouache and charcoal because that is exactly what the picture was: primal, water and fire. It didn’t ever occur to me to use anything else. The thought that something beautiful could be made from charcoal (the aftermath of fire) appealed to me.”
The auction will be hosted by ACWB on their Facebook page starting at 9:00 am MST on Monday, June 13. Bidders are asked to submit their bid in the comments section of the painting’s photo. For those who do not have Facebook but still wish to bid, please email email@example.com. The auction will close at 11:59 pm MST on Friday, June 17. The winner will be contacted by June 20. All proceeds will go to helping local artists who have lost supplies, artwork, and instruments as a result of the wildfire. Arts Council Wood Buffalo will announce how the funds are to be distributed in July. Visit the ACWB Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ArtsCouncilWB.