For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council features artist Vivian Thomson. In July of 1968, she arrived from Ottawa, with her husband, hired by AECL. Recently married, they carried their possessions in a half ton truck. Thomson already had two years of teaching experience and she soon started at F.W. Gilbert School, instructing grade five students.
From childhood, Thomson drew, and played with clay from the creek at her aunt and uncle’s farm. She says, “I attended Fisher Park High in Ottawa, where I studied and practiced art: painting, drawing, pottery.”
Self-taught until she completed her Master’s Degree in Art Education at University of Victoria (1984-87), Thomson works mainly in oils but has training in water colour, acrylic, inks, pottery, fibre work, printmaking, and stained glass. She says, “Some phenomenal artists instructed me: Marion Small, Margaret Travers, Bill Zuk, printmaker Geoff Hodder, potter Walter Dexter. Their philosophies changed my art direction. I was a better teacher and artist because of their influences.”
She developed her own art curriculum in Pinawa. In 1980, she became the district’s art specialist, teaching grades one to twelve. She also wrote and piloted art curricula for the Manitoba Department of Education. Until 1998, she worked in Pinawa schools and then left due to illness.
In the 70’s, she helped found Pinawa Art 211. This organization includes members from the whole region. Over the years, it has hosted exhibits, sales, and shows. Interest waned but was revived by the Green Water Exhibition and now this group boasts an active gallery and teaching presence in Pinawa.
In 1986, she exhibited her work at University of Victoria. Her art has also been used to raise funds for “The Friends of Old Pinawa.” She has worked on three murals, two at F.W. Gilbert School (one with WRAC artist Annie Bergen), and the other at the Pinawa Mall. In honour of Pinawa’s fortieth anniversary, she created a commemorative painting.
Thomson says, “I was too busy teaching and raising four boys to compete for awards. But I always have a market for my work. I’ve done personal paintings for our home, family and friends.”
Now retired, her health has improved, and she continues to paint and teach. She says, “I realized how short life is. I urge people to find the time to follow their passion, whatever it is.”