Culture Days ambassador Keyanna Burgher holds up a poster for the Stories of the Past art exhibition opening at the Vernon Community Arts Centre Friday

Culture Days ambassador Keyanna Burgher holds up a poster for the Stories of the Past art exhibition opening at the Vernon Community Arts Centre Friday

Words from the wise shared through art

Vernon Culture Days project Stories of the Past pairs seven seniors with seven artists.

At the age of 18, Paul Jones found himself in Vancouver, no job, but rain, lots of rain. Through pounding the pavement, he landed a job at a pulp mill in Ocean Falls. He didn’t know where Ocean Falls was or what he would be doing, but he jumped at the chance.

“They did not disappoint and neither did I,” recalled Jones.

This is just one of the stories Armstrong writer Richard Wallace recorded when he met with Vernon senior Paul Jones.

As a participant of Stories of the Past, Wallace is one of seven artists tasked with meeting a local senior and turning his/her story into some kind of art piece, whether written, musical or visual.

“When I contacted Paul and explained our art centre project, he replied in a hearty voice, ‘I’m your man,’” said Wallace.

“I found Paul to be a quiet and confident man who knows how to stand on his own two feet and well able to defend a point of view.

“Paul is an inspiration. He has authored two books, writes beautiful poetry and is a well-known Vernon artist.”

Stories of the Past is part of a number of events planned around Culture Days, Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

The national initiative raises the awareness, accessibility, participation and engagement of Canadians in the arts and cultural life of their communities.

Developed by Vernon-based writer, playwright and musician Keyanna Burgher, who has been appointed as a 2016 B.C. Culture Days ambassador, Stories of the Past came from a $1,000 grant Burgher received towards the production of her own Culture Days activity, along with promoting other events in Vernon.

“I hope people will be able to get out to a few activities. They’re all free and most are open to all ages,” said Burgher. “I am especially excited for Stories of the Past. It’s a cool way for us to connect to the stories of our seniors through art and community. It will be beautiful.”

Originally from Moose Jaw, Sask., Burgher is a graduate of the creative writing program at UBC Vancouver. She moved to Vernon last year to take up a position at the Vernon Community Arts Centre, and it’s through her connections at the VCAC that she came up with the idea to pair artists with seniors and relate their stories through an artistic medium.

After putting the call out in April, Burgher enlisted seven artists (including herself and Wallace) and with the help of a coordinator at Canterbury Court seniors residence, paired them with seven seniors.

“They got to know them and listen to them and I am grateful to the ones who kept in touch,” said Burgher.

“The eldest is 101 years old and the others in their mid-to-late 90s. One lived in London during the war, another homesteaded in the Prairies, while another was related to the first mayor of Vernon. Some of the seniors are artists or have done art in the past and that will be part of the exhibit.”

Both the artists and their senior partners will speak about their participation in the project at the opening reception of Stories of the Past at the Vernon Community Arts Centre (located at the east entrance of Polson Park) Friday, Sept. 30 from 5-7 p.m.

A workshop on how to translate stories into art is also taking place at the VCAC Friday from 1 to 3 p.m.

Both events kick off a weekend-long list of activities that involve numerous arts and cultural organizations in the community.