Community-builders in COVID-19: The Nottingham Art Walk story

Hannah, Kathy and Doug Brunsdon - the Brunsdon family

Community-builders in COVID-19: The Nottingham Art Walk story

Join the millions of people around the world who are choosing to spread a little bit of joy and seeking to amplify the connections that are happening, in neighbourhoods and communities, despite the distance we find between ourselves these days. 

We are watching as community members share acts of kindness, generosity and ways to connect – amidst this crisis. Let’s showcase the stories of just some of the people in our community who have done community-minded acts. 

During these challenging times, here are some stories of amazing people promoting connection and going above and beyond to support their community. 

Four Simple Questions 

To learn a little bit more about some of the people making a difference in Strathcona County, we have reached out and posed four simple questions to those who are actively building community during the crisis. 

The Brundson family  

D - Doug 

K - Kathy (wife) 

H - Hannah (daughter) 

Q1: Could you tell me a little bit about yourselves? 

H: I am 25. I moved to Sherwood Park five years ago, this July, from Ontario. I went to University of Alberta for my undergrad and the University of Calgary, where I finished my Masters of Social Work. I’m also a quidditch player, sourdough starter mom and Oreo enthusiast. I have a younger sister, Sarah, who lives in Edmonton, and is a recent University of Alberta grad and am very proud of her. And we have a dog named Teddy who would describe himself as “woof”. 

K: I’m a retired teacher who normally enjoys swimming three times a week, getting together with a group of girls at the pool and away from the pool, too. I do watercolour paintings and belong to three book clubs. I’m a lifelong community organizer in all the communities where I’ve lived. I’m also the proud mother of two girls. 

D: I work for the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund Board in the real estate investment department. I moved out here from Ottawa a bit before my family. My interests and passions include community service – I strongly believe in grassroots community service because you can tailor it to your interests and meet like-minded people. I play in a classic rock band and we target performing at community events and fundraisers, when we can. When I lived in Ottawa, we would organize street parties, “Clean up the Capital“ events, neighbourhood get-togethers and brought these traditions with us. Back in Ottawa, we organized an annual door-to-door Christmas caroling event in our neighbourhood – it happened by accident and grew to over 100 singers. I’ve served on many boards as a volunteer. This [art walk] is just one thing that was an idea that we could do and have fun with, and it’s grown dramatically.  I too, am a proud parent of our two daughters. 

Q2: You did something very generous of spirit during a very difficult time for our community – can you tell me why you decided to do the Nottingham Art Walk? 

H: I was having a very tough time – I live and work in Calgary at the university – managed to “work from home” for five days before coming to my parents’ house to isolate safely. I talked to friends we know from Ottawa who made a giant Where’s Waldo and hid it in their yard, changing the location of Waldo daily. This inspired the idea to do a giant I-Spy hunt on our property - with hidden bunnies and eggs and a list of things to look for - so people could participate from a safe distance. I wanted to do an outdoor art gallery. It would be different from the I-Spy and give people something they could do safely and offer a bit more for people to do. It exploded from there.  

D: We have about 75 masterpieces that have migrated across our fence – our neighbours have said if it keeps growing it can continue over onto their fence. This [art walk] gave an opportunity for people in the community to participate, particularly for young children homeschooling, where they could create something to put on the fence to display. We wanted to have a way to recognize them [the children], so Kathy made a series of ribbons with a little message of acknowledgement of their work to put on their pieces. Then, all of a sudden, we noticed that adults were participating, including some really good artists. We incorporated the concept of an artist-in-residence: using a large stuffed bear that belongs to our youngest daughter Sarah, and the bear, named “Rem-Bear-andt”, sits on the patio with his art pallet and brush. He has even created his own masterpiece, a self-portrait similar to Rembrandt’s famous self-portrait that features two circles in the background. The Nottingham Art Walk is something for the young and young at heart who are out walking or biking to enjoy while going down the path and participate by adding their masterpieces to the growing collection. 

K: A lady came by yesterday and said she loved one of the pieces of art and asked if I knew the artist, as she wanted to buy it. I caught up with the artist on the path and the artist said if she wants to purchase it, the lady can make a donation to the food bank. Another family with young children has incorporated coming to see the expanding art gallery into their daily routine and insist on making it to the art walk every day, despite the long distance from their house. 

D: The Art Walk had started to get some traction and we had read various articles about how food banks were struggling to serve their communities due to the economic challenges compounded by COVID-19’s impact on their fund raising and donations. I noticed in the local paper that one of the churches was doing a bottle drive to support food banks – so went and donated some bottles and got a contact name for the Strathcona Food Bank. Then we put up a sign by the art walk saying if they like it and want to do something for the community, they could make a donation to the food bank, we will match total donations up to $500 (not individually but in aggregate). The Art Walk is something we could do that people could get involved in and do safely, it is positive and is “for the community by the community”. You can opt-in or opt-out and just enjoy it by walking by it, or by adding to it by making ‘fridge-worthy’ pieces to post. 

H: We love a good not-quite-coloured-within-the-lines masterpiece or stick figure drawing and welcome any and all pieces to our gallery. 

Q3: Can you tell me what community means to you? (follow up: What inspires you about our community?) 

H: I think for me community is pretty synonymous with home. I identify as being part of lots of different communities, they can be locations like the Sherwood Park community, I identify as part of the Quidditch community, I identify as part of the worldwide musical theatre community, things that give me a sense of identity and purpose and ‘home’. For me, what inspires me about the community we live in and cultivate around the art walk, is being able to make connections with people and being in relationship with people – lots of different ages and backgrounds and has been really inspiring. The youngest artist is 16 months old and toddling around with the help of his grandma, with the oldest artists being grandparents. It’s making those connections to feel like we belong in this community and have a connection to these folks. 

D: Community is an extension of your home. Home is where your hang hat, where you celebrate your triumphs and work through your tragedies. Doing something positive is contagious and you’ll enjoy it or start to migrate to like-minded people. Communities comprise of anyone of different ages, genders, cultural backgrounds, interests and from different socio-economic statuses. We have extended our community by engaging with people in conversations that live one or many blocks away. This has given us the opportunity to connect with people we may not have ever had the chance or opportunity to meet. Now, when we see them at the grocery store or elsewhere in the community, we recognize each other. 

K: Everything that has been said. I really miss the community we had built in Ottawa. Moving here, starting fresh, was a challenge. I grew up and lived in Toronto when I met Doug, and we moved to Ottawa and spent 15 years there. Coming here and going into the store and not recognizing anybody was a little scary. And now through this [art walk] I have met more people than I have in the past five years. That’s what’s great about this and why I love these initiatives. I am also a believer in the grassroots idea that small things can make a big difference.  

Q4: If you could ask fellow Canadians to do one community-minded thing during this crisis, what would it be? 

D: It would be to do a small act of kindness to anyone. The concept of pay it forward will be of great benefit. The smallest act of kindness can brighten anybody’s day. These are challenging times so a small act of kindness will go a long way. 

K: Recognize that those small things are really important. Even just a smile or “hello” can really make a difference. 

H: I would say reach out - whether that means to receive support, and especially for those not used to receiving support, and the challenge is accepting the fact that you might need somebody to help you out. The other part is looking out into your community to see who needs your help. Reaching out to more vulnerable people in our communities, like temporary foreign workers, those experiencing homelessness, or domestic violence. Reaching out to see if you can offer support. 

Check out the Art Walk virtually:

Instagram: @nottinghamartwalk

Facebook: Nottingham Art Walk

 

 

 

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