Winners announced for local Youth Bench Art Contest at Kay Cee Gardens

August 20, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

When, as a matter of housekeeping, so to speak, you notice your park benches could do with being freshened, what is the best way to do that? If you live in Orangeville, you call on the young artists in the community and have a contest for paintings to decorate those benches. Just like the utility boxes all around town.

The Orangeville Optimist Club lights up Kay Cee Gardens every year with its Christmas in the Park, for which Tina Clare, a member of almost 6 years, does the graphic art work.

In a telephone interview with the Citizen earlier this week, she explained how they kicked off the Bench Art Contest in April with a social media campaign.

“At the beginning of April, we sent notices to local art schools and schools, even though the kids weren’t really at school. They were still in touch with the students, though,” she said. “A local artist, Ricky Schaede, was judge and some members of the Optimist Club.”

The Orangeville Optimist Club is “dedicated to youth incentives. We decided that the benches in Kay Cee Gardens needed refurbishing.”

Ms. Clare told us, “The paintings will be digitally online and will be enlarged and printed on an aluminum panel composite called Alupanel. The contest was open to kids eight to 18 years old.”

Sponsors were attracted to the contest and the Canadian Children Optimist Foundation (CCOF) is able to offer income tax receipts to the donors/sponsors of the panels and people who donated money. The funds are paying in part for the panels and for the prizes for the kids. 

“We were looking for something to engage kids while they were stuck at home during the Covid pandemic,” said Tina Clare. “We had a committee of myself and Adrian Maes and Melody Greenly, John Murray, who was getting quotes on the panels.”

Naturally, “we got approval from the town to decorate the benches in this way. Then, we launched in April and the final deadline was July 15.”

Ms. Clare went on to say, “We had a lot of stuff on our website, Instagram. Twenty-six kids sent in 36 pieces and there are nine park benches plus four in the Pergola; so, 13 all told. Some of the submissions were digital but they were all sent by photo – Covid protocols. I have got the originals now. Some are done on an iPad – [the piece called] ‘I am Me’ – it is an unusual shape.”

Tina Clare was graphic designer until her interest in painting with oils, acrylic took over her life.

“I do portraits,” she said, adding that she “did a show with Larry Kurtz. Now I have a painting on material and have [a] boutique studio in town. I also do commissions. I’ve been involved in painting for years but portraits for the last eight years. I have fabric made of the celebrities I paint and the company makes clothes with it – I decide what I want and play with the look. Some of them are being sold at the Rare Threads gallery at the Alton Mill [Arts Centre].”

Fifteen-year-old Charley Post created the remarkable “I am Me” piece. It states among fascinating graphics that a person can be “Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Human, Normal, Me.”

In fact, although not a member of the LGBTQ community, it was Charley Post who gave the “Celebrate your Awesome” festival its name.

“My mom and I are part of the committee,” she told the Citizen. “Jim Waddington asked us to be involved. It was just something to do for Orangeville.”

She said, “My whole life has been in Orangeville, I’ve been going to school to Alton Public School, Caledon Public School, Westside Secondary School and now ODSS. Art is part of my life and Orangeville Lorne Scots Army Cadets and also the Grand Valley 85 Tornado Air Cadets are a big part of my life. I like all the volunteering we do and the camps are very fun. There are leadership and teaching lessons; weekends of camping, we learn survival skills.”

She is hoping to attend the Royal Military College for history and “become a history teacher or an English teacher.”

Emma and Chiara McKinley both won spots on benches at Kay Cee Gardens as well.

We had the chance to chat to them too.

Emma let us know they are both 12, hence twins, but “we don’t look very much alike” she informed us.

They each entered the Bench Art Contest, as she said, “Mostly, we had time to do this and we both love art. We spend our free time drawing.”

For the contest, Chiara’s contribution is an irregular row of flowers, no chaos and great charm. Emma’s is a bicycle race. Watch the detail and meaning in this one – very clever.

“We spend a lot of time together,” Emma told us. “We’re not really alike but we both like art.”

If schools do open, the girl will be going into grade 8 this year.

“At home schooling – it was very good,” she said. “So, my mom taught us. It was hard but it was really fun.”

Emma says she would like to be a teacher. 

Meanwhile, Chiara wants to be an astronaut, telling the Citizen “I love science and learning more about everything in space. I like everything about science but I prefer space and astronomey. I do a bit of my own research.”

The girls are into lots of art: “It’s mostly a past time we do when we have spare time. We play piano, paint, draw, colour, stuff like that – we do it on now our own but we’ve learned a lot from others.”

They are taking lessons “to play the piano for about RCM,” Emma said. “I’m level 2 and Chiara is level 1. Usually we play pop music – playing in general. Recently this summer, we’ve played a lot of Disney songs. We also do musical theatre. We were with Orangeville Music Theatre (OMT) – Aladdin, Peter Pan, Willy Wonka and others.”

They are both pleased about their paintings going on benches, something they can show their grandparents.

“Best thing about benches,” said Chiara. “is probably seeing the benches in real life – that would be pretty cool – pretty happy when I see my drawing on the bench.”

For more information about Orangeville Optimists, here is their website:

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