Cynthia Bonesky applies some finishing touches to a mural she and fellow artist Jan Vriesen created for a wall inside a classroom at North Island College’s Port Alberni campus. PHOTO COURTESY CYNTHIA BONESKY

Port Alberni artists bring nature indoors at North Island College

Cynthia Bonesky, Jan Vriesen paint mural for classroom

A pair of Port Alberni artists has brightened up a classroom at North Island College with a unique mural.

Marie Ducharme, who until October ran the assessment centre at NIC’s Port Alberni campus, contacted Cynthia Bonesky last summer about creating a mural on the back wall of the assessment centre. “She said she wanted to bring the forest from outside into the room,“ Bonesky said, adding that Ducharme thought a nature scene would help students relax.

Bonesky turned to friend and fellow artist Jan Vriesen, who has created natural dioramas for large museums, to collaborate on the project. “I did a scale drawing of the wall and he made a curtain of what the mural should look like. Then we painted it.”

Bonesky and Vriesen had wood panels cut to fit the classroom wall—and especially around the windows. They painted the mural at Bonesky’s house, using scaffolding to reach the top of the panels. Once it was installed, the mural comprised eight panels totalling 30 feet wide and seven feet high.

”It was like painting a jigsaw puzzle,” said Bonesky, an associate member of the Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA). “We had to try and make sure [the panels] fit together so it‘s continuous.”

While Bonesky typically works in smaller dimensions, “this is a life’s work for Jan,” she said. “He’s done dioramas in museums all over the world and also murals in large corporate buildings.”

Bonesky’s paintings are smaller, on canvas and usually depict landscapes, flowers and portraits. She has done a couple of murals previously: one in the old Buy-Low Foods store of a train and train station (it’s gone, she says) and a couple of smaller murals in the Port Alberni Gymnastics Academy on Argyle Street.

The NIC mural is done in acrylic and oils and includes a mountain view, sky, a lake and trees “so it’s not just a forest.” Vriesen painted most of the trees with acrylic paint, but had to switch to oils where the trees overlapped the sky—which Bonesky painted with oil paint.

“(Jan) has done the lion’s share of the mural. Seventy-five percent of it is trees and he’s done most of it.”

Bonesky said she enjoyed collaborating with Vriesen and would work with him again if the opportunity came up.

Their mural was installed in mid-November. It is designed to create a more relaxed atmosphere for students writing assessments and exams.




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Jan Vriesen works on one of the panels of the NIC mural on Cynthia Bonesky’s patio last October. PHOTO COURTESY CYNTHIA BONESKY

Bonesky and Vriesen’s mural is designed to bring the outdoors inside, and to meld with the natural scene visible through the room’s windows. PHOTO COURTESY CYNTHIA BONESKY

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