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Shelley Penner’s colourful depiction of a vintage truck at McLean Mill wins award

Acrylic-on-canvas wins people’s choice prize in ‘Alberni Valley Landmarks’ exhibit
Artist Shelley Penner wins the People’s Choice award in the Alberni Valley Landmarks exhibit at the Grove Art Gallery for her acrylic-on-canvas of a vintage logging truck fading into the foliage at McLean Mill National Historic Site. Members of the Arrowsmith Rotary club present Penner with a $500 award on Friday, March 10, 2023. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Alberni Valley artist Shelley Penner is known for her painting—however, her medium is usually acrylic on rocks. This month, a colourful painting she created on canvas has become the focal point for an exhibit at the Grove Art Gallery.

Penner’s ‘McLean Mill Wreck’ was named people’s choice winner for “Alberni Valley Landmarks.”

There were 240 total votes on the 35 different pieces in the show. Seventeen artists submitted their work in a variety of media. Penner wasn’t the only artist to submit her depiction of the decaying logging truck at McLean Mill: several others also considered the truck an Alberni Valley landmark and submitted their own artistic interpretations.

Penner created her acrylic-on-canvas about five years ago, from photographs she took of the truck “at least 15 years ago,” she explained. “It’s an old logging truck at McLean Mill, the two pieces are from one truck—the cab and the flatbed that used to go behind it.

“It doesn’t look quite the same anymore.”

Penner painted the truck about five years ago for a gallery show she had at the Rollin Art Centre on Eighth Avenue (now the Grove Art Gallery at Harbour Quay). “It was a subject that appealed to me because of the light and shadow cast across the truck.

“I had my doubts (that it was a landmark.) I thought the lighthouse or Mt. Arrowsmith…I almost didn’t enter. It’s a landmark to me, and apparently to others who painted the same thing.”

Penner prefers working in acrylics because they dry fast and are conducive to layering colours. “I always airbrush the background,” she said. She has tried watercolours and oils, and while watercolours are her first love, oils take a long time to dry. “I’m too impatient to wait that long.”

This was the first time a people’s choice award was offered for an exhibit, after the Rotary Club of Port Alberni-Arrowsmith came forward with the $500 prize. Penner’s painting will also be considered for a puzzle Arrowsmith Rotary will use as a fundraiser. The final choice will be up to the puzzle development company, said Rotary club president Pam Craig.

“Arrowsmith Rotary has really been the contributor and backer behind the Rotary Arts District (R.A.D.), which is on Argyle Street between Harbour Quay and Eighth Avenue,” said Craig. One of the club’s purposes is to promote and develop art in the city, “giving community members an opportunity to see the amazing artists we have in our community,” Craig said.

The club decided to offer the people’s choice prize as a way of giving back to the arts community, she added.

The partnership with Rotary opens up a new way of promoting artists, said Melissa Martin, art director for the Community Arts Council of the Alberni Valley. “Being down here (at Harbour Quay) has given us the opportunity to really work with community partners, and Rotary is one of them,” she said.

“Going forward we’re hoping for more community partnerships…offering people’s choice awards or funding events or exhibits like this to encourage artists to participate.”

“Alberni Valley Landmarks” is on exhibit until March 24. The Grove Art Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free admission.

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Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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