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Shelley MacLean-Ellis and Sr. Joan MacNeil show art at The Guild

Meet the Mentor
by Nina Linton

Diane Morrison-Robinson and Shelly MacLean-Ellis.As a keen tenth grader Shelley MacLean-Ellis wandered the halls of Elmsdale’s Westisle Composite Highschool, her hands piled high with math textbooks. Her fondness for fractions and figures had led her to bulk her busy teenage timetable with mathematics and science based classes in hopes of pursuing it at the university level. However something was missing.

“I remember in grade eleven I started my first physics class and I just said this is not for me, and so I switched into arts because I had always been interested in it but I never had any room in my schedule or much of a chance to pursue art. As soon as I got in the class I knew this was for me. This is where I belong,” reveals MacLean-Ellis.

Falling into the creative hands of then art teacher Sr. Joan McNeil, MacLean-Ellis says it was McNeil’s constant encouragement to polish her natural existing artistic talent that changed the direction of her life.

Upon departing highschool MacLean-Ellis went on to become McNeil’s sole student to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and follow in the teacher’s footsteps, influencing students’ artistic sides in the classroom for the last twenty-one years.

Close friends, McNeil and MacLean-Ellis are now being brought together again through art in an upcoming show at The Guild. Running from October 10 to 17 the exhibit, entitled Capturing the Moments: East meets West, gives the teachers an outlet for their art outside of their academies.

“Being involved with art everyday in my career was all I needed for a while as I was around it every day and I was doing my little demos on the board and helping students but then after you do it for a few years you kind of think ‘I should be doing my own stuff.’ You know you should be doing some things for yourself. It is hard to fit it all in but I think it is always there and you feel like you are cheating yourself a little bit if you don’t create,” says MacLean- Ellis.

With the idea for the show being originally conceived by MacLean-Ellis and her Westisle Composite colleague Diane Morrison-Robinson, the artwork of two Eastern school district art teachers Linda Packard, and Andrew Henderson will be featured, as well as that of Sr. Joan McNeil. Through forty pieces the five artists aim to impress with their arresting acrylics and wispy watercolours.

“It is everyday things, everyday scenes, everyday people and objects, the things that we encounter and how we fit it into our day,” says MacLean-Ellis of the exhibit. “To me anyway that seems to be the common thread, you just do the everyday stuff and you see the art in everyday things and you try to expand on that and take time to notice things in your day.”

To MacLean-Ellis this show is more than just that, it is truly a realization of her dreams to be able to hang her artwork side by side in a public viewing with pieces by her mentor McNeil. And McNeil’s longstanding influence arose out of one of those everyday moments that began with a girl joining a class and finding her true passion.

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