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Young Local Artist Behind CRRC Bollards

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Jessica Banman and her paintings on the CRRC bollards. Sara Beth Dacombe

A local amateur artist now has a prominent new spot to display her artwork. Over the summer, Jessica Banman, a recent graduate from Niverville High School (NHS), has been painting the concrete spheres in front of the CRRC. She now has five of the 13 spherical safety posts (called bollards) completed with her custom designs, and she intends to complete at least one more.

The painting project came about when staff at the CRRC saw the opportunity to beautify the entrance by adding some visual excitement to the dull grey bollards.

The high school, conveniently located right next door, seemed a good place to start looking for local talent and Warren Britton, manager for the CRRC, decided to bright it up with the art teacher.

Students have already been able to be involved at the facility, by creating murals for the west side of the old arena.

“I was speaking with [teacher] Tony Clarke one day about our current art project, the murals on the side of the old arena,” says Britton. “Then I spoke to him that we were bringing in round bollards in front of the CRRC and that my long-term plan was to have them painted. Several months later, Tony contacted me saying he wanted to set up a meeting with myself and Jessica. She had a proposal and it all took off from there.”

When Banman first heard about the project, she was keen to put her name forward for the job. As part of the senior class’s art course, students were required to choose a final project and spend time outdoors on a large-scale project. It seemed like just the type of challenge Banman would enjoy.

“Clark came to me with the idea and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” she says. “I started compiling ideas based off of landmarks, events, and businesses from around town. I decided to stick with landmarks that represent our town and bring the community together. I created a proposal and a model of six bollards for the town council and was approved.”

Creative Challenges

This past winter, Banman spent time gathering materials and researching the process. The concrete had already been sealed with a compound that made it difficult to hold paint and she knew it would have to be removed. When the weather allowed for it, she, the teacher, and the staff at the CRRC tried out several methods to prepare the surface for the paint.

“We tried a lot of different things, but it was so difficult,” Banman explains. “It was probably the hardest part of the process. We tried sanding, which didn’t work. Then we tried soaking it in something to remove the sealant, but the thing that worked best was just to sandblast it off. We had to hire a crew to help.”

Once the sealant was removed, Banman started painting it with a primer—and then she moved on to the final painting.

But that didn’t mean the hard part was over. Painting around a sphere is a lot different than painting on a canvas.

“I would say, definitely, that working on a spherical surface is an obstacle,” says Banman. “When I was drafting the images I realized that if I were to paint a straight line on the bollard it technically wouldn’t look straight. This is when I did my research on the anatomy of a sphere and the curved lines that make up a grid-like pattern. I then made a mini model of a bollard just out of Styrofoam and practiced painting. It’s almost like painting an illusion.”

To create what will look like a straight line to the human eye, she actually paints a curved line, like the longitude and latitude lines on a globe. The model and grid she creates need to then be recreated on the sphere in order to achieve the effect she wants.

“In addition, besides the logical aspect of figuring out the right proportions to create the painting, just painting around the bollard can be hard, as sometimes I end up laying on the sidewalk just to get underneath it or sitting on the curb.”

The wet spring delayed some of the work, but the heat and sun of summer has produced its own challenges.

“It’s been so hot out here,” she says. “There are some days when I would plan to work and I’d come early in the morning. By noon I would need to stop for sure because it was just too hot and not safe to continue.”

Designs and Inspiration

Banman’s ideas had to be approved at many levels before she could unleash her creativity on the bollards. With Niverville’s rich heritage, she had a lot of inspiration to draw from.

One of the balls that is front and centre has the old Town of Niverville logo, and another has the old grain elevator that many in the community had a strong fondness for before it was demolished a year ago on September 15, 2021.

Another bollard features the original red barn from outside town before it was moved and converted into the Whitetail Meadow event centre at the intersection of Highways 200 and 311.

A tribute to the Niverville fair is featured on a dark black bollard, showing a Ferris wheel and fireworks in the night sky, while a tractor backlit against a fiery gradient of orange, pink, and red graces another.

For her last design, Banman is hoping to depict the Mennonite Memorial Landing Site, a meaningful landmark located where the Rat meets the Red River west of Niverville—an excellent choice given the young artist’s interest and budding skill in landscape painting.

At just 18 years old, Banman has always been interested in art, but she says she’s has only just begun exploring what she can do with it.

“The only training and experience I have in art is taking classes with Mr. Clark, which helped me with techniques, principles, and theories,” she says. “But I would say I’ve always been interested in art and in the past few years I gained an interest towards landscape painting. This came about as Mr. Clark was able to push us students to try new mediums and colour outside of the lines. I did this by going through my dad’s old art books of landscapes and started practicing techniques and mixing colours.”

As Banman got more comfortable, she found she was able to keep up with some online tutorials. She began painting along with videos by Bob Ross and William Alexander, artists whose art instruction shows have recently resurfaced in popular culture and gained a significant following on social media platforms like YouTube.

“In the past I’ve taken a Bob Ross painting course, but I mostly just follow along with his videos online to take my time through the process and figure out what works for me.”

She also began to branch out, exploring painting on various surfaces and with a variety of mediums.

“I decided to work on different surfaces, like slabs of wood or metal sawblades, to make it more unique.”

What’s Next?

Banman’s work has been well received and the CRRC is even looking to hire her to teach an art class in the fall.

“I have been very impressed with Banman’s artwork,” says Britton. “She is incredibly talented and my programmers have even approached her about teaching an art class at the CRRC in the fall.”

Fall might end up being a very busy time for this recent high school grad who has been accepted to attend the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Science. She is also accepting requests for custom requests for paintings and has started a small side business currently under the name Existential Designs.

“In my spare time I still like to paint for myself and I’m open to any commission pieces. In the future I definitely hope to be given more opportunities and get myself out there in the world a bit more.”

In the meantime, Banman is focused on finishing the last bollard at the CRRC. While the summer weather holds, she will be putting the finishing touches of signing and sealing each piece.

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