A lifetime in art

JOEY SMITH joey.smith@saltwire.com @SaltWireNetwork



SaltWire Network


Front Page

Art has played a significant role in Nancy Turniawan’s journey in life. So, too, have the stops along the way. “Exposure with travel means that you can cross into different cultures and not see them as, ‘this is mine and that is yours,”’ she says. “You see culture as, ‘oh wow, this is how they do this; look at how many ways we can express ourselves.”’ Nancy was born in Antigonish and has lived abroad in countries such as the U.S., India, Jordan, and Italy. It was during her time overseas as a young woman that she became immersed in art and knew it would play a large part in her life. Nancy attended university in Hawaii where she studied art and met her future husband Boyke. The couple moved to Toronto in 1975, where she earned a bachelor of education in art from U of T, before coming east and settling in Harbour Centre, Antigonish County. Nancy, trained in graphic design, found her true calling in a classroom setting. She taught art at four Antigonisharea schools during a 31-year career as an educator. “I came into teaching because I was no good at selling myself,” she laughs. “Nice portfolio, but not the personality to rap on doors and blow my own horn, and I naturally fell into teaching and it was naturally the best possible option for my kind of creativity, so I absolutely loved teaching. There’s not a day I didn’t love.” What she enjoyed most about teaching, she says, was allowing students to develop their character and creativity, and providing the opportunity for self-expression. “I didn’t teach a mundane art class, it was an art class for children where they could explore who they were. It wasn’t a ‘make-art’ art class; it was a ‘who am I’ art class.” Equally important, she says, was ensuring students enjoyed what they were learning. “Art allows you to just plain have fun. So even though I was more serious as an art teacher, we had a lot of fun.” Nancy retired from teaching in 2010 and quickly discovered a new passion for the arts – pebble murals. She created a pebble mural outside her home that was 10 years in the making, and the pebble mosaic bench outside the People’s Place Antigonish Town and County Library to honour Mi’kmaq culture. “It works for me as an artist to work with pebbles and to create scenes to get us to think about a relationship with land and with the Mi’kmaq people,” she says. What was cool about the library project, Nancy remembers, was the community’s involvement. More than 200 people helped with the creation of the mural over a twoyear period – from sorting pebbles to placing them into cement. Nancy has found plenty of ways to stay busy in retirement, including work as a photography artist. She’s also a supporter of The Arts House in Antigonish and is a member of Arts Health Antigonish, which fosters creative expression for community health. “Antigonish is a vibrant place for creativity and I’m very happy to be part of it,” she says. “And there’s a whole new set of young artists that are setting down roots here … a whole new troupe coming down choosing this beautiful land.” Nancy is also involved with the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition and is a member of the Antigonish Quakers Christian group. She says reading and cooking are among her hobbies. As a woman who has experienced life in different parts of the world, Nancy says each stop throughout her journey holds a special place in her heart for different reasons, including Nova Scotia – the place she calls home and where she and Boyke raised three children. “If I could never go anywhere else, I would be very happy living and dying here,” she says. “This is a beautiful part of the world with very, very beautiful people in it. The community is so strong; a strong sense of community is what kept myself and my husband here. “I’m very grateful for where I live.” For a Q&A with Nancy, see page 2. Meet Your Neighbour is a regular feature that profiles area residents. Want to suggest someone that should be featured? Email your idea to scott.doherty@saltwire.com.