MINTY: ‘Smiling frog’ banners leap from streets of Surrey’s nurturing pond

Also: Ian Harmon leading summer workshop for teen theatre students

Banners created by Susan Point are featured on Surrey streets.

SURREY — Art is all around us. Literally. The “smiling frog” street banner seen along some Surrey streets this season was designed by artist Susan Point, a local Coast Salish artist. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has been presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her contributions to Canada. So it is art – real art designed by a real artist. Point also created a sculpture called “Frogs,” on display at the South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre.

Surrey’s public art banner program was established in 2000 and has featured designs by artists such as Gordon Smith and Robert Davidson. Look for Point’s colourful banners in various locations across the city, including on University Drive, 100th Avenue and at King George Boulevard at 88th Avenue, near Surrey Art Centre. I love the banners (which use the same frog seen in Point’s sculpture, “Water Guardians,” to be unveiled soon at Hazelgrove Park in Cloverdale) and the whole concept of public art.

And why use frogs as public art? Well, the frog’s traditional design symbolizes the cycle of life, small transformative beginnings and the rhythm of the land. Point describes frogs as one of her favourite creatures: “I’ve never really lost the captivation of watching them develop from tadpoles, and I don’t think anyone really does.”

And speaking of tadpoles, we have artists among us whose tadpole state started in the Surrey pond. Ian Harmon (pictured), a professional actor/director, is leading a summer workshop for theatre students aged 12 to 18. The selected students will work on a collaborative play-building experience. Beach House Theatre and Alexandra Neighbourhood House are lending their help in creating the program.

Ian’s name may sound familiar, as his dad, Rick Harmon, was a longtime theatre teacher at Earl Marriott Secondary and now is a principal person involved in Beach House Theatre. Ian, you couldn’t have picked a better parent to provide your tadpole pond. Ian left the family pond and has performed all over Canada, and is also getting some excellent opportunities in film and television. He holds a BFA in acting from UBC and is a graduate of the Douglas College Theatre Program.

This summer workshop will be a great opportunity for local theatre students. Auditions for actors (yes, you have to audition) will be Sunday, June 12 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Actors are asked to prepare a one- to two-minute monologue and be prepared for an improvised scene. Production/stagecraft students are asked to send a letter of interest, along with a teacher reference. Email for an audition, or to send letter of interest. Rehearsals on are on July 10, 17, 24, 31, Aug. 7, 14, 21, 28 and Sept. 3 (from 2 to 5 p.m.) at Alex House, at Crescent Beach; The performance is on Sept. 10. And there is another bonus: This project will include a certificate of your volunteer hours.

It is so energizing to see both established and emerging artists contributing to the everyday part of our lives. Do you have an artistic side that hasn’t yet been developed or encouraged? Well, calling all tadpoles. Langley artist Jenn Williamson wants to help you discover your artistic voice.

Williamson (pictured) gives a Thursday Artist Talk, called “Discover Your Artistic Voice,” on June 2 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Surrey Art Gallery. Join her as she shares how she “discovered” she was an artist and discuss how trusting your intuition can be healing and lead you to find your own artistic voice. With humility and humour, Jenn will give the lowdown on the good, the bad and the ugly of being an artist, even if you don’t like drawing.

Williamson paints abstract and impressionist scenes. Her first art show was in 2011 and she recently exhibited her work in New York. A fascination with texture has motivated her pursuit of unconventional training and the acquisition of products not yet discovered by mainstream artists. Admission is free at the June 2 event, presented by Surrey Art Gallery Association in partnership with the gallery, and with support from the Arts Council of Surrey.

Art is all around us, inside and out. A tadpole does become a frog. That is inspiration for art. Lucky us to have such a nurturing pond.


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