From left, Naomi Gaertner, Mariah Grams, Melissa Hall and Meghan Bowman showcase their creations during the “Paint with Melissa Hall” event at the library Feb. 26. Submitted photo

From left, Naomi Gaertner, Mariah Grams, Melissa Hall and Meghan Bowman showcase their creations during the “Paint with Melissa Hall” event at the library Feb. 26. Submitted photo

Expect the unexpected: community and connection at the library

Part of my work at the library is capturing our activities on camera, and it’s always a blast getting to watch people of all ages learn, create, and play at the library. Puppet shows, art classes, celebrations of all kinds … one of my favourites was a royal tea party that featured a visit from a staff member in an inflatable dinosaur suit: the Tea Rex!

Sometimes I get more than I bargain for out of the experience. In February, the library hosted a painting class with local artist Melissa Hall. Over the course of a couple of hours, a few locals painted with Melissa, and I popped in and out of the program room with my camera. While people were at the library to learn painting techniques, I ended up learning a few things myself.

Lesson one: When in doubt, laugh.

We had a room full of first timers that day; first time painters, and it was also Melissa’s first time teaching a painting class, something you would never have known if you were watching. She led the group through a Bob Ross-style landscape painting, and throughout the afternoon there were a few times when things didn’t go quite according to plan. Mr. Ross would have called them “happy accidents.” There weren’t any tears over misbehaving paint brushes though. Instead, the only hysterics were the kind involving laughter.

Lesson two: Give the gift of kind words.

The program gave people the chance to step outside of their comfort zones a bit, which can be a stressful experience. Again and again, I heard the painters encouraging each other. Bob Ross, the king of inspiring commentary while he was painting, would have been proud of the way people praised each other’s “happy little trees.”

Lesson three: Be a friend indeed to a stranger in need.

Halfway through the program, I noticed that my phone wasn’t in my pocket where I had left it. To say that I was worried about having lost it would be an understatement. More like panicked. Then, the painters came to the rescue! Mariah Grams, one of the participants, insisting on stepping out of the program and walking around with me while using her phone to call my cell until we found it. Thankfully, it didn’t take long, and I am incredibly grateful and pleasantly surprised by how she was willing to go out of her way to help me, a total stranger.

I don’t know if we just lucked in by having the nicest folks ever stop by the library that day, but I like to think that the library brings out the best in people. If you look on the library’s website, there is a page listing our guiding principles, with our vision statement front and centre: “The Sylvan Lake Municipal Library strives to be the heart of our community, where all come to discover, learn and connect.” I feel like I really saw our vision come to life that day.

A note about Bob Ross: If you didn’t recognize my Bob Ross references, he was the host of the long running Joy of Painting series on PBS. You can check out some of his DVDs from the library.

— Submitted by Shanna Doupe, Sylvan Lake Municipal Library Marketing Consultant

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