'It's more than just the destruction': Artists use talents to create pieces inspired by the flood

Two Fredericton artists are taking the disastrous springtime flood and turning it into something beautiful.

'I knew I wanted to do something that involved the flood,' says artist working with Fredericton Arts Alliance

Dhanista Ambwani is spending this week in the Soldiers’ Barracks working on a painting of the St. John River using newspaper clippings from flood stories. (CBC)

Two Fredericton artists are taking the disastrous springtime flood and turning it into something beautiful.

Grade 11 Leo Hayes High School student Dhanista Ambwani is spending this week in the Soldiers' Barracks working on a painting of the St. John River using newspaper clippings from flood stories.

Ambwani is one of the Fredericton Arts Alliance's artists-in-residence this summer.

"I knew I wanted to do something that involved the flood because it was a huge part of this year," Ambwani said.

"I thought that I could get newspaper and I thought it would be a unique way to incorporate that into my painting," she said.

Dhanista Ambwani is working off of this photograph to create her painting of the St. John River. (CBC)

The Fredericton Arts Alliance artists-in-residence program is a week-long summertime program that's been running since 2002. Each week until Sept. 3, two artists will be working in Casemate #11 of the Soldiers' Barracks downtown. They spend their week working on a piece of art based on a particular theme that's chosen annually by the non-profit organization.

This year's theme is "the river." 

Ambwani, who's been painting since she was a child, said she hopes people feel a connection with the river when they see her painting.

Dhanista Ambwani working on a draft sketch of her painting of the St. John River. (CBC)

"I hope they feel some sort of connection or identification with the river, since it's such a big part of the city and the people who live in Fredericton," she said.

"I could only get my hands on French newspapers, so they're all French stories about the flood. They're just different stories that have a title or pictures, I'm going to be sort of shaping them so that they look like the river."

'Something really beautiful'

Ambwani isn't the only artist creating a piece inspired by the flood.

Tracy Austin is a fashion artist working beside Ambwani in Soldiers' Barracks this week. She's also an artist-in-residence with the Fredericton Arts Alliance who's using the week to work on a piece connected to the flooding.

"After dealing with so many upset people and just everyone being down about the river and the flood, I just really wanted to do something positive about it," Austin said.

Tracy Austin is a fashion artist and one of the Fredericton Arts Alliance artists in residence this summer. (CBC)

Austin, who works at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, said she dealt with the flooding "very intimately" when artists at the college were not able to use the building during the flood.  

"There was a lot of animosity about the flood and people were thinking how unfair it is and the destruction of it, but I wanted to take that concept and look at the better side of things," Austin said.

Austin hopes that her piece, a 40-centimetre fashion sculpture, reminds people that there's more to the river besides the flood.

Tracy Austin is working on a 40 cm fashion sculpture inspired by the flood. (CBC)

"I hope they see something they didn't expect to see when we're talking about the river, because I think everyone, especially in 2018, thinks of the flood when they think of our river," Austin said.

"I hope to remind people that it's more than just the destruction it brought this year. It's also something really beautiful."

About the Author

Sarah Morin

Reporter

Sarah Morin is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. Story tip? sarah.morin@cbc.ca