Spotlight on Brenda Rowe & Howard House

Rowe_1There is an old saying that “many hands make light work.” This is especially true when it comes to the act of painting. Alone, an artist takes small steps, slowly working towards the bigger picture. But when joined by others, that picture becomes bigger and bolder – a beautiful patchwork of colours, textures and styles, personalities and emotions. When practised together, painting allows us to let down our guard and reveal our true colours to others in the purest of ways. This is what the staff of Howard House (a supportive, community-based residential facility for adult male ex-offenders) recently learned during a workshop with artist/teacher and Business & Arts NL member Brenda Rowe.

Held earlier this month at the artist’s studio in Torbay, staff members were treated to a day of fun and self-discovery as they worked together to create a mural while gaining insights into communication, critical thinking, wellness and team building. After dividing an image into smaller pieces, Rowe provided each individual with one section to paint (without showing them the original image), painting supplies and two small canvases. Using a variety of colours, staff were encouraged to let their creative juices flow while Rowe demonstrated painting techniques, such as how to mix colours and indicate shading or other small enhancements, along the way. Staff were also encouraged to don their detective hats and chat while they worked to try and decipher the mural as a whole.

Rowe_2Christy Spracklin, program facilitator with Howard House, says while staff reaction was quite positive, there was a little apprehension leading up to the workshop with regards to the creative aspect. However, stress soon gave way to smiles as the painter’s doubts melted away with each brushstroke.

“As the day progressed all appeared to genuinely enjoy painting and took pride in their creations. The consensus of staff comments were that they found the day to be very relaxing and to fly by very quickly. It was neat to see so many different personalities take on a group project and you could see reflections of each staff member in the colours and techniques they used in their individual pieces. It was also interesting to see commonalties emerge amongst staff pieces, without planning ahead,” she says.

At the end of the session, they worked as a team to assemble their canvases together (like a jigsaw puzzle) to complete the larger piece.

Rowe_3“It took staff about 10 minutes to assemble our individual finished pieces into the larger mural. It was a beautiful downtown St. John’s scene which included the harbourfront, row houses and the Basilica,” Spracklin says.

“Once staff saw how beautifully our individual canvases fit together to make the mural, we all took great pride and reflection in our work. It was a wonderful feeling.”

Creativity, it seems, is contagious. Spracklin says she would “most definitely” consider doing a workshop like this again, adding that the benefits of bringing artists, like Rowe, into the workplace are manyfold.

“Creative activities such as the group mural project can give organizations like John Howard Society an opportunity to have staff engage in an innovative and fun activity that takes them away from the normal day-to-day routines of the workplace,” she says.


“Staff are able to relax, try something new and see the results of their combined efforts in a beautiful piece of art that will now be on display at our office for years to come.”