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Elder’s artwork graces the walls at Chesterfield Inlet school

A prize win at a staff party almost two decades ago has come full circle to help beautify the interior of Victor Sammurtok School (VSS) in Chesterfield Inlet.

VSS teacher Ana Leishman won a prize draw for one of Rosalie Sammurtok’s drawings at a staff party in 2002 and, as the years flipped past, she continued to think about how important it would be to have Rosalie’s artwork adorning the walls of the school.

A scene inspired by the artwork of Rosalie Sammurtok was painted on the wall of Victor Sammurtok School by Ana Leishman in Chesterfield Inlet in October. Photo courtesy of Ana Leishman

Last week, Leishman took on a little extra beyond her professional development literacy activities, transferring the images of Rosalie’s 2002 artwork – an iglu, a man and a woman – onto a wall to form a type of a scene that brought the images to life.

Leishman said the original artwork she won was a vertical print with three images on it: a hunter at the top, an iglu in the middle and a woman on the bottom.

She said the print hung in her house for a number of years until an RCMP officer, James Mearns, was doing relief work in Chester around 2007 and she found out he was an artist.

“James agreed to draw a mural on the wall of the school and then he and I painted it,” said Leishman.

“Since that time, I added another and we held a contest in the school for the kids to come-up with some drawing ideas for the walls.

“So, we had a mural on the elementary side’s entrance and then we did something similar on the senior side.

“Then, a few years ago, while painting the school, they painted over all the murals except the one that was done by James Mearns. So, since then, we’ve kind of had these bare walls, other than student artwork that was put up temporarily.”

Leishman said when she decided to do something with the walls, she thought of redoing the mural she had originally done on the elementary side of the building – adding some things and taking some away.

She said she put a sketch on the wall and then asked Rosalie if it would be OK if she added some of her artwork, as well.

“She was really modest about what she had that might be good enough to be used on the wall, because she’s really an excellent artist,” she said.

“So, I brought in the piece I had won years ago and she had forgotten that she’d even done it.

“I asked her if it would be OK to use that for the inspiration behind putting a scene on the wall. She said that was fine, so I put the images on the wall in more of a scene, with the iglu in the background and the woman approaching the man on the ice.”

Leishman said throughout the process, she asked Rosalie what colours she wanted and how she might want it to look to stay as true to her original drawings as possible.

She said it was very important to her that Rosalie liked the finished product because she’s been teaching at VSS for decades, is an elder at the school named after her father, is the VSS language instructor and is an amazing artist in her own tight.

“Rosalie showed me some of the other artwork she’s done over the years. When she was a younger person, she did one of the drawings that’s on the painted glass windows up at the church,” she said.

“We have a lot of hidden talent in our school and I thought what better way to showcase it than on the walls.

“We had a dance at the school this past Friday night and the kids were walking past the scene and commenting on how nice it looked.

“I may have been the painter of it, but it’s Rosalie’s artwork on the walls.”