Skipping rocks and leaving footprints is a line from one of Lady Antebellum’s songs. It also depicts exactly the kind of ripple effect that has turned a conversation into a thought that wouldn’t go away. That thought happened to be artist Robin Lowe’s idea for a new public art piece.
Lowe had a visitor. They talked art while admiring pieces in the Sunflower Gallery. The work of artists Bettina and Mark Wong flowed into focus. The Wong’s talent in creating original metalwork designs became a conversation about positioning glass and metal together somehow. Lowe’s speciality is in mosaic glass creations. The other end of the conversation went to a place to be pondered over the Christmas holidays.
A Vermilion Trails Society member took Robin Lowe’s idea to the first meeting of the group for 2011. How about a fundraising dinner on the Bridge of Dreams for a public art piece? This thread had grown. Like a stone tossed into the water, the idea was causing ripples. The water was getting deeper yet gaining clarity.
After a good brainstorming session, a dinner on the Bridge of Dreams became a project. That project bounded across a river.
Soon the project bounced into the laps of Bettina and Mark Wong. Since metalwork was their speciality and also the inspiration for the public art piece it seemed only natural. Could they do it? Would they do it?
“Art is revealing more of what Princeton really is,” noted Lowe.
Lowe and the Wongs tossed ideas around with the Vermilion Trails Society until a creation was decided upon. The piece will bring Two Rivers Park, nature and art together. Using sustainable organic materials and a remarkable setting as a guide, the Wong’s have enrolled artist Sandy Spring to paint a rendering of the piece for all to see at the dinner on June 18. The signed painting will then be auctioned off.
Mark has two other public art pieces in the Okanagan – one in Vernon and one in Kelowna. Bettina focusses more on smaller pieces while Mark takes on huge feats of creativity. “Art let’s me be adventurous,” said Mark.
The Wongs moved to Princeton thirteen years ago. “We had been hanging around this area for years,” noted Mark “and then we came across this dilapidated old cabin and knew this was the place.” Bettina laughs at Mark’s enthusiasm for a cabin that is now a quiet retreat for the two. “It needed a lot of work. It was a shack surrounded by tall grass.”
A real estate deal later and the two artists were proud owner’s of a yet undiscovered masterpiece. Using their multifaceted creative talent the two dug deep and turned what was once an eyesore into a warm cozy haven in the woods. Then, they built a gallery.
The duo have been together for 26 years and don’t regret for a minute their decision to leave Vancouver where Mark worked long hours building commercial kitchens from stainless steel. “I could build them with my eyes closed after a while,” he said. Artists who had vision, but little talent with metalwork began turning to Mark to build what they drew. “I started chasing the art work and got so I could design anything out of metal.” From there Mark moved onto creating his own pieces. Shifting into full time artists and rural life was a leap of faith for the Wongs. “I can breathe deeply here,” said Mark. “The city is just too busy and fast-paced all the time. Our friends come to visit us all gray-faced and tired and leave envious and rested. We don’t punch a clock anymore and can work until 2 in the morning if we want to.”
“Being creative has its costs and its rewards,” said Lowe. “For most of us the rewards far outweigh the costs.”
With Lowe and the Wongs collaborating together with the Vermilion Trails Society and the Princeton Arts Council, it is no doubt that the finished product, which will eventually sit proudly in the park, will be a source of community pride. Passion can move mountains, build bridges (or art) and leave footprints in the hearts of those who stand near. Tickets to the fundraising dinner are on sale now at the Spotlight, Sunflower Gallery and Thomasinas Tea Room.