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Artists lend their talents to Tsawwassen's Little House

The windows are bare, the floors are unfinished and there's no indoor plumbing yet, but a collection of original paintings are ready and waiting to adorn the walls of the soon-to-be finished Little House in Tsawwassen.

The windows are bare, the floors are unfinished and there's no indoor plumbing yet, but a collection of original paintings are ready and waiting to adorn the walls of the soon-to-be finished Little House in Tsawwassen.

Local interior designer Karen Marchand was instrumental in recruiting more than a dozen artists, many of whom call South Delta home, to donate their work to the under-construction substance abuse education facility on 12th Ave.

Standing in the barren, echoey living room, Marchand surveys an assortment of framed landscapes, florals and abstract works of art leaning up against the mantle and perched on easels.

"I think that the paintings will offer colour, they'll offer healing, they'll offer a sense of where we live and its meaning to us," she says.

In addition to being responsible for the interior design of the new house, Marchand also plans to donate an original painting of her ownone that will have special significance for those who spent time at the previous Little House before it burned down in 2009. It will depict the original white house, a place where Marchand says hope was realized for countless individuals and families.

"It will be done in a whimsical style because that house was very non-descript, but the thing is, there's so much emotion and feeling attached to the former Little House," she says.

Talent steps forward

Little House Society is a non-profit organization that promotes education related to substance abuse, addiction and abstinence-based recovery. For 27 years, the society oversaw a house on 12th Ave. adjacent to Brandrith Park which was used as a meeting place for addicts and recovery groups.

In 2009 the house fell victim to arson but thanks to fundraising efforts, the society has nearly reached its goal of raising $250,000 in cash and in-kind donations to rebuild. The new facility is expected to open early this year after breaking ground last June.

Artists agreed to donate their work for a variety of reasons. Longtime Tsawwassen resident Sam Dawn Bouic is a member of the recovering community and has been going to Little House for 16 years. She painted an acrylic piece especially for the new house entitled "Loving Growth."

"People who come here are coming here for a new hope, so to me this depicted new growth and new hope," she says of her work.

While Bouic looks forward to the re-opening, she says she appreciates bearing witness to the rebuilding process as the new house becomes a reality. Before the arson, Bouic says the recovering community was not very involved in operating the house. But today, many people who used Little House have become enthusiastic volunteers, dedicated to getting the facility up and running again.

"To me, that's what's hopeful. It's not just the building, but the participation," she says.

Ladner artist Linda Jones is donating a piece painted from a photograph her friend took on Valdes Island. Her grandson named it "The Magnificent Forest." Jones runs her fingertips over the thick layers of acrylic paint and hopes viewers will also enjoy its rich texture.

"I just thought it was very peaceful and I think that's a common thought on everybody's mind," she says. The Little House project has special meaning for Jones, who says her own family, like many, has been affected by alcoholism.

Unprecedented response

Maureen Husband of Ladner selected a piece that captures a cherished memory. She was inspired to paint "Morning Rising" while accompanying her grandson on a school excursion to the Flying U Ranch in 70 Mile House. She recalls one cold, early morning watching the resident horses standing in their corral.

"It was just really a memory of being with him (my grandson). It was really nice, a special day," she says. "It's just such a peaceful scene, I thought it would kind of suit here."

Montreal native Francine Noreau, who now lives in Ladner, is donating two oil-on-canvas pieces entitled "Optimistic Garden" and "Spring Arrival." Both represent scenes in Delta.

"I believe in the project," Noreau says of Little House.

Other artists who have agreed to contribute work include Dell Spencer, Salma Shami, Vi Tunstall, Nicole Carrie, Gary Fox, Jean Chose, Kathleen Landry, Dr. Herb Forward and Jill Charuk.

Little House Society president Jim Stimson is currently on vacation overseas, but contacted the Leader by email to express how touched he is by these artists' "personal and heartfelt" contributions.

"Their gifts are truly representative of each of their own hearts, souls, spiritanddesire to touch the healing of individuals, families and our community where substance abuse has left its path of destruction," he says.

In his 35 years of community and organizational development work, Stimson says he has never once witnessed the level of response from individuals, companies, in-kind and cash contributors that this project has seen.

"It is beyond belief, expectation, it is spectacular and unprecedented," he says. "The recovery community and all who enter this new Little House facility will be touched and inspired by the care, commitment and concern of the citizens of South Delta."

Making a house a home

As president and senior designer at Reflections of You Interior Design Services in Tsawwassen, Marchand has been happily working on the Little House project for a year now.

"There's just been so many families and people that have been helped by him (Jim Stimson), so when he asked me to come on board, I immediately jumped at the chance," she says.

She adds that most of the contributing artists have been affected by substance abuse or addiction on some level.

"I think just about every single one of them, in some way, has been touched by it in their family," she says. "Because alcohol has touched all of our families we wanted to donate, we wanted to be part of it."

Marchand hopes the finished interior of Little House, complete with paintings, will create a calm, welcoming atmosphere for all who step through the front door.

"It's a safe place, it's a home, it's a place to be authentic. It's a place for healing," she says. "I think it's also a place where people can really feel proud of what they've accomplished."

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