Working together has long been a staple of life on the prairies.
Without people coming together, it is hard to imagine that early settlers could have survived.
Today, teamwork on the prairies is not as essential to survival, but that does not mean it has disappeared.
For Vivian Bennett, teamwork is both a way of life and an inspiration.
Bennett is a painter whose works frequently depict life from that simpler time. However, Bennett would have a much tougher time going about her art if it wasn’t for a little help from her neighbours.
“People still care about each other and look after each other, similar to the way it was in pioneer days, when you had to or you died,” said Bennett. ““It’s kind of the prairie idea where we all kind of help each other out just from the goodness in our hearts. Its also the theme of many of my paintings.”
When she began painting 13 years ago, Bennett focused on landscapes but she longed to paint people and their stories.
“I’ve always been interested in culture, why we do the things that we do and what makes us different from other cultures,” she said. “I didn’t just want to paint nature. I prefer to paint people and stories.”
Bennett didn’t have to look very far to find models, just across the front lawn.
Bennett asked her neighbours, Mary Ann Baltimore and Shaunna Tremmel and they were all too happy to oblige and quickly developed a bond.
“We’ve had lots of fun and laughs,” said Baltimore. “The three of us have formed a great friendship.”
Friendship wasn’t the only good thing to come out of their partnership.
“I was invited to compete in an art competition for Cenovus for their new building,” said Bennett. “I didn’t win the competition, but they did purchase a painting of mine for their permanent collection. That was a really big deal for me.”
Bennett sold her painting “On Thursday’s Elsie Took the Egg Money to Town” and with the money she receives she plans to share the wealth with her two favourite models.
“Since this is such a big deal for me to go into that permanent collection, I decided that I would do something special,” said Bennett. “I arranged a ‘staff party’ for the three of us and our husbands. We are getting dressed up and having a limo pick us up and we are going to the Lacombe Downs racetrack.”
“I guess it was just her way of thanking us,” said Baltimore.
The invitation to compete in the competition came at a time when Bennett was also in need of some cheering up.
“It was amazing. I broke my right shoulder and arm a couple years ago and I wasn’t able to paint for two years,” she said. “I was just in the doldrums. I got a phone call to ask me to compete and I said yes.”
Although she didn’t win the contest, Bennett still sees the benefits of her efforts.
“I just felt I had achieved more than I realized I had.”