Article by: Liz Kominek

You may have noticed that the picnic tables around town have a new splash of colour!

Thanks to a wonderful partnership between many community groups, volunteers, and artists, these tables showcase talent and creativity on tables that everyone can enjoy.

Here’s the story of how it all happened.

Earlier this summer, Tyler – one of the Dresden Night Market organizers – wanted to make the tables fun and interesting and something that guests at the Summer Night Market could enjoy and for the community to use throughout the summer.

Both Dresden Shines and the Dresden Night Market quickly got on board by donating funds and volunteer hours to make this happen.

Picnic tables in three parks were chosen to be painted: The Anglican Church picnic area, which is very visible and accessible for people grabbing some food from the downtown restaurants,  Rotary Park where the tables are used for seating during the Rotary Concerts, and Stranak Conservation Area where many groups rent the pavilions for gatherings such as family reunions.

Four bright colours were chosen: pink, yellow, blue, and green. Table tops and seats were painted in various combinations.Thank you to the following volunteers for helping to sand and prime the first 14 tables: Stuart Kiar, Cindy Brewer, Morena McDonald, Rose Northcott,  Mary Jane and Brent Mossop, Pam Smith, Leah Gervais, Taylor Farrell and Liz Kominek. 

Walt Northcott and Glen Murray also sanded and stained the Rotary benches to give them a fresh coat of stain, which had been donated by Matt Lessard. 

But the painting efforts didn’t stop there!

After the first pink and green table was painted and Rose and Morena envisioned it as a watermelon. Morena painted small black watermelon looking seeds on the table top. Our first table top art was born! Soon the word spread that we were looking for artists to create art on the table tops.  Bonnie Crittenden and Sarah Steele started the craze at the downtown picnic area. Bonnie painted beautiful flowers on two tables in the park. Sarah painted a fun vibrant ice cream themed table and  green tropical leaves on the second. Our artists were very generous with their time and used their own paint supplies. 

The tables were so beautiful, we knew we had to preserve and protect them. Sealant was purchased and several coats were applied by Liz.  Glen Murray became interested in what we were doing and offered to help do the sealing of future tables which was a huge help.

Bonnie came back on several times to paint sunflowers, a large poppy, the Rotary logo, Dresden Shines logo, IODE logo, butterflies, fish, Snoopy, and more. She also shared some interesting techniques with people walking by. She used a balloon dipped in paint to create the centres of the flowers, which she would then add the stems and branches. Rose tried the technique on one of the tables to create a fascinating flower art piece. This technique was also used to create a balloon bouquet for Snoopy. She also loved engaging with the kids walking through the park by asking them to leave their hand prints on the picnic benches and signing their names.  

With the Summer Night Market quickly approaching, Morena and Corey with Liz and some friends painted more tables with the primer and base coat colours. Two new colours were added: peach and lavender. Nineteen more tables were painted at the Stranak Conservation Area. The Night Market offered to help fund the additional cost of the new colours, supplies and sealant. 

We were fortunate to have a couple students offer to paint a table: Alexa Zheng painted a sunset table and Jordan Wills painted a cloud, sun and moon theme on a table.

Mary Jane Mossop painted a gnome house with a nice message: “kindness is a gift…pass it on”.  She also recreated the Dresden Night Market logo on a yellow table.

Morena painted a rainbow table and her friend Kristyn painted a pineapple table using the hand print of her toddler for the pineapples. Kristyn also painted a bee buzzing sunflower table. 

Pam Smith painted a sunflower on tabletop and with cool ants and bees on the bench. She also painted a sun with rays on the yellow and blue table. Her daughter Ceili painted a watermelon table using just her hands, no brushes – it turned out amazing!

All of the tables were moved to Jackson Park for the Night Market thanks to the help of Mike Noltie, Dave Clark, and Matt Lessard. The tables brought a lot of colour and added to the overall atmosphere in the park during the Summer Night Market on July 23 – thousands of people had a chance to see and enjoy them!

Jordon Wills, another up-and-coming young artist brought to life a scene with clouds, the sun and moon on the bench.  Bonnie and Morena painted a few more of the unpainted tables left in the parks, Morena creating a colourful table top, kaleidoscope of colours. Bonnie added another Snoopy table, butterflies  and giraffes.

A polka dot table was painted by Morena reminding us all of The Polka Dot Door show!

Unfortunately the Rainbow table was vandalized on August 7. Marks were burned across the rainbow and one end looked like someone had wanted to set it on fire. We knew we needed to fix it. Liz and Glen repaired the base coat. Morena and Sarah repaired and made it even better by using gold leaf and adding hearts and a message on the seat saying, “Love Wins”.  

One other table left was painted by Morena and Sarah with more bright colours and an inviting message: “You can sit with us”. 

In total there are 33 tables painted. Thank you to Glen Murray who has been keeping up with applying the sealant. We have heard that those painting find the painting experience very relaxing and a stress releaser. 

We have been fortunate that there has not been a lot of damage done to the tables, other than the one targeted one. We hope that the tables will be enjoyed by the community and visitors to the parks. 

Recently they were used for a family reunion at Stranak Park, at the Rock the Lot event in August, and now a couple of them can be found at the Jackson Park Splash pad where they will enjoyed by families and fans watching the baseball games. 

I feel as if I was a bit of an informal project manager and feel so proud and honoured to have worked with the artist and to see how it evolved into 33 tables being painted. Art connects us all and can be enjoyed by all. It has added colour and life to the parks. Our community has benefited from them sharing their time and talents with us and we are very grateful!

Liz Kominek 

Author: Tyler