Collaborative art invites spiritual contemplation while on downtown stroll


A new art installation has gone up in downtown Sturgeon Falls on the south wall of Nipissing Food in Bins, a 6-panel collaboration between artists Vero Coya (Véronique Gervais) and Kim Peterson. The pieces are highly evocative of universal and ancient spiritual themes, with four panels reflecting the elementals framing a central dimensional portal. They are fascinating paintings, not only pleasing to the eye from a distance, but on close-up inspection revealing embedded messages to the soul. They are different enough to distinguish two different styles, two different palettes, yet thematically connected in their use of spiritual archetypes. 

Vero Coya

Véronique Gervais, who goes by Vero Coya, currently lives in Australia with her partner. The Tribune interviewed her before she left this past spring. She said of her four-paneled piece, “My goal was to represent each element, Earth (Body), Air (Mind), Water (Emotions), and Fire (Spirit)… In my art I am always depicting nature and beings. In the pieces you will see they have a sun or a moon, they have a head. My art is always kind of symbolic.” Her pieces also have a certain feel to them, with earth tones and features that a viewer senses they recognize without knowing exactly from where and when. “I use a lot of earthtones and some pastel rainbow colours,” she described. “Even though this is a collaborative effort, and they will be placed together, they really are separate pieces. 

Véronique spoke to her artistic path. “I’m from here. I always liked art and was drawn to it. When I graduated high school I went and did a one-year art and design program at Georgian College in Barrie. It was kind of cool. Coming from a small town, we didn’t have as much [art] around us all the time. Getting to go to college and try all these different mediums was interesting – pottery and painting, metal and sculpture, all these things were great for me to try, and I really liked it. I think painting and colour theory were my favourite.” She has made a career working in art and design. She said she enjoyed her schooling but, “I don’t really need to be in school to do art, and I kept at it and now am self-employed. I do logo design and freelance illustration, and I also do a little tattooing. It takes time to build an art career, but when it happens it’s so much more rewarding. Yeah, it’s happening; still early days, but I’m just doing my art, which is pretty cool.” Véronique is 27 years old, and has certainly made her mark in West Nipissing.

Her thoughts about the Sturgeon Falls mural project initiated by Gayle Primeau? “I love it and am so grateful to Gayle and proud of her to take the initiative to make this all happen. Public art brings so much to the community; it’s so important, just like street art. When you’re walking down the street and glance and get to see something that might shift your mood, even though just a little bit — we all need that. It feels like caring, what it feels like to be in town – you don’t feel alone.”

“I travel a lot and I’ve been living all over the country and abroad so when I came home, I was just home for 6 months, and I contacted Gayle just to mention I am an artist and would like to do a mural if it works out…  I travel on my own. I’m married to an Australian and that’s why we’re heading back to Australia to live, more permanently. I think that’s the plan but you never really know. I’ve been there before and it was great, and it’s familiar enough even though very different.” Her artwork was kept in storage until Kim Peterson completed the central piece, so Véronique has only seen photos of the final installation. She knew this before she left and said, “I’m just going to see some photos. I’m kind of sad, but it’s okay, I’ll see it when I come back to visit.” 

Kim Peterson

Kim Peterson was responsible for the centre piece, a two-panel painting titled “I AM”. “As you spend time looking at this mural, may it be a reminder to look within your own heart to find and create your soul’s inner desires for freedom, peace, harmony and joy.” A Tree of Life, with twisted branches flowering, emerging upwards from a lotus at the base, in front of a concentric rainbow radiating outwards into the universe, a shield of light in the centre, it invites the eye to spend time contemplating, providing a portal experience in the heart of Sturgeon Falls. Built into the painting are the structures of sacred geometry, commonly known as the Flower of Life and the 6-pointed Star of David. Peterson said, “I named it I AM; it is the foundation of who we are, ancient wisdom flows through all our souls, regardless – it’s a matter of remembrance.”

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