CULTIVATING CREATIVITY: Napanee’s Pallet’able Art Project

Jessica Doner’s “Caring for Each Other” is one of about 30 artist’s palettes public art initiatives installed by the Greater Napanee Arts & Culture Advisory Committee

By Ardith Racey/Quinte Arts Council

About four years ago, Tim Nimigan, vice-chair of the Greater Napanee Arts & Culture Advisory Committee, began to research public art initiatives and came upon the idea of using industrial pallets or ‘skids’ as artist’s palettes. Nimigan decided to “produce one and show people how it could be done.” The rest is history.

The works showcase a wide range of themes and styles that reflect Napanee’s history, wildlife, nature, as well as cultural and social issues, street scenes, and abstract art. For example, “Festivities of the Riverfront” by Austin Dunhm (designed by Nimigan) is located in Conservation Park and depicts all of the “activities associated with the now combined Riverfront Festival and Multi-Cultural Festival.”

“Eat Local” by Peggy Collins is located in the downtown area and expresses gratitude for locally grown food.

“Splash II” by Michelle Hutchinson, located by The Waterfront River Pub & Terrace, is an abstract rendering of “the dance of light and water.”

The pallets also tell an amazing story about the citizens of Napanee – both through the designs and images depicted by the artists, as well as the creativity and co-operation of artists, sponsors, and officials who have made the project such a success. Each work has a sponsoring business, organization or family, and has to be approved by the Arts and Culture committee. A few of the 30 pallet’able projects are tributes to individuals, such as the one titled “Caring for Each Other” that is in honour of Richard Atkinson, “who used to feed the geese,” says Nimigan.

Napanee’s thirtieth and final art installation is painted on a wooden skid and titled “Moon’s Next Adventure,” by Jessica Doner. It depicts Moon, John Herzog’s dog, who passed away recently. “For years, Herzog, a photographer in a wheelchair, could be seen on the streets in Napanee with Moon, who walked ahead unleashed and always carried a Tim Horton’s cup,” says Nimigan. Sondra Elliott, the owner of Pet Panache, came up with the idea as a surprise for Herzog, to sponsor a pallet when Moon passed away. It was installed in front of the downtown Tim Horton’s on July 19.

You can find 29 similar artworks scattered throughout Napanee’s downtown, various parks and along the Napanee River Trail. The installations are lovely additions to the picturesque trails and parks, given that the intent was to create a ‘walking tour’. There’s an interactive on-line map with images and locations of all of the pieces, as well as artists’ statements of intent.

Pallet’able Art is a clever play on words, and the recent completion of the project is impressive and inspiring. Each of the installations has been a labour of love. But what is truly wonderful about this project is the fact that so many local artists have their ideas and works featured for public display. And it’s just a stroll away. Palatable, indeed.

This article originally appeared in the Quinte Arts Council’s Umbrella magazine Fall issue 2021.