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Stanley Knowles artists support Assiniboine Park gardens fundraiser

July 12, 2022
Student puts finishing touches on one of several hand-painted barrels going up for auction in support of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy gardens.

A group of École Stanley Knowles School students donated their artistic talents and time in support of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy Garden Party.

The event, which is held annually as a fundraiser for Assiniboine Park’s gardens, will take place Aug. 31 at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. A highlight of the event will be a virtual auction that will feature one-of-a-kind experiences and items that all have a connection to Assiniboine Park and the Zoo.

For some of the auction pieces, the Garden Party committee were inspired by a Cincinnati Zoo fundraising campaign that featured hand-painted rain barrels. All the committee needed were some volunteer artists for the project.

Committee Co-Chair Neil Wilcox, who also happens to be a retired Winnipeg School Division administrator and educator, thought of enlisting Stanley Knowles art teacher Nadia Kmet and her students.

“I knew Nadia could bring life to the project and that she would engage, mentor, and challenge her students to do brilliant work,” Mr. Wilcox said.


Ms. Kmet enlisted some student artists at the school and in February, the group headed to the Assiniboine Park Zoo for inspiration. Visiting exhibits such as Journey to Churchill, Toucan Ridge, Grassland Boreal Forest and Animals of Asia, the students absorbed as many visual details as they could.

“Students took pictures, and from there, the planning began,” Ms. Kmet said. “There was excitement and a sense of eagerness to get the project started. At that moment, I did not doubt that the artists would deliver on this project.”


Students Ojasvi Bhardwaj and Madisyn Graham created an aquatic-themed barrel with three seals.

“We got the idea from my partner, her mom actually went to the Arctic Circle and was a researcher,” Ojasvi said. “We really wanted to have a tribute to her.”

Ojasvi added that the project was rewarding on many levels.

“It was a good learning experience and a way to give back to the community,” she said. “There were a lot of ups and downs, but we got through them and we’re very confident in our barrels now.”


The art project had many challenges, including sourcing the barrels, finding the right primer and paint to adhere to the plastic surfaces, and many lunch hours of planning, drawing and painting to bring the designs to life.

“This project was not only an art project, but a project that taught the artists life skills,” Ms. Kmet said. “The project required the artists not only to create a work of art, but in their journey to complete the task, they had to communicate, cooperate, share ideas and be respectful of one another.”


Mr. Wilcox, Assiniboine Park Conservancy Garden Party committee member Ruth Asper and Assiniboine Park Conservancy Donor Development Officer Donna Wilford visited Stanley Knowles on June 21 to see the students’ artwork up close.

“Needless to say, Nadia and her students didn’t disappoint!” Mr. Wilcox said. “Their creations are one-of-a-kind and are a testimony to the talent, determination and character of these fine students and their teacher. They are giving back to the community by the giving of their time, talent, and commitment. It’s truly remarkable and a testimony to the students themselves and also to the Administration and staff at École Stanley Knowles School, who have supported this project from its inception.”

Ms. Kmet said she was proud of her students’ artwork.

“There was no doubt that these artists would create unique art pieces for this event by bringing their style (including an Indigenous theme), perspective and vision to the project. The final work is outstanding…staff and students in our school have admired the work as they pass by the classroom. It will be sad to see the barrels leave the classroom.”

As a special thank you, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy Garden Party committee gave students picnic lunches with wooden baskets, as well as gift bags with redemption cards for the Winnipeg Jets Store, Sephora, Dairy Queen and more. 


“This project is not only a terrific benefit to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy but also a wonderful opportunity for these students to put their learning to good use in a real life philanthropic way,” Mr. Wilcox said. “Nadia’s teaching, guidance and coaching has allowed these young artists to create exceptional pieces that will be viewed by thousands of folks and ultimately purchased by a few very lucky Assiniboine Park Conservancy supporters. It’s a win-win situation for all.” 

The barrels will be available during a ten-day online auction that begins with the Garden Party on Aug. 31. Supporters will be able to view and bid on experiences and items directly at (note: the auction site goes live on Aug. 31). All funds raised go towards the Assiniboine Park Conservancy gardens and The Leaf - Canada's Diversity Gardens.

For more information on the Assiniboine Park Conservancy Garden Party event, visit here: .

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