Damanjit (Daman) Grewal is smiling and drawing shapes with a black pen on paper in the main studio at the Nina. “What are you drawing?” I ask. “This is my basement. My dad is renovating it for me!” She is beaming now. “And what is this part over here?” “This is my dog. He is one month old. He is sitting in the window. This is the window here,” she points to another figure on the paper and reminds me that she is not finished the drawing yet. Brenda Kim Christianson, a long-time lead artist at the Nina, joins us. She is quite enthralled with Daman’s work. “What’s going on over here? She points to another figure. “This is my bed. My bed is going here where I can see my dog sitting in the window.”

Daman working on her painting in studio

Brenda brings over a completed work to show me, clearly impressed with the result. The painting was beautiful, but looked nothing like the drawing. Layers of colour had been added, hiding the intricate drawings beneath. After taking a photo of her current work in progress, I promise to come and see how it turns out.

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Daman with her completed painting

Mid-morning on Daman’s next day in the studio, Brenda brings me the completed painting. “It’s finished already?” I had hoped to be able to watch as she added the layers of colour over her intricate drawings. I bring the painting back to the studio where Daman is already at work on her next piece. “You finished the painting!” Daman beams, “And my room is finished too.” I notice the work is not titled or signed. “You will have to write the name of the painting on the back – Basement Renovation.” I wonder if she will remember what this painting represents. She just smiles and begins her new work.

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Ghalib Ahmed with Randy Stennes

As a Nina patron, I have been matched with Damanjit for the next year. The patron program has been in place for four years now and has been a huge success, with 42 patrons this year and over $20,000 raised in support of Nina’s busy studio program. On May 12, the annual Patrons’ Luncheon was held in the community hall across the street from the Nina. At this event, patrons and artists have the chance to meet each other and the artists present their patrons with a gift of their art. While this event is decidedly a bit chaotic – this year more than 100 artists, family members and patrons came together to celebrate the 2016 patron program – it is my favourite day at the Nina and it is definitely a highlight of the year for the artists. The luncheon concludes with the crowing of the year’s honorary chair, the Patron Saint. This year we were fortunate to have former Patron Saints Lynn Mandel and Dianne Kipnes on hand to pass the halo (yes, literally a halo!) to this year’s honorary Saint, Suromitra Sanatani.

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Our patron saints

Huge thanks to Suromitra, Lynn and Dianne, and to all the Nina patrons, with congratulations to this year’s artists. Artists are selected based on their commitment to their artistic practice and quality of work.