Abbotsford teacher and artist receives Alumni Award from UFV

Shannon Thiesen recognized for her work at ASIA North Poplar and more

Shannon Thiesen is shown with the abstract bear painting she created as part of the Art Battle BC Finals in June. She won the contest and competed in the nationals.

Shannon Thiesen is shown with the abstract bear painting she created as part of the Art Battle BC Finals in June. She won the contest and competed in the nationals.

Abbotsford teacher and artist Shannon Thiesen has been named the recipient of the 2016 Young Distinguished Alumni Award from University of the Fraser Valley (UFV).

Thiesen is a Grade 4/5 teacher at Abbotsford School of the Integrated Arts’ North Poplar campus and earlier this year won the Art Battle provincial finals in Vancouver.

“If you asked me if I was a teacher or artist I wouldn’t be able to tell you either one – I’m both,” she says.

But it wasn’t always that way. While copying the drawings of a Grade 4 classmate, the art spark slowly caught fire with Thiesen, but the considerations of a practical career pulled her in a different direction.

She started with journalism at Carleton University before settling into a major in English literature with minors in law and women’s studies. From there she jetted to Japan, teaching private-school English.

After returning to her hometown of Powell River, Thiesen didn’t have the money to start university – but she had the drive and the support.  She applied to UFV, where her partner James was enrolled in aviation.

She credits UFV instructors for inspiring her to become a great teacher for her own students.

Thiesen recently flew to New York City with a colleague to help an underprivileged school though a program called Sing For Hope. She carefully transported wooden discs decorated by all 450 of ASIA’s students who had drawn, painted, or burned pictures and messages onto the wooden surfaces.

She then glued the discs all over a piano and painted the whole façade to look like a big, colourful moose. It was displayed in Central Park before being donated to a Brooklyn school without music funding.

The moose piano was one of many pieces inspired by her kids. Thiesen paints with her students during class, and then breaks out the brushes when she gets back to her apartment.

She uses oils and acrylics to paint “anything organic that lives and grows and breathes”.

She even re-purposes her students’ discarded art, collecting clippings from the classroom garbage and recycling bins and pasting them onto canvas, then painting fantastical backgrounds for the kids’ characters to live on.

This led to the exhibition Imagination to Reality at Abbotsford’s Kariton Gallery, where students visited to see their drawings re-imagined with new perspective.

Thiesen won the live Art Battle competitions in Chilliwack and Abbotsford before being crowned the winner at the provincial championships.

From there, she flew to the Canadian championships in Toronto.

In most battle rounds she paints with a squeegee – “because, why not?” – but once used a fork in a blind contour painting contest at Abbotsford’s The Reach, where her art has been sold and featured.

The pieces are in even higher demand after winning a Fraser Valley Arty Award in Visual Arts this year.

“People always said don’t get too passionate about art; go get a real job and keep it as your hobby. What I realized later is a lot of success I’ve had in my life has been attributed to art, and education has really been the conduit to how I pay for it.”

The success is no surprise to those who know her.

John Trottier is a mentor at Simon Fraser University’s field study program, which Shannon completed in August.

“She’s a ‘big picture’ person who plans, implements and sees through to the end of all of her artful endeavors,” Trottier says.

“Shannon does not miss an opportunity to ‘go the extra mile’ both in her personal studies and community projects outside of the cohort.”

Fellow SFU field programs mentor and former ASIA Sumas principal John Fultz agrees.

“Shannon’s creativity and outstanding talent shines through her involvement in the visual arts, both as a teacher and as a practising artist,” he says.

“She has been wholly committed to both leadership and service in the arts and in the learning communities that she is connected with.”

Up next for Shannon is February’s Battle of the Brush, where two artists paint live on the same canvas at the same time for 80 minutes in Vancouver.

“Live art is thrilling,” she says.

“It helps people understand what went into creating art — the time and excitement that goes into brushstrokes. Sometimes people say they like a piece but don’t know why. I feel if someone saw the art being created they’d say ‘I know exactly why I like it’.

“I hope I’m bringing people that kind of joy.”

Just Posted

Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for missing 20-year-old woman

Police say Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months

(Maps.Chilliwack.com)
RCMP seek dash-cam footage after Chilliwack road rage incident

Male driving a black pickup stopped and allegedly threatened to punch another driver

Deepak Sharma of Abbotsford has been convicted of the sexual assault of one of his cab passengers in West Vancouver in January 2019.
Former Abbotsford Hindu temple president convicted of sexual assault

Deepak Sharma assaulted a female passenger when he was a cab driver

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Agassiz toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Woody’s RV World hosts a grand opening for its brand-new Abbotsford location on Saturday. (YouTube)
Woody’s RV World hosts Abbotsford grand opening on Saturday

First-ever B.C. location for successful RV chain, located on Marshall Road

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read