Debbie Milner Lively is no stranger to Kamloops, its history, and vibrant downtown. She is a self-taught artist who has followed her childhood dream to pursue a professional career as an artist. For the past 30 years she has mastered watercolour, gouache, acrylics, and oils and her paintings are filled with light and colour. Recently, Lively was commissioned by Ron Fawcett, founder, and executive director of Kelson Group, to create 40 original paintings depicting the old houses in downtown Kamloops that will be removed and replaced by the City Gardens development. This painting commission is a project that ensures the neighbourhood is captured as it is now and remembered fondly for generations.
“I was thrilled to receive a call from the Fawcetts,” said Lively. “I have done numerous paintings for them previously for other buildings. They are wonderful to work for because they are very interested in supporting arts, heritage, and culture. This project not only has a special place in my heart, but I could see when talking to Ron and Rae Fawcett that this project has a special place in their hearts too.”
Many residents, plus those walking or driving through the Nicola and Battle Street neighbourhoods, may have seen Debbie in the past few months ‘Plein Air’ painting, which is all about leaving the four walls of the studio behind to experience painting in the actual outdoor landscape.
“I have had many wonderful conversations with many delightful people,” said Lively. “People were very excited to learn what I was doing and shared their stories of the old houses which will either be relocated or deconstructed. I was able to go into some of these houses and get a feel for the architecture which helps me as an artist capture that in my work. It was the stories from the people who helped me more fully understand the history, stories, and atmosphere of this neighbourhood.”
The neighbourhood will see a complete transformation in the coming years with the application submitted to City Council for the City Gardens development to move forward. The old houses Lively is capturing through her paintings will play a feature role in the first new residential tower.
“I met with Pam Fawcett, Kelson Group’s interior decorator, and we devised a plan to have a collection of three paintings on each floor when you emerge from the elevator,” said Lively. “It’s a beautiful way to creatively capture the past and keep this history on the walls of the new residence, which I think is a touching tribute. Generations from now, residents at City Gardens will be able to enjoy living downtown with visual reminders of the past living beautifully among us.”