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Elk [watercolour on paper]

Mother Deer and Bambi (crayon on paper)

Racoon in the Racoon Pit (pastel on paper)

Mother Polar Bear and Cub (pencil on paper)


by Rhonda Spivak, June 18, 2013

Margaret Redmond, CEO of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy was the featured speaker at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's recent Women's Endowment Fund Luncheon at the Fort Gary Hotel. [To read more about the Women's Endowment Fund at the Jewish Foundation, see related article in Features. Click here.]

In introducing Redmond, Marsha Cowan, CEO of the Jewish Foundation noted "Assiniboine Park has long been a jewel on the Winnipeg landscape, but thanks to the leadership of Margaret Redmond and a team of exceptional volunteers and staff, the Park is transforming into something even more remarkable."

At the luncheon Redmond spoke about the comprehensive $200 million redevelopment plan for Assiniboine Park and Zoo that was unveiled in 2009, to be completed over 10 years. This Imagine a Place Capital Campaign is one of the largest fundraising campaigns in Manitoba’s history and is designed to revitalize the Park and Zoo and create an environment where people can relax, play, connect with nature, and create cherished memories with family and friends that will last a lifetime.

Redmond noted that the Zoo is in the early phases of a bold transformation, and the  renovated exhibits will include a "world-class" Journey to Churchill polar bear exhibit, improved facilities for visitors, and a more visible and active contribution to the environmental and wildlife education, research and conservation in Manitoba.

As she spoke, I began recalling part of my summers as an 8-12 year old when I was enrolled in what was then called  "Art in the Park," an art program for children who would spend every morning going to various places in the park to sketch and paint. I have vivid childhood memories of those mornings, memories that I treasure very much--ones spent painting at the duck pond, or at the English conservatory, the Pavilion, or the English Gardens, or a nearby park bench. One of my favourite places was Aunt Sally's Farm in the Zoo where I would repeatedly return and try to draw the bambis.   

One of the paintings was in an exhibit at the Art Gallery when I was about 11 and my grandparents framed it.

For years my drawings were kept in my parent's basement until one day they had a big flood down there and many of the drawings were destroyed. About ten years ago, I found four or five of them and put them away for safekeeping on a high up shelf in a closet in my own home.

The night before Redmond spoke I remembered that I had them and pulled them out to have a peak.  I have scanned four of the drawings here.  The first drawing of the Elk (watercolour on paper) I have no memory of in particular, although they are related to deer and bambis so I imagine that's why I was interested in it.  The second drawing is one of my Bambi series, (pastel on paper)---one of only two remaining in the series.

I have a very  distinct memory of working on the  third drawing of the racoons, as they were very difficult to capture since they would move in and out  and scurry about their enclosure (unlike the bambis who usually were lying around on hay not moving around much making them much easier for  a 10 year old to draw ). I remember that I didn't finish on time when the morning was up, and finished some of the drawing at home.  

The last sketch attached here is one of a polar bear and cub, which I think fits in well with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy's  "Help Build  A  Home for Hudson" campaign . The Journey To Churchill exhibit will enable children to stand up close to glass panes that enable them to see a polar bear swimming underwater. (If I had had an opportunity to sketch polar bears swimming from that vantage point as a 10 year old, I may never have stopped going to Art in the Park !).  To learn more about the new redevelopment of the zoo and park, go to

To make a gift online click here

The Assiniboine Park conservancy is currently four years into its 10-year redevelopment plan and have raised over 50% of its goal thanks to the generous support of our government partners,  lead gift donors, and many individual donors.

As I was writing this article I noticed on that on June 17, James Cohen and Linda McGarva-Cohen announced a gift of $500,000 towards the Imagine a Place Campaign. The gift has been designated towards the building of a new habitat for the Asian large cats in the Assiniboine Park Zoo and ensures the continuation of the Amur tiger breeding program at the Zoo.

I can't wait to go back and begin to draw the Amur tigers. You can never be too old to draw the Amur tigers can you?


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.