Taking pride in the watershed

ABCF Conservation Dinner featured artist David Bannister’s art shows love for the area’s water

ABCF Conservation Dinner
Thursday, April 17 – 5:30 p.m.
South Huron Recreation Centre
Tickets: $50 each
Contact: 519-235-2610, 1-888-286-2610

Story and portrait by Casey Lessard
Paintings by David Bannister

“I’ve noticed that water features in my work about 80 per cent of the time,” says David Bannister, “whether it’s the river or a lake scene. I think the quality of the water around here is probably more important to me than I even realize.”
Bannister is the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation’s featured artist for its 19th annual Conservation Dinner to be held April 17.
“It’s an event that supports many different conservation activities,” says ABCA’s Tim Cumming, “including accessible trails, conservation education, fish stocking in the Morrison reservoir, and commemorative woods tree plantings.”
“When I was asked to do this,” Bannister says, “I was really pleased to help out. I’m very attracted to landscapes that involve farmland and water – rivers and things like that. It still strikes a chord with me from my youth being raised on a farm. I think you quite often see the management and the boards of the conservation authorities tend to be farmers. It’s really a way of making sure the land and the farms and the rivers that connect the rural and urban areas are healthy for all concerned. The conservation authority plays a vital role in the environment. They were environmentalists before the rest of us even heard the word.
“Having grown up on a farm, we always felt the water you grew up next to was important to the farm operation. I think it’s important to all of our lives. You realize you have to be stewards of the water, that there are people living downstream, that your livestock may depend on that source of water being relatively clean. You have to keep it free of pollutants, and we’ve all seen what happens when those things fail and the consequences.”
And water continues to be important for his life in Grand Bend.
“People are attracted to the water,” Bannister says. “I can’t imagine not living next to it anymore. In terms of tourism and attracting people to the community, water is a key part of that. The health of that watershed and the lake water is vital to maintaining both a tourism and living environment. As the lake comes increasingly under threat from septic tanks, farm runoff, or high E. coli for whatever reason, it’s important that those of us who already live here do what we can to protect the water and in some cases improve it.
“I keep a sailboat in the cut off the Ausable, and in the summer particularly, six days out of seven I’m on the river at some point. Certainly the quality of the water and the fact that it’s lively and active with fish you can see, it’s a reflection of the water quality for the community and the ability to attract tourism. It’s integral to our lives more than we realize.”
Bannister does a lot of photography in the watershed’s conservation areas, particularly Rock Glen in Arkona. His paintings are heavily influenced by the local environs, including Morning, Ausable, the painting he donated for the dinner’s auction.
“The subject matter is dear to my heart because it’s both the Grand Bend Yacht Club, where I keep my boat in the summer, and the building that the River Road art gallery is in, and those are two areas in my life that are important to me. It’s actually painted from a photograph that I took very early in the morning a number of years ago, and it’s just bathed in a nice warm light. It has a soft yellow feeling about the whole scene.”
The painting is among the many items available at the event, which features a live auction, silent auction, general and special raffles, and door prizes. Seating opens at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. Cumming says most people arrive early so they can get a good seat. This year’s master of ceremonies will be Scott Miller of A-Channel.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Cumming adds. “The community comes out and it’s a dress-up event, there’s a buzz, an excitement, and it’s a great night all around.”