Sarah Smitherman holding a watercolour paintingArtist Sarah Smitherman holds her watercolour painting of Canadian lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis), a perennial native to area forests and prairies.

Art exhibit to educate on ecosystem

An exhibition of paintings by a UWindsor staffer will educate patrons about flowering plants growing in the Ojibway Park complex and beyond.

Sarah Smitherman, a graphic designer in Public Affairs and Communications, says she hopes her artwork will help to inspire stewardship of the local natural heritage. A native of Florida, she moved to Windsor to pursue studies and grew to love its unique ecosystem.

“We have some of the same plants ranging from Ontario to Florida,” she says. “I found exploring the flowers helped me become familiar with the area and I feel better equipped to take care of the land I live on.”

The exhibit presents the first 10 works from a larger project, “Flowering Plants of Ojibway and Surrounding Areas,” which will eventually encompass a pocket identification guide to 120 native and invasive species found locally, as well as educational materials for youths.

“I am planning to create colouring books over time, adding new images as the paintings are completed,” Smitherman says. “My hope for these colouring books is to make learning fun and interactive. Some will include stickers to take learning off the page.”

She is working with the University Print Shop to produce the colouring books and the field guide.

The project has attracted a grant from the City of Windsor’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund and support from staff of the Ojibway Nature Centre, the Friends of Ojibway Prairie, and the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club.

Smitherman hopes it will create appreciation for the biodiversity of Windsor’s Carolinian ecosystem.

“Many of these plants you don’t see outside of Ojibway,” she notes. “I am hoping that seeing their beauty will encourage people to learn more and maybe add them to their own gardens. Planting native flowers helps preserve our ecosystem and provides an environment for bees, butterflies, and other insects.”

Her exhibit will be displayed at Shō Studios, 628 Monmouth Rd., from Jan. 23 to 30. The gallery is open to the public daily from noon to 6 p.m. Visitors may enter a free draw for an organic cotton tote bag or one of three framed prints of Smitherman’s paintings; get details on the project website.

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