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Community Profiles: Yvonne Scott

By John Kipp, Communications Director for the PBP Community Association

By the time Yvonne Scott entered her kindergarten class in Gananoque, Ontario she knew she was destined to be an artist. “I felt it from a very young age and spent most of my time colouring, painting, or crafting” says Yvonne, who carried her passions throughout her school years and became Gananoque High School’s unofficial artist-in-residence. “I would coordinate the banners and media for all the school events”. Yvonne also loved track and field; “We were always outside, and walked everywhere in that town, including to school, so we were all quite fit.” Running relays, sprints, and long jumps became her second passion. Even though she didn’t show much interest in the standard high school curriculum, Yvonne brought home straight A report cards.  Art, however, would always remain her primary focus.

Yvonne’s parents were supportive of her art through those early years. But her father, a chartered accountant, and her mother, a nurse, were not convinced that Yvonne should pursue a career as an artist. “My parents grew up through the Great Depression,” says Yvonne, “and both were concerned about my ability to make a living as an artist.” Yvonne remembers many lessons from her parents about self-reliance and the value of money. “My Dad was a pure money guy,” chuckles Yvonne, and recalls the time when her father asked her what she wanted for Christmas. When she responded, “a toboggan,” her father grimaced and asked why on earth would she want a toboggan when the neighbours owned a perfectly good one? “So, the thought of investing in a child who might end up a starving artist on the streets of Toronto was simply a non-starter for him,” recalls Yvonne. It was with this in mind that Yvonne prepared herself to defend her position about the university she would attend.

The good news for Yvonne’s parents was that she had been accepted to Queen’s, York, and the Mount Allison University art programs. But it was the invitation from the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) that Yvonne coveted: “The OCAD was ONLY about art while the others blended art courses with a regular curriculum – and I was only interested in the art part.” Her father insisted that she attend Queen’s to gain “marketable” skills while her mother encouraged her to pursue nursing. “My dad was insistent that I pass on the OCAD because he believed that I would be out-gunned by the big city kids, who likely had a better art foundation, and access to resources. “I was determined to prove him wrong,” remembers Yvonne, “and I was going to the OCAD with or without his help!” A compromise was proposed by her father. He would support Yvonne at the OCAD for one year – to prove his point. So, in August of 1974, Yvonne packed her bags and took a train to Toronto. There, she moved into a downtown bachelorette near campus and shared a washroom with her Hungarian landlady.

By the time Yvonne had completed her first year at OCAD, she had returned with some impressive artwork and commendations from other artists. “My parents really loved those early pieces and when I asked what they thought about me returning to the OCAD for my second year, my dad said, sort of under his breath, ‘Oh yeah, you can go back’.” Yvonne graduated the OCAD in 1978 and returned to Gananoque to set-up an extension art program through the St. Lawrence College in Kingston where she hired on as an Art Teacher. That same summer, Yvonne met Mike Scott at an organized hike in the area. Mike was attending Queen’s University at the time and loved outdoor activities. Later that day, Yvonne told her mother that she had “met a really nice guy.” They were destined to meet again as Yvonne’s sister was dating a fellow that roomed with Mike at Queen’s. In the Spring of 1980, Mike graduated with his MBA, the couple married the following weekend, and moved to Sarnia the weekend after that. Mike had landed a job at the Shell   refinery there, in the H.R. department. Shell Canada would move the couple numerous times during Mike’s career – both domestically and internationally until they landed in Calgary in 1984.

When the couple and their three teenagers decided to move to Bayview in 2003, it was a long time in the planning. “We had spent several years in Oakridge raising our family,” says Yvonne, “and we had outgrown that house.” When they discussed where to move, Mike was adamant that they move to Bayview and be nearer the bike paths and reservoir. “Mike bicycled to work downtown, and we both grew up near water, so being close to the reservoir was important.” About a year later, a property on Bayview Drive was listed, and the couple jumped at the opportunity. “It was move-in-ready,” recalls Yvonne; “The previous seven owners had updated some aspects of the house and the finishes were very nice.” And while the inside would work for now, Yvonne set her sights on her third passion: building gardens.   

“Every time we moved; I found a job teaching art, then went to work planning a garden. Bayview would be the largest,” says Yvonne who received five first-place category awards from the Calgary Horticultural Society in 2008 and 2009. “The front of the house is my new COVID garden,” explains Yvonne, who began developing it in the Spring of 2020. Due to COVID shutdowns, Yvonne couldn’t find anyone to help her rip-up the grass and move earth and so began her experiment with the no-dig-garden system. She discovered that by soaking the sod and then soaking pieces of carboard that covered the sod, she could then spread eight inches of topsoil and allow the three layers to organically fuse over time. The system worked and by summer, Yvonne had the main elements of her new feature garden.

Today, it isn’t unusual for neighbors and cars to stop in or drive by at the Scott’s to admire the art and gardens which surround the house. “Mike and I find any excuse to be outside,” quips Yvonne, “and I love to meet people walking by to answer questions about the gardens and the art!”

Please check out Yvonne’s art pieces on Instagram at #yvonnescottartist!