Painting Trailblazing Women

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Artist Shana Wilson in her studio in Sparrow Cowork’s Westmount 107 space

In June of 2021, Shana Wilson became the first resident artist to come into Sparrow Cowork when she set up her studio in our Westmount 107 coworking space. An Edmonton artist who has been creating powerful portraits of women for over twenty years, Shana paints inspirational, trailblazing women from all walks of life—especially those who have inspired and created genuine social change.

Shana was selected and commissioned by TIME Magazine to paint cover art of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jackie Kennedy for its monumental ‘100 Women of the Year Special Edition’, and she has created portraits of multi-platinum recording artist Serena Ryder, breast cancer survivor and scar activist Golden Drake, and Anita Hill, the first woman to take on the Supreme Court for sexual harassment.

Some of these women are doing really big things, and there’s a sacrifice that comes with that. There’s a reverence for the women that I paint.

Shana Wilson, artist

Commerce Follows Culture

Golden Drake FINAL

Wilson’s Painting of Golden Drake, a Breast Cancer Survivor

Sparrow Capital celebrates the depth and success of Shana’s meaningful international interfaces and acclaim, and values her contributions to our community. We believe in bringing artists and art into our spaces as early as possible to invites humanity and community into our daily lives. Art ignites spontaneous and creative forces and collaboration between all the people in the space. Our approach is to begin with the music and art and allow everything to flow from that.

For example, before seeking to activate the Brighton Block, Sparrow Capital first focused on bringing artists and events into the space. Within two weeks of receiving the keys to the building, we hosted a New Year’s event involving a jazz band, a folk singer, an opera performance, and a 40-person drum circle. This became the first in a series of events, which lead to engagements with dozens of musicians and event producers, and eventually lead to the deployment of a permanent event venue on the 4th floor and a dedicated event management team under the operations of Brighton Events.

The results are recursive. The cultural initiation of the Brighton Block attracted a whole community of artists and entrepreneurs to the building. These engagements have fostered a deep network of relationships in the neighbourhood and have lead directly to the activation of full commercial leases on multiple floors. Allies and entrepreneurs are attracted to the dynamic community and the shared amenities that support both entrepreneurial leadership and meaningful cultural expression.

The community needs to know how to express itself, to create spaces of celebration where people feel safe and included.

Antoine Palmer, Sparrow Capital Co-founder

It’s one thing to come to the cowork space and be part of the community and get deals done and work with entrepreneurs and be successful. But there is much more to being alive in the community. We have to do these things in a context where the community knows how to express itself, to create spaces of celebration where people feel safe and included, and where we can let go of the structures and pace of the business side of things and come together as human beings, everyone listening to the music and experiencing the art together. We don’t believe that the work life balance is a binary thing—they should be fused in a healthy, organically developing way. Because work is part of our life, and our life is part of our work.

Today, Sparrow hosts a dozen visual artists in our spaces. Artists like Glen Ronald have taken initiative to coordinate other artists and host regular events where creative folks can come together to express themselves through their paintings and other media. Their art is proliferating throughout our buildings and spilling over into our neighbours buildings and throughout the neighborhoods where we operate. Like the doulas and midwives of Lucina Birth Centre, the artists have become a distinct cohort in our community. Sparrow Capital is now consulting with them as a group to better understand their needs and develop dedicated amenities and resources to support them in the creative and entrepreneurial endeavours associated with their art.

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