In the midst of widespread isolation measures, a small backyard arts project at the McDonald household has morphed into the premiere arts event of the season — Bee Box Challenge 2020.
The typically white cabinet-like homes for honey-makers were transformed into blank canvasses recently by Rushing River Apiaries for artists of any age and every skill level.
“The response blew us away,” said Christine McDonald, who started Rushing River Apiaries with husband Tavis McDonald in 2017.
The family-run honey and hive-product business purchased 100 new bee boxes this year as part of a planned expansion. In the past, the McDonald children were encouraged to liven up the boxes with colourful painting, but with the large number of new boxes this year the family invited other children to participate during the apiary’s spring open house.
COVID-19 social distancing measures squashed those plans, but that’s where things really took off.
“When we realized we would have to cancel the open house we wondered if people would want to come and get one to paint at home,” Christine said. “We posted it to Facebook thinking people’s kids might like to scribble on them, but we ended up giving out all 100 boxes, some of them to amazing and talented local artists.”
When the McDonalds ran out of new bee boxes, they scoured their inventory for any others in usable condition.
The collection includes both whimsical and meaningful creations by area children, and adult works of art on subjects ranging from landscape paintings, graphic design, community and portraiture in a beautifully chaotic display of colours and styles.
The completed works were displayed on the family’s front lawn in Terrace last weekend. The impromptu art show drew “a tonne” of drive-by viewings, far surpassing turnouts for the regular open house at the apiary.
“It was huge, and the timing was right — right in the middle of self-isolation and everyone staying at home, wanting something positive to focus on,” Christine said.
For Terrace artist Sarah Zimmerman, who picked up three boxes for herself and her two young children, creating art as a family is an important activity, but she said this project had special meaning.
“As an artist in a time that is so stressful and so hectic, when I can paint I can forget about all of that stuff. It’s such a welcome opportunity to be able to only focus on painting a bee box. It didn’t have to be perfect, and it was a totally different medium to paint on,” she said.
“I liked the idea of its impermanence and I liked how many people came together to do that. That’s dozens of families that came together in a time that’s been really strained and weird. Art can be really grounding that way.”
Rushing River ran a contest for first, second and third place in children’s and adult categories. The winners by public vote were announced Wednesday night on the Rushing Rivers Apiaries home Facebook Page. The complete collection can be found in the their Bee Box Challenge 2020 photo album.
Winners will receive gift certificates of varying amounts for Rushing River merchandise.
“The many likes, comments and shares on social media, as well as the countless people who stopped to take photos and point out their favourites while the boxes were on display, brought us many smiles during an otherwise difficult week,” reads a message on the Rushing River Facebook page.
Now that the challenge has wrapped up, these works of art will be put to work.
“Unfortunately, this is the nature it. They’re going to sit outdoors and get bee poop all over them,” Christine said with a laugh. “But it says something to me about the artists, and the people’s willingness to this. It’s not art that’s going to be preserved in a gallery. The art was more about the process of creating it.”
The McDonald’s plan to run the Bee Box Challenge again next year.
Rushing River Apiaries grew from a small back-yard bee-keeping hobby at the McDonald household. A passion took hold of the entire family quickly, and they went commercial in 2017 with apiaries now hosted at Spotted Horse Nursery and Mt. Layton Farm.
Bored? Rushing River has created a virtual jig-saw puzzle from a montage of the bee boxes, which you can find at jigsawplanet.com/Rushingriverapiaries/bee-box-collage.