#thisisability, LIONS HERITAGE PARK // TOWN OF PALMERSTON, ONTARIO
Visual Artist Mallory Tolcher and Communications Director Lindsay Clements working w/ School Community Work Transition Program
#thisisability, Lions Heritage Park is a community court makeover in rural Palmerston, facilitated by visual artist Mallory Tolcher and communications director Lindsay Clements. For the past year, Tolcher and Clements have worked with students who have special needs at Norwell District Secondary School. As a collective group, they have explored the history of the community and evaluated the current equity and inclusivity throughout the town. Tolcher decided to utilize the students’ abilities as Special Olympics Provincial Gold Medalists, as well as their passion for physical activity and their love for the arts, and renovate the local basketball and hockey courts into large-scale works of art. Through a variety of lessons and activities provided by the two teachers, the students in the School Community Work Transition Program (SCWT) each produced their own design to be placed on the surface of the sports pad. Images of the Palmerston water tower, train tracks, the historic Railway Pedestrian Bridge, the steam engine “Old 81”, hands reaching out and children grasping hands were all included in the preliminary works. Tolcher took inspiration from the visuals and colours from each of the 21 students’ artworks and created a final design, which was then approved by the town. Clements reached out to the local businesses and organizations in hopes to receive funding for the large project.
Once word spread about the court makeover, Clements’ email was flooded with individuals who wanted to help out. With funding in place, Tolcher and Clements, alongside other willing teachers and educational assistants, worked with the students to paint the mural onto the court. Over the 3 weeks, many community members stopped by to give praise and gratitude to the students for all of their hard work, and CTV captured the youth’s pride and joy on camera.
The final 15,000 square foot court mural was revealed with a soft opening, inviting students of Norwell District Secondary School to come and play a game of scrimmage. Shortly after, The Lions Club volunteered to host a block party, which brought out hundreds of individuals to shoot some hoops, eat some BBQ, and participate in a variety of physical activities. Students from the SCWT program were there to sign autographs and take photographs with community members, and celebrate in their success of painting Canada’s largest sports pad mural.
The enhanced quality and look of Palmerston’s outdoor space is now providing the community with a fun, safe, and inviting environment. The project has also inspired creativity within young individuals, provided Co-op opportunities for service and community-building, and has increased appropriate park usage and physical activity. The endeavour was able to foster a positive, physical, and creative outlet for youth with special needs and show the high school, the larger community, and all of Canada what they are capable of despite their various abilities.
Aerial photos by Gone Flying and John Gallagher
List of Partnering Institutions:
Blessings to You / Cultural Roundtable Committee / Department of Parks and Recreation / Home Hardware / Palmerston Lions Club