Painting from City’s art collection reunited with local family

Painting from City’s art collection reunited with local family

The Book Worm now displayed in childhood home of boy in portrait

Spruce Grove resident Linda Jerrett and the painting of her then four-year-old son Stephen in June Harrison’s piece The Book Worm.
Spruce Grove resident Linda Jerrett and the painting of her then four-year-old son Stephen in June Harrison’s piece The Book Worm. Part of the City’s Municipal Art Collection for nearly 40 years, Linda recently purchased the painting as a gift for her son.

A beloved piece of artwork is now displayed in the childhood home of the family member it captured, thanks to a special one-of-a-kind arrangement between the City and a local resident.

Nearly 40 years ago, Spruce Grove artist June Harrison painted a portrait of her neighbour Linda Jerrett's son Stephen as a piece to enter in the Allied Arts Council External (AAC) of Spruce Grove's annual Open Art Competition.

The oil painting titled The Book Worm features a four-year-old Stephen sitting in a rocking chair with a book. Linda, a hairdresser, intended to acquire the piece from June after the competition as they would often use the barter system to trade haircuts for paintings.

However, while the painting was being displayed in the competition, it was purchased by the City to add to its Municipal Art Collection and since then has been displayed in the Spruce Grove Public Library External and on the walls of City Hall.

But now the painting is hanging where Linda envisioned it all along - above a piano in her home - after the City agreed to sell the portrait back to her for its appraised value and a donation to the AAC.

"This was a very special circumstance," explained Brent Oliver, Director of Cultural Services with the City. "We are not in the business of selling pieces from our art collection, but in this case, we felt it was the right decision to reunite Linda with this painting of her son."

Linda is thrilled to add Stephen's portrait to her collection of June's pieces, which includes portraits of herself, her oldest son Dennis, her parents and her in-laws. It's also a special memory of their friendship, as June passed away several years ago.

"June was a dear friend and there's a deeply personal connection to the painting, so it feels wonderful to have it displayed in our home," said Linda.

She wanted the painting to be a surprise for Stephen, who currently lives in Calgary with his wife Glenda, so she let him discover it for himself during a recent trip back home.

"When I came into the house and the painting was hanging over the piano, at first I didn't even think that there was anything unusual about it," said Stephen. "The image of that painting is so familiar that for a moment, it just seemed like it had always been there."

At first he thought it might be a replica, but as he looked into his younger face, he quickly realized it was the original.

Linda plans to keep The Book Worm in her home for the next two years at which time she will give it to Stephen as a 40th birthday gift.

The AAC's 2016 Open Art Competition is currently on display at the Spruce Grove Art Gallery in the Melcor Cultural Centre, located at 35-Fifth Ave. in the Spruce Grove Public Library. The public can view the pieces until Saturday, Oct. 1.