When he arrived at Shawnigan to begin a month as Artist in Residence, Mr. Melvin Gómez was excited for the opportunity to produce work based on some of his own ideas. The scenery of the School grounds and the surrounding area proved too inspiring, however, and he ended up putting to canvas depictions of the lush and rugged Vancouver Island landscape, a perfect fit for his unique painting style.
A former student of Shawnigan Head of School Mr. Larry Lamont at UWC Red Cross Nordic in Norway, Mr. Gómez grew up in the violent environment of post-civil war El Salvador. In 2009, Mr. Gómez was paralyzed and three of his friends were killed when gang members opened fire on them. He found hope and motivation in art, and was able to study at UWC Red Cross Nordic from 2014 to 2017, and later at Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida. He is also the founder of Pinceladas de Esperanza (Brushstrokes of Hope), an art school for children in El Salvador.
According to Mr. Gómez’s website, the overall theme of his work is the human condition, representing the range of human emotions and desires by drawing from his own experiences and events.
At Shawnigan, Mr. Gómez did much more than just paint. He learned a lot about teaching, which relates directly to his work in El Salvador, and was impressed with the talent, eagerness to help, and thirst for learning that the students displayed.
“I had the opportunity to produce work,” he said. “I got familiar with the community, and I had the opportunity to see first-hand how a fine art department works, and collaborate with them for some painting lessons.”
This was Mr. Gómez's first visit to BC and Vancouver Island, and he had the chance to explore the region, including a memorable and inspirational trip to the Malahat SkyWalk, with its majestic views of the Saanich Inlet.
Having attended another international school, Mr. Gómez was impressed by the diversity at Shawnigan, and how students are encouraged to contribute to the community.
“It’s truly amazing to see how you can open a place in a corner of the world to bring people together in a powerful way and they learn to live together,” he said. “Shawnigan gives them the resources to be prepared for the world when they leave this place, and to be an agent of change in the world.”
According to Head of Fine Art Mr. Declan Bartlett, Mr. Gómez has had an extremely positive impact on the School in the short time he has been here.
“Melvin has brought so much life experience to the School and shared his passion, skills and artistic insights with the students,” Mr. Bartlett said. “He has encouraged them to believe in their ideas and communication regardless of their current skill set and to courageously explore colour and form, light and tone, content and meaning. He has been inspirational to the Fine Art team and the whole School community, given his back story of resilience, perseverance and passion for life. A month with Melvin is simply not enough, but he leaves us artistically richer and with a greater sense of gratitude for all of the opportunities we share here at Shawnigan. We wish him every success in the growth of his art school in El Salvador and upcoming exhibitions. There will always be a warm welcome here for his return.”
Mr. Gómez generously gifted a painting to the Health Centre in gratitude for their support during his stay, but most of the works he created during his time at Shawnigan will be shown in a public exhibition after he returns to El Salvador.
“I feel honoured to represent my culture,” he said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to be a Latino in this amazing place with amazing people. The time passed really fast. It was priceless, and I could not be more grateful for this opportunity.”
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.
Shawnigan Lake School is an independent co-educational boarding school for ages 13 –18 on Canada’s beautiful West Coast. Our diverse, interdisciplinary and innovative programming helps shape the next generation of global leaders.