Local artist Jill Crosby is at it again. During the next few weeks, Crosby will be painting silhouettes of Vankleek Hill’s historic buildings in storefront windows or anywhere there are windows large enough to accommodate the drawings.

The Review caught Crosby at work at Heritage Lodge a few days ago. Heritage Lodge is a seniors residence in Vankleek Hill.

“I thought they deserved a little bit of Main Street over here,” Crosby said, referring to the fact that residents are somewhat isolated due to the current pandemic restrictions in place.

The water-based acrylic paint will wash off with water, notes Crosby, who filled shop windows with white snowflakes a few years ago. The heritage silhouettes can be made festive, but can last through the entire winter, she adds.

The artist began working on the idea several weeks ago, making preliminary sketches after she and Jade Garden owner Erin Dawson spoke about window paintings representing the village of Vankleek Hill. At the time of writing, Dawson’s shop was already outfitted for Christmas and was one of the first to have its window painted for the holidays. Dawson is also a member of the Vankleek Hill Business and Merchant Association (BMA) and her focus as a member of the executive team is beautification.

Given the current pandemic situation, Crosby said that she and Dawson had been discussing that it would be a long, dark winter. The window paintings were intended to brighten up the streetscape, as businesses are adding white lights to bring attention to the drawings so that they are illuminated at night.

The BMA was likewise thinking of the long winter ahead when it began organizing the Winter Wonderland of Lights Event back in September of this year. The organization successfully applied to Hydro One for a community grant ($2,000) and with the help of three additional sponsors, is hosting a decorating contest and placing a focus on new-styled festivities in town.

Homeowners, tenants and landlords are invited to decorate properties, with $2,150 in prizes up for grabs.

There are two categories for house or home exteriors. A general “best decorated house” is one category, while the other is an eco-friendly category, which could include re-purposing of items (making a wreath from existing materials or recycled items), and the use of greenery; however, the use of lights is permitted in this category.

All prize money will be provided to winners in the form of Vankleek Hill bucks, which can be spent at local participating businesses. The first-place prize for each category is $500 in Vankleek Hill bucks; second-place is $250 in Vankleek Hill bucks and the third-place winner will receive $100 in Vankleek Hill bucks.

There will be a first, second and third-place winner for the best decorated business. Prizes are $250 Vankleek Hill bucks for first prize, $150 Vankleek Hill bucks for second prize and $50 in Vankleek Hill bucks for third prize.

December 7 is the deadline to enter decorating contest

The deadline to enter is December 7 at midnight; email: [email protected] with your name, street address and contact info. Judging will take place on December 10. The winner will be announced in the December 16 edition of The Review and on The Review’s Facebook page on that same day.

The idea of the lights is to lift everyone’s spirits and to encourage people to take a drive to see the lights in Vankleek Hill and when possible, shop safely and/or shop ahead of time online and do safe pick-ups while visiting the community.

Crosby is charging a minimal fee to paint shop windows. But Sproule notes that several businesses have stepped forward and offered to contribute anonymously if a business has been adversely affected by the pandemic and has to decline the offer to have his or her storefront painted.

“We have business owners who have offered to cover the artist fees for other businesses in our town,” Sproule explained.

“These past months, we are all checking in with each other and you can really see increased understanding between business owners. We each have our challenges and we are each affected in different ways. But at the end of the day, we are in this together. It was absolutely heartwarming when Cheryl and Mike Courtemanche (Cheryl works in estate planning at Hillcrest Funeral Home and Mike is owner of I-Team Home Inspections) came forward because they want to make a difference for the Heritage Lodge residents,” she continued.

The cost of painting a storefront can vary from $40 to $100 or somewhat more, depending upon the size of the window. Crosby can be contacted by calling 613-677-2088 or by emailing: [email protected]

If you would like to pay it forward by offering to pay for window-painting at a business you appreciate or at a location, email [email protected] — your donation can be kept anonymous. You can suggest a business or location and if it has not been spoken for, it will be painted, thanks to you!

Part of this event includes a “Giving Tree” which will be installed soon at Vankleek Hill’s Main intersection.

“The tree is a reminder to us all to give when we can and support those in need as well as those who need a kind word or a helping hand during this time,” says Louise Sproule, president of the Vankleek Hill BMA.

Non-perishable food items will be accepted at the Vankleek Hill Creating Centre during the holiday season, but the tree is also a reminder to to donate to the charity of your choice this holiday season, Sproule adds. Many not-for-profit organizations have not been able to raise funds in the usual way this year and are struggling to stay afloat.

Other local events are included in the promotion for the decorating contest, including the Champlain Library’s “A Book on Every Bed” project, the Vankleek Hill Food Bank’s new-style guignol√©e, which will be a food collection in front of Vankleek Hill Foodland on Saturday, November 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Vankleek Hill Christmas Craft Fair’s new five-weekend format, the pop-up shops at Arbor Gallery and the New! DIY Parade of Lights scheduled for Friday, November 27, 2020.

In addition to Hydro One, Wylie Property Maintenance (which specializes in holiday lights and outdoor decor installation) and Hillcrest Funeral Home are sponsors. For its part, The Review is donating a full page of advertising in The Review for seven consecutive weeks and is footing the bill for paid advertising of the event on social media.

An outside job! Jill Crosby was painting Main Street scenes on the windows at Vankleek Hill’s Heritage Lodge last Thursday, November 3. These window paintings are made possible by Cheryl and Mike Courtemanche, who paid for the artist’s work. Cheryl said she wanted to do something for the folks who live at Heritage Lodge because she knows there is a great sense of isolation due to the pandemic. Photo: Louise Sproule

The painting of village scenes was completed in The Review windows last week. If a business is interested in having scenes painted in its windows, Jill Crosby can be reached by email: [email protected] or by calling 613-677-2088.