Painting by former local woman prize in library draw

Irene MacKenzie loves libraries.
So it’s only fitting the Fort Frances native, who now lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake, had her first limited edition print reproduced from her watercolour painting of the now closed Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library—the first public library in Canada.
And even moreso that one of those 500 prints is the second-place prize in the annual “Love Your Library” draw coming up Feb. 13 organized by the local “Friends of the Library.”
“I love to read. I love to paint. I love libraries, so it was only natural,” said MacKenzie (née Gushulak), who was born and raised in Fort Frances. She later was a teacher at Sixth Street School here before moving to the St. Catharines area more than 25 years ago.
MacKenzie said the print, entitled “End of the Season,” has a history of sorts. Shortly after she moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake six years ago, she did an original watercolour of the library there.
It then was bought by an interested buyer, prompting her to do variations on the same subject (e.g., the library in the spring, summer, fall, and winter).
These also sold, and people’s demand for a depiction of the library grew even more, especially after the landmark was permanently closed a few years ago—something MacKenzie called “a sad time for quite a few people.”
“When I was asked to do another painting, I said to myself, ‘Why don’t I just do a print?’”
“End of the Season,” which depicts the library in the autumn, was completed last year and reproduced as a limited edition print in August. MacKenzie has since sold about 100, but admitted she hasn’t tried to promote it that much beyond word of mouth and at local exhibits.
She said her work depicting the Niagara-on-the-Lake library has been popular among those not only from that area, but library-lovers abroad.
“It has an interesting history,” noted MacKenzie, pointing out that in the early 20th century, the children’s department was used as a firing range for Canadian soldiers.
MacKenzie, who still visits Fort Frances at least once a year to spend time with her parents, George and Sophie Gushulak, added it’s fitting the print was chosen to be a prize in a fundraiser for the local Friends of the Library.
“I certainly remember the library. The first library card I ever had was from there, and I spent a lot of time there. It’s a nice tie-in,” she remarked.
MacKenzie, who started painting seriously about 10 years ago, said she’s been keeping busy with her watercolour work—most often painting landscapes and floral subjects.
She’s also recently tried using acrylics on glass. “I’m hoping to come to Fort Frances and have a show in a year or two,” she noted.
As mentioned above, MacKenzie’s print is second prize in the Friends of the Library’s draw. First prize is a 32-inch flat screen TV, DVD, and sound system.
Tickets for the draw are still available for $5 each. The draw will be held Friday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. at the library.
For anyone interested in buying a print of “End of the Season,” some are available here in town at Northwood’s Gallery and Gifts.