Nature inspires alumna Shannon Thiesen’s art for 2022 Alumni wine labels

  • June 21, 2022

Shannon Thiesen’s alumni connection to the University of the Fraser Valley comes via the Teacher Education program, but she’s also an accomplished artist whose work has been selected to grace the UFV Alumni commemorative wine labels for 2022.

Since 2005, the Alumni Association has partnered with local wineries for its annual Alumni Wine Program. Proceeds from the program support the UFV Alumni Association’s bursary fund to benefit UFV students. This year’s wines are both from Chaberton Estates: a 2019 Valley Cab and a 2021 Pinot Gris.
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Shannon, who teaches for the Abbotsford School District and lives in Coquitlam, completed her Teacher Education certificate at UFV in 2011 after earlier earning a Bachelor of Arts at Carleton University in Ottawa. She has since earned her post-graduate diploma and Master of Education degree at SFU. She was selected as UFV’s Distinguished Young Alumni award recipient in 2016 for her artistic accomplishments and the leadership role she plays in encouraging art and culture in the Fraser Valley.

Shannon teaches Grade 5 and is a visual arts specialist/SOGI Lead at the Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts (ASIA) North Poplar campus. She loves to integrate art into the curriculum with her young students and is building her leadership capacity as a future administrator.

Two of Shannon’s paintings will be featured on this year’s UFV Alumni commemorative wine labels. Her two designs (one for red wine and one for white) reflect her love of plein air painting in the natural environment. And they each come with a story!

Her Minnekhada Trail painting will be featured on the label of the 2019 Valley Cab.

“This piece was painted mostly on location while hiking Minnekhada Trail in Coquitlam,” Shannon explains. “I often go hiking with my plein air kit to encourage me to slow down and connect with nature in a slow, meditative way. I originally was saving the large canvas for a painting of the view when I reached the summit, but I was struck by the way these tree roots cascaded down the rocky path, highlighted by patches of bright light. I would have completed the work there, but I was interrupted by a curious black bear. I took everything back down in a rush, making as much noise as possible, and finished it in studio. This playful, exciting situation and rich berry tones in my palette make Minnekhada Trail a perfect pairing for the fruit-forward 2019 Valley Cab.”

And All of A Flutter; Windy Day at Mill Lake will be featured on the 2021 Pinot Gris.

“This painting nearly flew away from me on several occasions as I was painting on location at Mill Lake in central Abbotsford,” says Shannon. “I was sheltering in the trees to prevent the canvas from flying away. Several curious insects sacrificed their lives in the drying acrylic. Originally, the view was just of the lake, but a very vain tree just had to blow its branches into the scene and compete for attention. The grapefruit on the nose of the 2021 Pinot Gris makes a comparable entrance, balanced out with hints of cantaloupe and rhubarb on the palette, like the calm lake balances the wind.”

Shannon is a very proud and engaged UFV alumna.

“When I applied to UFV, my understanding of what it means to be an alumni came only from my BA degree at Carleton University in Ottawa. Carleton is an excellent school, but post-graduation, I did not reconnect as an alumna. I didn’t even attend graduation ceremonies, opting to travel Asia instead,” she recalls. “UFV’s supportive structure was unexpected and truly remarkable. The opportunities provided to its alumni are immediately visible, easily accessible, and ongoing.

“My professors care about my career growth and support me in many ways, including nominating me for the 2016 Young Distinguished Alumni Award. I have reciprocated this relationship by mentoring UFV student teacher candidates and collaborating with other UFV TEP graduates working in the Abbotsford School District.

“UFV’s connections have stretched outside of teaching too. I have received painting commissions from UFV staff and made important community connections. It is truly unique that UFV provides so many opportunities for its graduates, including the wine label artist initiative. I knew once I had heard about this program that I wanted to take part and was delighted and honoured to have been chosen. The amazing artists I now walk alongside as wine label artists both inspire and humble me.  It is yet another example of UFV’s commitment to supporting its alumni, giving back to its community, and fostering lifelong networking and mentorship.“