A farewell celebration for Sonja Butts, long-time arts volunteer and artist in Fort St. John, was recently held at Peace island Park. Sonja is moving to Whitecourt, Alberta with her husband who accepted a promotion with his company. Friends of the arts gathered to give Sonja a fond farewell and to thank her for the many years of volunteering with the Arts Council and in developing various arts projects and programs in the community. As a board member of the Fort St. John Community Arts Council, Sonja has monitored the bookkeeping and financial policies of the Art Council for more than 20 years. As an artist, she has been involved in a number of arts groups.
Signs of Sonja’s talent is evident in many places in the community. Her hand-painted murals can be seen in the lobby of the North Peace Cultural Centre. Prior to the BC Winter Games in 1984, Sonja was one of the “Wall People” who painted 15-20 huge murals featuring various sports on the sides of buildings in town. In later years, she was part of the team that painted the City water tower. Sonja has been a member of the North Peace Art Group and is a member of the Federation of Canadian Artists.
Sonja’s artistic talent was put to the task of creating hundreds of Christmas wreaths and hand-painted ornaments for the annual Festival of Trees. She painted many, many flower pots for the 12 years of the summer program that local artists brightened up the streets with their artwork on the huge flower pots. She was very successful at snow sculpting and ice carving along with initiating and developed the popular High on Ice Festival 11 years ago. Sonja was part of the team that developed the policies and procedures to make these programs very successful. The creation of the Artspost Studios (Pottery, Spinning and Weaving, Painting) is another important arts milestone that Sonja had a hand in. It was fitting that her Farewell Party be held at the 3rd SAND SENDSATIONS BC site since Sonja played a vital role in the inception of this annual event.
Along with her volunteer work with the Arts Council and reliable reporting of accounts to the Arts Council, Sonja worked at Systems by Trail. The Arts Council appreciated the support and assistance that Systems by Trail gave to the arts through Sonja. When she ventured into the art of East Indian Dancing with Suzon Tremblay, no one was surprised to see Sonja also excelled at this art form.
The arts community will miss Sonja. Her level-headed, calm, and systematic approach to solving problems was an asset to the Arts Council. Her creative ability and organizational skills helped arts programs and projects thrive. And her devotion to providing up-to-date financial information to the Arts Council was exemplary. She has been training Connie Desfosse, as her replacement, in these last few weeks. We welcome Connie and will miss Sonja. We look forward to seeing what art projects Sonja will get involved in her new community. We reminded Sonja that Whitecourt is a great stopping point between Fort St. John and Edmonton and/or Calgary so she should keep the coffee pot handy.