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By Ed Moreth 



October 24, 2019

A group of people last week had the opportunity to have an art class, take a pretty painting home, and help raise money for a veterans’ final resting place.  

The $30 art class was called “Painting for Purpose” and was sponsored by Joint Operation Mariposa, a nonprofit organization that was created to bring awareness to veteran suicides and the families that are impacted. The class instructor was Dave Williams, a Navy veteran and Joint Operation Mariposa founder. Williams said they were raising money to erect a columbarium at Plains Cemetery for military veterans of Sanders County.

Williams said they have raised $1,500 so far, and need about another $7,000 to get the project done, which he hopes will be in the next couple years. Most of the money raised has come from Plains businesses, according to Williams, who said they’ll have other fundraisers over the next year, including a crafts bazaar at the Lakeside Motel and Resort in Trout Creek on Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Plans are for the columbarium to be a 4x4-foot square and 6 1/2 feet tall structure with 40 spaces inside. “There will be a mix of niche sizes because not everyone will be presented in traditional burial urns for interment,” said Williams. He added that some will be presented in urns, some in boxes and some in envelopes. “We want them all to be treated with respect they deserve,” he said.

Ten women, all Plains residents, signed up for the two and a half-hour Paint for Purpose art class, which was held in the hall of the VFW last Thursday evening. This is the second time the 57-year-old Williams as given the Painting for Purpose class. Four of last week’s students took the first one in March, when he taught them how to do a seascape scene with a pallet knife, instead of brushes. The students this time painted flowers and added tiny cutout butterflies to make it a 3-D acrylic painting. The supplies were all donated by the Mangy Moose, Gambles, and Plains residents Ed and Debbie Foste.

The class ranged from the youngest student, 16-year-old Haley Stewart, to the oldest, Marilyn Carey, 86. Stewart was also one of four family generations, which included her mother, Tiffani Weatherly, her mother, Terrie Woods, and her mother, Kay Tompkins, 80. The class also included Christine Seibert, who moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Plains only eight days ago.

“I picked flowers because they’re easier to accomplish and be successful,” said Williams. He selected acrylic paint because it blends well and dries fairly fast. Williams took the students step by step from a background to the parts of the flowers and finally the butterflies, which were no more than about a half of an inch long. Carey and the Foste couple spent about two hours making around 400 paper butterflies Tuesday night for the class. The students folded the butterflies and glued them to the 16X20-inch canvas using a special gel to give a 3-D look.

“I don’t give them direct instruction. I generalize the techniques so they can explore their own techniques,” said Williams, who added that he could see improvements in the students who had taken a class with him before.

This is the first class with Williams for Carol Morris, although she’s taken art classes before. The students showed their artistic skills with different flowers, some with few butterflies, others with butterflies spread across the canvas. All went with a blue background, except Stewart, who painted an orange background, her favorite color. Several raised their hands about taking a third class. “I think they had fun and that’s what’s important,” he said. He’s planning a third Painting for Purpose class in January or February. Based on student requests, it will be mountains and waterfalls scenes using pallet knives.

Williams started painting 25 years ago, but didn’t go professional until five years ago. “I sold my first painting for a chicken dinner in Kalispell,” said Williams. He likes acrylic best, but also works in watercolor, plastics, wood, and ceramics. He’s given art classes to all six elementary schools in Sanders County.


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