The Willowbank School of Restoration Arts marked the graduation of its latest group of students with a keynote speech by the executive director of the John Brown Homestead, the oldest house in St. Catharines.
In his address Andrew Humeniuk offered students sage advice, urging the grads to “Think big. Your time at Willowbank has almost certainly pushed you out of your comfort zone. Embrace that.”
As well, he congratulated 2022 grads Krys Dale, Bonnie Liu, Rick Pali, Holly Thompson and Chris Thorne on their achievement.
“You’ve already stepped off the beaten path by coming here. Those things that make you rare, your passion, your offbeat interests, your quirks, your perspective – they are needed. They are needed in heritage and in the world,” Humeniuk said.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero and Marie Bowering, Indigenous traditional knowledge keeper, were among those on hand to celebrate the graduating class at the Queenston school.
Caitlin Wooll, the school’s director of education, was proud of the new grads.
“This is a small graduating class, but despite two of their three years taking place during COVID, they all are in full-time employment in the field in the jobs they love,” she told The Lake Report.
Thorne, the class valedictorian, talked about how much he treasured his time at Willowbank and the close bonds he formed with his classmates and staff at the school.
He credited Wooll and his instructors for the students' success in their three years at Willowbank.
“I have absolutely no doubt that it is through the herculean efforts of director Caitlin Wooll that the school continues to be the beacon of learning that it is,” Thorne said.
Humeniuk noted that “as graduates of Willowbank, you are stewards of our cultural heritage at a challenging time when our community, our society and our country are looking for the right paths forward.”
The grads are all busy putting their skills to work in various endeavours.
Dale is working in project management and finish carpentry for Traditional Neighborhood Developments in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Liu is working with Traditional Glassworks as a conservator, restoring and documenting the windows of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.
Pali is the heritage co-ordinator and site manager at the John Brown Homestead in St. Catharines.
Thompson is also at the Brown Homestead, doing carpentry and renovations on site.
And Thorne started his own restoration business, Atelier Heritage Restoration, and specializes in window restoration. He's working on a heritage home in Niagara-on-the-Lake at the moment.