Local principal creates art print for new UAlberta grads

For the second year in a row, the University of Alberta Alumni Association’s gift to new graduates at convocation will be an art print created by a Faculty of Education alumnus.

Last year, popular local illustrator Jason Blower (’03 BEd) was commissioned to create two different prints: an illustration of the core buildings on North Campus for students in Edmonton and a print of Founders’ Hall on the Augustana campus for students in Camrose.

This year’s gift is an art print called Bear Portrait from educator and artist Brad Burns (‘94 BEd).

Burns is the principal at Highlands School, a junior high in northeast Edmonton. Throughout his more than 20 years in arts education, he has continued to create work of his own. His paintings and sculptures can be found in many private and corporate collections, and starting next week, his prints will be in the hands of thousands of new alumni.

We asked him to tell us about the exciting commission and share some words of wisdom with graduates.

Faculty of Education: Your art print will be given to all graduating students at spring convocation this month. That is thousands of people, and potentially thousands of homes and workplaces where your print will be displayed. How does that make you feel?

Brad Burns: I am humbled and honoured to think my image will be in the hands of so many. I hope it brings joy to the recipients and holds meaning for each of them as they close this important chapter of their life story.

Faculty of Education: How did this opportunity to do the gift for graduating students come about?

BB: I had created a painting for the Alumni Association Office several years ago of a bear walking on a golden background. It hangs in the reception area of their office downtown, in Enterprise Square.

This winter I was invited to come work with the children of alumni for an arts day. The connection was made between myself and the painting in the office, and I was invited to submit a proposal for the graduation gift for 2016. I was excited to be involved, and the bear portrait is the final result of that process.

Faculty of Education: Talk a little about the symbolism behind the bear and its connection to the U of A—what does it mean to you?

BB: The bear is an amazing animal, and the grizzly is truly noble. Being a U of A alumnus, I’ve always been a fan of the golden bear. I enjoy painting bears as they have such expressive faces and always leave wanting to engage in conversation with them.

In this portrait I wanted to capture strength, curiosity, optimism, and kindness—all character traits that I value and hope that our new grads value and possess.

Faculty of Education: As you mentioned, you are an alum yourself, from the Faculty of Education, and now you’re a principal at an Edmonton school. What would you say are some of the benefits of a BEd degree from U of A?

BB: I am so proud to be a University of Alberta graduate. I feel I was well prepared to begin my teaching career upon graduating 22 years ago. Throughout my career and life journey, I’ve stayed connected with the university and have found numerous ways to give back to the Faculty of Education. My circle is so much richer due to my connections with the U of A.

Faculty of Education: What words of advice would you want to share with our new Education grads?

BB: Always be kind to each other. Your story is written by the relationships you develop.

Convocation ceremonies for the Faculty of Education will take place on June 9, 2016, in the morning (Elementary Education degrees only) and in the afternoon (all departments except Elementary Education). For more information, visit the Graduation/ Convocation page on the Office of the Registrar website.

Feature image: Bear Portrait by Brad Burns (‘94 BEd) is this year’s convocation gift from the UAlberta Alumni Association to new graduates.