Traumatic brain injury survivor showcasing work at ‘Art in the Park’ show

An outdoor art show this weekend is showcasing local artists from along the Seaway, including one painter who overcame a severe head injury and says painting is now her passion.

When not in her home studio, you can find Brockville native Margaret Ebdon outside, painting portraits.

"It's a privilege to be here, it truly is," said Ebdon, painting a birdhouse garden scene in Mallorytown’s Tony Kall park.

In 2011, Ebdon was golfing with her husband and friends, when she was hit in the head by a golf ball. She suffered a traumatic brain injury, with severe bleeding on the brain.

"I was just putting the pin back in the hole and I was hit in the head, line drive, 117 yards, and I went down like a rock," Ebdon said. "Couldn't talk, couldn't walk."

An accountant at the time, she had to quit her job and go through years of therapy.

"I loved (my job), but I couldn't even make the recipe on the back of a soup can, that's how severe it was," Ebdon recalled. "My life changed in a nanosecond."

Five years after the accident, a close friend and artist, Sheila Ballantyne, gave her a pencil and piece of paper, to test her creative side. She hadn't drawn anything since high school.

"I just put down this piece and I was astonished and she was just, 'Oh my goodness this is amazing!' And with that she framed it and put it in an art show, and I haven't looked back,” Ebdon said.

The creative juices that emerged brought her to the Thousand Islands Fine Art Association.

“They accepted me as one of their artists and I've been in many shows," Ebdon said. "I have art in and around the Brockville area and it's all been because of the lord and what he has done in my life."

The association is holding its yearly art show, Art in the Park, in Mallorytown this weekend, with some of Ebdon's paintings on display.

The group’s president Alison Whitlock says they have members from Kingston to Maitland, Ont.

The show was previously held in Rockport and Mallorytown Landing. After flooding along the seaway in 2017-18, the show moved up to Mallorytown’s Tony Kall Park.

More than 100 pieces of art are on display from more than 20 members.

"We have watercolour artists, acrylic, which is the choice now for a lot of artists just because of the ease of use, oil painters and mixed media, which is actually incorporating other things in the art piece," Whitlock said.

She says painting started out as a hobby for her, something she could focus on over the winter months when her seasonal job ended in the fall.

"I wouldn't say it's paying the bills, but it's nice,” she said. “It’s very satisfying when somebody else appreciates something that you've made and you've put your time and your heart into.”

TIFAA begain 38 years ago and still has one original member in the group. Co-chair of the show Sheila Goertzen says art in the park is a unique experience.

"When you show up here you start whatever location you want and just keep moving around, there's art on the fence to kind of guide you from one area to another," she said.

There are about 80 pieces in the Front of Yonge Community Centre, and more than 30 in the Mallory Coach House Museum and accompanying shed.

COVID protocols are in place for the indoor venues, including mask wearing and contact tracing.

"We paint all winter and just wait for our show and meet new people, meet old people that come and follow different artists and it's just a great experience," Goertzen added.

All artwork is available to be purchased and the money goes back into the group, although there is no obligation to buy.

For Ebdon, she's thankful to be part of such a passionate group of artists, and happy to be able to showcase her work, inviting anyone to come check out the show.

"We live in a beautiful area and it's wonderful to have the artists using so many mediums to capture this area on canvas or in their ceramics or whatever form of art," she said.

"Just soak it in, just enjoy it," she added. "We hope that they feel really welcomed and meet the artists and talk with us and let us talk about our art. They're discovering new things about the area and the artists that are part of this show."

"And maybe buy a painting or two, that wouldn't be a bad idea," she laughed.

Art in the Park runs Friday from 1 to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 to 4 p.m. at Tony Kall Park. Admission is free.