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Mendenhall honoured for key cultural contributions

Ann Mendenhall, right, gratefully lifts Rosemary Danaher’s watercolour Pelicans. - Peter W. Rusland
Ann Mendenhall, right, gratefully lifts Rosemary Danaher’s watercolour Pelicans.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Ann Mendenhall gratefully lifted Rosemary Danaher’s watercolour Pelicans with the artist at Monday’s City of Duncan inaugural awards night.

The gregarious, graceful sea birds perfectly symbolized Mendenhall’s piano-teaching career that earned her Duncan’s 18th-annual Perpetual Arts Award.

“I’m blown away,” a shocked Mendenhall said, accepting the award — sponsored by the News Leader Pictorial — from Councillor Tom Duncan.

Mendenhall has a UVic masters degree in piano performance. She has taught countless keyboard students after settling in Cowichan in 1981, and starting a farm with husband, Phillip, in 1985.

She’s a 20-year member of the Cowichan Valley Music Teachers’ Association “which is very close to my heart.”

Mendenhall’s also assistant director of Chemainus’ St. Michael’s Presents music series.

The Kansas native began her piano studies at age three. She and her family later moved to Costa Rica, where she studied piano with the country’s symphony orchestra director.

Mendenhall later returned to the states, and studied at Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

She started teaching in ‘74 when she and Phillip bought a dairy farm back in Costa Rica.

In the ‘70s, she and her family visited the island. Mendenhall also enrolled in the Victoria Conservatory’s masters program under Robin Wood, later finishing her degree at UVic.

Mendenhall and Danaher lamented cuts to school music and arts programs.

“Arts should be cut last because they do so much for the human soul,” said Mendenhall.

Lake Cowichan’s Danaher — a painter, potter and jewelry maker — who retired from teaching art at Lake Cowichan Secondary, said she’s “just one of those people who supports the arts.”

She founded the lake’s Green Heron art co-operative. Her work has been exhibited with the Cowichan Valley Arts Council, and with the Kaatza, Cherry Point, Visions and Crofton art groups.

“Art keeps me out of mischief,” she said.

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