Shirley Elias was born and raised in Winkler and has found success worldwide, firstly as a concert pianist and secondly as a painter.
Elias has performed on stages across Canada, recorded three CDs, and has been on frequent broadcasts for CBC's Radio Two.
Her painting career has extended her stage to the world with over 500 completed paintings and over 100 hundred commissions. According to her bio, Elias is represented by Canadian galleries coast to coast and her paintings are found in private, corporate, and government collections in 8 countries around the world, including every province in Canada, USA, India, Italy, England, Sweden, Mexico, and Australia.
She recently brought her exhibit "One Step At A Time" to a slightly smaller stage at the Winkler Arts & Culture. It may not be a huge gallery or commission for Canadian opera singer Jean Stilwell or a restaurant in Florence, Italy, but Elias was excited to be back in Southern Manitoba.
"Hometown is always in your DNA so even if you move away it's part of who you are, and you take part of that with you everywhere you go," she says.
The music she plays translates onto the usually large canvases through colour and movement.
Elias says, "as a musician, I explored that interpreter in me where you're taking a score and bringing it to life, and as a painter, I'm the creator and I'm bringing a blank canvas to life . . . For me, it was kind of freeing to become that painter."
While growing up in the area, her passion for painting was something she was interested in but didn't fully pursue.
"It's always been there, in fact, one of my old dear friends told me how she used to come to my basement bedroom in high school looking at my paintings," says Elias.
At this time there was no gallery or arts centre for locals to display their own work, or place to explore the arts world. Now the gallery hosts a number of exhibitions and events throughout the year giving people the chance to make art and music.
She says it is exciting to have a building in place that can inspire the next generation of artists. "They can come here, they can see work like this, they can create work here, that's what this building is all about. So there's a building in this community that says, 'you should come explore your creative side,' and I think that's fabulous."
Elias currently resides in Winnipeg, where she also teaches piano at the Canadian Mennonite University School of Music.