By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Wherever Jennifer Goodal is creating art – that’s her happy place.
This year, the walls of the heritage barn at C.M. Wilson Conservation Area south of Chatham became her canvas as part of a revamp of the historical building.
“It brings me joy,” Goodal told The Chatham Voice in a recent interview.
“It’s like a meditation to me. I get in the zone and time disappears.”
The Ridgetown area resident, who works as an elementary school principal in Wallaceburg, said creating art is a “de-stresser” for her.
The Chatham native has been doing art ever since she can remember. She recalls sitting at the kitchen table, drawing princesses and making up the accompanying stories as she went along.
Her mother still has those drawings framed.
Although she has many irons in the fire, designing labels for different craft beer at the Red Barn brewery, as well as creating intricate mandalas, Goodal found herself helping out at C.M. Wilson this summer.
She’s created a large painting of a Great Horned Owl in the building’s loft, a variety of sketches of native birds on log medallions, paintings of trees and a quote in flowing cursive from legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold.
It reads: “On motionless wing they emerge from lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky and settle.”
All are mounted on wood, in keeping with the building’s rustic tones.
Goodal’s creations are the cherry on top of a project by the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority to spruce up the former Raleigh Township barn that’s more than 150 years old.
Over the winter, authority workers built a loft and added stairs and stand-up bar areas, built with natural or repurposed wood.
New lights have been strung up throughout, adding to the ambience of the wooden structure.
The barn, owned at one time by farmer Horace Stenton, was moved to the conservation area, timber by timber in 1972. It’s said to be one of the first barns built in Raleigh Township, made of native elm and oak.
Assembled by a barn framer, the wood was felled by crosscut saw and hewed with a chopping axe and a broad axe, built in the mortise and tenon method, with the wood held together by oak pins.
The LTVCA rents the barn out for weddings and special occasions during the spring, summer and fall.
For information on rental details, consult the authority’s webpage.