The Nipissing University Student Union (NUSU) recently launched a colouring book featuring significant North Bay locales. Nature’s Canvas: A North Bay Journey includes sites ranging from picturesque Lake Nipissing and Duchesnay Falls to the Dionne Quintuplets Museum and the historic Capitol Centre.
The idea is the brainchild of Sarah McGowan, a Nipissing alumna who is now NUSU’s director of communications. “I had noticed how drawn our students are to colouring as a wellness activity, as a way to get off tech and quiet their minds,” she said. Like many Nipissing students and alumni (known as “Lakers”), Ms. McGowan holds a special fondness for the campus, as well as for the city of North Bay and the surrounding region. Combining colouring with Lakers’ nostalgia for Nipissing’s local geography seemed like a logical next step.
Ms. McGowan researched, identified and photographed the sites, informally polling students and alumni about which places to include. “I asked about people’s favourite memories of their time in North Bay, the places that stood out for them. It was a real exercise in nostalgia.” She then teamed up with NUSU graphic designer Madison Turner, who rendered the images and ideas into colouring sheets that range from simple to complex. The result is a book that features approximately 20 classic Nipissing and North Bay attractions, with the university’s new NUSU student centre as its focal point.
“It was important to us to showcase the beauty of North Bay in all seasons,” said Ms. Turner, “from an ice hut in the winter to the surrounding forest in full leaf.”
The book also features more whimsical elements, like a series of forest “critters” — including an owl and a groundhog — who show up in several of the drawings and act as informal guides and mascots throughout the book’s pages.
At $10, the sale proceeds of the book are going towards the student food bank, which has seen usage rise between five and six times since 2019 — in large part due to the pandemic and its fallout. Rising rents and shortage of housing also make it difficult for students to make ends meet. Nature’s Canvas, said Ms. McGowan, is a creative way to keep shelves stocked at the food bank while showcasing the beauty of Nipissing and its North Bay surroundings.
Not only students and alumni, but also their parents and grandparents, said Ms. McGowan, have responded enthusiastically to the project. “It’s a perfect gift to bring back to younger siblings after parents have dropped off an older child. We’ve had great feedback about how a younger brother or sister wants to visit North Bay to see not only their sibling [who attends Nipissing], but also our historic Carousel [the Heritage Railway and Carousel Company].”
The book sold out of its initial print run of 300 and is now into subsequent printings. Tourism North Bay has also recognized the colouring book’s potential as a marketing tool and is promoting it, and copies also are on sale at the North Bay Museum. Ms. McGowan is grateful for the support and enthusiasm of the broader local community, which she said is a testament to Nipissing’s ongoing strong relationships with North Bay residents, businesses and civic infrastructure.