Miriam Mas — Embodying theSpirit of Christmas - theHumm December 2019

Miriam Mas — Embodying theSpirit of Christmas - theHumm December 2019

By Sally Hansen

Art… and Soul

It has taken both luck and pluck (as in “spirited and determined courage”) for artist Miriam Mas to reach this point in her life. This gifted self-taught artist is reaping the well-got gains of a decidedly anti-Grinch-like life, and it really brightens this reporter’s spirits at a time when a dose of cheer is particularly welcome. (We at theHumm are quite concerned regarding the trending rumour that a certain mean, green grump has been spotted lurking around Mississippi Mills!)

Through no fault of her own, Mas has burst into the Valley arts limelight. That’s not strictly true. It is her fault that she paints irresistibly heartwarming paintings of familiar and beloved creatures and objects. Her paintings transform her modest home into a welcoming oasis of beauty and serenity. Each canvas celebrates our connection to the natural world and the other living creatures with whom we share this Mother Earth. From a chickadee on a snow-sprinkled branch to a quartet of cows munching contentedly, Mas renders their images with a palpable enjoyment of their existence. Her paintings of dogs bear genuine witness to the key role they continue to play in her life. Whether it’s a little girl with her doll or a chocolate cupcake on a plate, Mas’ tender portraits make your heart smile.

We have choices, and Mas chooses to use her paintings to express her gratitude and joy for being alive, for being in Canada, and for arriving at a point where she is doing what she loves. She loves beauty — “the kind of beauty that touches one’s heart.” She has always loved painting since her parents gave her a basic oil painting kit many years ago, but she only started painting seriously in 2015 while recuperating from a severe work-related back injury. She began posting photos of her small works on Facebook, and stopped giving them away for free when viewers started asking how much they cost. Miriam signed up for a local Christmas craft show, and shortly after that was invited to join the North Grenville Arts Guild by former president and now good friend Reinder Kuntz. At their 2018 show, visitors chose her as their favourite artist. (I notice that one of her paintings appears on the Guild’s November Newsletter.)

Mas is particularly grateful for the generous support she has received from fellow Guild member Carole Malcolm. She credits Malcolm with teaching her how to navigate the business side of being an artist, and for introducing her to Studio 87 in Perth, leading to a successful vernissage this past summer. Again, I notice on their website that Mas’ paintings are selling very well. I’m certain that their appeal is the direct consequence of what drives her to paint: “...painting has a strange magic. It is like a beautiful poem or rhyme that you can always look at and that never tires you. I love the excitement I feel every single time I am about to start a new painting. Sometimes I feel the same anticipation as a child waiting to get up on Christmas morning.” Each of her paintings is a gift that keeps on giving.

The Backstory

Born in Barcelona, Spain, the youngest of five children, Miriam came to Canada in 1988. After completing an ESL course (English as a Second Language, although it was Miriam’s third — after Catalan and Spanish), she landed a job in the HR department of Canada Post and was handed a large stack of résumés to assess. Although she did not have the prerequisite qualifications, she persuaded an Algonquin professor to let her enroll in his Interactive Multimedia class. Next, a wonderful Human Resources manager at Nortel hired her as a graphics designer, even though Mas disclosed that she was three months pregnant.

She worked for Nortel as a telecommuter while raising her first two children, but her near-death experience due to disseminated intravascular coagulation when delivering her third child changed her life. “The team at the Civic Hospital saved my life. The experience left me feeling that there was still something important left for me to do in this life.” So in 2001 she founded a charity to provide service dogs for people with mobility-related disabilities. These service dogs help people in wheelchairs in a multitude of practical ways — by retrieving objects out of reach, opening and closing doors, taking socks off, barking for help, etc. — that provide a better quality of life by promoting independence. Perhaps the dogs’ biggest accomplishment is growing hearts bigger through their companionship and unconditional love.

After her 23-year marriage ended in divorce, Miriam renewed acquaintance with someone with whom she had shared a special connection more than thirty years earlier. She sponsored Peter Vaz to come to Canada in 2013, but he had to return to Barcelona for medical reasons in 2015, and it took until early 2019 for his permanent residency to be approved. Fortunately he is now by her side, incredibly supportive, and available to ensure that she doesn’t impair her own health by staying up all night to paint.

After fifteen years of dedicating her life to helping people with mobility challenges, her back injury in 2015 forced her to take a break. In a very real way, her passion for art helped her overcome her own mobility issues, and continues to guide her into a future replete with oil paintings and — you guessed it — dogs!

There is no mistaking her special relationship with dogs. Miriam Mas’ paintings of “Man’s” best friend are illuminated by her love of the incredible animals that she continues to work with. Mas has just been nominated a finalist for CNIB Foundation’s 2019 Employee of the Year award. Her full-time job as Lead of the Buddy Dog Program entails preparing and placing Buddy Dogs with visually impaired children between the ages of 7 and 16. In April she led CNIB’s launch of its Buddy Dog program, and today there are seven children living with sight loss across Canada whose lives are enriched daily by a furry friend. She is also the administrator for the entire CNIB Guide Dogs Team. Their website states “...she ensures all of our programs run smoothly.”

Thinking back over Mas’ successes in forging a new life for herself in Canada, I ask her how she did it. Her response rings true: “If I believe that something is really right for me, I visualize it and life directs me towards how it can become a reality.” Watching her in her home with the two dogs she is training to be Buddy Dogs is a great example. When I showed up to take her photo, the loving portrait of two of the puppies in the CNIB Guide Dog program that she was working on took my breath away (I think it was my heart expanding). Once the painting is completed she will donate it to CNIB Guide Dogs for a Gala Fundraiser in Regina taking place in January.

Watch out grumpy green thing — you’re up against a formidable opponent if you show up in Kemptville!

Links for this article at Miriam Mas,


Happy Local Holidays! - theHumm December 2019

By Kris and Rob Riendeau

Here at theHumm we’re big on local economies. The retail and service businesses in the small towns that we cover play a huge role in the cultural life of those towns. Each store, restaurant, or small enterprise attracts and serves a particular clientele — some inside the community, some from outside. Some businesses host their own special events; others join together with local festivals to make the whole experience more vibrant. Many provide support in cash or in kind to local initiatives. A healthy local economy is an essential component to a healthy community.

It is with this in mi......


Miriam Mas — Embodying theSpirit of Christmas - theHumm December 2019

By Sally Hansen

Art… and Soul

It has taken both luck and pluck (as in “spirited and determined courage”) for artist Miriam Mas to reach this point in her life. This gifted self-taught artist is reaping the well-got gains of a decidedly anti-Grinch-like life, and it really brightens this reporter’s spirits at a time when a dose of cheer is particularly welcome. (We at theHumm are quite concerned regarding the trending rumour that a certain mean, green grump has been spotted lurking around Missis......


Funny Lady
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Perth Community Christmas Day Dinner - theHumm December 2019

By — Bill Lowe

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Winter is Coming to the Station Theatre - theHumm December 2019

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Dear Editor,
- theHumm December 2019

Readers Write

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Join Us!
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