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Making a Visitors’ Room a Home at Province Center

January 15, 2019

A newly decorated room at the Viatorian Province Center feels a bit more like home after a selection of

Fr. John Van Wiel, an avid fisherman, describes his painting of fishing boats.

watercolor paintings were hung. They range from a wooded scene in winter, to a quiet street in Mexico, to a cluster of fishing boats docked on the sand.

Beyond sharing the same walnut frame and matting, they also come from the same artist: Fr. John Van Wiel, CSV. 

After spending more than 40 years as an educator and administrator at Viatorian High Schools — including Alleman, Bishop McNamara and Saint Viator high schools — where he taught chemistry for nearly 25 years, Fr. Van Wiel is channeling his creative side.

A scene of a stucco house with a clay tile roof, in Mexico, is one of Fr. Van Wiel’s favorites

Now retired and living at the Viatorian Province Center, he has more time to pursue his painting, and more specifically in watercolors. Fr. Van Wiel figures he started painting around 30 years ago, after he was on a 30-day retreat and had time to consider the intricacies of nature.

Consequently, most of his paintings are of landscapes, but a closer look reveals the many layers and details he weaves in.

In looking at the street in Mexico, Fr. Van Wiel describes working to create the shadows on the house and its deteriorating stucco, as well as the different shades of purple in the sky at dusk. Even the small woman walking by was created with great detail.

Br. Don Houde, CSV, who studied at the School of the Art Institute and curates much of the religious art collection at the Province Center, helped select which ones they would hang.

“We looked through his large body of work,” Br. Houde says. “These were some of his favorites, but I was looking for technique. His work is clean and neat and really makes the room look finished.”