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Lessons from a polar bear

Local artist to speak at Fab Fem Fundraiser on Feb. 19

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Artist Kal Barteski will talk at the Fab Fem Fundraiser about her experiences as an artist, with polar bears, and living life to the fullest.

STEPH CROSIER Enlarge Image

Artist Kal Barteski will talk at the Fab Fem Fundraiser about her experiences as an artist, with polar bears, and living life to the fullest. Photo Store

At 37 years old, Kal Barteski has already crossed many goals off her bucket list, and all it took to make it happen was a spirit of play and the willingness to go with the flow.

Barteski will be speaking at the 5th annual Fab Fem Fundraiser for the Fort Garry Women’s Resource Centre, which will be held at the West End Cultural Centre Wed., Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m.

The laid-back artist, who raises three girls and wrangles two French bulldogs in her Wolseley home with husband Dan Kostenchuk, has worked all over the world in fashion and music through her famous script style.  But that’s not this artist’s only medium.

"I do several different kinds of art so it’s kind of hard to put your finger exactly on what defines me," Barteski said. "But I have been an artist all my life, and that’s all I’ve ever done, and that all I ever want to do."

The Saskatchewan-born Barteski is a published author and award-winning designer for fashion weeks around the world and for artists such as Rihanna and Pitbull. She’s also been a TEDx speaker, and a 2005 winner of an RBC women entrepreneur of the year award  for home enterprise.

Andrea Shnider, organizational coordinator for the Fab Fem Fundraiser, said organizers chose Barteski after watching her TEDx Manitoba talk, called Art of a Polar Bear, which she gave on June 6 last year.

"She was incredibly motivating," Shnider said. "It was just a really great fit for celebrating women in the artistic community."

Barteski came to Winnipeg to take graphic design at Red River College in 1996. One day she and her peers were taken to Assiniboine Park Zoo to find real-life subjects for artistic  inspiration. She fell in love with polar bear Debby.

"I just had a connection with her," Barteski said, adding she then visited the bear every week. She was devastated when Debby died at the age of 42. 

A few years later in 2012, Barteski woke up with terrible pain in her hand, then arms, then body. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

"I couldn’t function, I couldn’t pick up my kids, I couldn’t walk to school, probably the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my whole life," Barteski said. "I work with my hands, so it was a bit of a disaster for me."

Her struggle relit her passion for polar bears and the lessons that they taught her.

"They are incredibly resilient, I have really enjoyed watching their resiliency, and their beautifully crafted way of adapting," Barteski said. "How they can love this hard, harsh arctic climate that’s the best place for them."

In 2012 Barteski was asked to explore her passion for polar bears with Animal Planet’s Wild Obsession. On the show Barteski was able to get up close and personal with wild polar bears. The experience changed her life, so much so that she returned again to Churchill on her own in November 2013.

"We were watching cubs swimming and jumping off ice floes," Barteski said. "It was the coldest I’d ever experienced and these bear cubs were just having the time of their life."

Barteski’s passion for polar bears has translated to her art, and her home is filled with canvasses of bears with different names and personalities. She is currently working on finishing a complete collection of strictly polar bears.

"When you see your first polar bear it literally takes your breath away," Barteski said. "It’s just amazing to see the mechanics, to see the wind blow through their fur, just to see how they move… it’s just super
fascinating."

The fundraiser for the women’s centre will also feature musician Sydney Kurbis, singer Sol James, a silent auction, cash bar, and food. Shnider said all are welcome. Tickets for the event are $20 and are available now by calling (204) 477-1123. For more information, visit fgwrc.ca

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