For Laurie Chandler - Home is Where the Heart Is

November 2019

Visual artist Laura (Laurie) Chandler met me in her mother’s comfortable apartment in Thunder Bay. Although Laurie has made BC her home for many years, Thunder Bay is still very influential in her work. Some of her early works, such as a landscape of Lake Louise painted while she was in high school dominates her mother’s living room. But the pieces that captured my attention were the works that featured the home she had grown up in. Most house portraits are painted from the street but the one that I enjoyed was the painting of the side of the house and the backdoor where everyone came and went, showing the activity and energy that took place there.

“I was lucky to grow up in Thunder Bay,” says Laurie, now a resident of Prince George, B.C. along with her husband Dwight Kitchen. “I may be closer to the ocean now where I live, but it’s not Lake Superior!” Growing up next to Lake Superior and enjoying summers playing on and in the big lake have helped Laurie capture the magical moments
in her paintings. Along her life’s journey she has also lived on the prairies in Manitoba, by the Pacific Ocean and mountains and now in northern British Columbia. She believes in taking care of the environment and feels that landscape painting helps to develop a sense of pride of where we live and how we can “participate in our environment and take care of it.”

Colour is important in her work. “Kay McCullough was my art teacher in high school,” says Laurie. “She instilled in me the importance of colour. She instructed us to make a colour value chart in Grade 10. It was not a creative exercise, more a practical one to help us to understand colour theory. I still have and use that chart. And I shared it with the classes I have taught over the years.”

Laurie, the grandmother to 4 children is inspired by the artistic works of Emily Carr, Georgia O Keefe, and Frida Kahlo. She has retired from a career of teaching art but now is enjoying the found time to get back into her painting and to enjoy and appreciate nature. In a Federation of Canadian Artists juried show at the Federation’s Gallery on Granville Island in Vancouver, Chandler’s painting Home is Where the Heart Is was a featured work. “I was so proud that Lake Superior and Thunder Bay were showcased in this way,” says Chandler.


The painting, Home is Where the Heart Is showcases the life and legacy of Chandler’s grandfather RB Chandler, who “like many modest and unassuming heroes, enabled his family members and the community he lived in, to grow and to be successful,” says Laurie.

In the painting, the sunrise view of the Sleeping Giant is seen from Laurie’s parents, Jim and Joan’s last home together at St. Joseph’s Heritage. In the painting, the location of Chandler’s grandparent’s home is visible (at the lower right) as well as her Aunt Betty’s high rise condo, Waverly Towers (above right), her parents’ home with the heart, just two blocks away and her Uncle Tom’s family home further to the left.

A miniature sunrise off to the left side of the painting glows above the family cottage at Amethyst Harbour.

In the marina area, the first of many grain elevators that Chandler’s grandfather RB Chandler helped to design and build in partnership with CD Howe, highlight his engineering career and the involvement that he had with the Lakehead Harbour Commission.

Laurie Chandler says, “I never really understood what he had accomplished until much later in life but my first ray of understanding was at the opening of the Keefer Terminal in 1962. I was just eleven and the highlight of that day was seeing my grandfather at centre front stage during the ceremony and getting to ride the CCGS Ice Breaker, the Alexander Henry in the harbour. What a thrill!! I still have the ceremonial booklet that was handed out but mine has my grandfather’s signature.”

At the time of the opening of the Keefer Terminal a newspaper article linked both of Chandler’s grandfathers. FH Keefer was the namesake of the new terminal and in the newspaper article about him the paper printed the picture of Laurie Chandler’s other grandfather FH Keefe. FH Keefe was the general manager of the CNR from Winnipeg to Vancouver but had spent some time working and living in Port Arthur.

Also featured in the painting are the Sunken Gardens and Hillcrest Park on the right. RB was one of the engineers involved with the creation of this attraction. Hillcrest and the Sunken Gardens are enjoyed today and will be for generations to come. RB was also involved with building the arch that showed the boundary between Port Arthur and Fort William on Memorial Avenue. The arch is now gone since the 2 cities are now one, Thunder Bay.

Laurie can be contacted and her work can be viewed on her website

“It would be wonderful to hear from former school mates and family friends.”

Nancy Angus is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Bayview. Contact her at

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