GOODWILL: Sybil Rampen

Someone once said, “There is no bigger sin than a life not lived.” A truism in the world of Sybil Rampen. Since she was a child her existence has been one of adventure, hard work and purpose.

At 81 years, Sybil continues to live a life so fruitful it is nothing less than inspirational. As astounding as her accomplishments is the spirit that drives them. She defies all barriers, unstoppable to achieve her dream, to create the legacy that is The Joshua Creek Heritage Art Centre. 

Rampen's passion lies within 40 acres at Burnhamthorpe Road just east of Trafalgar. Purchased by her father in 1950 for the purpose of farming, the land housed an 1827 farmhouse that would be home to a loving and uniquely gifted family. 

An internationally acclaimed artist, writer and archaeologist, Rampen claims her gifts are family inherited from the
five generations that preceeded her. But it is for her father that Sybil feels compelled to secure what was his legacy. 

“My father was traumatized at 24 while fighting in the war,” she sadly reflects. “He came home a very disturbed man.” Though Sybil's dad proved to be an extraordinary artist, he was a recognized wheat farmer whose devotion and respect for his land was foremost.

“I think I inherited this yearning to protect and utilize the property for my father, as he was not able to do it himself due to his trauma. He was my personal inspiration, and when he died I felt all this responsibility.”

For 50 years Rampen held onto her dream: to create a non-profit centre for the arts on her family's land. But she required the opportunity and means. Then a few years ago, Rampen had a fall on the walkway from the main farmhouse to her studio. Recognizing the property needed work, as luck would have it she inherited land in England, that allowed her to renovate and landscape.

“I spent every red cent of it,” she laughs. In 2008 Rampen opened the doors to her dream. Today it is a reincarnation of the farms and barns of yesteryear, surrounded by lush gardens and ponds. It is indescribably beautiful.

Evolving daily, the 1827 heritage house has been expanded to host large groups in a social setting. The sun-filled workshop rooms are where people gather to work in a variety of artistic media and techniques.”¯This addition connects the original house to “˜The Winter Garden' which features a boardroom and studio complete with printmaking and fibre arts facilities. In the rear of the building breathtaking views of Joshua Creek are provided by “˜The Studio', a large workshop that is usually filled with like-minded artists. Above is “˜The Loft', a tapestry studio and below is the “˜Computer Graphics Lab' that offers quality reproduction services, giclees, large format digital printing, scanning and photo-retouching services. “I have become a “˜techie' boasts Rampen. “I recently scanned 132 black and white slides for the ROM on Egyptology and now I'm digitalizing my family records.”
Justifiably, Rampen's fear of losing her land to developers is a real one. An ongoing battle, Rampen has a plan in place whereas certain acreage can be historically protected. “My new dream is to create an oasis of 12 acres that is legally and virtually untouchable. Before I am gone I must prepare for the next generation. I worry about breathing spaces for children and mentors for autistic kids. I get a special thrill teaching art to the mentally challenged…perhaps because of my father.”

Proud to be the catalyst for her dream come true, Sybil is most grateful for the wonderful people that surround her and continue to propel “˜this miracle'.  “There is a true sense of the Indians who use to live here. This land is special, creative and healing.”  

With a non-profit board of directors, the centre relies on income from workshops, gallery showings, special events, speakers and weddings. Sponsorship would be a blessing, but should Rampen not be around long enough to see that happen, she is happy to have created and preserved a sanctuary for others while honouring her family legacy.

 “Yesterday is what I lived; today is spent preserving for tomorrow's stakeholders and future generations.”   

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