From kitchen to canvas
Laura Simpson focuses on a new life in the art world

Tracy Kovalench
Northern News Services

NNSL (Jul 29/98) - Devastation followed by realization, determination and a New Year's resolution has Laura Simpson packing up her wooden spoons and spatulas for a new world of pencils, paper and brushes.

Acceptance into first-year studies at the prestigious Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver has brought some light at the end of the tunnel, says Simpson, who has spent the last three years dealing with the trauma of a serious back injury.

Dependant on the support of friends and a walker, Simpson finds it difficult to physically escape the confinements of her one-bedroom apartment.

"Sooner or later I'm going to end up in a wheelchair," she says.

Twenty-five years before slipping on a set of icy steps, Simpson left Vancouver Island with a dream to cook for an exploration camp in Tuktoyaktuk.

Using her culinary and bartending skills, Simpson worked her way through B.C. and Alberta up to the NWT. Eventually, she found that job on the Beaufort coast. "I would do anything to get where I wanted to go," she says.

Now Simpson is looking to art school with the same determination.

Eager to pursue a career in writing and photography, Simpson plans to focus on the English component of the school's curriculum, but also looks forward to a general year of painting, sculpting and sketching.

Although much of her earlier work was lost in a fire 10 years ago, Simpson's portfolio is a collection of cartoon characters and photographs she has taken over her years as a camp cook in the North.

Portfolio under arm and her bags packed, Simpson has hurdled what she hopes to be the last obstacle leading to a new education and her new life.

Receiving word of a successful application to an employment incentives program, Simpson secured funding to move herself and her belongings to Vancouver just last week.

The program is offered by Human Resources Development Canada to help people with disabilities obtain better access to paid employment.

Simpson has also received a loan from the NWT Department of Education to help cover tuition and living expenses.