Velia Gonzalez, centre, with her husband Roberto Benitez and their daughter Patricia Benitez-Gonzalez during the opening of the eighth annual art exhibition for the Surrey Latin Integration Society. Gonzalez and Benitez teach the painting classes on Saturdays at the Bear Creek Pavilion. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Surrey couple teaches painting to Latin American community

Weekly classes started as a way to give back, couple says

Velia Gonzalez and Roberto Benitez say they just wanted to give back to their community when they started weekly art classes in Bear Creek Pavilion

The Surrey Latin Integration Society celebrated its eighth annual art exhibition at the Bear Creek Pavilion on Saturday, Oct. 27. The group meets every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the pavilion for three hours of painting, said Ana Mabel de Medina, a member of the society.

Gonzalez and Benitez came to Surrey in 2009, they told the Now-Leader in an interview that was translated by de Medina. The couple is originally moved to Montreal from Veracruz, Mexico in 2004, but ended up moving to B.C. nine years ago.

They wanted to help people, Benitez said, “because Canada gave them so much.”

“They were looking in the city for volunteer (opportunities) for cleaning the park,” said de Medina, adding the couple wanted to be able to contribute something to the community. She also said Gonzalez and Benitez “really liked painting.”

The couple, de Medina said, saw the pavilion and went across the parking lot to the Surrey Arts Centre with some friends to inquire about creating a non-profit organization.

After doing some paperwork with the city, de Medina said, Gonzalez and Benitez received some funding for the rental of the building.

Gonzalez said when they started offering the classes, about 10 people would come each week. Now the group is up to 30 to 40 people per week, Gonzalez said.

Each week, de Medina said, Gonzalez calls members of the society on a Thursday to find out if they are coming to paint that Saturday, and then on the Friday, Gonzalez and Benitez go shopping for snacks. Then, de Medina said, Gonzalez wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to make snacks for the people coming to paint.

Gonzalez said members pay $10 per month to help cover costs. The supplies, including paints, brushes and canvases, are supplied by Gonzalez and Benitez.

Gonzalez and Benitez were both teachers, said Gonzalez. She added that her mother used to paint so she brings that knowledge to the classes.

For the painting classes, de Medina said Gonzalez shows people how to use the brushes and apply colours. There is no template and people can work on a new piece each week on work on one piece for several weeks, de Medina said.

When de Medina, who helps to foster children, started coming to the classes, she said she had a little bit of shaking in her hands “because (she) was so stressed about having seven kids in her home.” She said she the painting classes helped her mental health because she was “stressed out to the point of breaking down.”

“Once I started here, my hands didn’t shake anymore,” de Medina said. “They just want to make a change in people.”

Gonzalez and Benitez said the classes are still open to anyone in the Spanish community. There is also childminding and children can paint and create recyclable art pieces with Gonzalez and Benitez’s daughter Patricia Benitez-Gonzalez teaching the kids.

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

Just Posted

VIDEO: Surrey Vaisakhi Parade floods Newton streets

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the annual event

Four Surrey students head to New Brunswick for Canada-wide science fair

Three projects move to nationals following regional fair at KPU

VAISAKHI EXPLAINED: Founding of the Khalsa was a seminal event in Sikh history

There are five K’s – articles of faith – worn by baptized Sikhs

Man ‘seriously’ injured in crash after driving wrong way on Highway 17: Surrey RCMP

Police say the sedan hit a transport truck, then another car

Easter ‘eggstravaganza’ event planned for South Surrey

Event is to run from 12-3 p.m. at Dufferin Park (17355 2 Ave.).

VIDEO: Easter animal party at Museum of Surrey

Children had a chance to meet with Easter reptiles, falcons, owls and of course, bunnies.

VIDEO: Fan support almost deafening as Giants take Game 2 in finals

Vancouver G-Men cap comeback with thrilling third period to beat Spokane 4-2 on home ice in Langley

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Most Read