Late afternoon light cascades through the windows of Nelum Walpola’s house, bringing out blazing color in the paintings that line the walls and are stacked on the floor.Mrs. Walpola, the new president of the Plano Art Association, is a gentle woman who exudes a powerful sense of calm and serenity. In her artist biography she says that art allows her to brings her message of “compassion, unity, and peace to all living beings.”As she sits on a couch in the living room, Mrs. Walpola keeps a watchful eye on a handful of small children who play a few feet away. When she isn’t painting or being a mother to her two children, Mrs. Walpola runs a Montessori school from her home.Three weeks ago, the Sri Lankan native was voted president of the art association. During her tenure, she plans on building a more visible community organization. The first event under her leadership will be an art exhibition and live paintings demonstration from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve.From early childhood a spark of artistic creativity brewed within her. By the time she was 12, Mrs. Walpola had won several awards, including a “best human rights poster award” in Sri Lanka and best of show at an international children’s art competition in India.”My mother is a very creative, and my parents were encouraging and bought supplies for me,” she said.In 1986, she moved to Austin, where her aunt ran a Montessori school.At that time she put her paintbrushes down to marry and raise children. It was five years before the urge to paint once again came to her.”When I paint depends on the moment and the emotions that come to rne,” she said. “I don’t prepare an idea. I start with the color and let it flow naturally. It’s not a planned thing.”In 1995, her family moved to Plano so that she could be closer to her brother who lives in Dallas.Although Mrs. Walpola had never studied art at school, she took classes at Collin County Community College so that she could hone her skills. She stills buys time at CCCCD’s art studios so that she can have space to paint and mingle with other artists.After the Sept. 11 attacks, Mrs. Walpola painted a devastated New York with a plume of dark smoke covering the skyline and the eye of God watching from the sky.She sold a postcard of the painting around town and sent all of the proceeds to the New York Fire Fighters Association.”I wanted to convey what I felt and help out in some way,” she said.She received a letter from former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani thanking her for her efforts.Since 2002 she has had five solo exhibitions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Her painting “Hatred is only opposed by Love” was displayed at the Dallas Museum of Art. A painting called “Unity” was enlarged and painted on the Plano Advocacy Center.”What I like to do with my art is deliver a message,” she said. “I’m attracted to people, rhythm, and movement.”The Plano Art Association was formed in 1969 and consists of 250 members. Mrs. Walpola’s goal as the president of the association is exposing the community to the arts in Plano.As president, she organizes meetings and events. Mrs. Walpola wants to create a series of activities that will bring local artists into greater contact with the community.”Artists love to be out in the community, and they really enrich the place that we live,” she said.For information, visit www.planoart.org or call 972-633-0099.”What I like to do with my art is deliver a message. I’m attracted to people, rhythm and movement”
An article from the Plano Star Courier, Saturday, June 28, 2003
Nelum Donates Painting to the City
A painting that Nelum donated to the City of Plano, Texas was received by Mayor Pat Evans. In a letter to Nelum, the mayor expressed her appreciation for sharing her talents with the citizenship of Plano and that the painting will be displayed in the Mayor’s office.
Plano Art Association member Nelum Walpola and Mayor Pat Evans
Plano artist paints tribute to Sept. 11 victims
An the article written by staff writer LEI ZHANG that appeared in the PLANO STAR COURIER of November 7 2001.
When Plano’s Nelum Walpola emigrated to the United States in 1986, she thought she left behind the horrors of terrorist attacks in her home country of Sri Lanka.
However, the heinous attacks on Sept. 11 ripped open all the old wounds and added new sorrows. She was glued to the TV set, watched till she could not take it any more.
She cried with the parents who were looking for their children, and husbands and wives who were looking for their spouses.
She put all the sorrow in a water color painting titled, “Freedom will prevail.” Amid the smoke and dust, an American flag flies high up on top of a skyscraper. The Statue of liberty stands as proud as ever.
“I was just trying to make myself feel better,” she said. “I also want to help those brave firefighters, and the families of firefighters who died.”
“As an artist, I was inspired to paint my interpretation of what I felt,” she said. “The message of my painting is that freedom will prevail, and the eye of freedom cries as the spirit of peace flies.”
Walpola sells the print for $15 and all the profits goes to the widows and children of the New York firefighters.
Nelum started to paint when she was a little child. At the age of 11, she has the overall prize and the age group prize on child art competition held by Ellesbridge Jaycees International Art Exhibition.
Her recent oil painting, “Ballet Dancer,” is one of the five paintings elected by the Texas State Fair.
“In Sri Lanka, people appreciate art a lot,” said Walpola, whose parents still live in Sri Lanka.
Terrorism is no stanger to the Sri Lanka people. The 18-year-old conflict between the government and a Tamil separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has left many people dead or injured. LTTE frequently carries out bomb attacks.
“Terrorism is a serious problem there,” said Walpola. “One time a bomb set off not far from where I lived. The blast shook my house. I was so scared.”
In October 1997, the State Department designated the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization. As recently as July 24, it attacked the Colombo International Airport and destroyed both commercial and military aircraft.
“Unfortunately, not many people know the problem in Sri Lanka.” said Walpola. “Its needs international help to end terrorism there.”
Walpola came to the United States to teach Montessori classes. Currently she runs an in-home Montessori school at her plano home.
She devotes much of spare time painting and volunteering. She also participated in the mural project for the Collin County Children’s Advocacy Center.
“As long as I get a opportunity, I always like to volunteer,” she said with a big smile.