PRIMARY school principal Michael Stewart has a rare gift of seeing beauty in a budding flower, the roaring Sunshine Coast beaches, and even a plate of lasagne from the local cafe.
The talented artist and leader of Our Lady of the Rosary School, Caloundra, is showcasing these “beauties” and more in an exhibition at the Caloundra Regional Gallery.
Mr Stewart said he had tried to point people to “God in the beauty” of creation with his latest exhibition, Savouring the Sunshine Coast, on display until mid-May.
Born into an artistic family, he said his mother, herself an artist, taught him the “beautiful skill” of “looking at life through an artist’s lens”.
“You’re actually taking the time to look and see the beauty in things,” he said.
“An artist can see things, and beauty, that others can’t.”
Mr Stewart’s eye for beauty isn’t set aside when he’s in the schoolyard.
“There’s a poem on an artist painting a masterpiece, and a principal is no different,” he said.
“Bit by bit, every stroke, every action, I colour the culture of this school like an artist’s painting.
“Ultimately it’s that focus, dedication, to create something people appreciate – a sense of beauty.”
Mr Stewart’s artwork is also a chance to live out the school’s motto, inspired by St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, who famously said: “Never see a need without doing something about it”.
Every year the school principal donates his artwork to support parents struggling with a serious illness or hardship.
“Any organisation, especially for a small Catholic community, should be judged on how they treat their most needy,” Mr Stewart said.
“That is really the benchmark for any organisation – when people are doing it tough, do you reject them or do you support them?”
When he heard late last year that a former student’s mum was dying of cancer, Mr Stewart took the opportunity to auction one of his paintings to pay for the family’s medical bills.
The mother and her children received a donation of more than $1000 at the school assembly.
“Unfortunately she died but at least we were able to support her in her time of need,” Mr Stewart said.
“We have a moral obligation, if we’re true to our beliefs and our ideals, of supporting those people in need.”
Mr Stewart said he had previously supported a child with cystic fibrosis and another family with a wheelchair-bound child.
“I wish there wasn’t a need to do it,” he said.
Savouring the Sunshine Coast is on display at the Maroochydore Library until May 19.