We are All Engines of Joy

"We are all Engines of Joy" by Jim Paterson

“I will be very happy if my ‘symphony of colour’ brings a sense of wonder and joy to the folks at Grebel,” shared James Paterson (BFA 1981). Jim is an award-winning artist whose pieces have been commissioned for world-renowned children’s hospitals and private collectors. Jim’s newly commissioned piece, We are all Engines of Joy, is designed especially for Conrad Grebel University College and will be placed above a fireplace in the new dining room, as a centerpiece for a new lounge area.  “This art piece is nothing more than sheer revelry, joy, and celebration of who we are at our best and the good things in life we share together,” explained Jim.

Jim was a student at Grebel, where he met his wife Lynn Thiessen and shared memorable experiences with the Grebel community. “The energy of living in a community with so many other bright young people opened new pathways for thought and challenged me to take my faith seriously,” shared Jim.

While studying Fine Arts at the University of Waterloo, Jim was under the tutelage of Nancy Lou Patterson, creator of Grebel’s Chapel windows and the founder of the Department of Fine Arts at UWaterloo. “She always encouraged me to be myself, to be human and not give in,” shared Jim. “To produce, produce, produce, and never stop producing. This approach has allowed me to explore deeply the mines of my own creativity and go way below the surface of what I think I know or have within me.”

As a student, Jim found the chapel to be a quiet place away from Grebel’s bustling community and viewed its windows to be a symphony of living colour. “I loved the light the windows produced at different times of day, depending on the position of the sun,” shared Jim. “I hope they continue to bring a sense of wonder to those who see them now, as they did to me when I was there.”

With his piece We are all Engines of Joy, Jim hopes to bring a sense of colour and positivity to Grebel. The sculpture includes colours that reference the six different faculties at UWaterloo, musical images, symbols that reference Grebel’s peaked roof, and agrarian windmills. “My thought and inspiration with this project is to give Grebel a focal point, an object, a marker that will signal the “coming out” from all we’ve been under collectively these past two years,” explained Jim, referring to the pandemic. “It will mark the point at which we say, all that has kept us apart and isolated from each other and from community is now over. Let’s celebrate!”

Jim has been commissioned by the College to create a sculpture to grace the north wall of the new dining room. “We want to add a fireplace and comfortable furniture to this area to try to replicate the gathering space created by the old lower lounge,” noted Director of Operations Paul Penner.

You can check out the back story and hear more details about this art installation by watching this video.


four grebel staff standing outside with Crossing's artwork

This spring, some alumni gathered to see Jim Paterson’s (BA 1981) Triumphal Entry sculpture that was featured as part of “Crossings, a journey to Easter” art exhibition in Toronto. In describing this piece Jim writes, “I started this art piece with a worn old slice of hand-hewn barn beam which grew into an animated, sinewy, wire sculpture crammed with the colours of my childhood and outline memories of people bobbing up and down in enthusiastic expectancy of Jesus turning into our street as part of His triumphal entry procession. I imagine the people on my street energized as we cry out ‘Baruch habah b’Shem Adonai’.”

Make a donation to this project

As of July 22 over $12,000 has been given or pledged. The entire dining room lounge and art installation is estimated at $44,000. 

To support this project, online donations can be made by selecting "Jim Paterson Art and Fireplace Lounge". If you wish to have more information about "We are all Engines of Joy", or want details on making an e-transfer please contact Fred W. Martin (519-572-7704).  Cheques payable to Conrad Grebel University College, can be sent to:

140 Westmount Road N,
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G6