How Sheila Creighton brings her media arts skills to ReForest London
Sheila Creighton has had roots in nature for as long as she can remember. Coming from an academic family that included a biochemist and literature professor, Creighton was taught about the value of environmental appreciation even before she knew what that meant.
“When I was three or four, my mother would take us to conservation areas, which I thought were called conversation areas, so I was always talking to the plants,” she laughs. “At some point, thankfully, my mother corrected me.”
Now, as the partnerships and marketing manager of ReForest London, Creighton talks on behalf of plants, working with the non-profit organization to educate and empower the London, Ont. community to sustain the tree life around them.
Creighton credits her career to her studies in the photography and, in particular, Sheridan’s Media Arts program.
“It was a really good grounding for pretty much everything I have done since,” she says. Through professors such as Jim Cox, who for many years hosted graduates at his house for annual backyard barbecues, Creighton learned a work ethic and sense of camaraderie that lasted well beyond her graduation from the program in 1982. She was also involved with volunteer and eventually paid positions at Radio Sheridan, where she discovered a flair for management and an enjoyment of bringing people together for a common goal.
Although Creighton initially worked in radio after graduating from Sheridan, she realized that she would rather share stories through writing. She returned to college, becoming an early adopter of now-ubiquitous Adobe InDesign and Photoshop through Sheridan’s New Media program, and embarked on a career in communications in the art and history fields.
Over the following two decades, Creighton worked as communications coordinator for the Town of Oakville, held project manager positions with the Mississauga Arts Council and the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, and worked as communications director of The Ontario Historical Society. She is also a published author of three history-related books and has a daily photoblog.
“The great thing about communications is that it involves a set of transferrable skills,” Creighton says. “It’s always been an important factor that I work for an organization that I feel strongly about and improves people’s lives, whether it’s promoting culture, history or tourism. There’s a sense of satisfaction that I get when I help in some way — I really enjoy finding new ways of getting that message across to people.”
In her job at ReForest London, where she’s been since 2012, Creighton feels she’s returned full circle to that young child who loved plants and being immersed in nature.
“We’re always trying to get children involved in tree planting and seedling growing. If they don’t do it at a young age, it’s hard to forge that connection to nature,” she says.
Whether she’s educating people about the value of trees, helping businesses be engaged and give back to the community, or bridging differences with events such as an annual planting with cross-cultural groups, Creighton works passionately to bring people into the natural world that she loves.
“It’s amazing that even if you’re working with people from different backgrounds or countries who may not get the language, they totally understand planting trees and the significance of putting down roots in a community,” she says. “It’s an excellent part of the job.”