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Calgary artist's chocolate bar painting gets big love from Reese

Pop culture creation displayed in larger-than-life fashion on city billboard.
Calgary resident Emily Bickell with Billboard
Calgary resident Emily Bickell stands in front of billboard depicting her painting of three peanut butter cups. The Reese Candy Company surprised the local artist with the billboard, up until Dec. 30. Photo supplied.

Calgary resident Emily Bickell has known satisfying moments in her career as a professional artist, seeing her paintings in design magazines and galleries (even one in Switzerland) or teaching art classes. But she hasn't experienced anything as big--literally--as having her work displayed on a 10'x20' billboard for all to see. Until now.

"I see this as the intersection of the art world and the real world," laughed Bickell of the massive display of her painting of three Reese Peanut Butter Cups, gracing the billboard along Glenmore Trail (approaching Fairmount) near Chinook Mall until Dec. 30. "I think this is my 15 minutes of fame."

Earlier this year, the mom of two said she saw the Instagram call-out from Reese asking Canadians to show their love for the popular peanut butter/chocolate combo in some creative fashion so she thought, why not? In just a couple of hours, Bickell had created an 8" x 8" oil painting of three attractively-posed peanut butter cups, snapped a photo, posted it and tagged Reese.

"I thought Reese was looking for a group of influencers, to be part of the 'secret' Reese Society," she said. "I didn't give it a second thought, I just had a bit of fun with it. So I was shocked when they called a few weeks ago. I thought they were joking when they said they not only wanted the actual painting, but also to put it on a billboard. They even sent me to do a short video in front of it." 

From the social media call-out, Reece received some 6,000 submissions from across the country, all expressing their love for the tasty chocolate and peanut butter treat (including poetry and even a rap song). Reese assistant marketing manager Dulangi Kapugama said "while there was a lot of unique content, Bickell's was the only painting--a truly accurate representation of the classic Reese Peanut Butter Cup. You can tell she put time and effort into it (I mean, it looked good enough to eat!)".

Bickell said that while she won't commit, peanut butter cups are 'right up there' as one of her favourite chocolate bars. Let's hope so, because now, as part of the 300-strong Reese Society, she's up for special Reese experiences and swag.

In 2018, Reese Peanut Butter Cup introduced the Reese Society, an exclusive, ‘secret’ society for Reese superfans. To be considered for the society, fans must creatively show their love of the product – whether through art, song, or even changing their Instagram handle to include the brand’s name. If deemed worthy, they’re accepted into the Society and gifted Reese swag. There's a playful, tongue-in-cheek aspect to the society, which recruits those with an unconditional love of Reese, while at the same time denying it all exists.

"Emily is the first super fan and society member to see her submission in this larger-than-life way," said Kapugama.

Reese unveiled the billboard art last weekend. Over the next few weeks, more than a dozen new inductees to the Reese Society across Canada will be gifted a regular sized version of Bickell's painting.

For Bickell, who has a fine arts degree, the chocolate-focused still-life painting remains a fun departure from the water, birds and other nature-scapes that are the usual subjects of her work.

"My kids (age 9 and 7) are kind of blase about it all," she said. "But for me, it's been a surprising and most unusual experience."

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