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Creative arts and dance classes

Soul Play Studios is a new studio offering a wide range of classes for kids and adults in the Callbe [ ... ]

Freeing the Words Support Group

Freeing the Words Support Group offers a confidential place for women, men, and couples who are [ ... ]

Growing Things

Profile: 
Laurie Brinklow

by Jane Ledwell

Laurie Brinklow

The best way to organize an interview with Laurie Brinklow is to schedule it to coincide with another of her tasks.

In a busy week, Laurie's schedule includes her job as publishing coordinator at the Institute of Island Studies; free-lance editing projects; swimming; rehearsals for two choirs; meetings with an eating group, a book club, and a folk music group; baking; drinking coffee at the farmer's market; house-training a new puppy; working with the boards of the PEI Literary Awards and the PEI Chamber Choir and Orchestra at Strathgartney; "ferrying children" (her two daughters, Heather and Mikhala, who are getting old enough to be almost as busy as their mother); and-oh yeah-finding time for her own writing and her publishing company.

In a slack week, Laurie combines any ten of her ordinary activities. "Whenever there's an overlap, it's always good," she laughs.

The time Laurie has found for her writing has earned her honours. In the past year, Laurie earned first prize in the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia's Atlantic Poetry Competition and placed her poem "Eleanor's Eyes" in the top fifty poems in the Canadian League of Poets' annual poetry competition.

Recently, she has had poems accepted for publication in Australian literary journals, Island and The Famous Reporter, thanks to the encouragement of a Tasmanian poet who heard a reading she gave last summer.

Laurie was born in Peterborough, Ontario, and grew up mostly in British Columbia and Northern Ontario, with summers on the Prairies with her father, who was building pipelines. "I never dreamed I would end up on PEI," she admits. Growing up, Laurie came across PEI on only three instances.

First, in Grade Six, she had to write a report on Canada's smallest province. Later, another school project saw her costumed as L. M. Montgomery. Later still, after PEI elected Alex Campbell premier, a teacher commented, "Everyone on PEI is named Campbell."

When she first arrived on the Island after travelling East looking for work, she learned the truth: "Everyone on PEI is named MacDonald. Measure the phone book entries."

Since she unpacked her bags on the Island, she has learned more about PEI than prevailing last names. After two months here, her experience in journalism led her into work in publishing. In six-and-a-half years with Ragweed Press and in her years since with the Institute of Island Studies, she has been involved in publishing almost a hundred books.

In the early 1990s, though, she had the idea that there could be room on the Island for another press to publish "books about Prince Edward Island by Prince Edward Islanders." Acorn Press began after receiveing a logo-a stylized acorn by artist John Burden-for the press as a birthday gift.

Acorn Press has published four books so far, and the growth of the press that was inspired by a logo has mirrored the growth of the logo's emblematic acorn: slow but promising. Laurie says she could have "gone the fast track" and borrowed money to start the press on a larger scale, but that she thinks "it's important to learn to grow things."

And growing things-whether daughters or poems or publishing companies-is the one activity that ties all her activities together.

Keeping the Beat

Profile: 
Alan Dowling

by Jane Ledwell

Alan Dowling

Whether you realize it or not, chances are good that you have heard drummer and percussionist Alan Dowling play this week. Almost 46,000 Islanders hear Alan's drumset on any given weeknight in the new theme music for CBC's Compass. From being an eager Island kid who used to follow parade drummers down the street, Alan has developed into one of the Island's finest musicians. Over the years, he has drummed for popular events, from the Charlottetown Clash Band's annual appearance in the Gold Cup and Saucer Parade to the Easter Seals Telethon. He plays most regularly with the creative jazz trio O.S.T. with Shawn Ferris and Chas Guay and with the 20-piece Charlottetown Jazz Ensemble. In both his performances as a drummer and his career as a computer programmer, Alan has shown trademark adaptability.

Alan sees computer programming and music as an obvious match. "Music theory is based on math," he says, "and both math and music are based on an ability to see patterns and analyze structure." Alan has a natural affinity for both. After finishing a B.A. in music at UPEI (with a year studying jazz at the Berklee College of Music, playing drums eight hours a day), Alan taught music in Newfoundland. Despite the rewards of teaching, he "felt like a frustrated performer" and quickly decided to change his career and to reserve his musical energies for performing. He returned to UPEI and completed a B.Sc. in mathematics, taking as many computer-based courses as possible. He has since worked as a computer programmer and currently teaches information technology at Holland College.

Alan's first love as a drummer continues to be playing jazz, a challenge which goes far beyond keeping a beat to what he calls "implying a rhythm": using all four limbs to create a mix of pitches, beats, and sounds that support what the group is doing. Alan says that despite complex structure and rules for how to put together beats and harmonies, jazz works only when the performer is inventive recombining the rules. He sees direct parallels between his day job and his night job. In both jazz and computer programming, he has to "figure out how to use the rules in creative ways to solve a problem."

It's not a big problem for Alan that drummers are sometimes underappreciated, but he acknowledges that not many people know the high level of technique required for good drumming. I asked Alan for a "crash" course: Percussion Appreciation 101. Alan says the ideal audience should listen and, if possible, look for the following things. "See if the drummer blends with the group and helps support the song overall. Then try to understand how the drummer supports the song-and especially how the drummer supports those taking solos. Often, there's a call and response, almost, between the drummer and the soloist." If you can see the drummer, follow his or her movements. "Pay attention to the drummer's coordination and limb independence." Watch how they "mix it up with all four limbs." Keeping an eye on Alan next time you see him in a band will give you your first object lesson in fine drumming. And add another item to your list of things you can learn on Compass.

And the Band Plays On


Profile: Gerry Rutten

by Jane Ledwell

Gerry Rutten

Under an enormous wooden stereo-a 1959 model as big as a sideboard-Gerry Rutten stashes an equally enormous scrapbook of newspaper clippings recalling his decades teaching music. The clippings culminate with tributes, honours, and awards from 1994, the year he retired from teaching at Englewood School. In that year, the Englewood band received not only a gold standard at Musicfest, but also a standing ovation- almost unheard of at music festivals. The band's conductor had a pile of laurels he could have rested on.

Gerry Rutten's 1959 stereo still works. And despite nominal retirement, so does Gerry.

Since 1994, he has not stopped teaching music. He has moved beyond school walls to extend his teaching in the wider community.

During his final year at Englewood, Gerry began to work on his first retirement project: a master's degree in music education from the University of Victoria. The thesis he completed before he graduated last year is a scrapbook of PEI band history, with stories and photographs of Island bands dating back as far as the 1860s. And when photos from school bands begin to appear in the book, Gerry himself appears in many of the pictures. He was, in fact, instrumental in establishing PEI's school band program, beginning in 1966 with just 25 students under his tutelage at Colonel Gray High. By the time he retired in 1994, the Island's school band program boasted 1,872 students learning the joys of instrumental music.

These days, Island music students graduate into communities with few bands. But some groups still thrive. When his master's research led him to the still-playing Miscouche Community Band and they invited him to conduct, he agreed to take it on. He began immediately to expand their repertoire beyond marches and waltzes to include more demanding classics. Now, the Miscouche band even plays an arrangement of Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" graced by Janet MacQuarrie's bagpipes.

Again expanding opportunities for Islanders to perform classical music, in September 1998, Gerry became the founding director of the PEI Chamber Orchestra and the PEI Chamber Choir. Both practice weekly at Strathgartney, and both will perform regularly to hone performance skills, "even if they have to perform for a herd of cows." He hopes both the orchestra and choir will double in size this year.

According to Gerry, the conductor's role is that of a scholar, leader, and communicator: "A conductor studies the score to know the composer's ideas and the way it should be interpreted. He then passes it on to the musicians. But-like electricity-if there's a short between the conductor and the bulb, nothing happens. The notes might come out, but not the music of it." And are the interpretations always right? Gerry laughs. "Once I thought I was always right," he admits, "then I found out I wasn't. I know now you can go to Charlottetown two or three different ways and still get there safely."

In future Gerry Rutten would most dearly love to see more opportunities for Island musicians to "be able to work here as musicians and be able to earn a basic living by their skills." He hopes that by the next time he "retires," community bands, orchestras, and choirs across the Island might even provide employment for Island musicians who share his passion for music.

Making Time

Profile: 
Hilda Woolnough

by Jane Ledwell

Hilda Woolnough

I'll tell you more about that in just a minute," artist Hilda Woolnough said more than once as I interviewed her at her Breadalbane home. In her recent art, she seems driven to make the best possible use of time-as a theme and as a construct.

Hilda has just returned from a stay at St. Michael's Printshop in St. John's, Newfoundland, an honour offered to just half-a-dozen of the hundreds of printmakers who apply each year for an opportunity to use the printshop's equipment (the equivalent of "playing a Stradivarius for a violinist," says Hilda), to be welcomed by Newfoundlanders (in "the second place, other than Asia, where being an artist is a viable profession and people don't ask what else you do"), and to work with a view of the St. John's harbour (with "the light changing all the time, at the time when the colours were changing into winter"). After a month spent standing up so long each day that her knees locked, a month making the most of the time she had with presses, Hilda had worked on eighteen prints in a series called "The Alchemist."

Hilda's recent prints are multi-layered, highly embossed, with metallic elements. Hilda describes them as collagraphs, printed collages. For "The Alchemist" series, she has worked with "large, shifting jigsaw puzzles" to create the images. Repeated images from the moveable puzzle elements are alchemical experiments.

Hilda's prints are not reproductions. She creates individual prints in a series, not copies in an edition, and each print bears her mark. Says Hilda, "Your mark shows that an artist made them. I put holes in them if I want to. Fingerprints, on the back. Or on the front."

Hilda Woolnough has never had a fear of controversy, and she is not afraid to address the crisis she sees facing printmakers. "If you want to continue practicing antique forms of reproduction, you are facing enormous challenges from technology," she says-technology that makes it possible to mass-reproduce art. Hilda calls for printmakers to use old techniques for a "neo-printmaking" that "looks at the medium and thinks about how to adapt it to the twentieth century." Contemporary reproductions, Hilda reminds, cannot emboss or recreate the metallic inks that appear in her works.

Just as the printmaker's press, as Hilda insists, is "not just a reproduction tool, but an art tool," likewise, laser copies become art tools in her large conceptual work, "Long Days Journey," an exploration of time in three components. The first component, now complete, represents the hours of the day in twenty-four prints in carved wooden frames. The second component, in progress, represents a woman's life from birth to old age. When the third component is complete, the work will have taken between three and five years to create.

With all this talk of time, what of Hilda Woolnough's past? Her commitment to the Students' Art Expo and its exchange with Japan? Her studies at the Central School of Art and Design in London? Her long productive partnership with the late Reshard Gool to promote the arts on PEI? Her pioneering work with initiatives like the Gallery on Demand? Her world travels? If you can catch up with her, she might "tell you more about that in just a minute." You'll need to reserve several hours.

The Secret Life of Pottery


Profile: Hedwig Koleszar

by Jane Ledwell

Hedwig Koleszar

From her workshop on the Gairloch Road, near Belfast, potter Hedwig Koleszar tells the story of a Torontonian friend who visited an aunt in New Zealand and was surprised to stumble across a lamp Hedwig had sold to her aunt without ever knowing the connection with her friend. Often, Hedwig hears stories about her pottery. "People are very appreciative," she says. "They tell you where they are going to put your pottery. Then they come back the next year to tell you where it is."

Hedwig Koleszar's pottery graces houses around the world. Her customers are attracted to her distinctive pottery's clean, simple shapes and spare, beautiful decoration: pale reds and greens and dark blues evoke birds and reeds, sprays of flowers, and the occasional dragon in smooth-gestured, near-transparent brush strokes inspired by Japanese art.

Hedwig herself lived in houses in several parts of the world before finding her home on PEI. Born in Hungary, she moved to Toronto as a child, and then to Quebec as a young adult. A Quebec neighbour was a potter, and watching him work, she knew immediately that she wanted to learn the craft. Twenty years ago, she visited friends on PEI, fell in love with the province, and moved here soon after and began to make pottery. Her career has developed here, as she learned her techniques from books, from hard experience, and from friends and fellow Island potters.

While learning pottery independently helped Hedwig avoid "falling into a rigid mould," she admits, "There wasn't as much experimentation as if you went to school and had more time and freedom." When she experiments now, Hedwig works on sculptures: one a flower-bordered clock with the clock face imposed on the face in the sun, with a woman holding the sun in her bare palm. She says, "Action interests me," and is being inspired by primitive art. She has made personalized pottery; in these pieces, instead of people telling her stories about her pottery, her pottery tells the story. In one bowl, she painted the story of a friend's house and family. For a wedding gift, she painted a bowl with an image from a dream: "Two tiny people in a boat with a tiny sail. On a windy day. In a small cove, with waves furling around them."

In the future, we can expect more of the simple, beautiful pieces she is known for, traditional pots, bowls, and vases and less traditional ikebana (small wide-lipped bowls for spare flower arrangements with "about two flowers and a leaf"). We may see experiments with brighter colours than are typically found in PEI pottery's subdued palette. As Hedwig notes, the only season the island's natural palette really explodes is in the autumn, when potters are busy preparing for Christmas craft shows and when Hedwig herself, who is a "huge gardener," is "torn between shop and garden."

These days, Hedwig prepares for the PEI Crafts Council Christmas Craft Fair and looks forward to winter, when she will, "Sit in the house with feet up, by the stove, reading books." What books? "Anything from the library, from philosophy to murder mysteries." She admits she "chooses books by their covers," and especially likes "adventure." After twenty years, she is still learning, still collecting stories. In her pottery, it shows.

Events Calendar

November 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

The Boarding House

The Murray Players November 23–25
Murray River Community Hall The Murray Players will perform the [ ... ]

One-act comedies

Rob MacDonald presents four of his plays in November The Guild Island audiences are familiar with  [ ... ]

Come Home to Us

Christmas programming at the Celtic Performing Arts Centre Select dates
Celtic Performing Arts Centr [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

Acadian showman

Profile: Christian Gallant by Jane Ledwell Forty-six musicians and step dancers took the stage at  [ ... ]

October is Learning Disabilities Awarene...

This October, the Learning Disabilities Association of PEI (LDAPEI) will be marking Learning Disabil [ ... ]

Young Company headed to National Child W...

The TD Confederation Centre Young Company is hitting the road again. After a busy 2017 season that s [ ... ]