Submit Event

Just Co-operate

Culture Crafts Co-operative Gift Shop and Museum thrives

by Sue Gallant

Anne McRae McIsaac chipping Ash

Fifteen years ago a group of concerned Islanders got together to debate the then current economic crisis on PEI. In an effort to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem, they decided a positive course of action would be to create some employment for stay-at-home women. From these humble beginnings, the Culture Crafts Co-operative Gift Shop and Museum in Richmond, Prince County was born. A large dollop of hard work, personal commitment and some government funding later, the business is thriving.

Of the Co-op's six board members, three are worker/members. Anne McRae McIsaac of Enmore was one of the original group who sat down to talk in 1986. Today she works in Richmond, alongside two fellow Co-op worker/board members, creating beautiful basketwork. The basketwork is in turn, sold to buyers from around the globe.

The Richmond Culture Crafts Co-operative is run from a handsomely converted trailer. The business is located along Route Two, PEI's main artery highway to the western end of the Island. The Co-op is a success story on many levels. The original intention to create employment in a region were work was and still is scarce, has been achieved. McRae and co-workers Frances Pickle and Beulah Costain, have learned (and learned to love) the traditional skill of basket weaving, and so continue a cultural craft to be handed down to future generations.

Past worker/members include one individual now working in Summerside, for whom her time spent employed at the Culture Crafts Co-op, proved a personal stepping stone to the outside world. "When she came to us she wouldn't hardly talk and her head was always down," recalls McRae. "In the end (before she moved on), we used to tease her that she wouldn't shut up!" McRae said she and her co-workers felt a real sense of achievement that working at the Culture Crafts Co-op had helped the individual gain enough self-confidence to move on and out into the world.

McRae learned the time-honoured craft of basket weaving from Jimmie Chaisson of Summerside. Chaisson grew up in St. Louis, Western PEI. Chaisson's family were weaving in the 1800s. "I worked with him for two years," McRae told The Buzz. "The wood preparation is two thirds of the work when you are weaving with ash splints. I loved my (new-found) wood crafting career and never looked back. Now I do pretty well all the gathering of materials. I pick the bark, I go to the woodland and pick the ash, marshland rush and cattail. I gather sea kelp and seashells. I cannot even compare the excitement when I went by myself in the woods and found my first ash tree. I remember going home and calling Jimmie. He said, `Oh it's probably not an ash, it's likely a maple back there.' Anyway he turned up and I took him back to the woods, and sure enough, it was an ash."

Painting with Thread

Verna Banks exhibits her unique embroidery

by Sue Gallant

“The Meeting Place” by fabric artist Verna Banks of Alberton. This image is part of a month long, solo exhibition by Banks, entitled Stitches on a new horizon. The exhibition runs until November 14 at The Landing, Tyne Valley. It is the fifth in an ongoing series hosted by The Landing and supported by the West Prince Arts Council.

Verna Banks of Alberton has been painting beautiful pictures with a sewing machine, for more than 20 years. Stitches on a new horizon is a month-long exhibition of her latest works. It is a collection of machine-embroidered images featuring birds, butterflies, fish, frogs, vegetables and fractures. The exhibition, currently showing at The Landing, Tyne Valley, runs until November 14.

Individual works in the exhibition took Banks as long as three months to create. She draws her creative inspiration from looking out at the magnificent seascape in front of her shoreline home, from nature, bird books, magazines, and descriptions in novels.

Banks uses an Elna/Diva sewing machine. She is a member of the Canadian Quilters Association. She does not work in a traditional quilting manner. Her work features raw-edged piecing. Traditional appliquers turn the edges of their fabric pieces neatly under. Banks’s images also feature an abundance of free motion embroidery.

“Free motion means moving your work freely while stitching,” said Banks in a recent interview. “This is accomplished by lowering or covering the feed dogs on the machine, and you may or may not use a darning foot (I do). It is really like painting on canvas only using fabric and the machine and thread to accomplish the same thing.”

Stitches on a new horizon is the fifth in an ongoing series of art exhibitions hosted by The Landing and supported by the West Prince Arts Council. The exhibition series showcases artwork of local interest created by artists living in Western PEI.

Eye of the Beholder

Scott Parsons participates in cross-Canada creative exchange project

by Sue Gallant

Scott Parsons of Charlottetown, with a piece of sculpture sent to him by Anne Marie Lafontagne

The artistic ability to respond to a beautiful piece of sculpture by writing a beautiful piece of music, is a talent shared by few. Charlottetown singer/songwriter/ musician Scott Parsons has been doing just that this summer, taking part in a project linking more than two dozen Canadian artists across the country. The production processes involved and the end results, can be seen on film footage to be aired on national television next Spring.

“It was a contact through the Canada Council—a person I sat on a jury with a number of years ago—phoned me and asked me if I wanted to take part in this [the project],” Scott Parsons told The Buzz in August. He did want to take part, and was subsequently twinned with Quebec artist Anne Marie Lafontagne. On PEI Parsons took delivery of a large piece of sculpture created by Lafontagne. Lafontagne in turn, received a piece of music composed by Parsons. Each artist’s response to the other’s work has been recorded by a filmcrew from Cinemage of Moncton. The same process has been repeated between all the other artists involved in the project.

“I sent her a song with very much a cultural theme,” said Parsons. “It was used in 1994 by the United Nations as a theme song for the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, held at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.” Parsons was given a tight timeframe within which to complete the project, from August 6 to September 4. “It’s a challenge over such a short period of time to come up with such a creative piece, but I always enjoy a challenge,” he said. Parsons is appreciative of Lafontagne’s sculpture: “It’s a very beautiful piece of artwork and the letter she wrote that accompanied the piece is so poetic that I am hoping to be able to use some of that in the piece.”

Life is a Carousel

Todd Wood's "Carousel"

by Sue Gallant

Carousel, by Todd Wood of O'LearyTodd Wood of Western PEI writes poetry, lots of poetry. "On a good day I write twenty," he told The Buzz in a recent media interview. A life-long O'Leary resident, Wood has just finished sifting and refining 2,000 of his works, choosing a select 312 to fit between the covers of his first published poetry collection. He has named the book Carousel. An interesting choice from a man who has suffered from severe depressive illness for much of his thirty-one years.

Writing down his life experiences in poetic form, helps Wood deal with life itself. The resulting poetry is intense and immediate. It gives fascinating insight into the enormous emotional issues Wood and other individuals suffering from depressive illness deal with every waking and often sleeping hour. "I like to write mostly at night," said Wood. "I find it a great way to express myself about what I see around me and what I feel. It helps to write it down. It (writing poetry) is very important to me."

One of the last great taboos in today's society, admitting to suffering from depression is not for the faint hearted. People don't like to confess they or a loved one suffer, yet depressive illness affects billions around the globe. It's a deeply entrenched society attitude that will change with time. Just this month, American talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell, devotes an entire issue of her monthly magazine to the cause. O'Donnell and famous friends admit to suffering from clinical depression and tell readers how they turned the condition around.

Wood didn't write Carousel to help sufferers of depressive illness, he wrote it for himself, but help them it undoubtedly will-and their friends, family and acquaintances. And if you are one of the very lucky few not to have experienced depression at some time in your life, Carousel is still a riveting read.

Copies of Carousel available from the author at 859-3200, Allan Graham at 853-3211, or the O'Leary Guardian Drugstore. Carousel was published with the support of the West Prince Arts Council.

High on a Wall

Alberton unveils five more pieces of public art

by Sue Gallant

Northport Harbour circa 1950 by Brooklyn artist Janelle Irving. This mural is one of several pieces of public art currently on display in Alberton, Western PEI. The mural project was sponsored by the Alberton Business Association, Alberton CIBC, Alberton Fire Department and the West Prince Arts Council. The project received funding from the Canada and PEI Millennium Funds. Photos: Sue Gallant

Northport Harbour circa 1950 by Brooklyn artist Janelle Irving. This mural is one of several pieces of public art currently on display in Alberton, Western PEI. The mural project was sponsored by the Alberton Business Association, Alberton CIBC, Alberton Fire Department and the West Prince Arts Council. The project received funding from the Canada and PEI Millennium Funds. Photos: Sue GallantIf this province had an annual award for the region which had done most to promote public art, (now there's an idea), the town of Alberton, Western PEI would most surely take the prize.

Four murals and one piece of sculpture were made accessible to the public there recently during Canada Day celebrations. The artwork is in addition to others of historical importance, already on display in the town. Each was commissioned by the Alberton Mural Committee.

Summerside artist Wayne Wright is the creator of one of the four new murals. Wright's mural pays tribute to Alberton's importance in the PEI's former fox fur industry. The mural is mounted on the side of Alberton Bakery and Cafe.

Bedeque artist Arno Freitag painted two of the new murals. One, mounted on the side of the Western Florist in Poplar Street, depicts a business that formerly occupied that same building, Profitís Harness Shop. The second Freitag mural depicts Main Street, Alberton, circa 1910, and is mounted on the side of Dean's Flooring.

Janelle Irving of Brooklyn painted the fourth new mural. It depicts Northport Harbour circa 1950, and can be seen at a busy crossroads in the centre of town, on Main Street. A schooner featured in the mural, represents a vessel belonging to Captain Dan Miller, the grandfather of Alberton resident Verna Banks. Banks can be credited with the initial idea of the Alberton murals project, and for originally putting the project proposal to the Alberton Business Association, three years ago.

"This (Northport) was a very busy port years ago," she told The Buzz. Banks was impressed with the sheer numbers of people who turned out to witness the unveiling of these latest works of art. "It was the most people we've had for Canada celebrations ever," she said.

The fifth and final piece of artwork, is a hand-carved, wooden sculpture by Alma folk-artist Kerras Jeffery. It stands waist high depicting a stern looking court judge and is appropriately enough, located at Albertonís historic courthouse and museum.

Originally born in Alberton, like so many others before her, Banks spent several years "away" before returning to the Island in 1974. She believes the Alberton mural project is an important beginning to preparing the town she loves so much for busy tourism years ahead, particularly with regard to the current and ongoing Northport Harbour development project.

"I like Alberton, I think it's a very attractive little town. We don't get many tourists so we need more attractions to make it more appealing, especially with the Northport project going on, people will be driving down Main street all the time."

No Job Too Big

Alma artist Kerras Jeffery builds scale model of PEI house moving in 1930

by Sue Gallant

 Kerras Jeffery, stands with Alberton Museum Manager, Arlene Morrison, beside a scale model he built to commemorate the work of his great grand uncle Spurgeon Jeffery.

Sometimes words just don't cut it. When Kerras Jeffery of Alma tried to explain to others how his great-grand uncle had hauled buildings on PEI in the 1920's and 30's, he felt strongly that a verbal history lesson just did not do his ancestor's significant achievements justice.

So Jeffery set about building a scale model of a specific Island event that took place in the summer of 1930. That was when Spurgeon Jeffery, building hauler and farmer, moved his eighteen year old, six bedroom farmhouse from Lauretta to Alma, Prince Edward Island. By that time, Spurgeon was already known throughout P.E.I. for his skillful building hauling techniques.

John "Spurgeon" Jeffery was born in Alma, Western PEI, in 1863. As an adult, Spurgeon established a homestead farm on the southeast corner of the Centerline Road and the Klondike (or Bonas) Road in Lauretta. In the late 1920's he purchased a farm at the crest of the hill in Alma on the Centerline Road. The land there being of better quality, he decided to move his entire homestead to his newly purchased property. Spurgeon subsequently moved the house, two barns, many outbuildings and a small apple orchard. Kerras Jeffery's brother, lives in the relocated homestead to this day.

Kerras's 1:20 scaled model of the Jeffery homestead being hauled along the Centerline Road, measures four feet by eight. The model was built over a period of two winters and completed in January 2001. It's now on display at the Alberton museum. The model shows Spurgeon's house being pulled down the road with the aid of skids, a capsun and horse, and attendant workcrew.

Alongside the model on display at the Alberton Museum, Kerras has also included some of Spurgeon's original hand-made hauling equipment, including a 400 pound anchor, clevis pin and link, block and tackle, and building jacks.

Regrettably, the story of Spurgeon Jeffery has a most unfortunate ending. On the morning of October 21, 1938 at the age of 75, Spurgeon set out to haul his last building. While moving a sheep barn in St. Louis, Western PEI, the horse got excited and went out of control. In the ensuing commotion Spurgeon's head became caught between the cable and the capsun. He died of his injuries eight hours later.

Flower Folding Artist

Japanese artist gives origami workshop to aid Bideford Parsonage Museum

by Sue Gallant

Visiting Japanese flower artist Misako Sato gave an origami workshop at the Bideford Parsonage Museum in West Prince recently. Participants made an "Anne," broach using Japanese rice paper and learned the art of origami paper folding.

It's not every day of the week culture-loving Islanders get the chance to meet and greet a real life Japanese flower artist. That's exactly what happened in the West Country recently, when Misako Sato, resplendent in Japanese attire, gave an origami workshop in aid of the Bideford Parsonage Museum.

Sato visited the museum by arrangement with the West Country Historical Society, a voluntary group in charge of the building and made up of local community members. The group has been working hard for some time, restoring the museum to it's former nineteenth century glory. The Bideford Parsonage Museum's main claim to fame is that Lucy Maud Montgomery lodged there in 1894 while teaching at a one-room school house nearby. Montgomery writes about her stay in the parsonage in volume one of her diaries.

Sato, a self-confessed Montgomery fan, became aware of the work of the West Country Historical Society through a friend working with PEI Tourism. Sato was accompanied on the trip to the Island by her son, daughter-in-law, two grandsons, and the friend. Sato speaks very little English. At the workshop, what instruction could not be gesticulated was translated for participants into broken English by the friend and daughter-in-law. Participants also took the opportunity to learn a few Japanese words such as "thank-you" and "beautiful."

In her homeland, Sato creates major display works of art from paper for prestigious organizations such as the Osaka Hilton Hotel. Participants in the Bideford workshop, some of whom travelled from Charlottetown, were given hands-on instruction in making an "Anne" hat broach using decorative Japanese rice paper. The paper came in an assortment of intriguing colors and textures. Broach completed, participants were then shown how to fold an origami "peace" crane. The evening culminated in an informal tasting of Japanese green tea and candy treats. Proceeds from the workshop went to support the museum which opened for the 2001 tourism season last month.

Meet at The Landing

by Sue Gallant

This month sees the grand opening of an exciting, ambitious, non-smoking, dining and entertainment venue, located in picturesque Tyne Valley. The Landing Oyster House and Pub, is the brainchild of 27 year-old local entrepreneur, Matthew McGuire.

The Landing opens June 8 and occupies a 100 year-old building that once served as the area’s local general store, then a pharmacy, flower shop, cafe, laundromat, and more recently, an antique business. With construction workers milling around him, while standing in a dining area destined to seat sixty-three in an alarmingly few number of days time, McGuire told The Buzz the ideas behind his business plan.

“There really should be a venue on PEI that celebrates the tastes, the sounds and products of the province. I want to have Island made beer, Island grown potatoes, Island oysters, mussels, music, etc. It (The Landing) will be a place that has the best of the Island, including entertainment. On any given day of the year, The Landing menu will only offer quality, Island-produced food.”

Why The Landing?, The Buzz asked. McGuire explained that it was the name the region went by, prior to Confederation. “When the shipbuilding was going on in Bideford and Port Hill, the high tides would carry wood into the bend of the river (here),” he said. “The community then was known as The Landing. I wanted a name that had something to do with the community and I wanted it to be something that would be readily noticed. I figured it (the name) made sense on first glance and was interesting because of the history.”

Why a non-smoking establishment? McGuire smiles, he knows he is taking a risk; however, he stands by what he sees as a desperate need for a dining/entertainment venue where families can enjoy a smoke free atmosphere. The Landing will have all kinds of live music to entertain it’s clientele. Everything from traditional Island music, Scottish, Gaelic, Acadian, etc. “I might have the odd Cape Bretoner come through,” confessed McGuire, who spent eight years living on the neighbouring isle.

Events Calendar

February 2019
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28

Recent News & Articles

New location for PEI MFRC

After being closed for most of 2018, the PEI Military Family Resource Centre (PEI MFRC) has re-opene [ ... ]

Music PEI SOCAN Songwriter of the Year A...

Music PEI kicked off the first of the ticketed shows for 2019 Credit Union Music PEI Week on Thursda [ ... ]

PEI director

Charlotte Gowdy to direct Crimes of the Heart at Watermark Watermark Theatre has announced that Cha [ ... ]