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Masterclass with David Francey

Music PEI will host a songwriting masterclass with the celebrated singer-songwriter David Francey Ja [ ... ]

Writing Symposium

The PEI Writers’ Guild will host a writing symposium this summer. Sponsored by Innovation PEI, wit [ ... ]

In with the New Boss

Harbourfront welcomes Kieran Keller as General Manager

by Peggy Miles

Kieran KellerIt’s only been a few weeks since Kieran Keller walked through the doors of the Harbourfront Theatre and put on his hat as the new General Manager. Chat with him for a few moments and it becomes clear that his leadership approach is as fresh as his appointment to the role of top administrator.

Keller replaces Maurice Gallant, who left the theatre earlier this winter to pursue other professional opportunities.

Islanders are always looking for the 411 on new folks, so here it is: Keller is not a novice to the arts and culture scene, and in fact is not a greenhorn to Summerside either. He spent the last two summers as the production and stage manager for the Harbourfront’s mainstage show of Anne & Gilbert.

Keller’s connection to the Island began in 2001, spending the summer involved with the Confederation Centre’s Anne of Green Gables. He made the move to PEI permanent five years ago, and he and his wife Sharon are enjoying life as new parents to nine month old Ruby.

Keller has long been involved in the production side of theatre, which is backed by a theatre arts degree from Concordia University in Montreal where Keller is from.

This young professional gained business skills through time spent at a large Toronto advertising agency as well as an assistant manager role at the Great George Hotel in Charlottetown.

He credits these well rounded experiences as assets he will bring to his current role at the theatre.

Keller feels he will be able to provide a general direction for the theatre. He credits previous GM Maurice Gallant and the Board of Directors for positioning the theatre to succeed. “That’s a nice wave to be on,” says the fresh face. Keller wants to build on that momentum to help the theatre grow. He indicates that the theatre’s move last year to produce its own shows (as opposed to operating primarily as a rental facility) was a positive step and that his “role is to nurture that and continue that in a big way.”

Fostering relationships will be key for the new GM. He plans on connecting with the business community, potential funders, local artists and the public. He wants to “get in touch with the audience that is coming here” and plans to gauge the public to see what they most want to see on stage.

Keller shares that it’s a team approach that will build the theatre’s road to success. From longtime staff members who contribute a wealth of information, to a team of over 50 volunteers and a board of directors with a “renewed sense of involvement”, it appears the Harbourfront is positioned to shine. “They are invaluable” expresses Keller.

“At the end of the day, it’s entertainment. We’re trying to create a place that’s fun.” I ask what he is most looking forward to in his new role. “Looking back and saying, ‘Now that was a good season.’”

Canadian Ark

Folk artist Kerras Jeffery completes another unique piece

by Peggy Miles

Canadian Ark by Kerras JefferyWinters are long here on PEI. This presents an opportune time for folk artist Kerras Jeffery to execute pieces that have been brewing in his mind since last summer. With the hustle and bustle of visitors to his studio in tourist season, the slower pace of winter makes it an ideal time to put thoughts into action. One such item includes his recently completed Canadian Ark.

Having designed three different arks of the Noah variety in the past, the Canadian Ark is a cheeky twist on the biblical vessel. At 52 inches long and carved from wood, the Canadian Ark exists as a birch bark canoe, paddled by a uniform clad Mountie - the fearless leader to furry friends and winged creatures found across our nation—moose, beaver, walrus, fox, blue heron and more are gathered in this distinctly Canadian watercraft.

The artist is well known across the Island for his eclectic and chuckle triggering pieces. He gives ordinary objects persona – when you take a closer look you see that a penguin is actually a bowling pin, funny faces are old paint brushes, and the sculpture of a busty woman is in fact partially made from a tea kettle. Jeffery’s pieces provoke the imagination and they make you grin once you figure out the magic behind each piece.

Jeffery works on his craft full time and also makes eclectic furniture. He’s is based in Lauretta (on Route 151, north west of Elmsdale in Prince County) and it’s suiting that his business is known as Back Road Folk Art. If you visit—and once you get over the spectacle of the giant egg beater in his yard—you’ll find his 3,000 square foot shop filled with finished folk art pieces, as well as an attic jam-packed with hooks and hangers, doorknobs, jugs and pails, and metal thingamabobs that inevitably get woven into his carvings. He sources items at flea markets and yard sales and occasionally people stop by to donate an interesting find.

For the animal carvings in the Canadian Ark, Jeffery incorporated a Victorian coat hook to represent the caribou’s antlers, and the horns for the goat are represented by a Ram Dodge truck medallion. The wish bone from a 28 pound turkey was placed in the beaver’s mouth to represent logs being carried by the animal.

Jeffery seems like a ‘go with the flow’ kind of guy, and that’s exactly how he describes his process. “You can’t screw up folk art” he states. In his opinion, the wackier, the better. His biggest compliment is when “people start laughing at your work”.

Jeffery isn’t sure who will ultimately end up with the Canadian Ark. Whoever acquires the piece will no doubt appreciate Canuck culture and have an affinity for the true north strong and free.

For more information, check out or contact (902) 853-3644 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo Club Grows

Summerside’s Red Sands Photography Club has over 40 members

by Peggy Miles

“Best Side Forward,” photgraph by Paul ArsenaultIn the spring of last year a mere seven people attended the first meeting of the Red Sands Photography Club. The Summerside based group now boasts over 40 members.

Paul Arsenault and Mike Gallant are Co-Presidents of the club which meets monthly at the Waterfront Mall. It was just prior to that gathering in early 2010 that the two coworkers contemplated the idea of starting a photo club. Arsenault says that the organization is now “far beyond the numbers we thought we’d be.”

Membership includes everything from people whose prior skills have been limited to a ‘point and snap’ approach, to amateurs who have made photography a serious hobby, to those who earn a living with the craft. While many of the members are based in the Summerside area, participants from across Prince County and from as far as Stratford regularly attend meetings.

The group meets the first Monday of each month to share photos, compare cameras and learn photo processing techniques including tutorials on Photoshop and tips on colour correction. “(We’re) learning off of each other,” says Gallant. The Co-Presidents share that some members have tripled their abilities since joining. “After almost every meeting we hear individuals say that they learned something,” indicates Arsenault.

During the club’s February monthly meeting the group will gather to hear internationally published and Island based photographer John Sylvester, who will provide tips and share his work.

The two organizers are quick to communicate the importance of the group as a sharing forum and community network for photography enthusiasts. Through new friendships individuals have been able to connect with others over a subject matter that they are passionate about. The goal of the founders is to “(bring together) a bunch of people who love to the same thing”.

Two weeks after each monthly meeting, group members gather again for a community outing to snap some pictures. Club excursions have included the capture of scenic images at places like Cavendish Beach and Malpeque Harbour, as well as action shots at hockey games. They’re also planning an upcoming trip to Heckbert’s Photography for a studio tour.

Currently the public can peruse images produced by the Red Sands Photo Club at the Summerside Farmer’s Market where the group has an exhibit. The club is also working with the Eptek Art & Culture Centre to arrange for a display in its lobby, and club photos will be shown in the spring at Wyatt Heritage Properties.

Arsenault and Gallant also make mention that their members are available to act as photographers for organizations hosting community events.

It’s worth checking out their Facebook group (Red Sands Photography Club) which features over 700 photos posted by various club members.

Anyone is welcome to participate in the photo club’s activities. Organizers can be contacted at 902-439-2386 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Spotlight Theatre Shines

Reasha Walsh’s enthusiastic theatre school in Summerside

by Peggy Miles

Spotlight Theatre Company rehearsesReasha Walsh’s enthusiasm about her theatre school makes me want to consider getting my sheepish, self-conscious self to one of her classes. Walsh is the operator of the Spotlight Theatre Company; full of genuine gusto for life in general, it’s easy to tell that theatre is her passion. Some people read books to relax—Walsh listens to cast recordings of musicals.

Born and raised in Summerside, Walsh was only three when she began dance lessons, which evolved into studying singing and acting as a young teen. In 2005, at the age of just 18, Walsh produced her first show, The Rock Revival. She followed this up as the director and choreographer of a cast of over 80 young people in the Wizard of Oz as part of the Harbourfront Theatre’s youth program. In 2008 she directed and choreographed Peter Pan at the theatre.

Before striking out on her own, Walsh was the Director of Youth Programming at the Harbourfront Theatre, where she led productions of The Jungle Book Kids and High School Musical.

As a leader, the spirited young entrepreneur believes strongly in teamwork and that “no matter what part or job you have in the production, one person is never more important than another. We work as a team and we perform as a team.”

The Spotlight Theatre Company has a new studio at the Waterfront Mall in Summerside, and also offers classes at the Arts and Heritage Centre in Alberton.

A variety of programs are offered for young people including Acting Beginnings, for younger elementary aged students, Acting Step Up for kids in grades 5-6, and Drama for intermediate and high school students to develop performance skills and technique.

Young adults 15–20 can flex their talents for singing, dancing and acting in Walsh’s musical theatre classes, or they can learn the essentials of comedic improvisation.

Programs are also offered to adults, where they are introduced to the study of voice and body, insight into how to prepare for an audition, and learning how to receive and provide constructive criticism.

Walsh indicates that theatre teaches important values such as self confidence, creative expression, commitment, leadership and teamwork. She is rewarded by watching a nervous child walk into his or her first class and then only months later watching that child perform on stage in front of hundreds of people.

This year will be a busy one for the Spotlight Theatre Company. In addition to the weekly classes, March Break and summer camps will take place. Walsh is also prepping for three big plays in 2011/2012, with auditions starting this summer.

Walsh has long-term plans for the Spotlight Theatre Company. “If you have ever thought ‘Maybe someday I would like to try,’” she says, “now is the time.”, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 902-954-1376.

Blind Potato Jimmy

Richard DesRoches searches for mythical Summerside bluesman

by Peggy Miles

Blind Potato JimmyIf you’re surfing YouTube, you might come across several absurdly amusing short films that contain familiar Island surroundings. These are the creation of Richard DesRoches, whose films tell random stories of nonsensical happenings. To the viewer, what’s been chronicled might seem like the weekend mayhem of a group of buddies. This is true.

DesRoches plays a staring role, portraying characters such as evening news reporter Billy Pelican, who—with an unbiased journalistic tone—provides a humourously unflattering expose of all that is lacking in the Summerside community. Throw in footage from Compass and snippets of interviews with municipal officials (whom I am guessing were not fully aware of the outcome of their interview content) and you have an amusing little piece of video recording.

Behind the Furnace stars DesRoches as a beastial man living in isolation behind a basement heating system. There’s also the Little Jimmy Cardboard series, which will give your brain pause as you try to process the content.

DesRoches collaborates on many of his films with Neil Wiley, who performs duties as videographer and editor. The duos latest project is entitled Blind Potato Jimmy Jackson and at almost an hour in length is their first feature film. The premise? Town locals appear in a series of interviews, discussing a Summerside musical blues legend and his influence on the community. But no one has seen the bluesman in recent history, nor can they find any of his musical recordings.

Described as a mockumentary, the project has been ongoing for the past year and was recorded by Wiley using a basic Sony camera. DesRoches credits Wiley’s talents as an editor and indicates that a large part of the film’s comedic success is due to the style and aptitude in which Wiley pieces the segments together. In addition, he is responsible for the hours of editing that happens to produce mere seconds of footage for the final version of the film.

Blind Potato features cameo appearances from familiar folks from the area’s musical and artistic community. DesRoches and Wiley agree that collaboration with others is extremely important and helps a basic idea to evolve into more. Although there is a concept and storyline, there is a great deal of improvisational content, which both men indicate produces some of the most humourous segments of the film. Local musician Mike Dixon is behind much of the music for the project.

DesRoches describes the film as “extremely abstract” and he says it’s up to viewers how they want to interpret it. He hopes the film will make a contribution to Summerside’s artistic scene and that “hopefully [the film] will stir a little bit of interest.”

The men have not yet determined where the film will be shown, although DesRoches has his sights on a screening at an amateur film festival. The trailer for Blind Potato Jimmy Jackson can be found on YouTube. For more information on the project, the public can contact Richard DesRoches at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Neil Wiley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Seniors Resource

East Prince Seniors Initiative opens centre at Credit Union Place

by Peggy Miles

Gloria Schurman, Executive Director, Eileen Conway-Martin, Marketing & Communication, Seward Bouchie, Office ManagerTake note seniors in the East Prince area, a new initiative is underway that will benefit community members 55 years and older.

The East Prince Seniors Initiative (or EPSI) has just opened a seniors’ access centre at Credit Union Place in Summerside. Initiated by the Summerside Rotary Club in 2009, EPSI is led by a board of directors with representation from Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, City of Summerside, the PEI Seniors Citizens’ Federation, PEI Seniors’ Secretariat and UPEI. The organization receives Provincial and corporate support, and is in the process of exploring other partnerships.

“The senior population is mushrooming” says Gloria Schurman, Executive Director of EPSI. Schurman feels one of the roles EPSI will play is to “make the community aware of just how vital seniors are.” In the Summerside area alone, there are 12,000 individuals between the ages of 40 and 65…hence a growing need for resources related to this segment of the population.

The organization has established three areas of focus: wellness, lifelong learning and productivity. While EPSI may not directly manage community projects, it has its sights on serving as the connector between stakeholders to get projects off the ground. The goal is to bring groups of interest together, working collectively toward the needs of seniors.

Organizers also see EPSI as a drop in centre where community members may source information. Seniors can use on-site computers and Schurman describes the technology as a “life enhancing tool.” Access to computers enhances professional development, but can also be used to research things like recipes or quilting patterns. In addition, the access centre will share information regarding volunteer and work opportunities that may be of interest to seniors.

EPSI is conscious in its desire to reach all segments of the senior population. While many seniors play active roles in the community and are efficient at seeking out information, the organization also has plans to reach out to seniors who don’t or can’t access information as easily.

An important part of EPSI’s work will be to monitor initiatives and measure results. For example, a project that has a goal of improving the activity level of seniors can be measured to see how the program has affected blood pressure levels in participants. The organization feels strongly that it will be creating a model that can readily be used by other communities.

EPSI’s location at Credit Union Place provides the organization with access to a large numbers of seniors who use the facility daily. With curious community members stopping in to see what the initiative is all about, word of mouth is already spreading about this valuable community resource. The organization is in the beginning stages of development, but Schurman hopes that EPSI will soon be a buzz word in the community.

EPSI is staffed by Executive Director Gloria Schurman, Office Manager Seward Bouchie, and Marketing and Communication Coordinator Eileen Conway-Martin. They welcome the community to visit their location. EPSI can also be found on Facebook.

Totally Chocolate

Island Chocolates Company hosts fall festival in Victoria

by Peggy Miles

Emma and Linda Gilbert at the Island Chocolate Factory in VictoriaForget love, I’d rather fall in chocolate.” That’s the adage written on a little container I have in my home office, and quite succinctly expresses my adoration for the decadent substance. Linda Gilbert shares this passion for confectionery and operates the Island Chocolates Company in Victoria by-the-Sea.

Gilbert’s self proclaimed philosophy is that there is “better living through chocolate.” She invites people to experience “the power of pleasure.” The proprietor incorporates chocolate into her daily routine, often beginning the day with a chocolatiers breakfast, and capping off an evening with a brandy- or mint-filled morsel.

Originally from British Columbia, Linda and husband Ron started the business 23 years ago. With Ron’s passing almost four years ago, Linda’s grown children Emma and Eric have become an integral part of the family business.

On September 19, the Gilberts will host the 4th Annual Chocolate Festival in Victoria. The family first hosted the event in 2007 to mark the company’s 20th anniversary. The festival provides the Gilberts with the opportunity to showcase their business while giving back to the village.

The day-long event gets underway with a pancake breakfast (complete with chocolate sauce of course), hosted by the local firemen’s club.

No doubt children will clamber to have their faces painted, since regular face paint will be cast aside in favour of white and brown chocolate! Festivities also include a chess tournament where young participants will be required to wear white gloves as they move the chocolate chess pieces across the game board.

Dr. Drinkwater (the chocolate therapist) will provide readings advising folks about which type of chocolate best suits their personality. Also, a massage therapist will be on hand to provide cocoa butter relief to tense muscles.

And then there’s the Best Brownie Contest. If you aren’t cut out for baking, don’t sit on the sidelines—anyone can participate as a judge!

The festival will feature workshops sharing information about the origin of chocolate, comparisons of the various qualities of chocolates and more. Eric Gilbert will share details of his four year experience involved at a chocolate co-op in Ecuador.

Island Chocolates is a new member of the Economusee Network, and the Network’s mission is in part to “conserve, develop and present traditional trades in a distinctive manner.” As part of this affiliation, the Gilberts will be unveiling a half dozen interpretive panels that will share information about the process of chocolate making, Eric’s Ecuadorian experience, facts about the historic building that houses the business, and pictures of the Gilbert’s collection of chocolate moulds. The new panels will be unveiled the week before the Festival.

What does Linda Gilbert want people to take away from their festival experience? She wants them to develop an appreciation for chocolate, and to discover chocolate’s true expression—“it’s whimsical, it’s fun, it’s tasty!” Popping a sweet confectionary into my mouth, closing my eyes and savouring the taste for just a moment, I can’t help but agree.

Sweet Potatoes

The New, New Potato Time Review

by Peggy Miles

As I drove the rolling landscape from Summerside to Victoria-by-the-Sea earlier this summer, I witnessed a beautiful rainbow over the horizon—the most gorgeous I have ever seen. I took note of a field of bright yellow flax and marveled how everything looked so green from the rain that had just fallen. I thought, “I am so lucky to be a part of this Island.”

This seemed to be the theme of the evening, as I drove into Victoria and met a friend at Island Chocolates, which if you’ve never been is best explained as a chocolate factory and café (there is no greater combination). Over tea and decadent desserts, we chatted about the summer and gave greetings and waves to people we knew.

 After dessert, we walked the short distance to the Victoria Playhouse to take in The New, New Potato-Time Review, staring comedian Patrick Ledwell and poet and songwriter Tanya Davis. Both performers are Island born and raised, and this show was about, well, “Islandness.”

I can’t imagine a better venue for such a sweet, tender and witty little show. With its 150 seats, the Playhouse provides a charming and cozy setting for its stage productions.

The New, New Potato-Time Review opened with an image of a self-serve potato stand projected onto a large screen on stage. Ledwell and Davis walked on and welcomed the audience, followed by a song from Davis simply entitled “Potatoes.”

Davis is soft spoken, small in stature with short hair, giving her a sprite-like quality, and she completely endeared the audience. Her lyrics are very thoughtful, and it’s easy to get blissfully lost in the imagery that she creates through her music.

Ledwell played the role of lecture hall professor, educating the audience on the ironies of life on the Island. Ledwell lightly mocked the outside world’s view of Prince Edward Island, as well as the idiosyncrasies of Islanders.

I was amused by Ledwell’s “here and away” presentation and his statement to “not use a global map for navigation,” since you rarely find PEI on it. I also chuckled in recognition in regard to the practice of Islanders claiming well-known personalities as their own (Olympic curler Cheryl Bernard—she’s one of us!).

Photos and visual images were used as an on stage backdrop throughout the evening. I especially enjoy the images from Island photographer Anna Karpinski and their incorporation into the performance.

The deep connection this duo has to the Island presented itself through humour, silliness and warm, thoughtful moments. Ledwell and Davis appeared as a cohesive unit, and their mutual respect for one another was evident.

Their awkward bow at the end of the performance confirmed that there was no pretentiousness present. So very Islanderish, don’t you think?

Events Calendar

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February 21
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