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DiverseCity 2019 calendar available

The PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada has produced a fundraising calendar for 2019 to support  [ ... ]

Battle Tales IV: We Battle On

Short story contest Battle Tales IV is a short story contest which will run January 20 at 12:01 am, [ ... ]

Easy Speaking

Summerside Toastmasters foster confident communicating

by Peggy Miles

Rena Gaudet, Sergeant at Arms of the Summerside Speak-Easy Toastmasters, calls a meeting to order

Susan Frellick of the Summerside Speak-Easy Toastmasters tells me she has “yet to read an obituary where someone died of fright” due to public speaking. When you put it that way, it does seem silly to be intimidated by a few nerve racking moments in the spotlight. Frellick is the president of the group, part of Toastmasters International, whose purpose is to provide members with an opportunity to practice their speaking skills in a supportive atmosphere.

Speak-Easy members come from a variety of backgrounds such as nursing, teaching, accountanting and farming; and range in age from mid-20s to retirement age and beyond. Many come from a professional field where strong communication skills are an asset and being involved in the club provides them with an opportunity to improve their leadership skills. The group has also welcomed politicians, who use the group as a test audience for nomination speeches and to hone their political savvy.

Frellick first became involved with Toastmasters through the club at the Summerside Tax Centre. She admits that during her first speech she was “hanging on to the lectern for dear life.” But over the years as her experience and confidence grew, she says she is now comfortable speaking without notes.

“Everyone has something to contribute” Frellick shares. Whether it’s interesting information about the topic they’re speaking on, or a unique delivery style, individuals are able to learn from each other. Frellick stresses that the club offers a friendly and supportive atmosphere and fosters confidence in its members. Members are evaluated on their speeches and receive feedback from other members, which helps to improve their communication skills.

From basic participation as a “competent communicator,” to becoming a certified ATM (Advanced Toastmaster), the organization offers a variety of participation levels. Members also have the opportunity to attend inter club visits and regional conferences, where they can share presentations with other Toastmaster folks.

So what topics have been covered at the Speak-Easy group in Summerside? Everything from the environment to dog psychology to tie tying for dummies.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the formation of the Speak-Easy Toastmasters group and special activities are planned for May. Organizers plan to have functions highlighting special guest speakers and the recognition of individuals who have been ambassadors of public speaking.

The group meets every first and third Wednesday of the month from 6–8 pm at Anson’s Restaurant at Slemon Park and new members are welcome. For information contact Susan Frellick at 902-436-4013 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For information on other Island Toastmaster Clubs on PEI (including Charlottetown, Summerside Tax Centre and a French Club) visit

Audio Visual Expertise

A/V pro Jay Perry offers training to the community
by Peggy Miles

Jay Perry

As someone who’s been involved in the events sector both as an employee and a volunteer, I’ve had to deal with various high-tech audio visual issues beyond my comprehension.

I wish I had known someone like Jay Perry during moments of head scratching over terms like “lumens” and “gain.” Perry’s company, Atlantic Integrated Systems, specializes in providing audio visual services to a variety of community facilities including churches, recreation complexes and community theatres. His company performs everything from equipment sales, installation, service, maintenance, design and consultation.

Perry believes in a “one stop shopping” philosophy, where he can be the go-to guy for a client’s need for everything related to video, sound and lighting. He is able to “take all of those components and put them into a working system where they’re compatible with each other, that they’re integrated and that they’re easy for the client to use and understand.“

Perry’s been kept particularly busy helping church organizations go high-tech, upgrading outdated systems, and providing places of worship with the capacity to serve their changing congregations. As Perry points out, church has changed. Congregations have gotten bigger as churches have been forced to amalgamate, and thus require systems that are going to suit the needs of a larger audience. Things like wireless microphones and power point presentations are also being incorporated into sermons – an example of new technology that helps to communicate the message to parishioners.

Perry has a vast knowledge of audio visual systems, something he gained through time spent in other areas of the country. Originally from Summerside, Perry attended the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technologies in the late 80’s, and headed to BC shortly after, using his knowledge to assist with sound and lighting installations in hotels, resorts, and churches. He’s done installation work at GM Place in Vancouver, and was responsible for the audio requirements of the 1994 Commonwealth Games. Perry even spent some time as a touring engineer with the likes of Matthew Good, Sarah McLachlin and Bare Naked Ladies.

To make a long story short, Perry’s path has led home to Summerside, doing work that he finds deeply gratifying. Although he frequently deals with knowledgeable clients who sometimes just need a bit of help, he also works with people who prefer to have their hand held, something he prides himself on having the ability and desire to do.

As a testament to this, in the near future Perry plans on offering training and workshops for audio visual operators (for example church volunteers who also serve as sound operators) so that they will gain the required knowledge to comfortably operate equipment.

In addition to Perry’s work with AIS, he also wears the hat of Technical Director at the Harbourfront Theatre.

For information about Atlantic Integrated Systems, contact Jay Perry at 902-940-0640 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cultural Cadeaux

Holiday gift ideas from Summerside

by Peggy Miles

I have a file on my computer called Christmas card labels—family & friends. Yes, I am one of those people.

In honour of my superior Christmas coordination skills, I thought I'd take the opportunity to bestow my gift-giving suggestions. In particular, gifts with an arts or culture theme that can be found here in my community of Summerside. Options are available at every price point, and you'll be supporting local arts and culture entities.

When you think of culture in Summerside, you might think of the College of Piping. I discovered they have some great items in their gift shop, especially for music lovers. Besides lots of clan paraphernalia for the MacDonald, MacPherson or MacGillivray in your life, they have great stocking stuffers including the super cute 'wee Scottish harmonica.'

I also stopped into Eptek Art and Cultural Centre, where if you're looking for something a little eclectic, this is the spot. My favourite item was a pair of earrings handmade from little round felt balls. And for something a bit more upscale, Eptek also had a variety of paintings and folk art that any art lover would appreciate.

And now a bit of a revelation: culture can indeed be found at the mall. I recently ventured into the County Fair Mall to check out Coles. They had a great selection of books by local and regional authors, including one that caught my eye called A Good Summer by local photographer Anna Karpinski. It consisted of a collection of photos reminiscent of summer days (think ferris wheels, parades and the beach) with accompanying text from local creative types like Catherine MacLellan and Georges Arsenault. I also stopped into CD Plus where they had a section dedicated to local music. I was pleased to see CD's from Nikkie, one of my favourite local artists.

Another great gift idea (particularly for service and care providers) is Market Money from the Spring Street Farmer's Market. The market is open year round, making it a great place for gift recipients to redeem their market money on produce, meat, crafts, or food fare.

And if you're looking for something the whole family can enjoy, treat them to a pre-Christmas outing of A Dickens' Christmas Carol at the Harbourfront Theatre playing December 5–7. Or a family membership (including program and event passes) from Wyatt Heritage Properties might be just the thing.

And don't forget: check out La Centre Belle Alliance as well as the Acadian Museum for gifts celebrating the Acadian culture.

This is by no means a complete list. There are a multitude of options available to support arts and culture organizations in your community this holiday season. So whether you're a Christmas planner like me, or one of those last minute shoppers, you'll be able to claim the title of Most Unique Gift Giver of 2008. For contact information on the organizations and venues mentioned, find links on

Pondering the Park

Finding inspiration in Rotary Friendship Park in Summerside

by Peggy Miles

I usually go to the park to lose weight—the Rotary Friendship Park at the north end of Summerside specifically. I like to go power walking along the Fox Run Trail in an attempt at improving my state of physical fitness.

But today I walk into the park via the Walker Avenue entrance with a coffee in one hand and a chocolate glazed donut and my notebook in the other. Today’s visit is about indulgence—of both the creative and calorie kind.

I find myself a bench and take a sip of my coffee as I open my notebook. I’ve come to the park to find my creative centre, and perhaps jot down some literary gems in the process.

I take a moment to admire the surrounding coloured leaves. The wooded park and its pathways have always felt like a grandmother’s welcome hug. And the stillness of this place amazes me. I can leave my windy downtown surroundings and come to this place where the branches are still, and the only thing you’ll hear are fellow park users, who smile and sometimes give a greeting as they pass by before they disappear into the trail’s embrace.

I’ve been coming to the park for a long time, probably over ten years, just a few years shy of when the park was first developed as a public space. Maintained by the Summerside municipality, the park contains various trails suitable for walking, jogging or biking. There’s also an unofficial sledding hill, which I haven’t ventured down myself, but is enjoyed by the kids in the neighbourhood.

As more and more people enjoy the new waterfront boardwalk in Summerside, it’s left the park a little quieter and less celebrated. I believe its value as a place of creative inspiration and contemplation is untapped. What sounds more romantic than sitting amongst the trees, writing poems or song lyrics, or perhaps just reading a book? Of course, as we venture into November, a two-hour dawdle on a park bench might not be realistic (although picture yourself—alone or with a loved one—with a blanket tucked around your legs and a hot chocolate in your mittened hands, simply enjoying the crispness of the day).

Do yourself a favour—don’t bring your iPod; just bring a paintbrush, camera, notepad, or whatever creative tools you’ll need, and spend an hour or two. As for my day in the park, I end up just doing some doodling before the wind gently blows through the branches of the trees, causing me to look up from my thoughtful daze. Perhaps a gentle reminder that its time to head back to reality, but knowing the park will welcome me with open arms the next time I’m in need of cardio or creativity.

PEI Studio Tour ‘08

Island artisans open studios to visitors

by Peggy Miles

Erma Smith of Paragon Craft Studio in SummersideIf you appreciate all things crafty like I do, the annual PEI Studio Tour is something you should check out.

The Studio Tour allows art and craft studios from across Prince Edward Island to roll out the red carpet, welcoming the public with demonstrations, workshops and the opportunity to interact with craftspeople and artisans about their work.

In fact there are 65 studios from across the Island opening their doors for the event—with everything from folk art to basket weaving, as well as pottery, jewellery, wood items and of course paintings and art prints.

One artisan you might meet is Erma Smith at the Paragon Craft Studio in Summerside. The studio is located across the street from the College of Piping and when I visited recently, I couldn’t help but be awestruck by the dozens of gorgeous stained glass pieces hanging from the ceiling of her shop. Many of the pieces contained inspirations from nature including various kinds of birds, nautical themes and other colourful scenes. Looking up at the works on the ceiling brought about an appreciation for the artistry that had obviously gone into each piece. I immediately started to consider which ones would appeal the most to the people on my Christmas list.

Even to the inexperienced eye, it’s apparent that the quality of Smith’s work is high, and you wouldn’t know that Smith has only been involved with stained glass for about five years. Her work has found homes across North America, as well as places as far away as Australia. She loves being asked to do custom work, and especially enjoys producing pieces that will be added to cabinet doors and other furniture pieces. Smith recently completed a piece for a customer from Montreal which featured a majestic blue heron. She was thrilled to hear him refer to her work as “a masterpiece.” The talented artisan states that every time she does a custom piece it takes her studio “to another level” and allows her to cultivate her craft. Smith also tells me about another source of encouragement—a mentor and fellow stained glass artist in Whitby, Ontario, who introduces her to new techniques and methods.

Smith herself acts as a support for local stained glass artists. She is excited when someone is first introduced to stained glass at one of her workshops, and ends up making it a full time hobby.

During the Studio Tour, Paragon will be offering demonstrations and showing people the various steps required to make a stained glass piece from beginning to end. The studio will also have a wide variety of jewellery and stained glass pieces available for purchase. Smith hopes the Studio Tour will expose her shop to an even broader audience, allowing her to share the art medium that she loves so much.

The public will be able to save the provincial tax on all purchases of Island-made handcrafts and giftware at participating retail outlets during this six-day event.

Experiencing PEI

Bill and Mary Kendrick organize experiences for tourists

by Peggy Miles

Ron Perry shows the Bittle family his clamming technique.Kind of strange, but even though I’ve lived on Prince Edward Island my whole life, I’ve never gone digging for clams. So the day I tagged along with Island visitor Trilby Bittle and her two teenage sons for a clamming expedition was an experience for me too.

We met in Summerside and followed our guide, Summerside resident Ron Perry, out to Abram’s Village. When we arrived, Ron produced a couple of shovels from his trunk and we scuttled down to a sandbar just off shore. He told us to look closely at the sand for air holes (a telltale sign of clams below), and showed us how to use the shovels to expose the little suckers. As Ron handed the digging devices over to Trilby’s sons Cole and Griffin, he exclaimed, “You’re digging for dinner guys!” With some awkwardness the boys began, and laughed every time a clam squirted a stream of water into the air. After finishing at the shore, we backtracked to a scenic park in Wellington for a cook-out. Ron unpacked his supplies, including fresh carrots and onion picked from his garden that morning, which he added to the steaming pot of clams.

Mary and Bill Kendrick of Experience PEIBittle and her family were taking advantage of one of twenty two ‘experiences’ offered by Experience PEI, the brainchild of Bill and Mary Kendrick of Fernwood. In fact, the ‘Digging for Dinner’ clamming adventure is the third experience the family had participated in since arriving in PEI from Ontario a few days earlier.

The Kendrick’s told me that many of their clients partake in multiple adventures, and that their seafood related experiences are among the most popular (people can also tong and shuck for oysters, as well as go lobster fishing with a fourth generation lobster fisherman).

The Kendrick’s say that the key to each experience is providing participants with elements that exercise their senses. Taste is particularly important and the entrepreneurial couple always aim to include it (the Totally Chocolate Experience is next on my list). And the answer to the question, ‘how are participants going to learn?’ is always central when developing experiences.

The Kendrick’s have a whole host of what they call, ‘experience providers’. From Summerside artist Maurice Bernard showing participants how to sculpt elaborate sandcastles, to Linda McCausland, who teaches the step by step process of paper making.

Bill points out that they’d like to see more Islanders participate in their services. He expresses that Experience PEI offers the opportunity for Island residents to look at their own community differently. As with my clamming experience, many Islanders are aware of Island happenings and activities, but they may have never had the opportunity to be intimately involved.

Experience PEI continues to offer experiences through the fall. Winter experiences are also available and include smelt fishing, dog sledding and curling.

Textures and Technology

New show by Shayli Vere features pulp painting and photography

by Peggy Miles

Nestled in the back corner of the Waterfront Shopping Centre in Summerside is Vere Studio & Gallery, something you stumble on quite unexpectedly. The studio seems a bit out of its element, contained in a retail environment that frankly has seen better days. But it is a refreshing sight—comparable to the moment ‘The Wizard of Oz’ goes from black and white to colour.

When I arrive, I’m greeted by owner Shayli Vere. Vere is an artist, photographer, and self proclaimed control freak. If you meet her, you’ll also quickly realize that she is a strong advocate for art and all that is creative.

Vere’s talent is as vast as her involvement with the arts scene. She started out with an interest in fashion, moved on to photography, and also trained in interactive multimedia which led her to the film industry. Mixed in with these experiences was working with pulp paper as an art medium. Vere intertwined pulp paper into her photography, which allowed her to bring craft into technology.

Vere’s exhibit Textures and Technology will be featured at the studio and gallery in August. The exhibit will feature abstracts and landscapes using pulp paintings and alternative photography.

Vere’s pulp paper works are visually stimulating and inspired by Prince Edward Island landscapes. Vere shows me the process she uses for producing the pieces, which includes hand dying the pulp and pouring it onto a screen—a process which is repeated many times. Texture is added as it dries. The completed piece is peeled off as a full sheet, mounted onto a canvas and varnished for protection.

The process Vere uses for the alternative photography component of the exhibit is just as interesting. She has had a special camera built (with the help of a local electrical engineer), which allows her to record time and manipulate movement in a different way than a traditional camera. The images that are captured with the camera will produce landscape images that are a bit unexpected and allow those who view the images to think about landscapes in a different way.

It is clear that Shayli Vere has a lot of initiative when it comes to the advancement of the arts. As she explains, the gallery is about extending a hand to local artists and providing a collective support. She has even had discussions with Oran Canada (who own the Waterfront Place) about possibilities for working together to further develop an artistic environment in Summerside. Vere Studio is currently open seven days a week.


Isn’t it Good

Tom Dean discovers the art of working with wood

by Peggy Miles

Tom DeanTom Dean tells me very succinctly about his foray into working with wood. About eight years ago and with no artistic background, he drove to Rustico to purchase some wood working equipment advertised in the Buy, Sell and Trade. With a back heavy van, Dean stopped off at Indigo for a book about wood turning, then returned to his home in Tyne Valley and found his inner artist.

He remembers the first object he ever made—a bowl—and the amazement both he and his wife Kathy shared when Dean came upstairs from his basement workshop to show her. As his wood working skills improved, so did his pieces. When they began taking up space around the house, Kathy threatened a renovation if he didn’t soon find a way to liquidate his wooden objects.

That’s how Dean began selling his bowls, vases, and furniture. He is this month’s featured artist at Vere Studio & Gallery, located at the Waterfront Shopping Centre in Summerside. Each piece comes with a handwritten description written by Dean. A note accompanying a bowl tells how the wood used to make the bowl was found shortly after Hurricane Juan hit the Maritimes, and is thought to be canary wood from a sugar boat originating from South America and buried off shore for a hundred years. Another piece has a more simple description: “This piece wanted to be a vase.”

Indeed Dean likes to let the wood dictate what its final outcome will be. Various pieces of wood collect in his workshop until they finally communicate with Dean their intended purpose. From driftwood to barn boards, and from exotic woods like ebony and tulip, to woods brought to him by friends, he is able to give them a new voice.

Dean is drawn to wood that has knots, cracks, or wormholes, which produce distinctive pieces with unique characteristics. He also credits his lack of training as something that adds strength to his work. By avoiding some of the traditional rules of wood working he is able to bring out the artistry in his pieces. He prefers to view his works as art pieces rather than just functional objects.

Since moving to the Island in 1999, Dean has embraced the PEI arts scene and gained an appreciation for Island talent. His home is filled with pieces from local artists, whom he began meeting at local fairs while selling his wares. And Dean and other Island wood workers are considering the formation of a wood turners association in order to promote and further their craft in the province. The satisfaction that Dean receives from being a part of the artistic community on PEI is clear—as is his appreciation that a humble diversion has provided a rewarding outlet for his artistic expression.

You can also find Dean’s work at the Basket Weavers of PEI Co-op located in Richmond.

Events Calendar

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Some Upcoming Events

Gadfly crew

Urban roots dance January 31
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Until January 19
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Confederation Centre: Art Gallery exhibi...

Open daily Wafaa Bilal: 168:01 Until January 20 The solo exhibition of new and recent work by New [ ... ]

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