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ACORN 2018 Conference

The 2018 Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network’s (ACORN) conference is being hosted in Charlo [ ... ]

Nature PEI meeting

Nature PEI’s meeting on December 4 will feature Colin Chapman, botanist and lichenologist wit [ ... ]

The Adventures of the Aftermath Crew

Educational television series shoots second season

by C.J. Veach

Young actors on the Slemon Park set of The Adventures of the Aftermath Crew

It's lights, camera, action at Slemon Park's hangar 3 as The Adventures of the Aftermath Crew begins shooting its second season. The children's educational television series brings together nearly forty cast and crew to create thirteen half-hour shows.

Co-produced by Larry LeClair and Richard Zurawski, the show is expected to have a production cost of $1.3 million for this season.

As many as twenty young teens from all over the Island handle most of the acting duties. They are required in studio three days a week but are tutored when not filming. As well, a wide array of nutritional food is provided for them. Paid according to the ACTRA union scale, these youths are well compensated for their time-and they're having fun.

The show can be seen in Canada on Global, TV Ontario, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and others. But selling the "education can be fun" theme has been easy all over the world as the United States, South Africa, along with various Asian and Middle East countries have purchased the series.

An ethnic mix of children is required and all of the actors were found on PEI. So as not to offend some sensitivities in the Islamic world, girls are required to wear full length sleeves and pants.

Although some of the scenes were shot in the summer, the bulk of the production began in November with around eighty per cent shot in-studio. Three to five cameras are used and for every four minutes shot only one minute is saved-all on hard drive as opposed to film. Live action is supplemented by animation which is painstakingly edited on sight.

Aftermath Crew is the first production to tap into the province's Film and Television Rebate Program ,which quickly repays some production costs. It is hoped this type of incentive will lure more of the film industry to Prince Edward Island despite the grumblings of some Hollywood filmmakers.

Ancient Art

Taxidermy

by C.J. Veach

Great Horned Owl, Saw-whet Owl and Blue Jay by Nelson Hurry

With autumn comes the renewal of one of mankind's oldest endeavors-hunting. And for taxidermist, Danny Clark of Stratford, it is also the busiest time of the year. "Things pick up in the fall but actually seems to be more steady work in the summer too," said Clark, who has been involved in his craft for 35 years.

There is a shared fascination for wild creatures among us and a growing number of Clark's clientele have never picked up a gun or a fishing rod. "In the 1980 probably ninety percent of my customers hunted or fished but now maybe forty percent bring me something they found killed along the road or by power lines," said Clark. "I get foxes, raccoons, mink, hawks, even squirrels. People don't want to see them go to waste I guess."

Although Clark learned taxidermy through several correspondence courses, he admits much or the learning came on the job. "It takes patience and there's trial and error. You can't expect your first few mounts to be perfect. But you get confidence, you have to. Someone brings you the fish of a lifetime you want to do a good job on it."

So just how does one get the desired results in this esoteric craft? The methods are as different as the specimens.

A fish must be carefully skinned and preserved. Then a high density styrofoam mold is made the size specification. "I'll cut a template and begin to shape the styrofoam by hand," Clark said. "A preservative paste is used to attach the skin with the incision on the back side. Then I'll hard pant the skin."

A duck or grouse can run $75, as they are less time consuming. "With a duck the skin has to be degreased with detergent and a wirewheel, all the fat has to come off," said Clark. "Then you dry the skin with a sawdust tumbler and blowdryer." Clark then constructs a body with wire and a wood by-product called Excelsior. "It's like stringy wood shavings. You wrap it with string and it's very strong and can hold the wire wings and feet."

Taxidermy suppliers in the states provide Clark with most of his equipment like chemicals, tools, glass eyes, etc. He has also done large animals like full deer, bear and caribou. The preformed body parts are ordered from the states and assembled before attaching the hide.

Clark has done work for Parks Canada, Fish and Wildlife, and Orwell Historic Village.

Another taxidermist is Nelson Hurry of Sherwood whose work today is reserved for charity fundraisers. "I was always interested in animals as a boy," noted Hurry, who would end up becoming a game warden. "An older fellow named A.F. Calder taught me how to mount fish and game. But you get help from other taxidermists. Everyone knows each other and share the tricks of the trade."

Though hunting is on the decline, there will always be a strong market for mounted specimens in education and scientific fields, and a place for this fascinating craft.

It's a Bear Market

Periwinkle Bears sells its creations world wide

by C.J. Veach

Down the Schurman's Point Road near Summerside, a flurry of activity rivaling that of Santa's workshop can be found at the Periwinkle Bears studio. There, Nancy Cole and husband John Perry, are busy finishing up the last Christmas orders of their handmade, artist bears.

John Perry weaves the fabric

Now in their eighth year of operation, Cole and Perry have both found full time work in supplying some 250 creations annually to customers around the world. "Collecting bears is close behind stamps and coins in terms of popularity worldwide so there is a definite market out there," Cole offered.

She and her husband basically came upon the idea of selling bears nearly a decade ago by chance. "I had been working for the government in computer systems but was always thinking of self-employment," explained Cole. "I had sewn and quilted my whole life and one year I made a set of bears as a birthday present for my sister. The feedback was very positive and the rest is history."

But there was careful planning and hard work to that history. "This wasn't just a hobby-gone-mad. We approached it as a proper business with a business plan, five year projection," Cole said. "We realized marketing was extremely important. We needed a product that people really want and would search for. Our approach to marketing was opposite what the books will tell you-things like mass-producing, saturating shelves. we make a very few and people end up looking for us."

Nancy Cole stuffs and sews

And it's through the internet that people worldwide can find Periwinkle Bears. "We've designed our own website and update it daily," said Cole. "We complete a bear, take a picture of it and it's on our site in five minutes. We call it the `catch of the day' and a lot of our collectors log on to our site every day to see what's new." Cole went on to say their site has around 12,000 visits a month attesting to their popularity.

Early on it was doing wholesale trade shows that got the ball rolling. "We did a couple shows in Halifax-open not to the general public but to buyers only-and a couple Christmas shows in Charlottetown," recalled John Perry. "It helped to get our name out there but we found we were selling our whole year's supply too quickly to wholesalers and it was becoming embarrassing to turn them down all the time. But within several years our percentage of wholesale went from 90% down to 10%."

The appeal of Periwinkle Bears to customers goes beyond the fine craftsmanship of a finished product. Owning something handmade and unique is a strong selling point. Cole and Perry make their own materials, including the handwoven mohair which is then hand-dyed for color. Other exotic materials are used such as llama, alpaca, and giviut (muskox down). "Our bears are probably 90% mohair. We buy about 350 pounds a year then John weaves it on a loom," said Cole. "The whole process of making a bear can average around twenty hours so we do charge a fair price for them."

Cole and Perry work and 6 and 1/2 days a week and recently took their first vacation in over 4 years, but they have had no problem finding homes for their unique artists bears. "We find that people are looking for things handmade in Canada using Canadian products," said Cole. "For us part of the marketing is that you're not only getting a one-of-a-kind bear, you're getting it from a beautiful place, a magical place. We're selling a product that comes with a lifestyle that people really want to have a piece of."

For All to See


Artist Arno Freitag paints the past on a grand scale

by C.J. Veach

Arno Freitag puts the finishing touches on a mural for the Alberton mural project

Whether or not they realize it, people around Prince Country are getting to know the work of Arno Freitag. That can happen when an artist steps out of his studio and creates a larger-than-life painting on the side of a building for all to see.

Later this month Freitag will have his third and fourth murals unveiled in Alberton. One depicts a downtown scene circa 1910 while the other takes you inside a turn-of-the-century harness shop. Both murals, created on four panels, measure 8 feet by 16 feet and were done with acrylic paint.

It has been an interesting switch from canvas to buildings for Freitag. "I enjoy murals. It is a different form of art for me but I enjoy the challenge," Freitag said. "I was given old photographs to copy and with the harness shop mural I had to do some research to identify various tools that didn't show up well in the photo."

Freitag expects to spend close to 100 hours completing the harness shop mural. Other less complex works may take half that time.

Freitag (who emigrated to Canada from Germany in 1957) and his wife, Linda, a native of West Prince (Cape Wolfe) moved to the Island in 1997, and opened a bed and breakfast in North Bedeque. The following year Freitag was asked to do his first mural, located on the Callbeck Craft Centre in Central Bedeque. "The mural shows a tailor shop that used to stand on that sight," Freitag noted. "I learned a lot from that first mural and it has helped me work more efficiently on other large scale projects."

Freitag also painted a large 16 foot by 16 foot depiction of the old Queen's Hotel on the Summerside Seafood Supreme building. The hotel, which burned down in 1966, was located across the street next to the Journal Pioneer building.

Freitag is also kept busy supplying the Dunes Gallery in Brackley with his works, and running the Art Gallery B&B with his wife. I don't get time to do much painting in the summer with running a business but I display my paintings there and sold a few, mostly Island scenes, to our borders," he said.

As his exposure grows, Freitag is finding his services in demand. But that allows him to do what he enjoys. "I've been very busy this past year but I couldn't ask for a more rewarding pastime than painting for myself and others."

George Ackerman


by C.J. Veach

George Ackerman (1803-1891): Brave New Worlds exhibition returns to Prince Edward Island following a two-year Canadian tour

Currently on display at the Eptek National Exhibition Centre in Summerside are over 100 watercolours and prints from the Victorian era in the show George Ackerman (1803-1891): Brave New Worlds. Organized and circulated by the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and Museum, the exhibit was first shown in Charlottetown two years ago. Since then it has been touring Canada and is now back on the Island.

These incredibly detailed watercolors by Ackerman, as well as memorabilia and prints by other 19th century artist, can be enjoyed at Eptek until April 26.

Ackerman, a London arts publisher and accomplished painter, retired at the age of 59. He then left his native England for Portland, Maine, but a storm at sea forced his ship north and he ended up in Montreal. From there he headed to Belleville, Ontario where he had contacts through his publishing work. Much interested in botany, Ackerman fell in love with the rural setting of Hastings County and, entering his sixtieth year, he decided to homestead a farm there. While in Upper Canada he painted numerous small townships and botanical subjects. In the mid 1870s he ended up in Charlottetown where his daughter lived. Two years later he moved to Summerside and began teaching at the Davies School (now Parkside Elementary).

But as usual wanderlust took control of Ackerman and he headed west to Saskatchewan and finally to Chicago, Illinois, where he died at the age of 87.

Ackerman's paintings at Eptek span decades, from his time in London to the mid-1830s, when he travelled through Latin America, to his time in Canada.

Director of Eptek Nonie Fraser is delighted to show these fascinating works. "George Ackerman was such a talented and interesting man, educated, adventurous, and his works show how in tune he was with his surroundings," she said.

Although his works were on display, it was the discovery of a large collection in Saskatchewan that prompted the current exhibit. "His widow had given his works to her granddaughter and in the 1990s they were "rediscovered" and shown at the Confederation Centre," Fraser explained.

Wandering past the meticulous works one can gain a sense of Victorian life; the architecture, the everyday scenes. One painting of Central Street and Willow Avenue in Summerside is particularly fascinating with small pastures jockeying for space with homes along what is now a busy thoroughfare.

In conjunction with the exhibit a watercolour class is in the works which is expected to be taught by Charlottetown artist Henry Purdy. "We felt it would be an ideal setting for such a classroom," observed Julie Gilman, Program Co-ordinator at Eptek. "As well we've had people bring in memorabilia for Heritage Week recently, and it fit quite well with our exhibit."

Anyone interested in art or history, or both, will find the current Eptek show a memorable experience and well worth the time.

MacNaught History Centre Opens

Historic MacNaught house in Summerside now open as history centre and archives for Wyatt Heritage Properties

by C.J. Veach

The MacNaught History Centre and Archives opened recently in Summerside and, in the coming months, hopes to highlight the fascinating cultural heritage of the area.

Located at 75 Spring Street, the MacNaught house is part of the Wyatt Heritage Properties, which also include the Lefurgey Cultural Centre and the J.E. Wyatt House.

Archivist, Faye Pound explained the purpose of the History Centre: "The house is the administrative and curatorial headquarters for the staff of Wyatt Heritage Properties and home to the historical archives and genealogical research centre."

Built in 1887 by John Clay, the house was last inhabited by J. Watson MacNaught, who become the first Islander to serve as the Solicitor General of Canada. The house would eventually be purchased by Wanda Wyatt shortly before her death, and sold to the city of Summerside as part of the Wyatt Heritage Properties for one dollar.

"Wanda Wyatt had a keen interest in preservation of things both environmental and historical," Pound noted. "She wanted her money to serve heritage by donating these properties and she included a capital fund for building upgrades."

Now the house serves as an ideal setting for researching community and family history. "We have for the first time outside the Public Archives, the master name index, and it is an ideal beginning place for research or to find out more about a particular heritage property or personal history," stated Pound.

As well as offering a research station, MacNaught House displays many maps, books, photographs and manuscripts on the area and Prince County. Paintings and sketches of long departed edifices add to the strong sense of nostalgia present in the meticulously restored building.

"People are very curious about what Summerside looked like in the days of horse and cart and here they can get a glimpse of that era," said Pound. "People love to connect with history on a local level."

MacNaught House also serves now as the starting place for two different walking tours through historic Summerside.

"We're very fortunate to have one of the highest concentrations of heritage buildings in the Maritimes, along with Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. And we've been able to manage this without a specific heritage bylaw," Pound said. "We hope to foster a sense of appreciation and pride for these buildings by telling their stories about the lives lived in them."

To that end the MacNaught house is displaying "Family Circles"-a pictorial and written history of the eight families who have lived in the three Wyatt Heritage Properties.

Tapping into the growing "cultural tourist" market, the J. E. Wyatt House next door will open this spring as a museum to complement the Lefurgey Cultural Centre and the MacNaught History Centre.

"The trend in tourism is moving toward older people, travelling without children, and possessing a high level of education," observed Pound. "What they will want to find coming here is what is indigenous to Summerside, what is the history of the area. We offer a genuine look into that history and are looking forward to serving that market."

But for now the MacNaught House is open to the public Tuesday through Friday 10 am to 4 pm and Wednesday evenings 7 pm to 9 pm.

Top: MacNaught House at 75 Spring Street in Summerside.
Bottom: J. Watson MacNaught, former Solicitor Gerneral of Canada

A Book for Buffs

Allan Graham publishes book on history of rail travel on PEI

by C.J. Veach

Later this month a new book will be available that should appeal to history and rail buffs alike. Allan Graham of Alberton has put together an 8 1/2 X11 photo and text overview of the history of rail travel on PEI. Over 300 photos have been collected from all over Canada and even the U.S. to make this project possible.

"I've been thinking about doing this for 30 years,"stated Graham whose father was a rail worker. "I've always been interested in trains and Island history so it's been a project I've enjoyed doing. While teaching school in Alberton, Graham has written numerous articles about the railway and maintained contacts with other rail buffs. It's that network that helped make this book possible.

"I've had people loan me pictures for this book from many parts of Canada and the U.S.," Graham stated, "Once you meet someone with a rail collection, you meet others through them and so on. And everyone's very cooperative in supporting this type of project." This year marks the 125th anniversary of rail travel on PEI and to Graham the timing couldn't be better for his book. "There's still a lot of interest in Island rails not just locally but there's rail collectors all over the world," Graham said. "There's also people who are interested in collected things that relate to Islands or history in general, so hopefully the book will have a fairly broad appeal."

Starting in Kensington, Graham will be doing book signings at railway stations (or former locations) across PEI during the month: Kensington, North Wiltshire, St. Peters, Montague, Murray River, Alberton, O'Leary, Summerside, Emerald, Fodhla (old Hazelbrook station), Cavendish Figurines in Borden (on the foundation of the old Borden station), Tignish (Cultural Centre next to the old station), and Pt. Desroches (at Jack McAndrew's cottage where old Mount Stewart station now rests). The launch takes place on September 12 at 7 pm at the Kensington station.

This book contains 370 black and white photos, 5 maps, 2 posters, 4 timetables and colour photo on back cover. Anyone interested in knowing more about the book or book signings may contact Allan Graham at 853-3211 or write to P.O. Box 335 Alberton, PE C0B 1B0.

Lighthouse Gallery Fills a Need

by C.J. Veach

Over the winter a number of Prince County artists have had the chance to display their works at the same venue. The Lighthouse Gallery, located at 401 Water Street in Summerside, has been the off-season home for these works which will soon be making the summer gallery circuit. Local artist and retired dentist, Dr. John Robertson, is responsible for the gallery that shares space with his antique store.

"I'd talked to several local artists about the need to display their talents year round. So we got a dozen or so people to bring in their works and see how the response was," said Robertson, himself a noted woodcarver. "Right now we have around fifty pieces, mostly paintings and prints, but we also exhibit ceramics and wheat weaving."

With the tourist season upon us, many of these works will end up in galleries along the north shore of PEI and in Charlottetown. But Robertson would also like to establish his business as a place tourists would frequent.

"There really hasn't been an antique dealer like this in Summerside for fifteen years. There's Eptek and Lefurgey Cultural Centre but they're more for exhibition than sale," Robertson stated. "There's a market for local artists depicting local scenes and we'd like to help expand the demand."

"There's a lot of talented artists up here [Prince County] but most people are unaware unless they happen to see a work in someone's house."

And according to Robertson increased sales equal increased production by the artists. "We want to help creative people maintain a livelihood from their talents and thus they'll create more works of art for all to enjoy."

Robertson's business also houses Wayne's Custom Framing. "It's a good fit for the gallery to be able to acquire a frame or change the existing frame when the customer buys a painting," Robertson noted. "It's also a good fit to combine the antique dealership with the gallery. We really are a fun place to browse and pick up a collectable."

Though many works will soon be leaving Lighthouse Gallery, Robertson will welcome them back come fall. "The gallery has been fairly well received, mostly word of mouth, but we plan to keep spreading the word that these artworks are available year round and may even expand our display next fall."

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