"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Friday, April 28, 2017

“Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” Permanent Exhibit: Progress

In 2015, the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia created an ad hoc Elizabeth Bishop display in the sanctuary of St. James Church in Great Village. Pulled together quickly, this display was meant to presage the permanent exhibit that the society began to plan during the winter of 2016. It was located at the back of the sanctuary. When some of the old pews were removed at the front, the display boards were repositioned in the spot where the permanent exhibit would go.
(The sanctuary space before cleaning, with ad hoc display.
Photo by Patti Sharpe)
In the fall of 2016, the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia initiated its fund-raising efforts and began to prepare the space allotted to it for the exhibit. The ad hoc display was dismantled and new track lighting was installed in November.
(The new track lighting. Photo by Patti Sharpe.)
(The clearing and cleaning commenses. Photo by Laurie Gunn.)
As the Exhibit Committee discussed the issues, it was decided to begin modestly and learn the capacity of the space. The committee decided room to house not only a Bishop exhibit, which the committee entitled “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings,” but there was also room for a small art gallery. Bishop’s immediate maternal family included two professional visual artists and Bishop herself enjoyed painting, so an art gallery made sense. The gallery component is called “Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop,” the same title used for the collection of EB100 Writing Competition winners the EBSNS published in 2013 with Gaspereau Press.

The Exhibit Committee commissioned Great Village woodworker and carpenter Garry Shears to build two display cabinets for the exhibit, which he worked on over the winter of 2017. As soon the cabinets are in hand, we will share photos of them. Garry is a fine craftsman and we know these cabinets will be both beautiful and functional, the perfect containers for the precious objects in the exhibit.

The committee decided that the first exhibition in the small gallery would be work by Colchester County artists, and invitations were extended to a half a dozen local artists. Profiles of the artists involved will appear on this blog in the weeks to come.

On 15 April 2017, the Exhibit Committee and some EBSNS board members gathered in St. James Church to do additional preparation of the space. During that session, it was decided that another pew needed to be removed, so arrangements were made for that to happen.
(Clean-up day, April 2017. L. to r. Judith van Duren, Cathy Mazur,
Sandra Barry, deep in discussion. Photo by Laurie Gunn.)
(Laurie Gunn's hooked rug hanging is as colourful
as the stained glass windows. Photo by Laurie Gunn.)
In addition to the items on display, the EBSNS will also sell some of its merchandise: our popular fridge magnet and postcard, for example, and various books. To help with this aspect of the space, Garry Shears has made a wooden lock-box.
 (EBSNS magnet.)

The next post will explain the concept of “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” Exhibit.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Seán Street and Neil Campbell: Estuary CD project

I owe Elizabeth Bishop a huge debt of gratitude for all the amazing people she has brought into my life, directly or circuitously. Below is one story — ongoing — of a fascinating connection.
On Thursday, 10 May 2007, I received an email, out of the blue, from the British poet Seán Street. Seán was at that time the director of The Centre for Broadcasting History Research at Bournemouth University in the UK. He also worked for BBC Radio. He had recently been to Nova Scotia to do research for a radio documentary about the Halifax Explosion, “The Splintered City,” where he met historian Henry Roper. Seán wrote to me because a colleague of his, Paul Dodgson, was exploring the idea of doing a BBC Radio documentary about Elizabeth Bishop and Great Village. Seán “asked Henry if he knew of someone who could furnish information about EB, and he immediately named you [meaning me].” (Thank you so much Henry!!) As it turned out, Paul Dodgson and writer Lavinia Greenlaw came to Nova Scotia in September 2008 and spent a week at the Elizabeth Bishop House, out of which came their documentary, “As Big As Life,” broadcast that November on BBC Radio 3.
(Seán Street.)
I asked Seán how he became interested in the Explosion and he said that he had heard about it in detail when he was in Newfoundland in 2005 doing another documentary, “The Fisheries Broadcast,” which aired not only on BBC Radio but also CBC Radio. Hearing this, I immediately asked him if he had ever heard of  Sable Island and suggested it might be a good subject for another documentary. Over the next couple of years, Seán and I corresponded. He kindly sent me a copy of Time Between Tides: New and Selected Poems 1981–2009, in which are some wonderful poems inspired by his time in Newfoundland.

In the summer of 2009, Seán and his producer Julian May came to Halifax where they met with Henry and me, and a number of other people, to talk about Sable Island. I had put them in touch with Zoe Lucas, the reigning expert on the island. For several days, they tired valiantly to get out to Sable Island, but the weather did not cooperate. Thick fog shrouded the island for the entire time they were in Nova Scotia. Their documentary, in part a testament to how difficult it is to get to Sable Island, aired that fall.

Being a fan of Elizabeth Bishop’s work, they took time to go to Great Village and explore some of Bishop’s “motherland,” while they waited. This visit triggered a lovely poem, “Great Village, 1953”: “Time shaping a long hurt through memory earned ….”

I had a couple of opportunities to see Seán and Julian during their 2009 visit. It was wonderful finally to meet Seán, after a couple of years of corresponding. I remember a particularly lively conversation about poetry that we had in the bar at the Prince George Hotel, imbibing some expensive Scotch!

In recent years, Seán has published a trilogy of prose books about sound aesthetics, the most recent is due out soon from Palgrave, Sound Poetics: Interaction and Personal Identity. In 2013 his collection of poetry Cello was published. He kindly sent that one to me, too.

On Monday, 24 April 2017, I had an email from Seán to say that he had been reading Bishop’s “At the Fishhouses” and just wanted to touch base. This began a lovely exchange during which he told me that he has published two more poetry collections: Camera Obscura (2016) and Talk, Radio: Poems of Transmission, which will be out this week! He also told me that he, Liverpool musician and composer Neil Campbell, and singer Perri Allyne-Hughes have collaborated on a CD, Estuary, based on poems from Time Between Tides and Cello, including his wonderful, Bishop-esque poem “Sestina: Fog, Halifax Harbour,” with its end-words: silence, memory, island, ignites, thought, fog.

With all his Atlantic Canadian connections, I thought it would be nice to share Seán’s exciting news with our readers. The CD will be launched on 18 May in Liverpool and will include a performance by the principals, doing the new work, as well as previous collaborations. Congratulations Seán! You can see/hear a video from Estuary here.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

“Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” Permanent Exhibit: Background

AS the many visitors from all over the world attest, Great Village itself is a memorial to the life, art and legacy of Elizabeth Bishop. If Bishop could return to this community in the twenty-first century, she would find that much has changed, of course (she knew change was inevitable); but she would also recognize much that has remained — the topography and geography, the built heritage, the spirit of the people.

Bishop was not born in Great Village. She lived there continuously for only a brief period of time. But the time she spent in Great Village during her childhood was profound and pivotal to her life and art. As Bishop wrote, “Something needn’t be large to be good.” This small village had a large impact on one of the most important poets of the twentieth century.

Not only did the place itself imprint on her mind and imagination, but also her maternal family and the residents of the village. It must be remembered that Great Village was larger and more bustling at the turn of the twentieth century than it is in the early twenty-first century. There was a great deal of cultural and economic activity for Bishop to experience.

The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia has spent nearly a quarter century recognizing and celebrating the importance of Great Village and maternal family to the life and art of Elizabeth Bishop. One of the ways it has done so is through exhibits.

Elizabeth Bishop Exhibits of the past:

The first Elizabeth Bishop exhibit in Great Village took place in 1992, in St. James United Church, before the EBSNS had come into existence. It was mounted as part of the celebration that saw a Bishop memorial plaque placed on the church.
At that point, Bishop’s first cousin Phyllis Sutherland loaned some of her extensive family archive.
(1992 exhibit)
This material was eventually catalogued and sold to the Province of Nova Scotia, with the help of the EBSNS and Acadia University, where the material was deposited.
(1992 exhibit)
After the EBSNS came into existence, it was involved in a number of exhibits about Bishop’s connections to Nova Scotia. The first occurred on 10 June 1995, also in the church, in conjunction with the Elizabeth Bishop Memorial Lecture, delivered by Thomas Travisano.
(l. to r. Sandra Barry, John Barnstead and
Peter Sanger in front of part of the 1995 exhibit.)
The next exhibit occurred in September 1998 at Acadia University, in conjunction with the Elizabeth Bishop Symposium, “Divisions of the Heart.” By this time, the Bulmer family archive was at the Esther Clark Wright Archives and the exhibit was set up in the Kirkconnell Room.

In 2007 the EBSNS collaborated with the Colchester Historeum in Truro, N.S., to mount an extensive exhibit about Bishop and her Great Village connections, curated by Sandra Barry and Elinor Maher. This exhibit ran through the summer and had many visitors. In June 2007, the EBSNS and the Great Village Historical Society had unveiled the pergola and the initial historical panels, which were about Elizabeth Bishop, a very public “exhibit.”

 A natural evolution:

During the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary in 2011, the EBSNS set up a small display about Bishop and EB100 at the Truro Library.
(The Bishop and EB100 Display at the Truro Library, 2011)
EB100 activities and the subsequent legacy projects took most of the time, energy and resources of the EBSNS from 2010 to 2013; but once this activity eased, the EBSNS board began to ponder its next projects. When the St. James Church Preservation Society offered the EBSNS space in the sanctuary of the church, the next project became clear: a permanent exhibit about Bishop, to complement the historical panels on the pergola. Creating a permanent exhibit to recognize and celebrate the importance of Great Village and her maternal family to Elizabeth Bishop is a natural and logical evolution for the EBSNS. The next post will update on the progress of this project.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Our Raffle Prize Artist: A Profile of Alfred Villeneuve

As mentioned in the previous post, the EBSNS is holding a raffle fund-raiser for its exhibit/gallery project. The prize is an en plein air painting done by Ontario artist Alfred Villeneuve.
(Suzie LeBlanc and Alfred Villeneuve,
Toronto, 2012. Photo by Des Brunelle.)
Alfred first became involved with the Bishop Society when he kindly donated a painting to fund-raise for Suzie LeBlanc’s “I am in need of music” CD project. Suzie auctioned that painting at a gathering she held in Toronto in 2012.
(Alfred and Halifax writer Mary Ellen Sullivan,
with the donated painting,
at CD fund-raiser. Photo by Des Brunelle.)
When Alfred kindly offered another paintings in support of the current project, the EBSNS board was delighted. (The raffle is open only to Nova Scotians.)

Alfred is a very busy artist with two upcoming exhibits. He is part of a joint exhibtion at Whetung Ojibwa Centre in Curve Lake, north of Peterborough, Ontario. This exhibition opens on the long weekend in May 2017. They have a Facebook page, too.

On 8 July 2017 at 2:00 p.m., Alfred’s solo exhibition, “Tanakiwin — Home and Native Land,” opens at Rational Expressions Gallery in Stayner, Ontario. The EBSNS congratulates Alfred on this important showcase of his stunning paintings, both studio and en plein air, most inspired by his time in Algonquin Park.
(One of the paintings that will be part of “Tanakiwin.”)

Thank you, Alfred Villeneuve, for all your support.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Update about Elizabeth Bishop Exhibit and Art Gallery: Fund-raising

The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia has accomplished quite a lot since it formed in 1994. We have produced annual newsletters, without interruption (you can read all the back issues on our website). We helped ensure that a significant collection of Bishop family material was preserved (it is housed at Acadia University Archives: http://openarchive.acadiau.ca/cdm/landingpage/collection/BBHS). We have produced a number of pamphlets, booklets and books. We collaborated with the Great Village Historical Society to build a pergola in Great Village on which are eight large panels about the history of the village, including two about Bishop.
(Pergola in 2007 with its first two (Bishop) panels.
Since then, six more panels, about the history of Great Village,
have been added. Photo by Brenda Barry.)
We have hosted nearly yearly special day-long or multi-day events (talks, concerts, workshops, festivals, Annual General Meetings). This kind of steady activity reached a peak in 2011 when the EBSNS was a principal force behind the celebration of Elizabeth Bishop’s Centenary (EB100). After this incredible year, the society worked on several major legacy projects, including supporting Suzie LeBlanc’s “I am in need of music,” a Juno-award-winning CD of settings of Bishop poems by Canadian composers. Ms LeBlanc is the EBSNS’s Honorary Patron.
All of this activity came about because of the strong support of the volunteer board and community volunteers. The EBSNS has also raised tens of thousands of dollars during the past two decades for all of these projects and events. One thing that the EBSNS is especially proud of is how much support we have given to artists in Great Village, Colchester County and Nova Scotia in general. The society has also brought in guest speakers from near and far.

The “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” exhibit and the “Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” art gallery bring together two of the primary missions of the EBSNS. The first is to celebrate and educate Nova Scotians about Bishop’s connection to Great Village and her place in our cultural history. The second is to support local artists. With this project, the EBSNS is collaborating with the St. James Church Preservation Society. This kind of collaboration has been a hall-mark of the EBSNS presence in the village throughout its existence.

The EBSNS is relying again on the generous support of its volunteer board. In addition, of course, the society has fund-raised for this big project. Our first fund-raiser, which we call “Patron of the Exhibit,” started in October of 2016. As of 9 April 2017, we have raised $2,300.00 from 26 patrons. We will create a plaque listing all our patrons, which will be included with the exhibit. This fund-raiser will remain active until 30 May 2017. If you are interested in becoming a patron, you can write to the EBSNS at contactus@elizabethbishopns.org. The EBSNS extends heartfelt thanks to all those who have supported the project in this way.

As successful as the “Patron of the Exhibit” is, the society still needed to raise more money. Ontario artist Alfred Villeneuve generously donated one of his en plein air paintings of Algonquin Park for a raffle.
(Summer Zeppelins over Lake of Two Rivers, 9”x12” — Value $800.00)
The winning ticket will be drawn at our Annual General Meeting on 17 June 2017, in St. James Church, Great Village, N.S., at 3:30 p.m.

Because of the lottery license regulations in Nova Scotia, we are allowed to sell tickets only to Nova Scotians. Tickets will be on sale until the day of the AGM. If you are a Nova Scotian and would like to buy tickets email: contactus@elizabethbishopns.org.

Stay tuned for more update about all these activities.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia at 23

(Banners created by the EBSNS, 5 June 2015.
Artwork by April Sharpe. Photo by Sandra Barry.)
The EBSNS turns 23 this year. Perhaps this birthday is not as big a deal as Canada 150, but the society is proud of its longevity and continuous activity. Our Annual General Meeting is coming up on Saturday, 17 June 2017, at 1:00 p.m., in St. James Church in Great Village, Nova Scotia.

In addition to our usual business, this AGM is special for three reasons. First, the society will unveil a permanent exhibit about Elizabeth Bishop, with a small art gallery space, which will feature work by Nova Scotian artists. This exhibit/gallery space will be located in the sanctuary of St. James Church, a beautiful heritage building that had profound significance for Bishop.
(St. James Church, 7 August 2015. Photo by Brenda Barry.)

Second, the EBSNS is delighted to announce that our guest speaker will be Nova Scotian writer Alexander MacLeod. A long-time Bishop fan and scholar, Giller Prize nominated MacLeod will read from his own work and submit himself to an interview with yours truly.
(Alexander MacLeod (l.) and Colm Toibin (r),
at Elizabeth Bishop House, June 2011.)

Third, we will draw for the raffle prize, an en plein air painting by Ontario artist Alfred Villeneuve.
(Alfred Villeneuve's painting, "Summer Zeppelins over
Lake of Two Rivers, Algonquin Park." Photo by Laurie Gunn.)
Over the next two months, I will post updates about our progress with the permanent exhibit, detailing what we will present in “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings.” I will post updates about the “Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” art gallery, particularly profiles of the artists involved in the inaugural exhibition. These profiles will be linked to on the EBSNS Facebook page. I will also post updates about some of the other activities the EBSNS is engaged in, as we approach the AGM.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Suzie LeBlanc concert in Halifax, 9 April 2017

Soprano Suzie LeBlanc (Honorary Patron of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia) will be presenting her final Cecilia Concert of the 2016–2017 season next Sunday afternoon at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts in Halifax, N.S.
(Suzie singing in Lunenburg, N.S.)
Below are details of this event from the Cecilia Concerts website.

“Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame”
Grammy-winning soprano and Cecilia Concerts Musician-In-Residence Suzie LeBlanc stars in a concert performance of the opera "Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame" by composer Jules Massenet Sunday, April 9th 2:00 p.m. in Halifax.

Massenet, one of the most popular of the late French Romantics, is well known for many operatic masterpieces and listeners to this upcoming performance will agree that “Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame” is no exception to Massenet’s talent for memorable music and affecting theatre. Bass-baritones Gregory Servant and Jon Paul Decosse sing the principal male roles, and the opera also features Leander Mendoza, John Lindsay Botten, and Alan Manchester along with the Opera Nova Scotia chamber choir. Lynette Wahlstrom is pianist, and Walter H. Kemp conducts. Suzie LeBlanc tackles the male lead role.