Thursday, May 22, 2014
The anticipation ended this past Friday as I finally took the SaskScapes podcast on the road, with stops in Moose Jaw, Willowbunch, Rockglen and Gravelbourg. I drove across the prairies watching the unmistakable “big sky” … like a constantly evolving canvas on which the image is always changing…never the same twice.
What an amazing group of people I’ve met on this trip. And by the end of my visit in each town, I feel like I made new friends.
My jaw dropped as I pulled up in front of the Willowbunch museum. The 1914 structure is an anomaly against the backdrop of rolling hills and farms. It’s of grand proportion and a heritage gem. The museum board members care deeply about the preservation of the museum, and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation together. Thank you Doris and Nicole!
It was a true family affair in Moose Jaw. Father Gus Froese, a painter with a successful career spanning a lifetime. His son Rob Froese, one of Saskatchewan’s most gifted potters. Rob’s partner Gabriela Garcia-Luna, a photographer whose work is like nothing I’ve seen before…a powerful, moving experience for me. All three artists kindly invited me to their studios. Prolific is the one word that comes to mind. Each surrounded by past works, and works in progress. The are three passionate, articulate, gentle souls. Thanks to Rob and Gabriela for hanging out with me under shelter during the torrential downpour after the interviews. The brilliant rainbow was the payoff. You’ll understand how I happened upon the “word” artitecture when you hear the podcast.
Rockglen was unforgettable. I’d not travelled that far south west before I was agog at the rolling hills which were more like foothills of a mountain range. A rare archeological find! Thanks to Dick Oakes for introducing me to the old railway station museum and the nature walk. And then their were my hosts; Jan Johnston and artist/musician Neil Jones. They opened their home to me, and invited 15 of their musician friends and had a house party in my honor. Jan and Neil created a concert series for bands traveling through the area as well as local musicians. They literally hold the series in their house – well, Neil’s studio to be exact. What a time we all had! And what would such an event be without a three hour power failure! Even that couldn’t stop the music. The sound system got turned off, and the remainder of the evening was an acoustic musical buffet! I slept soundly in the cozy room they made up for me. I can’t wait to post the podcast. I made some truly lasting friendships here. I even met the town’s “cowboy poet”.
I’ve really been looking forward to seeing Gravelbourg. It’s no wonder the town has been dubbed “the cultural gem of Saskatchewan”, and “little Europe”. I fell in love with the rich French heritage. Thanks to Louis Stringer for giving me a tour of the museum. Louis is a dynamic personality who cares deeply for Gravelbourg and its history. He is, to be brief, a walking history book. The museum is home to two floors of impressive artifacts and memorabilia from the early 20th century onward.
Then on the Renaissance Gaiety Theatre, another landmark, and home to the Gravelbourg community players.
Lynn Holmes and her group sat down on stage with me and poured out their love of drama, and their passion to keep theatre alive. I was especially impressed with the outreach they do with the senior population of the town. This is one caring and dedicated group of volunteers who have all come to drama on the heels of careers in other fields. This is their time to find their passion and they’ve done just that.
I have over 10 hours of recorded material from this trip and so beings the editing so that you can share the experience with me through the next several SaskScapes podcasts. In the meantime, the next journey is already being booked. More stories to tell and more friendships to make!