I am a Grade 11 Co-op student straight from C.D.C.I West who’s looking forward to a career somewhere in Art & Design. Working alongside Alice, I’ve been helping her sew, snip, and stitch together pieces for the Fish Commission. Besides that, I’ve also been doing small chores such as organizing the mountains of fabric in the studio, attempting to win the attention of some kindergarten kids, and maintaining this very blog.
These past couple of months have been wonderful so far – while most kids in the Co-op program are doing hours of heavy lifting, sorting documents into filing systems, and punching numbers into cash registers; I sit in Alice’s sunny studio with a tea in one hand and some beautiful fabrics in the other – doing something I love to do - create and design. In this small town of 18 500, it’s great to find people who have such a passion for art that they make a living off of it, and to be able to assist and learn someone who does is definitely great.
The first step took me out of my studio to sculpt the fish shapes. I engaged the help of a colleague and friend, Edward Hagedorn, to do the welding. I bent the steel rods to the shape I wanted and Ed did the actual welding. An artist and art therapist by profession, Ed enjoyed the endless possibilities of shapes that one could produce with a simple placement of the rods. “Like this or like that?” he asked before each weld. And after all, how mean, or how sweet did I want each fish to look?
As the project continues, engaging the community has taken on an exciting element! What is that saying? — “People do the weirdest things?” To say that the community is doing weird things is not quite accurate but to say that they are doing weird and wonderful things is much, more to the point. I am constantly amazed at how other people think, or the actions they do. In my workshops I find myself getting very excited by how everyone approaches colour and texture in their own way. I found people carefully choosing the most unlikely colours and patterns, and applying them to a fish. This is exciting! The end result will certainly reflect a creative community. Working with children is particularly exciting as their work is free form, and playful. In this local elementary school I encouraged the children to place a hand print with the fabric of their choosing.
Four public workshops were held at the Cobourg Public Library and at a lovely cafe’ called Meet at 66 King in Cobourg. Everybody was invited to “show their true colours” by helping to design a fish. The results were a stunning array of shapes and colours all that will become a part of the “community quilt”. All very exciting!!! I was impressed with the large variety of ages that attended. Families came in and designed a fish unique to their ages and stages.
All of this activity could not have happened without the help of my friend and colleague Kaye Jackson who helped organize and run the workshops. Kaye also designed and sewed her own fish
The staff of the town of Cobourg get involved and design their own fish. Many hands create a one of a kind art work.
Annette, one of Cobourg’s own “Crazy Quilters” came to the workshop and created her own stunningly crazy fish.
Each fish was made out of a creative spirit, but there was one fish also created out of love and fond memories for a very special person. One fish was made in memory for Cheryl Laver. Cheryl worked in the town’s finance department for six years. In November of 2009, after fighting a courageous battle with cancer Cheryl passed away. Her co-workers gathered fabrics and memorabilia that were significant to Cheryl. Their contributions reflected Cheryl’s deep love for her cats and for horses. The Art Gallery of Northumberland’s curator Dorette Carter created the fish. Pictured here is Dorette applying the finishing touches to a very unique fish dedicated to the lovely and very unique Cheryl.
When in need call in the troops or rather call in the family! One aspect of the fish sculpture is that every step is very time consuming. There is simply no way to speed up the process of working by hand. I do enjoy that part. Each fish is hand stitched to the sculpted, then painted frame. I have already spent many hours methodically stitching to music, to books on tape , to conversation with friends and family. Nearing the end of the project I realized I needed to “call in the troops” and as family does, my family came through needle in hand. My mother, Jacoba Bos, and my two aunts, Audrey Van Reenen and Diane Plug spent over two days stretching and stitching the fish to the frames. The first night they were joined by my sister Renee Weavers and my beautiful niece Esther Weavers. By the time everyone left, close to thirty fish had been completed, ready to hang. It is a community thing in more ways than one.
Everything has a process. In this project one step toward completion was the process of fire proofing the fish. Before each fish was stretched on to a frame I dipped them in an eco friendly solution. Here the fish hang on the line, drying. I loved seeing all the colours vibrate against the March sky. Colour filled the backyard. I am amazed at how these images bring to mind the early photos of harvested fish drying in preparation for winter storage. I was also amazed at how an ordinary daily scene such as things hanging on a line can take on such a different character.
Each fish was unique. Many of the fish had two very different sides as each side was created by textile material from the community. Each fish was photographed by my husband Mark, in a careful and professional manner. Of the one hundred fish, there were one hundred and thirty images.
This morning, in the local daily newspaper there is a photo of the one hundred fish hanging in new Cobourg Community Centre. It was stunning to see the fish there, in the photo. For so long they have been here all over my studio in various stages of completion. As all people that work with textiles know, there is an incredible amount of detail that goes into each piece. Seeing the photo, while reading the paper over the calm of the morning coffee, I realized that the impact of all those details had finally added up into one sculpture.
As mentioned earlier on this blog each step of the creation was a process. So to it was with the hanging. The town of Cobourg did a class act of “doing it right”. For the hanging they provided two skyjacks, four men in harnesses, two spotters, and the town engineer, Teresa Behan, to oversee the project. The most important element of the hanging process was everyone’s goal to do it right. In the end this even meant redoing a whole row and creating even more overtime for everyone involved. We had two days to hang all one hundred fish. The skyjacks were finally rolled out with barely a minute left on the time allotment. We had been at the job for a total of twenty five hours!
The process of hanging the fish began with the help of Kaye Jackson, and Ed Hagedorn in laying out all the fish. You might notice the hard hat, vest and special boots. Legally we were still on a construction site. Short of proper foot wear, we made a quick trip down to the town “yard” were the town employees, literally took the boots of their feet so that we could use them. Community at it’s best!!!! We were later joined by my husband Mark who I think looks smashing in the construction get up. Christine Stewart joined us as well and provided incredible help and support throughout the two days.
Here is a picture of Teresa Behan the town engineer. She oversaw the whole project and was responsible to seeing that it was completed in the allotted two days. In spite of that pressure she consistently maintained that the project should be exactly as I wanted it to be. In this image she is holding a stick as we are trying to determine if a hockey stick could reach the fish. A consideration for sure. If truth be told Teresa never needed a “stick”to get things done. She simply earned everyone’s respect right from the get go. That she gave the guys chocolate, and kept them well fed with donuts, pizza, and all the coffee they wanted was an added bonus!
In the end it was about the workers, the guys in the five point harnesses, in the skyjacks which were about as high as they could possibly go. Darryl, Carl, Murray and Jeff were an amazing team that hung the fish with efficiency, and accuracy. With each fish they asked me were it should be, how high, how low, what direction etc… And for each fish they patiently waited for my response. There was nothing quick about the process. After twenty four hours of doing this they still maintained a professional, careful approach. In the end I was so filled with gratitude for their patience and respect. By the time they got to fish number 95 I had about had it and began talking about leaving some of the fish out. The remaining crew, the one that did the overtime, Darryl and Carl encouraged me to get them all hung and their enthusiasm for the last fish was even greater than they had shown for the first one. They gently kept humouring me to make the decisions, so keen were they to see this job perfectly completed. I was so thankful for that enthusiasm and energy! In the end the job was completed perfectly!
The fish, all the materials, and work, and hand stitching had all become so familiar. After spending months on the fish I knew each fish by detail. It was quite something to see all the work displayed, so publicly. People were looking at the display and appreciating the array of colour and textures. But in the end it was gratifying to see the work completed. Here are some of the pictures of opening night.
One element that was especially exciting was the different angles that one can view the installation. Here are some images taken from the arena. At any point from within the arena one can see the fish.
(except from House proceedings scripts)
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: My question is to the Minister of Infrastructure. On December 1 of last year the minister and I visited an infrastructure stimulus project in my riding in Cobourg, the Cobourg Community Centre, or the CCC as we like to call it. This is an extraordinarily exciting project. The CCC will have a 2,000-plus-seat arena plus a smaller 400-seat arena. There will also be two gyms and change rooms and 1,000 square feet dedicated for a youth centre and three multi-purpose meeting rooms.
The CCC is on track for a grand opening this spring. However, Cobourg council still applied for an extension to the March 31, 2011, deadline to make sure that the workers have time to get the finishing touches done. My question to the minister is, will the deadline extension be granted?
Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I’d like to thank the member for the question. First, I’d like to congratulate the people of Cobourg for coming together to create this project in partnership with the federal and provincial governments and for becoming part of the largest and most successful infrastructure program in the history of the province of Ontario. Born out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, stimulus is creating 700 jobs in the Northumberland area and 300,000 across Ontario for Ontario families. Indeed, Ontario has recovered 95% of the jobs lost during the recession, compared to only 11% in the US. The federal and provincial governments have worked together to create over 9,500 projects to improve our quality of life and to improve the economy of Ontario
I’ll deal with the deadline in the supplementary.
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Minister, your comments about the community coming together are exactly right. In the case of the Cobourg Community Centre project, that’s happening in all sorts of ways. For example, with the help of Alice Vander Vennen, one of our local artists, members of the community are working together to help design 100 brightly coloured fish that will become a giant floating sculpture for the great hall entrance to the community centre. Plus, we’re not relying on just federal and provincial funds for this project. The local community is raising more than $3 million to put toward the capital costs
Again, Minister: Will the extension request for this project be approved?
Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Again, congratulations to the residents of Cobourg, a town of only 19,000, for raising $3 million towards this project. In general, we expect to approve almost every one of the extension applications we received.