Water Song- What Do You See?

Water Song by Christi Belcourt- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

This morning I am giving my first tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery since the pandemic began and I will certainly spend time focusing on this stunning artwork by Michif (Metis) visual artist Christi Belcourt. Her family is originally from the Metis community of Manitou Sakhigan (Lac Ste. Anne) Alberta.

Using hundreds of thousands of tiny painted dots the artist has tried to recreate the look of the beadwork of her Metis ancestors. This piece called Water Song is a perfect fit for the current exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery- NaadohbiiTo Draw Water.

Water Song is on loan from the National Gallery in Ottawa.

Christi Belcourt’s colorful canvas fairly bursts with deep scarlet reds, royal rich blues, eye-popping yellows, and a myriad of green shades from dark and lush to verdant and bright. She invites us to closely examine plants and animals and insects who all depend on water in some way and to think about how all these living things are interconnected.

You can spot downy woodpeckers, warblers, barn owls, northern flickers, and nuthatches perched on plants and leaves.

Check out all the marvelous details you can see here. The warbler bursting into song at the top of the section, the pinecones just beneath her, the spider webs down and to the left of the pinecones, and the chokecherries over in the right-hand bottom corner. Can you find the maple leaves, the thistles, and the bursting flying seed pods?

I think gallery visitors of all ages will have a great time looking for monarch butterflies, wild roses, maple and oak leaves, trilliums, milkweed plants and fireflies.

Although not perfectly symmetrical one can almost draw a line of symmetry down the center of the canvas because creatures and plants that appear on one side of the work are usually mirrored on the other side.

This is only one of a myriad of canvases in the same style by Christi Belcourt that are displayed in public places across Canada. You can see more of them on her website.

I can hardly wait to see what my tour participants will find interesting about this fantastic art piece this morning.

Other posts………

Mural on the Hudson’s Bay Store Window Made By A 90 Year old Woman

I Loved The Governor General’s Dress

Good-bye Pitaloosie

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

First Christmas Party

My first Christmas party for the year was on Saturday when the T-4s got together. For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know the T-4s are a group of four fast friends who were all teachers in the same school at one point. We’ve been getting together for over a decade now and although our socializing used to happen once a month the pandemic has made that a little more challenging.

I hosted this year’s Christmas event and knowing I would be doing that inspired me to decorate my house and get a tree just a little bit earlier than I might have otherwise.

We started off with soup, sandwiches, and potato salad from King and Bannatyne a wonderful deli near our home. Then after several hours of visiting it was time to open our gifts.

My friend Esther had hand-painted our cards herself and had picked personalized chocolate selections for each of us from Decadence Chocolates. I can hardly wait to try the exotic flavors like egg nog, candy cane crush, and strawberry balsamic.

Esther’s card is so beautiful I have framed it so it can become part of my permanent Christmas collection.

My friend Glenys gave each of us some Christmas bath salts from Australia and these soft snuggly blankets. I slept in mine last night. Its extra weight and warmth helped me have a great rest.

Glenys’ gift came in the beautiful Christmas bags Debbie and I are holding. I’m looking forward to using mine during the holiday season.

What did my friend Debbie have for us in these beautifully wrapped boxes?

Lovely wool wraps or sweaters that are sure to dress up any outfit. I plan to wear mine to work today.

I’d had special mugs made for each of us.

The mugs featured images of all four of us and a message about friendship. I also gave my friends one of the special Coal and Canary candles Friends of the Winnipeg Public Library are selling for Christmas as a fundraiser.

After enjoying a luscious dessert Esther had brought we realized five hours had quickly passed and it was time for people to head home.

Our very first Christmas party in 2011

I’ve enjoyed more than a decade of Christmas parties with the T-4’s now. I look forward to spending many more with these dear friends of mine.

Other posts………

Gifts or No Gifts?

A Christmas Friendship Wreath

I’m Getting Crafty For Christmas

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Filed under Holidays, T-4s

Such Talented Women

I knew it was puzzle time a week ago. Trying to catch up with speaking engagements, writing assignments, volunteer commitments, and other tasks put on hold during our October trip to British Columbia had left me a little frazzled and I needed the calm of a puzzle to retreat to.

I had picked up this puzzle featuring women artists at McNally’s several months ago. It was perfect. Easy to do, bright and colorful, and full of talented creators- some of whom I knew well and others who I am now itching to learn more about. I loved that the artists the puzzle featured were so diverse. They came from so many different places and specialized in different genres of artwork.

I had learned a great deal about Georgia O Keeffe on our trip to Hawaii because the American artist spent some time there. I had seen Frida Kahlo’s work everywhere during our two-month stay in Mexico and had posed with a likeness of her on a trip to Chicago.

I had become familiar with the work of Amrita Sher Gil when we had an exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Vision Exchange- Perspectives from India to Canada and learned about the Hopi artist Nampeyo when we lived in Arizona for a year.

Work by Mary Cassatt was featured in the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in the summer of 2018 and I gave so many tours of that exhibit. I had taught my high school journalism students about Dorothea Lange during our journalistic photography unit.

But quite a number of the artists on the puzzle were new to me.

I went online and checked out the stunning portraits by painter Elisabeth Le Brun and sculptor Mary Lewis.

I think it would be fun to work alongside kids to make artwork inspired by Yayoi Kusama or Alma Thomas.

I’d love to own a piece of furniture designed by Ray Eames or visit one of the many buildings around the world designed by architect Zaha Hadid.

I started this puzzle on Monday and finished it on Friday night just on time to clear it off my diningroom table to host my first Christmas party. I am grateful for the way Rachel Ignotofsky’s puzzle provided an interesting oasis of calm in my otherwise busy week and introduced me to some new artists.

Other posts……..

Paint By Number

Puzzling Jane Austen

Globe Trotting Vicariously

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Filed under Art

Anna Vogt- Kindergarten Pioneer

I first learned about kindergarten teacher Anna Vogt from my friend Elfrieda Neufeld, who was related to Anna and wrote a story about her for the historical journal Preservings in 1996. As a former kindergarten teacher in both Winnipeg and Steinbach, I was very interested in learning more about Anna a woman who had been a kindergarten pioneer in those same two communities.

Anna Vogt referred to affectionately by her students as Tante Anna (Aunt Anna) was born on September 16, 1883, in Schoenwiese, a village in the Chortitza Mennonite colony in Ukraine. One of the nine offspring of Andreas Vogt and Aganetha Block Vogt, Anna was a sickly baby who her parents didn’t expect to survive. But survive she did and started her education in the Schoenwiese school.

She had to quit school after a few years to help out in the family dry goods store and do housework. In 1902 she was baptized and became a member of the Mennonite church. Her Dad was a minister who valued education and so when Anna was almost thirty years old she convinced him to let her go to Germany to study to become a teacher.

The Pestalozzi-Fröbel Haus in Berlin in 1908- photo from Wikipedia

Anna’s education fees were subsidized by a rich mill owner named J. J. Thiessen from the city of Dnipropetrovsk and in 1912 she was off to the prestigious Pestalozzi-Fröbel Haus in Berlin. The school founded by a woman named Henriette Schrader- Breymann in 1882, just the year before Anna was born, was named after prominent Swiss and German educators who believed child’s play was valuable, that each child should be taught as an individual and that children learned by doing.

Pestalozzi-Fröbel Haus was one of the few places in Germany where women could be trained as professionals. By the time Anna went to study there, the school had gained an international reputation with students coming from England, the United States, and many other European countries.

Anna Vogt with two of the Thiessen children she cared for and taught as well as on the far right Elisabeth Epp. Photo purchased from the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada.

Because Anna’s education had been limited in scope and truncated so many years before, she had to work hard to get her certificate, but in the summer of 1914 just a month before World War I broke out she graduated. That fall her father died and Anna spent the next five years in Dnipropetrovsk working as a nanny and tutor for her benefactor J.J. Thiessen who was a widower with four children.

Just after World War I ended, Anna established her own kindergarten in the community of Nieder Chortitza and soon had more than a hundred children attending classes. Nieder Chortitza was especially hard hit by the civil war in Russia. In 1919 just after Anna must have opened her kindergarten twenty-one people from the village were murdered by the army of Nestor Makhno. Anna moved her kindergarten to other villages and for a time taught at a teacher training institution in Nikolaipol.

Anna Vogt’s 1937 Steinbach kindergarten class- photo from Preservings magazine- June 1996

Anna, her mother and six of her siblings, and their families came to Canada in 1923 and made their home in Steinbach Manitoba. Anna opened a kindergarten in her home shortly thereafter and later moved it to a building on Elmdale Drive in Steinbach.

Anywhere from 25-50 children ages 3-6 attended classes at Anna’s kindergarten from 9:30 till noon. The school was closed in January and February because of the cold weather but remained in session in July and August. Anna charged $1.00 a month for tuition for a family’s first child. Additional children were only charged 50 cents and Anna never turned down children even if their families couldn’t pay.

Anna ran a tight ship. Although at times children were free to chat and visit, when Anna asked for silence she expected it and tested it by dropping a pin to see if she could hear the sound it made. Activities during a typical kindergarten session included crafts, colouring, nature study, memory work, snack time, and storytelling. The Christmas programs put on by Anna’s students were popular community events.

Anna with her 1960 kindergarten class in North Kildonan. She had 73 students. Anna is in the middle and over to her left is her assistant Annie Dyck. Photo purchased from the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada

In 1938 she accepted an invitation from the German-speaking Mennonite community in the North Kildonan area of Winnipeg to open a kindergarten there. She continued doing that work until 1966. Anna worked alone except during her last ten years of teaching when she was joined by assistant Annie Dyck who carried on Anna’s work after she retired in 1966 at age 82.

Anna at a birthday party for one of her students in 1964photo purchased from the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada

Anna died in 1975 at age 91, outliving all save one of her siblings. She was a resident at the time in the Bethania Personal Care Home which had been founded by her sister Maria Vogt and her brother Abram Vogt.

In her tribute to Anna, my friend Elfrieda Neufeld calls her a forceful visionary with a hearty laugh who left a legacy of love for children.

Other posts……..

The Old School House- Kornelson School Memories

My Father-in-Law Was Born in a School For the Deaf

A Dress From the Catalogue


Filed under Education, History, People

I’m Back At Work

This week I got called back to work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I’ve been a guide there since 2012 and when they laid me off in March of 2020 guides were assured we were still staff members and our lay off was temporary. Of course, we had no idea tours would be canceled for such a long time or that the gallery itself would be closed for so many months.

Despite my mask, you can see my happy face as I pose in front of a gorgeous tapestry from Ruth Qaulluaryuk’s piece Four Seasons of the Tundra which is part of the INUA exhibit at the gallery.

Exciting things have happened at the gallery since I left and I admit I got lost on Monday my first day of work as I tried to find my way around the beautiful new Inuit Art Center called Quamajuq. There are many things I have to learn before I give my first tour this coming Tuesday but I am ready and eager to study and prepare.

Photo of me doing art with children on the Winnipeg Art Gallery site

I loved my job at the WAG but I haven’t visited the gallery since I left because honestly, I thought I would cry the whole time I was there. I suspected just being in the space would make me miss my job so much I might not be able to hold it together.

I feel safe going back to the WAG where they have mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and practice social distancing.

Giving folks from Siloam Mission a tour at the art gallery in 2017

Those of you who have been following my blog for a long time know that I love to write about the pieces at the WAG and so be prepared to start seeing posts about the artwork I am learning about and talking about with WAG visitors.

Guiding a group from Winnipeg’s Chinese community at the gallery in 2017

For me, this is one step forward towards a little more normalcy in my life. I couldn’t be happier and while I have learned like everyone else that pandemics are crazy unpredictable things I have my fingers crossed that my return to work will be permanent.

Other posts…..

The Gift Was A Gift

Missing the Winnipeg Art Gallery at Christmas

She Started to Cry


Filed under winnipeg art gallery

Still in Too Much Pain

Earlier this week one of my Twitter contacts who is a member of the clergy asked when people would be ready to start healing the divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated in their communities. What could we do to start that process?

By far the majority of the responses indicated that people of faith realize they are called to have forgiveness in their hearts and be agents of healing. They even appreciate being reminded of that but……they just aren’t ready for forgiveness and healing right now.

Many of the tweets were later deleted from the thread but the ones I saw were very similar to the stories of pain I hear every day.

In Manitoba more than 130,000 surgeries have been cancelled due to the pandemic

The pain of those waiting for canceled surgeries and important medical procedures and tests that are vital to their future health.

The pain of seniors who remain virtual prisoners trapped in their care homes, only able to see a few masked, visor-shielded family members at certain times.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

The pain of young parents who are juggling the impossible-trying to figure out how to continue working when their children are sent home from daycare and school with the tiniest sniffle or the littlest cough. They know it is necessary, but the stress of trying to keep their jobs, not lose pay, and also care for their children week after week has left them endlessly weary.

The pain of people who have ongoing health conditions and are trapped at home because it is too dangerous for them to be out in public.

The pain of those who have lost study and career opportunities, have had travel to see family canceled, or have had to close their businesses.

And many people rightly or wrongly are laying the blame for their pain at the door of the unvaccinated. They may feel sorry for them because they have fallen prey to misinformation, or because they have a troubled history that makes them averse to vaccination, or they are being led astray by money-hungry conspiracy theorists, but they still blame them, thinking if only everyone was vaccinated our pain could abate.

The clergy member who had asked the question about healing soon realized it had been premature and cut off the Twitter conversation. People weren’t ready for healing or forgiveness. They were still in way too much pain.

Other posts…………

When Will We Be Ourselves Again?

The Unvaccinated Hair Stylist

Snitches Get Stitches

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary

Be Inspired!

National Youth Choir of Great Britain performs Walk Out on the Water- photo from National Youth Choir Facebook page

Yesterday I watched a video released by the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. They are performing the song Walk Out on the Water written and originally recorded by the Canadian band Royal Canoe and arranged for choral groups by a very talented Winnipeg composer Geung Kroeker-Lee. Our son is a member of Royal Canoe.

Since Geung Kroeker -Lee adapted Walk Out on the Water it has been performed by a whole variety of choral groups, all marvelous, but none moved me like this version by the British Youth Choir. I was in tears by the end of the performance. Why?

National Youth Choir of Great Britain performs Walk Out on the Water– photo from National Youth Choir Facebook page

Perhaps it was because I was thinking that this may have been one of the first times these teens who obviously love singing had been able to perform together since the pandemic lockdown began.

Perhaps it was because the words of the song are so appropriate for what is going on in the world right now. We are living in a time when one crisis after another seems to wash over us but yet these young people sing about walking on water and declare, “I’m not going under.”

In an era where many young people are struggling to be honest and proud of their identity be that racial identity or gender identity these young people bravely and emphatically sing that they “own the space that I occupy.”

National Youth Choir of Great Britain performs Walk Out on the Water- photo from National Youth Choir Facebook page

In a time when many opportunities for young people to express themselves and grow artistically have been cut off because music performances, art shows, drama productions, and writing conferences have been canceled these teens vow to “spread my wings like a butterfly.”

If you need a little inspiration this morning watch the National Youth Choir of Great Britain sing Walk Out on the Water. It will get your day off to a great start!

You can watch Royal Canoe’s amazing video for Walk Out on the Water here.

You can watch composer Geung Kroeker-Lee conduct the Prairie Voices Choir singing Walk Out on the Water here.

Other posts……..

So Cool

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Music

Six Degrees

You’ve probably heard of the six degrees of separation theory that claims everyone is really no more than six personal connections away from another person in the world. Sometimes it’s fun to see just how many connections you can make. Recently I was involved in a conversation where people were trying to figure out how closely they are connected to our province’s premiers past and present.

I am only two degrees of separation away from three former Manitoba premiers thanks to my husband Dave.

Brian Pallister is standing at the very back in the middle- in a row of his own. My husband Dave is farthest to the right in the front row.

At the height of Brian Pallister’s fastball career, my husband Dave was a catcher for him on the ball diamond. Although they never played on the same team for an entire season Brian liked the way Dave caught and invited him to travel to some tournaments with him to be his catcher.

Gary Filmon was a member of the 1960 Varsity Boys basketball championship Team from Sisler High School whose members were inducted into the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001. In the photo, Gary is second from the left in the back row. – photo from the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame website

Once at a University of Manitoba basketball game Dave’s name was drawn for a half-time shooting contest. Two members of the audience were given three chances to sink a basket from half-court and win a gift certificate from the Manitoba Liquor Commission. The other audience member whose name was drawn? Former Premier Gary Filmon. He was a former basketball star himself and faithfully attended the U of M games to watch his sons play. So Dave and Gary stood side by side on the court. Neither sunk the required basket, however.

Kelvin Goertzen

It also just so happens that the recent interim premier Kelvin Goertzen was a former student of my husband’s.

Despite the fact they are currently involved in a court battle against each other, here Shelly Glover and Heather Stephenson seem quite friendly

I am four degrees of separation away from current premier Heather Stephenson. A family member once worked at a daycare where her political opponent Shelly Glover’s child was enrolled.

I am three degrees of separation away from Ed Schreyer who was the premier of Manitoba from 1979-1984. When I lived in Hong Kong I was a member of the Hong Kong Women in Publishing organization. It was a large group of women who were writers and journalists. We met every month for professional development sessions and socializing.

When I would tell people in our group I was from Manitoba they would often ask me if I knew Karmel Schreyer, our former premier’s daughter. She lived in Hong Kong, wrote books for children, was a journalist for the South China Morning Post, and had been an active member of their association. Many of the women I got to know at Hong Kong Women in Publishing meetings knew Karmel personally.

Photo of Susan Thompson by Nadine Kampen from the Susan Thompson website

I am two degrees of separation away from Greg Selinger who was our premier from 2009-2016. Both Greg and Susan Thompson ran for mayor of Winnipeg in 1992 and shared the stage for the major debate of that election. Susan is a volunteer at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and since I am employed there, she and I have sometimes chatted in the elevator as we go to our respective work stations.

Sterling Lyon

I am two degrees of separation away from Sterling Lyon who was the premier from 1977 to 1981. Bob Banman was a cabinet minister in the government of Sterling Lyon. Bob and his wife Joanne and I attended the same church in Steinbach as children. I knew Bob’s parents well and Dave and I have been good friends with Bob’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law for more than four decades.

I am sure if I looked hard enough and did enough research I could probably find ways I am connected to all the province’s former premiers. Do you have any premier connections?

Other posts………

Holding Joey Smallwood’s Hand

Why All These Old White Men?

Manitoba is Metis


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Filed under Politics

Empathy and Kindness Personified

Photo from the film’s Facebook Page.

Kímmapiiyipitssini The Meaning of Empathy is the name of a documentary film we saw last night that tells the story of the opioid crisis ravaging the Kainai First Nation in Alberta. The film was made by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers a young woman who comes from a Kainai community.

Kímmapiiyipitssini is the word for a Blackfoot teaching that says empathy and kindness are the keys to survival. And no one embodies that empathy and kindness more than Esther Tailfeathers who is a doctor on the Kainai First Nation. She is at the very heart of the film and will stop at nothing to help people deal with their deadly addictions. Her aim is to reduce harm to addicts in whatever way she can.

Esther listens to people tell their stories of addiction without any trace of judgment. She is literally empathy and kindness personified. Esther always remains encouraging and positive with her patients.

She collaborates with others in the community to train people to use naloxone kits. Naloxone is an antidote for fentanyl overdoses. Next, she introduces opioid replacement therapy despite the community’s resistance. Then Dr. Tailfeathers is instrumental in building a detox center that houses and supports a steady stream of addicts. In the film, we are given a window into the lives of some of these addicts who share their stories openly and honestly.

Image from the movie’s Facebook page.

I admired Esther Tailfeathers and the way she could connect with seniors living with the effects of their years at residential school, middle-aged folks who’d had traumatic experiences in foster homes as children, new mothers trying to kick their habit to get their babies back, and young men who had succumbed to peer pressure and started using drugs.

I admit that the in-depth look at the opioid epidemic in the film gave me a pretty bleak view of the chances for a healthy future for the Kainai First Nation but……. I was also left with a sliver of hope because with an amazing woman like Dr. Esther Tailfeathers as their champion a more positive outcome does seem possible for the Kainai.

Other posts……….

My Grandsons Teach Me About National Reconciliation Day

Acknowledgments are Important

Clean Water

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Filed under Canada, Health

What Gift?

Opening presents at my grandparents’ house in Drake Saskatchewan in the late 1950s

I’ve been browsing through the old newspaper columns I wrote in the 1990s. My mother used to cut all my columns out of the paper and save them in photo albums, so I have hundreds I eventually took out of those albums and stored in envelopes according to their topic.

I wrote this reflection in a 1994 column as I began Christmas shopping for gifts for my sons who were nine and sixteen at the time.

Mom reading to us. My sister and I are in dresses Mom sewed for Christmas. You can see the stockings are hung.

What Gift?

Someday our children may travel faster than the speed of light to destinations we can only dream of

They will no doubt, sail stormy seas that are completely foreign to us

As young people have for generations, they too will boldly venture across the boundaries so carefully established by their elders

They are sure to see things that are beyond our ability to imagine

What gift can we give them for such a journey?

For their trip to the unknown landscape of the future no toy or game will do

We must give them a gift of lasting value, a gift we have hopefully received on our own life’s journey

A gift that is the product of our deep sense of responsibility to them and our unwavering faith in them

That gift is an unconditional love they can never question

In time, everything will change for our children

But not the construction of their hearts. 

Other posts………

The Advent Books

God Rest the Children

Two Movies About Children Who Change Adults

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Filed under Childhood, Holidays