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1. Insect identification
Yvette d’Entremont has this fun story about Jessica Lewis of Dartmouth who is leading a bug identification courses for girls and youth in urban areas. Lewis was one of 10 young people from across Canada who was awarded a $1,000 Young Nature Leader grant from Nature Canada. d’Entremont and Lewis went out to Shubie Park this week to check out some bugs in the park. d’Entremont writes:
Although always fascinated by bugs, the Dartmouth resident told the Halifax Examiner that as a teenager, she found herself stepping away from her passion.
“When I was younger, I found that a lot of the time if I showed interest in bugs, people would be like, ‘Eww gross. Don’t pick up the spider’ or the millipede, or whatever,” Lewis said.
“So. I kind of lost that in my teenage years before starting to really get into it again. The (project) idea is getting specifically young girls, but also just youth in general, out there and getting them to have an interest in insects. I want to show them that they’re not creepy or gross, or scary.”
When I contacted Lewis earlier this month, she asked to hold off on meeting until she had one youth session under her belt. We agreed to get together on Tuesday for a chat and nature walk at Shubie Park.
Sitting at a picnic table in front of the Fairbanks Centre, we’d barely begun our conversation when an insect landed on my camera. Lewis’s eyes immediately lit up as her attention went from my face to the camera in front of me as she leaned in closer for inspection.
“Ohh, it’s a flying ant. Cool,” she said before launching into a conversation about ants.
I’d go on one of these courses myself.
2. NSCAD asks Adsum for help finding housing for students
Nicola Seguin at CBC speaks with Sheri Lecker, executive director at Adsum for Women and Children, about the request she received from NSCAD asking for help to find housing for students this fall.
“I was surprised because first of all, it’s not what we do. It’s not why we exist,” Lecker said in an interview Wednesday. “Even if somehow someone would have the time to offer some kind of support, housing doesn’t materialize overnight.”
Adsum, which operates two emergency shelters and supportive housing in Halifax Regional Municipality, has not responded to the request by the art and design school NSCAD University.
The unprecedented request comes as students are set to return this fall to the campuses of several universities in the city, which has some of the lowest apartment vacancy rates in Canada and quickly escalating rents.
A spokesperson for NSCAD told CBC News the university requested help from several community organizations.
“We asked these community organizations for advice, information or resources that might help our students secure housing in Halifax,” said spokesperson Andy Murdoch. “We have been consulting with property management companies, hotels, other universities, as well as our alumni.”
NSCAD does not own or operate residences, and usually relies on off-campus housing or other universities’ residences, both of which are “increasingly more challenging to secure,” Murdoch said.
Murdoch wouldn’t say how many students are currently in need of housing, or if any alternative living arrangements have been secured.
Seguin also spoke with Eric Weissman, an associate professor at the University of New Brunswick, who’s researched the issue of post-secondary student homelessness since 2016, and says the situation is “urgent.”
The preliminary findings show between four and six per cent of post-secondary students are insecurely housed, including those who are couch-surfing, living in cars or staying in an abusive home because they have nowhere else to go. This amounts to around 110,000 students across the country, Weissman said.
“That interferes not just with their mental health, but their ability to succeed as students. So this is a major issue, it’s an existential issue for students, and it’s also a major threat to the education system itself,” Weissman said.
On Wednesday, we published a piece from Lecker who wrote that the solutions to homelessness is more affordable housing, not the band-aids we’ve been getting.
“The federal government says it will purchase a ferry for the route between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island,” reports The Canadian Press.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement in Charlottetown, adding that the government will build two new ferries for that route before 2028.
Trudeau says the federal government will purchase the MV Fanafjord to replace the MV Holiday Island, which caught fire last summer and was removed from service.
Transportation Minister Pablo Rodriguez says the price of the new ferry is still being negotiated.
The route between the two provinces is operated by Northumberland Ferries.
Ottawa says the new vessel is expected to enter service by May 2024 and will help Northumberland Ferries safely and efficiently serve communities on the East Coast.
“A pilot project in Antigonish County is offering free transportation to recreational sites and outdoor activities to encourage residents to be more physically active,” reports CBC Nova Scotia.
The project, which is running until the end of August, is designed to reduce barriers — like lack of transportation — to physical activity.
Laurie Boucher, the mayor of the Town of Antigonish, said people can use the service to visit beaches, sports fields, recreation centres and other locations in the county.
“If people are wanting to get out to the beach or take part in a program in town, but can’t get a drive back home, they can dial-a-ride and the community transit will provide that transportation for them,” Boucher told CBC Radio’s Mainstreet Halifax on Tuesday.
Boucher said the project is offered in conjunction with the municipality, the province and local transit service.
To get a ride to or from a site, people can call the community transit’s dial-a-ride program. Trips must be booked two days in advance.
The service is available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
This project reminds me of the discussion that comes up every summer about the lack of transportation to beaches in HRM, and which I wrote about three years ago.
5. SOOFSTOCK musical festival
Save Our Old Forests is hosting the SOOFSTOCK musical festival on Friday, Aug. 25 and Saturday, Aug. 26 at the West Dalhousie Community Hall in Annapolis County. From a media release:
The lineup of bands includes Hear on Earth, Cuckoo Moon, The Strange Valentines, Taproom Growlers, Greg McOrmond, Res-O-Matics, Infinity and more.
Special guests Bob Bancroft and Donna Crossland will lead a forest walk in the nearby proposed Goldsmith Lake Wilderness Area on Saturday morning, host a casual conversation about forests and wildlife in the afternoon then end the evening’s music by doing the 50/50 draw. Local MLA Carman Kerr will try his hand at MCing along with local luminaries Larry Powell and Sindy Schofield.
With plenty of room to camp, local vendors, yummy food, a kids corner and more, SOOFSTOCK promises fun in a good cause. Proceeds will go to the Save Our Old Forests campaign.
Tickets are $30 for Friday, $40 for Saturday, or $60 for the whole Weekend. Youth 16 and under are free. For more information and to buy tickets, go to arlingtonforestprotection.ca and click on the Upcoming Events page. Or just search SOOFSTOCK.
Restoring the walls at the Little Dutch Church and the importance of gathering places
In February, I wrote this story about the restoration work on the stone wall around the Little Dutch Church at the corner of Brunswick and Gerrish streets. At that time, I spoke with Jacqueline de Mestral, the property chair with Saint George’s Round Church, whose parish includes the Little Dutch Church, and who was leading the fundraising efforts to get the wall restored. The church was consecrated in 1761 and the wall was likely built not much longer after that.
Last week, de Mestral messaged me to say the second part of the wall along Gerrish Street was being restored now and that work is expected to wrap up next month. That will finish off a project that got its start about five years ago. So, on Monday I stopped by to chat with de Mestral, check out the work on the wall, and meet some of the folks involved with the project.
De Mestral said she’s “delighted” this phase is underway and that the entire project will soon be complete. Over the next few weeks, stonemasons will add horizontal and vertical coping stones to the wall. Previously, there was a layer of concrete added to the top of the walls and then vertical coping stones were on top of that. The layer of concrete wasn’t original to the wall, but rather added decades later. That concrete also caused the wall to move and bow in some places. But the coping stones have a practical purpose, too.
“It will add height as well as security. Height is important when you go on the inside [of the wall] there is so much height of the wall above the graves, so if people are walking next to the edge they could easily fall over. Adding height is necessary,” de Mestral said.
Dry Stone Canada is doing the restoration work on the wall, collecting data on the inside and outside of the wall, seeing how it’s put together, and then rebuilding it. Mike Sanders, a senior archaeologist with CRM Group, is on site in case any bones or bone fragments are found when the crew of nine is dismantling the wall. So far, no bones have been found.
John Scott is a master stonemason with Dry Stone Canada and said this is the oldest wall project he’s worked on.
Most of these walls were built by farmers for farmers or a wealthier farmer would hire someone from Ireland, England to build these perimeter walls. What’s unique about this one is that it’s 100 years older than Loyalist walls, which is what we’re used to in Ontario. And this was also likely built by Germans, which is unique because in Ontario and anywhere in Upper Canada or Lower Canada, they might be built by the French, or British, or Scottish, Irish.
It was built by the people who came on those boats, built this church, built this cemetery, and are in this cemetery, and they built the walls. It’s just this package of history. It’s super interesting and really fun to research.
Susann Myers is a conservation architect who’s been working with the parish on the project since the beginning. She said this is one of the few remaining dry stone walls from the colonial period. A similar wall was once around The Old Burying Ground, but that was long ago dismantled:
They weren’t that uncommon initially when people were clearing sites and digging foundations and so on. There was a lot of this type of iron stone available and it was being quarried quite early in the Purcell’s Cove area, as well. But over time, those walls were replaced with more moderns types of wall … This is a rare surviving example and we’re really, really happy it’s still here and happy to have this opportunity to learn about these early walls, about how it was built, the type of stone, and so many things.
As I was leaving the interview, de Mestral and I met up with Syd Dumaresq and Erin Haliburton, the two architects who’ve been part of the wall restoration project since day one. Dumaresq said the project is unique because dry stone is a “different animal” than working with mortar, which is how many walls are made.
“It takes special techniques. Without mortar to hold the wall up, you have to rely on gravity and the way you lay the stones,” Dumaresq said. “It’s wonderful to watch the techniques and the masons who came down from Ontario to do it. They’re really special people and they’re doing a fabulous job.”
Haliburton, meanwhile, appreciated the restored wall’s cleaner, straight lines, as well as its history.
“It’s such a historic project being more than 200 years old,” Haliburton added. “It’s really cool to work on.”
De Mestral told me that the parish will likely have a get together to celebrate the completion of the wall next month.
Back in February, when I first wrote about the wall at the church, de Mestral mentioned that there are summer services at the Little Dutch Church. I told her at the time that I would like to attend one, so I finally did last weekend.
I didn’t know what to expect, but showed up just before 5pm on Sunday. I was the only person there, until another person showed up several minutes after the service started. Nick, the priest in training, gave me a rundown of how the service went. I’d have to participate and say some of the lines from the prayer book. I grew up attending mass at a Catholic Church and so some of the prayers were very familiar. A few people peered into the church’s windows as they walked past. The service lasted for about half an hour and a lightning bolt didn’t come down from the heavens to strike me dead. It was actually all quite lovely. I was thinking about my ancestors, who were among the Foreign Protestants who came to the city in the early 1750s, who may have attended this church and maybe had a hand in building it and its walls. I’m here because they decided to come here.
What I have noticed about much of our local history is that it’s been preserved and shared by volunteers. De Mestral herself has spent countless hours over the past five years working to get funds to pay for the reconstruction of the walls around the Little Dutch Church and told me how rewarding the project has been personally for her. Every community has its members who preserve its historic buildings, documents, stories, and traditions. I don’t think they get enough credit for the work they do.
Secondly, the church got me thinking about the importance of third places in our communities. I wrote about this before about community halls in rural Nova Scotia. Online spaces such as Twitter, Facebook, and others are third places in their own right. Certainly, marginalized communities have found a place online to share their voices. But as Tim Bousquet pointed out yesterday, those spaces are quickly eroding and posing a larger threat to democracy.
But for some people, being online is not the same as meeting in person. I work from home, but am finding it’s not good for me in many ways, so I find myself needing to get out more. I’m doing more in-person interviews, for example. We need both strong online and in-community spaces for people to connect. Maybe it’s church for some, community halls for others, and online for more. And I worry we are losing these in-person places just as we’re losing online safe spaces, too.
See what happens when I go to church? I just think more than ever.
Maud Lewis and John Risley
Next month, John Risley will be part of a panel at the Lunenburg Lit Festival talking about Maud Lewis. Risley is a collector of Lewis’ work; he has more than 200 of her paintings in his personal collection.
I saw some folks online who were very upset with Risley being part of this panel and who said there are many other folks who are better suited to speak on this panel about Lewis’ work. I emailed the festival about this and Christine Pottie at the South Shore Public Library told me they wanted a collector of Lewis’ work to be part of the panel. “Mr. Risley came to mind right away. We approached him through a local library champion and he agreed,” Pottie said in an email.
I don’t want to discourage people from attending the festival; it certainly has a fabulous lineup of literary talent and we should be supporting this talent.
But I think Risley’s presence is an example of what I wrote about back in April about what Maud Lewis’ life can teach us about how to appreciate and compensate artists of today. Here’s what I wrote then:
It’s not that we don’t like art, music, theatre, or anything else creative. It’s just that we don’t always want to pay a lot money for these things directly to the people. So many creatives are expected to do their work for next to nothing or “exposure.” Many work other jobs so they can keep doing the creative work they love on the side.
Many of these folks’ livelihoods took a huge hit when the COVID pandemic shut everything down. When COVID restrictions started lifting, I remember reading about what people missed when they were stuck at home all the time. That often including going out to listen to live music, seeing a play at the theatre, going to art galleries etc. Art, music, and all of it makes our lives more fun, interesting, and beautiful, yet we don’t appreciate or compensate the people who create (the same goes with the people who take care of our children).
For that piece, I also spoke with Laura Kenney, an artist who creates colourful and whimsical hooked rugs inspired by Maritime scenes and even Lewis’ work (that’s Kenney’s work in the photo above). Kenney would certainly be a good fit for a panel on how Lewis inspired her own work and continues to inspire other artists today.
In that story, Kenney shared with me all the ways in which we can support artists now, including with a basic income, more direct funding to artists and not to administration, and a new art gallery.
But now, a very wealthy man owns a huge collection of the work of a woman who lived her life in poverty and who should have financially benefitted from the value and love of her work when she was alive.
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda
In the harbour
07:00: Zuiderdam, cruise ship with up to 2,364 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from St. John’s, on a 35-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston
09:30: Maersk Kaya, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
09:30: Acadian, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Irving Oil
10:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 40 from Saint-Pierre
17:30: John J. Carrick, barge, and Leo A. McArthur, tug, arrive at Cherubini Dock from Montreal
17:40: ALP Sweeper, anchor hauling vessel, arrives at Berth TBD from Providence, Rhode Island
19:30: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Sydney
22:30: Zuiderdam sails for Boston
06:15: Carnival Legend, cruise ship with up to 2,549 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Corner Brook, on a 14-day roundtrip cruise out of Baltimore
13:00: Pyxis Karteria, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from Portland
16:00: Carnival Legend sails for Baltimore
Last week, I stopped into the filming of Disrupt, a TV show on Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) that shares the stories of Canadian artists with disabilities. I wrote about the first season of the show back in April (you can read that here). Season 2 will air on AMI starting Oct. 23. Twenty-four artists will be featured during the season. Also, eight of the 16 crew members have disabilities.
Thank you to Lynn Matheson, who is a co-writer for the show, for the invitation and to all the crew for letting me watch the filming for a bit.