Wednesday, November 30, 2016

MY Brantford! My Little Town Part 3

 Nothing but the arts and theatre back in my little town! (Sorry, Paul.)

Brantford is a surprisingly busy hub of cultural activity. Perhaps part of the reason for this is that we  have a rich history provided by creative, courageous and determined people.

Chief Joseph Brant
Later, I'll do a blog on that history, including Joseph Brant and the Six Nations, because that topic deserves a whole piece. However, I'll mention here a couple of the cultural centres the Six Nations provides right next door.

Brantford was named after Chief Joseph Brant, who forded The Grand River along its banks and created a village.

In the 1800's and 1900's, Brantford was a manufacturing centre, home to such international companies as Brantford Cordage, Cockshutt Plows and Massey-Harris (Ferguson) farm equipment. That second to last name is a seque into my blog on culture.

Lawren Harris

Artist Lawren Harris was born in Brantford! One of my favourites of the Group of Seven artists, I had no idea he was born here to the famous Harris lineage. 

Speaking of art, Vince and I have been to the Glenhyrst Art Gallery many times, often showing it off to friends. The beautiful home and gardens belonged to Ernest Cockshutt. He bequeathed it to the city for residents to enjoy in perpetuity. Now the house boasts an art gallery, a tea house, a sculpture-filled garden, and a gathering place for local artists and lessons for beginners. Wandering through the property costs nothing; donations only. At holiday time, the entire garden is lit up with lights in various forms.

Thanks to another philanthropic family, we have a stunning theatre, The Sanderson Centre.  It was originally a vaudeville and silent movie house. Now it's an architectural beauty, with great facilities and sound. We've attended quite a few performances there (including Robert Bateman and Burton Cummings) and plan to do more in the future.

The satellite campus of Wilfrid Laurier University (Vince graduated from WLU!) has added a great deal to downtown Brantford. Not only that, but they have public lectures, which Vince and I have attended. Recently we got to see Senator Murray Sinclair on stage, speaking about aboriginal issues. Brilliant!

Emily Pauline Johnson's  (Tekahionwake) homestead is next door! As I write this, she is one of the five finalists to appear on a Canadian bill. I voted for her. For a perspective on why she should win that matches my own, go here: Toronto Star. My granddaughter and I toured the home at Chiefswood National Historic Site, which is when my admiration for Johnson took root.

Chiefswood is also the site of the magnificent Grand River Pow-wow, which everyone should attend at least once. We are always thrilled and awed by its majesty.  The first time Vince and I went, I was researching for a scene that appears in Sweet Karoline.

 The Woodland Cultural Centre has deepened my understanding of First Nation issues. There is an incredible amount of information and learning displayed in sometimes shocking reality, yet designed for young and old to be educated.

The Mohawk Residential School stands on the same property, a  haunting testament to a shameful time. I used this site in a short story contained in Thirteen.

I've felt at home since I arrived in Brantford. Perhaps because I spent quite a bit of time here in the past, with my children, particularly in nearby Burford/Mount Vernon, where the Henderson family had a farm.  My children's heritage is fascinating.

This is a picture of my daughter and son on their Grandpa's knee at the farm. Richard Henderson's great-uncle Cyrus owned the property.

 A picture from the Expositor, an article on honouring Cyrus for his commitment to the community through the rod and gun club. Richard is there on the left, as is Cy's sister Maggie. Later, they named the street Henderson Road. Cyrus and his siblings and parents are all buried in Burford.

The Brantford Library is a wonderful facility, especially the downtown branch. All kinds of cultural events occur here and are sponsored and supported by the library staff. Even I have been a guest speaker AND - they carry my books!

Of course I can't cover everything in one short blog, but I have highlighted the (so far) most meaningful cultural experiences for me, back in my little town.
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