By Clyde Sanger
By tradition, an interview with a celebrity follows a pattern. The youngish reporter sits forward in a chair, slightly deferential and listening for the neat phrase to highlight. The celebrity runs through a string of vanities, and maybe lets slip a telling sentence. That’s the norm; and even the veteran Peter Mansbridge follows it in his “One-on-One” CBC series.
That was the pattern I learned on the Daily Mail’s team of “Tanfield’s Diary” in London in 1956. With Flora MacDonald, surely the most celebrated resident of the Glebe, it turned out to be quite different. Hilariously so.
For starters, Flora isn’t vain, and at 85 I’m hardly youngish; a couple of years behind her. One on one? I had gone to the Glebe Report to borrow a camera, and managed instead to borrow the paper’s fine photographer, Soo Hum. When I rang Flora’s Third Avenue apartment, she replied, “Come on up. I’ve a friend you should meet.”
The friend made it a foursome for the next hour, and Flora let him describe the work they had done together. Abdullah had worked with Flora from 2002 on Future Generations, a progressive non-government organization based in New York that helps deliver many community programs in troubled provinces in Afghanistan.
I had planned to restrict my talk with Flora to two stages of her life: her years of living in the Glebe, and her childhood. The latter, because all biographical notes about her start with working with John Diefenbaker in 1956, and I planned to pose the question, “Flora, did life for you begin at 30? What were you doing before then?”
Well, we got to that, but not before Abdullah led the way in a complicated story of driving with Flora from Kabul some 200 km northwest into Bamyan Province in Afghanistan, getting a flat tire and suddenly being surrounded by armed men. This was 2002 and Taliban country, where the world’s tallest Buddha statues had stared out of the rock until they were demolished by Taliban militants the year before.
Apparently it was Flora’s doing that they were caught – Abdullah had suggested flying, but Flora wanted to see the countryside – and she showed no fear as the armed men smashed the car windows. Luckily they were just robbers and departed with everyone’s cash. The local police were uninterested until someone mentioned Flora was a former Canadian foreign minister. The tale ends happily: their plan to organize Afghanistan’s first national park won everyone’s blessing and is now a fine refuge.
Soo Hum was busy taking close-up studies of Flora, who was producing her favourite keepsakes: a bluestone lump flecked with gold, a gorgeous Ghanaian statuette and a magnificent Chinese painting that Flora referred to vaguely as “The Whole of Life.” She was also moving us from chair to sofa to get better angles and light for close-ups. (He had come with only the lens he uses for flowers.)
She took it all in graceful steps, her eyes straying out the 11th floor window to the Rideau Canal and cyclists on the pathway. “I have the best view in Ottawa,” she said several times. “Look at those trees!” The cherry blossom was lovely but, while Flora was obediently jumping up to move for Hum on her good post-surgery knees, I had to be dragged up off sofas by Abdullah and Hum because I am still waiting for my surgery.
Of course, we had a rest stop in our hop-skip through Flora’s life, long enough to recall her absence from the 1979 budget vote that brought down Joe Clark’s government. “Many in the party would not speak to me for months,” she said, “and Diefenbaker was very angry. John Crosbie? He was always angry.” What about Ontario today? “There aren’t any Progressive Conservatives left.”
Finally I had my chance to pose the two questions. Born in North Sydney, Flora said, “We were Cape Bretoners, not Nova Scotians.” Her grandfather was captain of a schooner carrying cargo all round the world; and he took his whole family with him. Her eldest uncle Alec fought in the Boer War, but her father sailed with the schooners.
As for life in the Glebe, she does her main shopping “in the little stores.” Clothes at Escape, I suggested. Yes. And where does she get her hair done? She smiled and pointed heavenwards – but only to the 12th floor penthouse.
It was time to go, and for Hum to collect his daughter from school. He held his camera down discreetly while Flora and I kissed. “Why did you miss that one?” I asked him. So we kissed again. After all, Flora and I have had several African adventures together, in Zambia, Namibia and Nigeria. And I know Flora’s one weakness, which has to do with sleeping bags. But that’s another story.
Clyde Sanger, journalist, author and poet, is a longtime Glebe resident and Glebe Report contributor.
Dan Metcalfe pushes boundaries to make engaging art
By David Casey
Never satisfied with the status quo, pushing boundaries and doing things his way, Dan Metcalfe has blended his rebellious nature with portrait art, large-scale public murals and a successful career as a graphic artist. As a youth growing up on Powell, Dan was always drawing; inspired by comic books, he drew heroes and villains, and later refined his skills by drawing portraits of people.
An education in advertising and a Bachelor of Design, combined with his love of art and his downtown upbringing, helped form the artist and graphic designer that he is today. Having friends in both the artistic and hip-hop communities, he was able to seamlessly blend his skills. He designed vibrant and off-the-wall posters to promote friends’ concerts, which in turn increased his exposure. Metcalfe hasn’t kept track, but figures that he has produced at least 80 posters in the last few years.
Because his posters were plastered along Bank, Elgin and other hot spots, he was asked to fill in as a last minute replacement for an art show at Oz Café in 2011. This was his first show as a painter. Metcalfe’s oeuvre was a mélange of styles, colourful experiments and highly detailed, lifelike portraits: naturally, it was a success, and he hasn’t looked back! A recent exhibit of striking portraits at the Manx Pub paid for his honeymoon and was featured on CTV’s Regional Contact.
While Metcalfe has enjoyed the success of his restaurant and lounge shows as a portrait artist, it is his murals that have been getting a lot of attention. As a teenager, Metcalfe began spray painting, indulging his rebellious side by tagging alleyways and buildings. These illicit activities opened up a new world of artistic possibility, as he refined his ability with spray paint and learned how to manage the daunting size and scale of mural painting. Metcalfe was eventually caught painting an unauthorized piece and was required to do community service: paint a large-scale mural about family and community in Westboro. The completed project was so well received that Christine Leadman, then head of the Westboro BIA, helped Metcalfe get his first mural commission: the artwork that adorns a wall of Segue restaurant (previously Fratelli’s on Bank St.).
Since then, Metcalfe’s artistic career has blossomed. He has produced large-scale murals for Delilah and Davidson’s Jewellers and the LCBO at Powell, and he has collaborated with colleague Pat Buck on Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s and Octopus Books. One reward of painting murals legally is that he is able to do it with good lighting!
Metcalfe loves the Glebe community, the friendly neighbours, beautiful parks and streetscapes as well as the amenities of adjacent neighbourhoods like Centretown and Little Italy. He and his wife Mandy have made a home in an apartment on Cambridge overlooking Dow’s Lake in the Glebe Annex.
An eclectic mix of art adorns their walls. The evolution of Metcalfe’s art is represented in various rooms; his pieces sit comfortably beside an elegantly framed Monet reproduction, art from local artists and a map depicting the history of the North West Mounted Police. The artwork ranges from landscapes to graffiti, from poster art to an inquisitive squirrel painted on a wood inlay background by an artist who grew up on Adelaide. Most of the furniture was expertly purchased over the years at the Great Glebe Garage Sale and a stately antique sewing machine from Metcalfe’s grandmother anchors the living room.
In a bedroom, canvasses are neatly stacked in one corner and paint supplies cover nearly every surface. Because of Metcalfe’s career as a graphic artist, he needed to draw or paint whatever his clients requested. As a result, he isn’t attached to any given style and is able to paint whatever he wants as the mood strikes. There are canvasses of all shapes, sizes and subjects in various states of completion. A large canvas sits on an easel in the middle of the room, below the ceiling light – a quirky image of a man in a tailored suit, cigarette alight, with an ape’s head.
While continuing as graphic designer for Gongshow Gear, Metcalfe hopes to hold art shows and paint murals in other cities. Rooted downtown, he will support his fellow artists, be they musicians or visual artists, while he pursues his brand of engaging art in our community.
David Casey, Glebe resident, writes regularly for the Glebe Report on local artists and their creative spaces.
Ruth Secunda celebrates 40 years as an artist
Ruth Secunda, an artist who started her career in the Glebe in the 1970s, recently held an exhibition at the Avalon Studio marking her 40 years as an artist. Here are excerpts from her presentation, “I’m still here.”
Beginnings in Ottawa
When I moved to Ottawa at 11 years old, I studied jazz dance at the Arlene and Bill Dick Dance Studio on Rideau Street. I joined the majorette corps in high school and learned to twirl a baton. And here’s a secret: it was 1968, the year Ottawa beat Calgary in the Grey Cup, the year I was a Rough Rider majorette. There, I’ve said it.
Sisal and jute
In 1971, I went to Israel to learn Hebrew and live on a Kibbutz. One day, a girl showed me how to tie knots. She told me it was macramé, an ancient and mystical art form that launched my creative journey. The summer I returned to Ottawa, I made a sculpture for a friend – thick sisal and jute that twisted and turned into something unique. This was a turning point for me. I wanted to take my chances in the world of artistic expression.
A group of us started the Bytown Artisans Guild and organized craft shows on the terrace of the new National Arts Centre. I made necklaces out of tiny embroidery threads and sold them for $2.50. I made things called plant hangers that hung from the ceiling – no one knew what they were.
In 1973, I joined one of Canada’s first craft co-operatives, 54 ½ George. We became known in the Ottawa arts community for establishing a renaissance of the arts and crafts movement. My fibre career began with an exhibition called “Form and Fibre” in November 1974. It was at The S.A.W. Gallery when it was called Sussex Annex Works and it was above Le Hibou Coffee House on Sussex Drive. I made three-dimensional sculptures of fibre that you could go inside. One time, I decided to have an exhibition at my house on Second Avenue. This had never been done before in Ottawa. On that weekend, 200 people came to “Fertility and Rebirth.”
We met in October on a train to New York City in 1981. I was going to a friend’s loft party in Soho, where we were to dress as a Beatles song. The young man sitting beside me on the train thought I was fascinating! We spent 2 days together exploring New York City and three months later, I moved to Montreal. They were crazy times… outdoor cafes; dancing in the clubs; music in the streets; drumming on Mont Royal. In Montreal, I sold at street festivals, craft shows… anything to survive. It was a time of fiery politics and powerful energy. I marched to “Take Back the Night”; I marched for peace wearing a rainbow mask.
I became a member of a feminist co-operative gallery called Powerhouse. One night, into the gallery walked Leonard Cohen. He was in his 50s and with a young beauty. At the end of the evening, I got a huge cramp in my leg and stopped in the middle of the floor, unable to walk. Leonard Cohen leaped up, slid across the floor on his knees, and began to vigorously rub my leg. Hallelujah, Leonard.
In 1986, I was at the Banff School of Fine Arts, where I wrote and performed my next one-woman show, “But Only From the Waist Up.” While at Banff, wonderful locals convinced me to stay. For the next 8 years, I hand painted T-shirts for a living, and got a reputation as a “Banff artist,” painting images of nature on canvas and exhibiting my work throughout the Bow Valley. I helped start the Banff Arts and Cultural Alliance and organize a yearly children’s exhibition called “Art Venture.” I held a major exhibition at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies called “So, When Are You Coming Home?”
I also worked with children and women, teaching classes and workshops. I volunteered with the Bow Valley Literacy Program, and was involved with festivals that came to the beautiful mountain town. In 2001, I was rewarded for my volunteer work with the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award given to me by Adrienne Clarkson. That made me feel very proud!
Return to Ottawa
Dad called when he was 90 years old and asked me to return to Ottawa. Since I’ve been back, I have volunteered with the Ottawa Arts Council and the Museum of Nature, and I am working with a literacy group, People, Words and Change. I also teach art to children.
Here I am, 12 years later, celebrating 40 years as an artist. I still feel young and motivated, and I follow my heart and vision. I am grateful for a long and interesting career and, yes, I am still here!
Eight-year-old Noémie thinks big! Happy Hearts Fashion Show and Silent Auction
By Nicola Young
When I arrive at Marbleslab Creamery on a late August evening to meet with 8-year-old Noémie Pound, she has already ordered. White chocolate ice cream with cookie dough and brownie bits in what has to be the biggest waffle cone available. It looks like a lot for her to handle but I’ll soon learn that it is Noémie Pound’s nature to think big, aim high and always follow through. (Spoiler alert: she ate the whole thing.)
At the time of our meeting, there is just over a month left until the big day. Not the day when the first book report is due or the day when long division is introduced. On this big day, $10,000 dollars will be raised for CHEO and the CHEO Research Institute, all because of Noémie Pound. October 3 marks the unveiling of a vision that’s been months in the making, the Happy Hearts Fashion Show and Silent Auction at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. She had been in a fashion show before with local agency, Angie’s Models and Talent, and while that was fun, Noémie wanted more. Instead of just walking the runway she wanted to run the runway – and so began Happy Hearts.
The idea came about in early spring, when Noémie and her friend Victoria threw together an impromptu fashion show one afternoon for a handful of neighbours. They made $22 and strangely enough, didn’t spend it on candy. Another day they raised $14 dollars in under an hour telling jokes and doing magic tricks. Upon donating the money to CHEO, Noémie was given a tour of the CHEO Research Institute, which inspired a new goal: $10,000. As Noémie puts it, “It just seemed like a good number.”
Although her mother Catherine is always close behind, it is Noémie who has approached local businesses to dress up her friends for the fashion show and donate goods for the silent auction. According to mom Catherine, “We have a lot of Glebe donors so far: BGGO, Brio, Fab Baby Gear, Joe Mamma, Kunstadt, Magpie, Mrs Tiggy Winkle’s, The Papery, Starbucks, Truffle Treasures, and Urban Pear.” Noémie just strolls right in and asks to speak with the boss like it’s no big deal. With a twinkle in her eye, a winning smile and an ice-cream free handshake to boot, it’s no surprise that so many have jumped on board to donate their time, expertise and products.
Local radio personality Heather Ray will MC the event. MediaStyle has helped with marketing (they collaborated with Noémie on the logo design) and Allegra on Carling Avenue has covered the promotional materials. Party Time Rentals is providing the stage and runway and Quality Entertainment, the DJ. At least ten different brands will be dressing the young models and the silent auction is going to be off the charts.
Noémie cites skiing as one of her favourite hobbies so naturally she went after Kunstadt, which has become Happy Hearts’ biggest sponsor. She is also pushing for a certain trio of Canadian Olympic ski-star sisters to attend as guests of honour. “They’re my first choice”, she offers, optimistically. And there will be cookies. We can’t forget the cookies. Noémie is proud to announce that Le Moulin de Province (“They did the Obama cookies!”) has agreed to produce the signature cookie of the evening. And pourquoi pas? When I ask if she’s ever doubted she could pull the whole thing off, I feel foolish. It seems that for Noémie, success is the only option. “When I want to do something, I don’t stop until I finish it.”
At this point, I start to wonder if Noémie Pound is from another planet, or at very least, a grown-up in disguise. My suspicions are put to rest when I find out she’s a big fan of Frozen and that the DJ definitely has to play “Let it Go”. She also has a bunk bed with a slide, a bunny rabbit named Black Beauty (“She’s black.”) and an annoying little brother, Alex (“He’s not in the fashion show”).
As we part ways, I ask Noémie what she wants to be when she grows up. After offering about 28 different options in as many seconds, she tells me her top choices are veterinarian, pediatrician, and farmer. “Oh! And Prime Minister.” Sounds about right.
Nicola Jane Young is a Glebe resident who loves to meet cool kids with a cause.
Happy Hearts Fashion Show and Silent Auction
Canadian Aviation and Space Museum
Friday, October 3, 6:30 – 9 p.m.
$20 for adults, $10 for kids under 12, and free for kids under 5
To buy tickets: goo.gl/21Nfkf
For more information, search Happy Hearts at eventbrite.ca, or go to goo.gl/MofGes