The Fabric of a Community: a tribute to Bev Morton

June 6th would have been Bev Morton’s 74th birthday.  In her honour an opening reception was held to celebrate her art at The Studio of La Maison on Provencher Boulevard. Aptly titled, “The Fabric of a Community,” the tribute highlighted her contributions to the local art scene.  Her death in November, 2021,  left a gap in many lives but her friends and her generous financial contribution to the Manitoba Arts community ensure that she won’t be forgotten.

Bev's sister, Sandra Weizman

Fabric art by Bev Morton

I continue to nurture her partner’s real-life geraniums, featured here in this piece of fabric art.  Never mind that Bev was a ferocious Scrabble player, I was in awe of her tenacity and vision. Even as she lay dying, she was planning the next art show.  And now, her sister, Sandra Weizman, has made it happen. 
Inspiration from

It’s a wonderful testament to the power of art, of memory, of community and to sisterly love. 

While the Wayne Arthur Gallery is no more, its spirit lingers on. The show continues at La Maison’s The Studio until June 22nd.  (From The Forks, it’s a short walk via the Esplanade Riel Footbridge.)

La Maison, 219 Provencher Blvd.

D Day for Germans

 D-Day. 80 years since Juno Beach near Normandy became famous. Canada lost 381 men on the first day of the invasion … a battle that lasted 77 days with many more lives lost. 

1944. My dad in a hurry to nowhere.
My parents didn’t immigrate to Canada until 1953, didn’t meet each other until 1951. So where were they in June, 1944?  My mom would have been working in an artillery factory in Stablach, East Prussia … present-day Stablawki in the Kaliningrad Oblast. She lived in the barracks, next door to a prisoner of war camp known as Stalag. As a civilian, I assume she had time to enjoy the beautiful June weather during her breaks. Maybe she went on a bike ride and picked some linden blossoms. East Prussia has beautiful linden, beech and chestnut trees. 

And where was my dad, the Luftwaffe pilot in 1944? As a crash survivor, he would have been in Poland's Stubendorf (Izbicko) and Posen (now Poznań) training new pilots in a “Blindflugschule.” Which means, training pilots to fly via instrument panels, not visuals.  My dad would have still been with his first wife, who got pregnant that summer with their second son. Maybe he had some spare time to play with his older boy. He’d always been good with kids. 

However, with the arrival of the D-Day troops on Juno Beach, that would be the last beautiful June for my parents. By June of the following year, the European war was over. The D-Day assault had been the beginning of the end for,the Nazis. Within a year, both my parents would be in Soviet custody. D-Day marked the end.

Would the Germans of June, 1944 be aware of the change coming at them? Certainly, the average German family had been affected by the true cost of war ever since the Stalingrad winter of 1941/42. But was the Nazi propaganda machine, run by Goebbels, still masking the inevitable doom that was in store?  Without a doubt.

I haven’t been to Normandy, but I’ve visited nearby Calais and sleepy little Fécamp. It’s hard to imagine fishing villages turned into slaughtering grounds. Why can’t sleepy villages be left to sleep?

June 6th … D-Day in Canada … a very different day for Germany. Of course, modern Germany is not the Third Reich and the men and women who experienced the Second World War are mostly gone. We have new wars grabbing headlines, new young men being called up to fight, new fronts being created.  It’s ironic that Germany’s leader, Olaf Scholz, stands with the Allies at these remembrance ceremonies, with Russia now the aggressor state. What will the next generation be commemorating 80 years from now?  

sunset vs sunrise

A friend invited me out to Victoria Beach the other day where she'd been granted an art retreat. Driven by curiousity, I jumped at the opportunity to enter through the gates into this restricted and historical beach resort. Victoria Beach, on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, has had a reputation of being unfriendly to immigrants. 

Until the 1950s, cottages throughout Manitoba were accessed by trains. One track ran up the east side of Lake Winnipeg serving Grand Beach and Victoria Beach (along with smaller resorts) and the other track went north along the west side, serving Winnipeg Beach and Gimli areas. The different routes also meant that sun-seekers didn’t have to mingle with other races, ethnicities or classes. 

East side of Lake Winnipeg at Victoria Beach

To have a cottage at Victoria Beach meant you were a ‘civilized’ person who was escaping into nature because you had earned it … you were successful. It also meant you were probably British. You were definitely not Jewish or East European. East beach people got to walk sandy beaches and watch sunsets.

Meanwhile, the rest of us … the immigrants, the poor, and the dis-inherited … established beach communities on the west side of Lake Winnipeg. Here, we got to watch sunrises and collect stones on the rockier shoreline.  The really well-healed holiday-ers headed out straight east to Lake of the Woods, a lake offering up islands for total privacy. Again, a different train route. 

Nowadays, of course, cottage communities don’t depend on trains. A network of highways created access to many summer resorts throughout our well-laked province. Even campers like me have access to beautiful beaches. 

My parents, 1950s' immigrants, could never own a Victoria Beach cottage but that didn’t stop them from dreaming of a west side cottage.  My dad helped build enough of them in his early years here in Canada but it wasn’t until I was in high school that his own cottage finally became a reality on Valhalla Beach. 

My dad (left) at a cottage construction site, 1950s

Nearby Gimli had a thriving community of Icelanders, Winnipeg Beach welcomed Jews, and Ukrainian and Russian settlers built up other spots on the west shoreline.  Yes, the east side still has better sand and idyllic sunsets. It still holds on to a nostalgic past that still charms its privileged vacationers by keeping out the public. 

But the west side has great rocks, good fishing and ordinary people. The sunrises are amazing and promise a future that assumes equality amongst all ethnicities. 

West side of Lake Winnipeg near Gimli

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The Fabric of a Community: a tribute to Bev Morton

June 6th would have been Bev Morton’s 74th birthday.  In her honour an opening reception was held to celebrate her art at The Studio of La M...