EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Friday, September 19, 2014

Armand Ruffo writes rich biography on Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird

Armand Ruffo's latest book Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird is described as an "innovative and rich biography" of a troubled person who by the end of his life  was considered by some as Canada's greatest painter.

Armand, who was born in Chapleau, and graduated from Chapleau High School, "drawing upon years of extensive research, including interviews with Morrisseau himself, evokes the artist’s life from childhood to death, in all its vivid triumphs and tragedies: his first solo and breakthrough exhibition at the Pollock Gallery in Toronto; his legendary “Garden Party” where he and his agent Jack Pollock flew a coterie of critics and patrons from Toronto to remote Beardmore for an afternoon tea party."

In information about his new book in an email, Armand explained that "Norval Morrisseau (1932–2007), Ojibway shaman-artist, drew his first sketches at age six in the sand on the shores of Lake Nipigon, and his first paintings were in cheap watercolour on birch bark and moose hide.

"By the end of his tumultuous life, the prolific self-taught artist was sought by collectors, imitated by forgers and received the Order of Canada among other accolades. Critics, art historians and curators alike consider him one of the most innovative artists of the twentieth century and arguably Canada’s greatest painter.

"Morrisseau was a controversial figure too, eliciting everything from resentment to outright condemnation. Living on booze, flat broke and exhausted, he often traded art for a drink to the frustration of his agents. Despite immense talent and success, his alcoholism plunged his wife and children into poverty and he spent years bouncing between skid row and jail."

"Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird is an innovative and rich biography of this charismatic and troubled figure." 

Armand also writes about Morrisseau’s heart-wrenching battle with alcoholism, then Parkinson’s disease, and exultant “Shaman’s Return” to national status in the Canadian art scene and his solo show at The National Gallery of Canada.

Armand  draws upon his own Ojibway heritage and experiences to provide insight into Morrisseau’s life and iconography from an Ojibway perspective. Captivating and readable, this is a brilliantly creative evocation of the art and life of Norval Morrisseau, a life indelibly tied to art. Armand is also a member of Chapleau Cree First Nation.

Here is some additional information on Armand. He is the author of three books of poetry, Opening In the Sky (Theytus Books, 1994), Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archie Belaney (Coteau Books, 1997) and At Geronimo’s Grave (Coteau Books, 2001).

He has also edited and co-edited(Ad)Dressing Our Words: Aboriginal Perspectives on Aboriginal Literatures (Theytus Books, 2001) and An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English (Oxford University Press, 2013).

His screenplay, A Windigo’s Tale, has been shown across Canada and at film festivals internationally.

He is an Associate Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Queen’s University, and lives in Kingston, ON. Armand also has taught at Carleton University, Ottawa. Due to be released in October, you can preorder from amazon.ca from link on sidebar.

Congratulations Armand,  andwhen writing about you and your successes, I can never resist mentioning that you played on the 1970-71 Chapleau Midgets hockey team I coached. Seems like only yesterday. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Algoma District School Board urged to delay action on Chapleau Public School demoliton pending public consultation process

View of CPS from toboggan slide across river circa 1957
Here is text of a letter sent to Ms. J. Sarlo, Chair, Algoma District School Board on behalf of the Save Chapleau Public School Working Group on September 15, 2014.

Harry Pellow, a member of a pioneer Chapleau family signed letter on behalf of group. Harry was architect for Chapleau Civic Centre, Chapleau General Hospital, Cedar Grove Lodge and Chapleau Recreation Centre.

Feel Free to send me comments at mj.morris@live.ca, and I will forward them to the group.

Dear Ms. Sarlo:
We understand that the Algoma District School Board has decided to proceed with the demolition of the Chapleau Public School, a process that is apparently being undertaken without public consultation. We have been unable to find any indication that the board followed the normal process under Ontario legislation to deal with property in excess to the Board's needs. We understand that the school is currently surplus to your needs; however we respectfully suggest it is not surplus to the requirements of Chapleau and no consideration seems to have been given to alternative uses, many of which can provide economic benefit to a community already sorely in peril.
Since there has been no apparent consultation and because there has been no open discussion on this matter, the citizens are unable to contribute to the furtherance of this matter to nurture public benefit. We heartily recommend you seriously consider delaying or recalling the bid, revisiting the requirements of the community, and reviewing alternative uses for this important historic building and site in the town.
As elections are currently underway for a new municipal council in Chapleau and for the district school board, we respectfully recommend that no further action on the planned demolition take place until after the new council and board have an opportunity to revisit other possibilities for the school.
We do not know the extent of the additional time required to revisit this decision, but we can't believe that you would jeopardize economic, social and a planning opportunities that can be easily identified if the process you have currently undertaken is delayed. 
I am writing on behalf of, and with the support of, several present and past citizens of Chapleau. There are several members of the community who believe there is merit in this building being retained and we would like the opportunity to review them with you. Considering this is a very, very important political period in Chapleau (local election), careful consideration needs to be given to the outcome that may arise from a bad judgment (if it is a bad judgment) of the demolition that we read about in the Chapleau Express.
We also strongly believe that the wider Chapleau community must be given the opportunity to express their views as part of a consultation process. We are well aware that the public and secondary school taxpayers in Chapleau no longer have direct representation on the school board, so they do not have a local trustee to whom they may address their concerns.
Copies of this correspondence are being directed to the present mayor and council in Chapleau, the local MPP, the premier of Ontario, the minister of education of the province of Ontario, editor of the Chapleau Express, and other interested parties.
We would appreciate your acknowledgement of this letter and urge the board that the current decision with respect to the demolition action and announcement that is already in play be delayed until the voice of the citizens most affected can be heard in a public consultation process.

Thank you. Sincerely

Harry Pellow FRAIC
On behalf of Save Chapleau Public School Working Group

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Transforming Chapleau Public School into "something significant" in community heritage enclave

Ever since I heard the news that the Algoma District School Board had called for tenders to demolish the historic Chapleau Public School, I have been suffering a wide range of mixed emotions.
 I'm not alone, it seems, as I have heard from so many folks over the past few weeks -- the consensus being that "something" must be done to save it much like Ian Macdonald has so passionately expressed, and continues to do so. Ian, as many readers will know attended Chapleau Public and High Schools. He is the retired head of the department of architecture at the University of Manitoba and Professor Emeritus.
Ian has written extensively on Chapleau buildings.
Before I go any further though, let me explain my mixed emotions. I attended Chapleau Public School, as did my parents.  but more importantly in my life, it was likely the reason that my mother and I stayed in Chapleau after my father Flying Officer Jim Morris was killed on active service in World War II in the RCAF.
Mom, (Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris) had to decide what we would do. Mr. George Young, the father of Dr. G.E. Young, the chair of the school board at the time solved it. Mom had taught at the school in the 1930s before she was married and Mr. Young offered her a position to return. In all, she taught 32 years at CPS and it became a central part of our lives.... much much more than a place where she went to work daily.
I have also heard from other former pupils, and although I promised to keep the name of the following  "musings" anonymous, she sure sums up life at CPS.
Here is a sample: "My favourite memory of grade 1 was the sand box..downside was standing in the corner so often and trying to find someone to tie my shoes..."
Art was "always the fave subject..loved when they pulled down the big maps for us to teach us some lesson...Remember receiving my Salk vaccine in the hallway near the auditorium..that was a scary day...just like the days they would take us for a walk and we would end up at Dr Young's for shots...
"I loved assembly when we would sing all the British patriotic songs..in days of yore...hated when they gave us the cod liver caps and we had to go out and try and swallow or give it to some other kid who loved the taste...
"Absolutely hated the bathroom...to go down those dark stairs and run like hxxl to go and get back up before some monster came.
"I remember lining up for class in the basement and marching like soldiers up the stairs...recess was awesome....even with the cinders...loved the swings...later loved the baseball..would race home...eat in a flash and be back to be first batter up..
"Fave time was when your mother would read to us at 1..we would all put our heads down and rest and listen..
"I remember the time they gave us huge pieces of broken glass to use to scrape the varnish off our desks as they would refinish them in the summer..can't tememebr anyone getting cut but all that crap we inhaled..can u see that in this day..
"I  remember going to school with handicapped kids who were not teased..we went out of our way to include them and treat them special..
"I had a hard time in school till grade 3 when Mr. Shoup (J.M. Shoup) personally took me under his wing...omg I was so scared..I graduated with 98.5..average...I think we had a great education..sad to see the building go...thanks for stimulating my memory before it's gone."
Fast forward to now and the present situation regarding the school. Ian Macdonald has been in touch and makes some excellent points.
He submits "CPS is an integral part of the heritage enclave precinct extending from the Town Centre to Grey Street. Demolition of CPS or substitution of an inappropriate/ foreign  buidling  typology will corrupt this important historical civic asset."

Former CPS pupils V Crichton, MJ, N Ritchie, D Mizuguchi at CHS reunion
It sure is an important historical asset and I searched for some photos to give a glimpse of some activities at the beach behind the school over the years.

 Ian submits that  "Public consultation on demolition of CPS was minimal or non existent. (transparency). Public awareness of demolition intent was minimal to non existent."
" Exploring all possible options for a sustainable solution is a public responsibility. (sustainability - resourceful and responsible use of public assets - ). The Public is entitled to be made aware of what a refurbished CPS has the potential to be before opting to destroy it, " Ian wrote in an email.

He added  that Economic benefits to community from tax revenue and business activity are significant if handled responsibly and creatively. Fiscally responsibility and sustainability, like politics itself, is ALL LOCAL and begins at home. Chapleau has the potential to provide a good example of this.

"Elected bodies such as Municipal Councils and School Boards have the moral responsibility to do the right thing,.  Demolition of CPS is not the right thing."  At this point, just to be clear I would just add to Ian's comment that direct responsibility for CPS rests with the Algoma District School Board  not the council of the Township of Chapleau.
He concluded that anyone can tear down a building but responsible people working together can "transform it into something significant."
A Save Chapleau Public School Working Group has been active in recent weeks, and has decided to send a letter to the Algoma District School Board, the premier and minister of education, requesting that the decision to demolish it be put on hold until the citizens of Chapleau have an opportunity to be consulted and offer their suggestions.
With municipal and school board elections now underway. it would be reasonable to undertake the consultation process after they have been completed. On a very personal note it would be totally awesome to see CPS "transformed int o something significant again" in the life of Chapleau as Ian suggests. However, that is a decision Chapleau citizens must make.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE