“The Neighbourhoods”

I was invited as the City of Windsor’s poet laureate to be part of a press conference yesterday at The Art Gallery of Windsor, previewing three new Winter-Spring exhibitions. I was asked to read a poem from the Group of Seven (Poets) project I have been working on with six other locally-based writers. We are writing about the heritage of this city, the five towns and the push south in the city that includes South Windsor. I read the following piece about the old baseball field that once stretched over the property now occupied by the Windsor Armouries.

Windsor Ballpark: 1900

Ouellette Square in the time before building the Windsor Armouries

It wasn’t a perfect field

but the late-day light was good

the way it fell

accentuating white

flannel numbered collarless shirts

leather mitts, wool knickers and straw hats

as swarthy players gathered

arriving promptly by bicycle

others in boxy black vehicles

and adoring women and children came

bearing baskets of biscuits and fruit

and fanned out blankets over the summer grass

It wasn’t a perfect field

yet it was theirs and the day was good

—the way it fell

It wasn’t a perfect day

on a windy open turf so level and wide

running their way home

giving them victory

in a fading flat field of dark shadows

as the day wore on

But the city was dreaming

and other men were coming with blueprints

to break and build the soil

For them it was the perfect field

when the late-day light was good

and the meadow was fresh and green

yet for these ragtag players

gone was that flawless moment

of stepping onto a diamond so perfect

where they might yet run clean and hard

as the day wears on

on a field they still call home

In my remarks, I said how I thought Windsor was the perfect place for poets and artists to make images, and tell stories. This reflected the comments made Kenneth Montague, who conceived and organized this collection (Position As Desired: Exploring African Canadian Identity) that presents a rich variety of photographic works from his personal archive called “The Wedge Collection.” These pieces, especially the vintage portraits of first African immigrants to Canada, will stop you in your tracks. It is an exhibit that will keep there in wonderment. But what struck me was how this Windsor-born collector spoke about how meaningful these pieces were in terms of the stories they told.

Then Sally Lake, originally from Detroit, rose to speak about the urban demographic of the city to our north. She, too, drew upon the storytelling aspect, and suggested that the need to pay attention to “neighbourhoods.” This is clear in the photographs she has on display— their roots in family, personal narratives, and locations not so well known in the Detroit area. In each there is this haunting figure, perhaps the viewer, perhaps each of us, pausing at the curb looking in. You need to go and see this. Like the other exhibit, these pictures tell a powerful story.

Councillor Rino Bortolin, who grew up in Windsor, being educated at St. Angela Catholic Elementary School, Catholic Central, and studied philosophy at the University of Windsor, echoed these thoughts, too, in bringing words from the City of Windsor. He, too, spoke of the importance of art in our daily life. The City in recent years has made that commitment abundantly clear in not only its support financially, but in its outreach to see art more public, and more about of our daily life.

I’m looking forward to another exhibit that opens tonight at the gallery. It is called Local Matters, was curated by Art Gallery Director Catharine Mastin, and features sculptures by Zeke Moore, prints by Tony Mosna and Elio Del Col, and paintings by Adèle Duck and Mary Celestine. According to the gallery, it has been for a number of years collecting the work of these artists who have made their careers here. In the write-up provided by the Art Gallery of Windsor, these works “illustrate the continuing importance of traditional media such as painting, printmaking and sculpture while each brings their unique voice to the process. The double-entendre implied by the exhibition title “local matters” speaks to the importance of artistic expression in the region while also referencing the artist’s diverse topics and viewpoints.”

Catharine Mastin has demonstrated a keen eye on putting together these exhibits that together send a distinctive message.

The photographs below are those of Simon Wyn Edwards Photography of SNAPD.