Cornwall, Ontario – On Saturday, October 28th, the Best Western in Cornwall was abuzz with excitement and applause as the community gathered for the 2023 Cornwall Arts Hall of Fame Gala. A star-studded night, it celebrated artists who have made significant contributions to the cultural fabric of the region and beyond.
This year’s inductees spanned a range of disciplines, showcasing the vibrant diversity of Cornwall’s artistic community.
David Barnes stood out with an impressive 35-year commitment to theatre production from Glen Productions to the Seaway Valley Theatre Company, having played a foundational role in bringing compelling stories to life on stage.
Murielle Bourdeau’s passion was palpable, especially for her relentless promotion of francophone culture, most notably through her dedicated work with the l’Amalgame theatre company –now serving as a member of its Board of Directors.
Melanie Baker-Brown’s name has become synonymous with generosity in the world of the arts, as she has consistently shown her philanthropic support across theatre, film, and visual arts – from Carousel Entertainment (later called Mad Hatter Productions) to the Aultsville Winter Filmfest.
Esther Bryan, meanwhile, carved a special place in the hearts of many, not just as the architect behind the remarkable Quilt of Belonging, but also for her multifaceted talents that span music, design, painting, and fabric arts – and serving on the Board of the Cornwall Concert Series. She was a recipient of the Governor General’s Medal in Canada.
The Quilt of Belonging itself, Bryan’s Magnum Opus, emerged as an inductee to the Arts Hall of Fame. The majestic tapestry encapsulates the essence of Canada with its 263 squares. Each square represents one of the 71 Indigenous communities or the 192 nationalities whose people have made Canada their home, a testament to the country’s rich cultural mosaic.
Tracy-Lynn Chisholm’s dynamic presence was felt across various artistic realms. She was celebrated for her vibrant work that stretched from canvas paintings to large-scale murals, including the Big Brothers Big Sisters building and the atrium of the Cornwall Community Hospital. She also made a mark as an entrepreneur and mentor.
Joel Derouin, a name that resonates well beyond Cornwall, has made global waves as a violinist, concertmaster, and music director. He has performed or recorded with musical greats including Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Barbara Steisand, and Leonard Cohen. His heartfelt pre-ceremony comments highlighted his gratitude.
“It’s an honour, and I’m grateful for all the people of Cornwall who have supported me throughout my career, starting with Rosemonde Laberge. My heart and soul are here, and I couldn’t be more pleased with being honoured. It’s important to continue honouring the artist of Cornwall. This city has produced so many incredible artists; for a small town, it’s uncanny. Artists need to be supported, appreciated, and recognized. Arts are an important component to any community,” Derouin stated.
Joan Levy-Earle, who was honored posthumously, left a legacy of promoting Cornwall through her multifaceted talents in art, writing, and entrepreneurship. She published 12 books of memoirs, local history, and poetry.
The duo of Roy and Peter Nichol garnered praise for their extensive, over half-a-century-long contributions to music, both in writing and performing. Also, Roy is the drummer of April Wine and the lead singer of Epic Journey.
Next, Michael V. Smith’s prolific career made a mark in writing, performing, film-making, and academia. His book, Cumberland, a voice for diversity, received accolades.
Lastly, Lily Worrall’s dedication shone through her creation of www.cornwallpostcards.ca, complemented by her tireless contributions to genealogy and amateur theatre. She was a former Chair of the Upper Canada Playhouse and a past chair of the SD&G Historical Society.
But the evening wasn’t solely about the awards. It was a celebration of art in all its forms. Attendees were treated to an array of stellar performances. The atmosphere was electric as Pamela Lord’s violin melodies resonated through the hall. Marc Muir’s guitar skills were undeniable as he strummed soulful tunes. Theresa Bear Fox, the Akwesasne singer-songwriter, held the audience captive with her evocative songs. As the night progressed, Stephanie Charette added a theatrical touch, illuminating the night with her captivating theatre songs.
Special guests Cornwall Mayor Justin Towndale, and City Councillors Sarah Good, Syd Gardner, and Elaine MacDonald were in attendance for the prestigious event. Gardner and MacDonald are both members of The Centre for the Arts Collective. Rose Desnoyers, Chair of the Collective, Mario Gagnon, Vice Chair of the Collective, and Richard Salem, Representative of Your Arts Council, were also among the many in attendance.
Ensuring the evening ran seamlessly were the articulate MCs, Linda Geisel, former President of Focus Art and a co-founder of the Cornwall Art Walk, and Robert Poirier, Vice President of L’Amalgame des arts de la langue française et du théâtre.
The night was best described as magical, a testament to Cornwall’s rich tapestry of artistic talents. For more information on the Cornwall Arts Hall of Fame, visit their website: cornwallartshalloffame.com .
Photos by Jason Setnyk