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"Remnants of Community"

                                                                a solo exhibition by Simon Wroot

Exhibition Story 

There is a simple, powerful, and timeless presence in hundreds of scattered places in Alberta.  These are the sites where the settlers, Metis, some First Nations people and missionaries all channelled their faith, their devotion, and their need for a spiritual home into the energy to build  themselves a church.


The people who settled Alberta came from communities where the church was the centre, the heart, the most important and often the largest building.  They were people who’s faith was strong and alive, and permeated their lives.  Their first priority in this new land was for food and shelter for their families. Their second was for a place to gather, to worship, a place to become the heart of their settlement; to make it a community.  They committed what they could ill afford; land, time, the skills to build what they could,, and money for what they couldn’t do themselves. They filled these Houses of Worship with the energy of their faith, their hopes and dreams for the future for their families and the community.


Then  came droughts, dust bowls, grasshoppers, depressions; the gravel road was placed five miles north, the railroad was put fifteen miles east, communities consolidated, and motor vehicles  permitted wider travel. There were also good times, plentiful times, hopeful times, but they didn’t last.  Many of the small communities ceased to exist - so churches were abandoned and slowly disintegrated, they were moved or  dismantled, sold as houses or stores.


Those remaining Houses of Worship are the remnants of communities; remnants of the structure, remnants of the energy of the pioneers, remnants of their desires for their children’s future.  They were the repositories of  hopes, dreams, and prayers.  Every moment that someone was in the church their thoughts and energies were focused through their faith to their God. The very essence of praying filled the building with spiritual energy, peace, hope, love, thoughts of loved ones, dreams for their future.  These little buildings are not just wood, glass, stucco, concrete, but are a very powerful and serene presence in the countryside. 


The idea of using the theme of country churches for some of my miniature metal landscapes is almost 10 years old.  It was working on Craftyear 2007 that gave me the impetus to commit to the project. I travelled around Alberta with my camera, looking for churches, talking to archivists, and I realised that this project went much deeper than pretty buildings. It was the story of the people who created these buildings that mattered to me. I am in awe at the sheer energy that they must of had, the level of commitment, and the drive that was required to provide a house of worship, and a spiritual home for their families and futures.  I also love the energy of each of these sites, each different but with a wonderful serene common feeling.


 This project fulfils my need to tell these stories, to bring these remnants of lives, communities, and dreams to life again.

In keeping with the simple methods used to build the churches, I used only basic tools to create my landscapes; saw and drill to cut, scribe, knife and abrasive to texture, and wire rivets to assemble them.

Materials used are: Sterling Silver, Copper, Bronze, Steel, Nickel, mounted on slate.

All pieces are approx 3 inches (7.5cm) wide, on slate 6 inches (15cm) wide X 6 inches high.


I would like to express my thanks all those who helped me with this project:

Trudy Cowan & Irene Karshenbaum with the Little Synagogue On The Prairie Society,  Daniel at Father Lacombes Chapel,  Karen Burgess & her enthusiastic colleagues at the South Peace Regional Archives,  Clinton & staff at ‘Historic Dunvegan’, High Prairie Information Centre; Rose & Denis Lizee for Prairie Echo, Cathy Wilcox at Grouard,  Bill Kozakewich at Wostok, Nestor Kostiuk at Peno,staff at the Crowsnest Museum,  Lil Erdos & Belle Kovach in Hillcrest,  Farley Wuth at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village,  Ray & Betty in Dorothy - many thanks,   Rev. D.J Carter at Eagle Butte,   Carol Hollywood at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary,   Margaret Shane at the Alberta Teacher’s Association of Alberta archives,   Librarians at the Calgary Public Library - Local Histories room and all of the fabulous ‘Local History’ books,   Librarian and Archivist at the Glenbow Archives, the many people of Alberta who gave me directions and showed me around churches 

Thanks to Tom & Joanne at  the Alberta Craft Ccouncil for their help in putting this together.

Thanks to  Dean Reeves of the Alberta Foundation for The Arts  Travelling Exhibitions Program for his enthusiasm and for getting this exhibition out to rural Alberta where it belongs.