Welcome to the Spring 2020 edition of the Academy Quarterly Review, in which we will look back and forward, celebrating the continuity of our Academy.
Our first item is entitled Dinner on Dunvegan: Memories and Recipes by Bonnie Lawrence Shear, in which Webmaster Cathy Spark introduces us to the memorable life of Bonnie, one of the Academy’s original members from the Victoria University days, who happily is still active among us.
This is followed by a brief reflection on our Knox College years, accompanied by assorted photos from our 25th anniversary party. More photos follow as Matt Segal, long time Academy photographer- at –large, shares his passion in the second of our new series on photography.
Looking forward, I have put together some information about our new landlords, the Estonian Canadians. They have supplied us with a most interesting article by Piret Noorhani of the Estonian Studies Centre/VEMU that I do encourage you to read.
Finally we have an article by Sheila Neysmith on her first impressions of the Academy in September. Fortunately, they were positive! I am delighted to tell you that Sheila has volunteered to take over from me as Chair of Communications and will be the next Editor of the Academy Quarterly Review. Please welcome her.
The Communications Committee hopes that you will enjoy this issue.
Gillian Long, Editor
I first came to know Bonnie during the Social History of Food and Drink workshop that I facilitated a couple of years ago. Along with the other members of the group, Bonnie shared interesting anecdotes of the meaningful role that food and meals had played in her sense of family and cultural history. One day after class, Bonnie brought me a copy of a book that she had written that she thought might interest me.
One wintry evening I poured myself a glass of rosé and settled down comfortably with the book –Dinner on Dunvegan: Memories and Recipes by Bonnie Lawrence Shear.
What I discovered was a delightfully written memoir–a reflection of the experiences of a girl / woman growing up in a middle-class Jewish family in the neighbourhoods of Toronto from the 1940s on–memories captured in anecdotes and stories, photos, and recipes for family favourites.
With a balance of remembrance, wistfulness and humour, Bonnie’s book takes the reader along on a journey to the homeland of her forefathers, to the newly-formed State of Israel, to the shops and restaurants of bustling Toronto neighbourhoods and to the Colonial Tavern which was owned by her father and where Bonnie mingled with the eccentric personalities that populated this famous jazz club which hosted greats such as Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson and Muddy Waters, and Benny Goodman and Chuck Mangione. She even remembers the Ink Spots playing at a party in her home.
The Colonial was not the only place in Bonnie’s world populated by memorable, eccentric, larger-than-life characters. From shopkeepers and tradesmen to relatives and friends, the individuals living on the pages of Dinner at Dunvegan portray the essence of the rich experiences and loving environment of Bonnie’s life in the vibrant Jewish neighbourhoods of a growing Toronto.
Like any good party, Bonnie’s memoir ends up around the dinner table. Through the beloved family recipes and the tastes and smells of growing up Jewish, Bonnie shows us how food reflects our heritage, and preserves and connects us to our past. Bonnie’s life experiences are very different from my own, but when I reluctantly laid Dinner at Dunvegan aside, I felt that I was part of her world.
About the Dinner on Dunvegan author
Bonnie was first inspired to write the book when she heard Sidney Poitier talk about his own memoir. He had turned 80 and had had his first great grandchild. He said that he realized that, when she was old enough to understand the story of his life, it would be unlikely that he would be able to tell it to her.
by Cathy Spark
At the end of March, we say farewell to Knox College, our home since 2003, and move from the familiar campus to association with the exciting Bloor Street Culture Corridor. The future for our Academy looks bright!
We leave Knox with mixed emotions, not sorry to leave the overheated classrooms and icy parking lot but remembering many good times. I am indebted to Josie Szczasiuk for sharing these thoughts:
The spectacular Gothic Revival architecture of Knox with its soaring halls and beautiful outdoor courtyards provided inspirational surroundings for our talented photographers. We were able to host many receptions here, including our 25th anniversary celebration, new members’ welcome parties and the art/ hobby showcases that Eileen Garber started, in beautiful and inexpensive, if challenging surroundings. Those dramatic backdrops enhanced the memorable 25th anniversary video that Brian O’Leary produced.
Limited space at Knox challenged us to stretch our wings and find extra accommodation for some popular workshops. That helped keep much-loved workshops, such as The Economist Readers, dynamic.
The Academy moved into the modern age of technology at Knox. We learnt how to use Powerpoint for presentations and to appreciate the wonders of email and databases. We went from folding paper flyers and Newsletters and stuffing them into envelopes for snail mailing to relying on our sophisticated website for everything from registration to seeking volunteers. Sincere thanks are due to the many dedicated members who have worked tirelessly to achieve this. Forgive me if I single out the contribution of the late Margaret Robertson.
Knox may not have been ideal, but it allowed our Academy to grow and thrive in a vibrant campus setting for many years, almost a generation, with a minimal increase in fees throughout the entire time. It truly was the best bargain in town!
Wander down ‘memory lane’ and enjoy these photos!
by Gillian Long
My father was an RCAF photographer – 126 Wing, part of the Film & Photography Unit of the British Occupation Forces in Northern Germany from 1944-46. I grew up with cameras, lots of them. As I young boy, in the Niagara Peninsula, I went on hundreds of photo walks with him. Yet, I took very few pictures and never took to the camera. I gravitated to art, then architecture, then set design, then theatre, then film & television and now, finally, in this last decade, to the camera. I’m inspired and informed by the works of Man Ray and Robert Frank; art of Rene Magritte and Robert Rauschenberg; the Dadaists; the plays of Pirandello, Pinter and the young Toronto playwrights of The Tarragon Theatre. And of course, Shakespeare.
Sometimes I like to push the medium and force the camera to create a ‘painting’. Sometimes, I just love to point and shoot. Mostly, I’d like to emulate (as if I could ever get close) the haiku artist Matsuo Basho. Below are a few of my annotated works.
Algonquin Haiku 1003-2 (for Margaret)
I shot this in July, 2019 – the same week Margaret Robertson decided her journey on this earth was complete. I was listening to The Band. Richard Manuel was singing in my ear - “Whispering Pines” (a lament). He also took his own life, in an inexplicable moment of despair. Margaret, who was diagnosed with incurable cancer, ended hers in comfort with conviction and with compassion towards those she cared about, surrounded by those who loved her, those she loved. Bless you, Margaret. I miss you.
the whispering pines
sunset turns the lake to gold
[everything, is almost something else ]
love, is always love
Bobby & The Bluetones 9362
This is one of my camera paintings. Who are these guys? And what are they singing? In the doo-wop of my mind they are Bobby & The Bluetones singing a song I wrote - “Do-be, Do-be Love”.
I can’t do-be talkin’ of love
I can’t do-be talkin’ of love
If there’s one thing, I can’t do-be talkin’ of
That one thing’s do-be, do-be love.
But still waters do-run, do-run deep
And I do-be lovin’ you in my sleep.
I could have called this “Every Shade of Blue”. I could’ve been thinking, this is what Noah beheld the moment before his dove returned with an olive branch; what Columbus saw the moment before he saw land; what Claude Debussy saw when he composed la Mer; what Charles Trenet saw when he composed the song that Charles Aznavour made famous and Bobby Darin covered. No, I was in a small boat in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, thinking “When’s that giant bluefin tuna going to break the surface of the water and give me that shot of the century – that National Geographic is going to buy - that is going to be shown at the ROM so I can take my friends and family to see it. “
I love this photo. The wake of the boat at the bottom of the frame is my signature. It says “Matt was here.”
INT: Airstream (Astrid)- DAY 1265
On almost every film set / location you’ll find an Airstream Trailer. It’s unlikely to be the producer’s or director’s or one of the principal cast. Most likely it will be the writer’s or the art director’s or belong to the head of wardrobe. Why? Because Airstreams are small. Producers and directors like their trailers ‘big’ and actors need their space. That’s why they like Winnebagoes.
“Perfect timing,” she says, “I just put the kettle on.”
There’s not a photographer I know who won’t snap up a great reflection when he or she sees one. They are money shots. I caught this one on the Charlottetown pier in August. I love absence of primary colours here. I love the rust, the teal, the silver reflection of the clouds in the bottom corner. This is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get shot. Serendipity and serenity in a single snap of the shutter - how lucky is that!
A camera painting. It reminds me of a Michael Snow piece. I love Michael Snow. The contour is green neon. I don’t know why it turned purple in the photo, but I’m glad it did.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade (2018) 8830
I love parades. More accurately, I love the people who love parades. These two are dressed in green. Their wigs are green. Their glasses are green. I filtered out the green. Then I put it back in. Look closely at the reflection in the glasses. Look even closer and you can see the twinkle in their eyes.
I discovered this tree on one of Josie Szczasiuk’s High Park walks. Surrounded by a chorus of evergreens, it stood noble and steadfast raging against the dying of the light. To me it symbolized ‘Etz Chaim’, the Tree of Life. The photograph didn’t work – until I killed the green. The absence of ‘green’ is not ‘no green’. It leaves its shadow.
‘Sonia’s Tree’ 0001
I was pleased when Academy member, Sonia Perrin, requested a print of ‘Tree_2725’. I felt honoured when she gifted me her rendering of it.
Thank you, Sonia.
As we prepare to move to our new home in Tartu College in September, we thought that you might like to know a bit about Estonian Canadians, our new landlords. According to the 2016 Census, 24,530 people of Estonian descent live in Canada. About 17,000 arrived here in the late 1940s and early 1950s, escaping Nazi and Soviet occupation. The city with the largest population of Estonians outside Estonia is Toronto and the first Estonian World Festival was held here in 1972.
There are several major organizations serving the needs of Estonians in Toronto. Estonian House, which includes the old Chester School building on Broadview Avenue, was established in 1952 as a non-profit community centre and events venue. There is also an Estonian Credit Union on Madison Avenue, behind Tartu, which was established in 1954.
Most importantly for us, there is Tartu College. Please click here to read an extremely informative article kindly supplied to us by Tartu.
Now these three organizations have banded together with the Estonian Foundation of Canada to buy the parking lot at 9 Madison Avenue and there are ambitious plans to build a new Estonian community and cultural centre there, part of an “Eesti Keskus”, or “Estonian Village” next to neighbour Tartu College, to serve the Estonian community now and for future generations.
Estonian-Canadian architect Alar Kongats, the recipient of three Governor General’s architecture awards and four Ontario Association of Architects (AAO) awards, including for the Centennial College Student Centre in Toronto, has developed a bold and modern design for this new Estonian Centre. This building will join a number of Estonian designed buildings in the Annex neighbourhood, including the well-known and very distinctive apartment buildings designed by Uno Prii.
We look forward to seeing this exciting project come to fruition.
by Gillian Long
After several years of listening to a friend extoll the benefits of ALL’s model of peer learning, I finally decided this year to shake off my resolve to avoid academic settings and registered for two workshops, Disruptive Technologies and The Economist Reader. These two were culled from an initial list of 15. What an array of topics were on the website! Self-discipline and a realistic assessment of time and energy were called for. Nevertheless, I dithered for quite a while before committing to the above two – cue childhood memory of choosing what ice cream to buy. Fortunately, the Academy’s deadline acted much like a parent’s voice “Make a decision or you will not get any!”
Like any neophyte, I arrived in this new world wide-eyed. First impressions: “These people come from many different backgrounds – wow!” “They know a lot about things that I do not - yikes”. “They have travelled and lived everywhere – sophisticates!” Inner state: Akkkk… self doubt, anxiety, flee, plead ignorance and keep mouth shut. The problem is that I have always been very poor at the latter.
Resolution: Stay calm and carry on – do not allow jaw to drop when someone casually refers to cycling through some deserted part of the world while reflecting on a political situation. Remember goal of learning something very new. Ergo, volunteer to present on a topic about which you know nothing. Seemed like a good resolution in September; a week before the presentation – not so much.
Some initial reactions – details are important. (1) everyone had name cards that saved a newcomer from memorizing names. (the old trick of using associations doesn’t work so well when confronted with 40+ strangers in one week). (2) Microphones were available and facilitators insisted that we all use them. No one was allowed to declare that they had a loud voice –ever notice how false such claims are? (3) Everyone respected the rule of raising a hand indicating that one wanted to enter the discussion and the facilitators acknowledged us accordingly. This is not always easy to enforce – and do with a smile on one’s face. These three, seemingly small items, immediately won my admiration.
In the first weeks I also gawked at the features of Knox College. I felt like a novitiate entering the halls of a monastery into my new life as an Academy member (literally one day to the sounds of an organ). Then there were the blackboards in the discussion rooms. Real chalk on real blackboards (not like U of T’s digital Blackboard or the smart Whiteboards with which I spent the final decade of my career). I almost got nostalgic remembering the nuns in the convent of my childhood.
By mid-November I had found my feet and decided that I quite liked my new sandbox. People were friendly and seemed very comfortable expressing ideas that were not always compatible. I will stay.
by Sheila Neysmith
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