Art, soul and the Beaupré Community Hall

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 26, 2003

An old friend lay in ashes 17 months ago, a victim of arson. On March 22, like the mythical phoenix, this meeting place of memories and moments rose anew, its spirit of celebration undaunted. For me, however, it was a visit to an art supply store and a framing shop that provided an insight into why the new Beaupré Community Hall is such a special place.

The original Beaupré Hall was a centre of rural life west of Cochrane beginning in 1964, when it was converted from a one-room schoolhouse.

It was a place of belonging, a place where neighbors got to know neighbors from miles around. It was a reminder of who we are, how we are connected to one another, and why we are here.

It burned to the ground Halloween night, 2001.

I eulogized the hall in my column following the fire. In part, I said: "No longer will our old friend greet us at the door with the aromas of homemade chicken soup, fresh-baked apple pie and coffee when we arrive for a community craft sale.

"No longer will our old friend embrace the laughter of children or the toe-tapping tunes of a fiddle dance.

"No longer will our old friend share in our joy at weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, reunions, graduations, gymkhanas and talent shows."

Clearly, I underestimated the vision and drive of the supporters of the Beaupré Community Association. Our old friend is back again. Sure, it has a new body, but it's that same familiar soul that for so long has enchanted us with its laughter and music.

That soul is all about many individuals of diverse interests and backgrounds pooling their gifts and talents for the creation of something wonderful for the benefit of the whole community.

While contemplating the mystery of such cooperation, I happened into two of my favorite Cochrane shops: Paintbox Artist Supplies, and High Country Framing & Art Gallery, both located in Rustic Market Square. Not surprisingly, they worked their powerful magic on me, providing an analogy for understanding this interrelationship among individuals, communities and buildings.

The first thing that engages me when I enter Paintbox is the evocative smell of paint. As co-owners Marla Blackwell and Marie Sigurdson will readily affirm, I often stand by the racks of oil paints and fantasize over what each tube of color may become on life's canvas.

Will the cadmium red sway sensuously in a flamenco dancer's skirt, or perhaps adorn the vibrant petals of a geranium blossom? Will the olive green add mystery to the dancer's eyes, or will it team up with other shades of green in the leaves of a geranium? Will the titanium white become the flirtatious sparkles in the dancer's eyes, or will it partner with French ultramarine blue to form a vase, or mix with burnt sienna in the handle of a flower basket or in a table top?

The possibilities boggle the mind! Each individual color finds meaning, not by hiding away in its tube or by thinking it alone is the whole picture, but by joining in community with other colors to create a masterpiece.

But the masterpiece needs a structure for facilitating the fullest appreciation of its collective identity. It needs a frame.

High Country owner Bruno Struck displays a 16" x 20" Lory Yanke print on his wall by the counter. "Spring Cutting" is a close-up of a basket of red and white geraniums on a wooden table in front of a bright kitchen window. A secondary arrangement in a white and blue vase stands slightly behind and to the left of the basket.

I love to stand and gaze into this refreshing still life.

But it's Bruno's touch that truly helps me enjoy it. He gave focus and depth to Yanke's print with a shadowbox layering of green, red, and sand-colored mats with specially cut corners, and placed it all inside a simple metallic-green wooden frame.

And as for Beaupré Community Hall? In much the same way that pigments, mats, frames and imagination team up for the sake of art, so too have many individuals teamed up to create a celebration of community at its best.

Welcome back, Beaupré Hall! And thanks, folks, for all your hard work.

© 2003 Warren Harbeck

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