Tag Archives: Public Art

No Country for Only White Men: The Dewdney Murals

Controversial Dewdney mural. It talks about Joseph Brant
selling Six Nations land to settlers.

My friend and retired counsellor, Jean Haalboom phoned me up to tell me that the Dewdney murals had been removed from the Region of Waterloo cafeteria. I was stunned. Then not surprised. The Dewdneys were originally commissioned by a local bank then eventually made their way to the region. There are also some Dewdneys depicting 1950s life that I assume are in storage at the Ken Seiling Museum.

Who gets to tell the story Article from the KW Record

The article from the Record concentrates on the role of indigenous people in the first Dewdney painting but there is another glaring absence from the later murals. Women. Despite the fact that many women worked in industry at the time, including my mother, the last mural depicting the forward movement of prosperity does not contain a single women. The mural depicting the 1900s only has a woman as a passenger in a car. There are no depictions of the huge arrival of immigrants from around the world during the 1950s, only the arrival of the Mennonites earlier. Some women with a baby were in that mural, behind the men.

I was part of the art committee that commissioned the more up to date mural with modern scenes of women and racialized citizens working and playing in modern situations. I understand that mural has not been removed, though at the time it was controversial because it showed the variety in our society and “didn’t fit” with the Dewdneys. This mural was to try to correct some of the problems with the Dewdneys, rather than removing the popular works. Yes, they were popular.

When the Region of Waterloo was developing the Ken Seiling, Region of Waterloo Museum, a black woman came as a delegation to council. She was a local teacher and asked that the history of blacks in Waterloo County be included in the museum. A number of councillors scoffed, saying there were no black settlers in Region of Waterloo history, and if there were, they were transient. She held her ground, pointing out there was a settlement in the Queen’s Bush.

Queen’s Bush

As we know now, black history in Waterloo Region is Queen’s Bush and a lot more.

Black History

Eventually, black history was included in the new museum along with a few panels about First Nations.

Good for the Region of Waterloo Museum for mounting the Dewdney exhibit. I hope they will also include an exploration of the exclusion of women and racialized people from the murals.

Despite my surprise at their removal, I agree that the Dewdneys have had their day and do not belong on the walls of the Region of Waterloo cafeteria. It is important though that they not be hidden away or destroyed. They are a part of our history and I commend the museum for mounting an exhibit. Perhaps the National Gallery of Canada could take note.

Monument for the Homeless Fills a Need to Say Goodbye.

A client representative died in my early years as Chair of the Region’s Employment and Income Advisory Committee. Disabled, Ed still came regularly to our monthly meetings and he volunteered for the local Liberals on their campaigns. He was estranged from his family.

A neighbour in his social housing complex found him and his body was carried away to the morgue. Ed’s was cremated and his funeral was paid for by ODSP.  He was buried in an unmarked grave.

When the committee found out about Ed’s death and burial, we wanted to do something for such a great committee member. So I suggested passing the hat for a gravestone and found out the cost was 200 dollars for a simple plaque. We also paid for a small obituary. We raised the money and had a memorial for him presided over by Rev. June Anderson. Former Cambridge Mayor Claudette Millar came to represent the local Liberals.

Ed’s mother and sister found out about his death through the obituary and went to see his grave. They sent us a letter thanking us for the stone. They had been estranged from him for many years.

A few years ago, Birgit Lindenberg used this blog to write obituaries for the homeless. because they died and no one cared. Many homeless, even though they are buried by the Region, do not have a gravestone, just a number as shown the Record article, Caring for the Unclaimed Dead

Those homeless do have people who cared for them. Whether other homeless people, workers at the soup kitchen or downtown residents like Birgit. As the famous line in Death of a Salesman says, “Attention must be paid.”

Monument to the Homeless

The monument will provide a place for ceremonies and memories of those who have passed. It will also provide a reminder that the homeless are people who had lives and friends and family. Critics, if you feel that money needs to go to help the homeless, I hope that like me, you contribute to the organizations that help them.

Gofundme page

House of Friendship

YW

Working Centre

The Bridges Cambridge.

Supportive Housing of Waterloo