In 2015 a core group of Killarney area residents presented a plan to Council to turn the century-old, boarded up Demonstration Farm house on Water Street into an arts centre, and in the fall of 2018 the Heritage Home for the Arts officially opened their doors to the public, offering art workshops, indoor and outdoor concerts and gallery space for art exhibitions.
Five years later, the vision and passion to showcase all the incredible talents of local and faraway artists, both visual and musical, and the wide array of art workshops continues to evolve into more opportunities to learn something new!
Art Administrator, Giselle Beaupre, is no stranger to the community of Killarney, having taught in the Killarney School for over 30 years. However, being front and center of the art world in this community, was an area that Beaupre hadn't really tapped into until she stepped into the role of Art Admin when Jane Ireland joined the team at the Oak & Owl Cafe this past spring.
"I would have to say that I was never really involved in this organization when I was spending my 30 plus years at the school because that's a whole world in itself, and I never really got to coming here a lot, but since I have I'm so grateful.
The Demonstration house was built in 1915 for the manager of the Demonstration Farm, to share farming practices, challenges and possibilities to new homesteaders moving to the area from overseas, and from other parts of Canada already settled. The Killarney Demonstration Farm would be the first in the province, because Manitoba's Minister of Agriculture at the time was George Lawrence, a Killarney pioneer and he knew the Killarney area and the land very well.
You could say the creativity surrounding the Demonstration farm house started back in 1915 when the house was built and the land was developed to grow new varieties and raise different kinds of livestock, all still in the testing stages to see what would survive the harsh Manitoba winter, and what grew well in the soil laden with rocks!
Different varieties of fruit trees and fruit bushes, vegetables and crops were grown around the farmhouse on plots. Different varieties of poultry and different breeds of livestock were raised, bee hives and honey was produced, the list goes on. Shortly after the building of the Killarney Demonstration Farm, a second farm was built in Birtle.
"The house has been an important piece of the Killarney community, that's for sure," she shares. "I had people here the other day who were commenting on how barren it was around the house, because it was a Demonstration house and just around it was the land. None of the Ag grounds that are currently here had been developed yet."
The Demonstration Farm closed in 1946 and since then it has been used as an RCMP barracks, a private school and a museum.
Beaupre says celebrating 5 years with the doors open is a milestone, but when you look at the few years before that to renovate the house up to code and to turn it into an exhibition gallery/art centre, the Heritage Home for Arts has been a vision and then a reality of an arts centre for 8 years.
That core group of people, and the newly formed Killarney-Turtle Mountain Arts Council, worked passionately in fundraising, renovating, pursuing funding grants, hosting events to raise awareness of that vision of what this building could be.
"And that vision is in the walls of this place," says Beaupre. "I saw a picture the other day of someone who was never on the Board but spent a lot of time with Irvin and Eunice Buhler screwing in baseboards. There is work that is here permanently, the shed in the back is Wayne and Adeline Nichol's gracious donation. There's so much more!"
"And we have a piece of glasswork here in the house that is up all the time that was made by Adeline for this house, and it's the Tree of Life. So, she created it with the idea that this house will live on, and it will provide a safe and welcoming space for people to do their art, to look at art, and to be part of art in so many different ways!"
"I cannot speak highly enough of all the people who worked so hard to get the house ready, to open the house, to start the programming, to set the stage to get where we're at today," she adds. "I do know the blood, sweat and tears that went into this place, things that were donated and the time and funds, and it's just incredible. This community is really fortunate to have that kind of a dedicated group of people who made this happen and who got us to this 5-year anniversary!"
Please listen to more with Giselle Beaupre below - and do stop in at the Heritage Home for the Arts and wonder what stories those walls would tell if they could talk!
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