The recently reopened Grace Jollymore Joyce Arts Centre (known locally as “the Grace”) has been creating quite a buzz in the North Shore village of Tatamagouche.
Built in 2015, the centre now serves as a theatre, an art gallery known as The Ice House Art Gallery, and arts and culture centre. The Grace puts on art shows, comedy nights, arts and education programs, workshops, plays, live music, and more.
Theatre ready for season as restrictions eased in N.S.
On Monday, capacity restrictions due to COVID-19 were eased in the province, and the Grace can now have up to 70 people in the theatre.
They reopened for the season on Saturday, and this week’s agenda includes an art gallery and comedy show.
Its running season is from February to December each year, usually ramping up in April, with one of their bigger events being Tatafest, a four day event that happens in August.
Operating manager kept busy with past, present seasons
Marshall Feit is the operations manager at the Grace. He started the position in the fall of 2019, and has been working his way through the pandemic and restrictions due to COVID-19.
He said that they were able to reopen for the 2020 season in July and keep it running until December at lower capacity rates.
In January, Feit was actively renovating the theatre, planning funding for the entire year, and doing administrative work among other things. In an interview, Feit explained his ambitions and goals for the Grace.
“I really believe rural Nova Scotia deserves the caliber of urban Nova Scotia” he said.
“We want to create a hype so that people will still come down in February, and this will help promote other businesses in the area.”
Feit has been working to bring a wide array of musical artists to the Grace, particularly hip-hop and R&B artists.
“My prerogative for performance is pretty broad,” said Feit.
“My Uncomfortable Hoodie” is one of the projects Feit was excited to talk about.
It’s a “storytelling podcast and live bi-annual performance series” about stories from childhood to adulthood that anyone from across Canada can participate in, starting in late March of this year.
Opening night a success
The gallery opening on Saturday featured four artists in a group exhibit entitled “Names.” The show attracted around 150 people, including local MPs and MLAs. Two of the artists who displayed their work were Mark Hamilton and Corinne Redden.
They share a studio in a barn in Brookfield, N.S. and spoke with The Signal via phone from a cornfield outside their town.
Hamilton has had connections to Tatamagouche for years, and described the village as having a “cultural complexity. He has known Tatamagouche as a “rural rough coastal community” as well as a place where there was a turning point towards a sort of “hippie culture” around the 1970s.
The Grace is something he is glad to see there, noting that it adds to the pre-existing culture in the village.
Hamilton creates art through many different processes, and described art as being “an emotional landscape of your life”.
When asked to describe his art that was displayed on Saturday, Hamilton described it as “an expression of experience using anything that comes to hand”.
Brookfield artists give their perspective
Redden commented on her view of the success of the Grace centre, and the Ice House Gallery in particular. She noted that Tatamagouche is “becoming a place that people will go, a destination place”.
She also commented on the work that Marshall Feit and gallery curator Brandt Eisner are doing with the centre.
“They have a vision, you feel like you’re in a gallery in the city,” she said.
“We completely trust the genius of Brandt Eisner,” added Hamilton.
Brandt Eisner, curator of the Ice House Gallery, spoke with The Signal about the success of the opening night on Saturday.
“It was a fantastic turnout, and people were so excited to be able to get out and see the show,” he said.
Gallery curator has big plans ahead
Eisner had some planning to do this year with COVID restrictions still in place, so he had some decisions to make. He is now in the process of planning shows up to 2023.
“After a year of COVID, rather than offering people solo shows, I decided that I would do group shows,” he said.
One of Eisner’s main visions is to continue to bring artists into Tatamagouche and the North Shore, including those from the other Atlantic provinces and beyond.
“It’s about creating not just a local community but creating an arts community for the east coast…which is a pretty big thing, it’s a big goal.”
The Grace centre is vamping up for a busy season for 2021. Events and updates can be found on their Facebook page. The next scheduled show is a Valentines-themed comedy night on Feb.13 entitled “Laughing at Love.”
About the author
Antonia (she/her) is a journalism student and classical pianist based in St. John's, NL.