In Search of the Jesuit Pear Tree

In Search of the Jesuit Pear Tree is a project that was motivated by my interest in the development of communities. Using the principles of the Healthy Community movement, I explored Old Sandwich Town and a few neighboring communities in southwestern Ontario, paying close attention to the area’s historical, natural, built and socio-cultural environment.

Among the principles in Healthy Community philosophy is the need to consider the historical character of communities in any renewal process. Old Sandwich Town has a unique history. In addition to being situated on the ancestral land of the Anishinaabe people, it is the oldest continuous French settlement west of Quebec and was an important terminal on the Underground Railroad. The area is now culturally diverse.

The Jesuit Pear Tree was said to have been brought over from France in the early 18th century. Although they were once abundant in the area, adorning the shores of the Detroit River, they are now scarce. They have come to symbolize perseverance and endurance, a parallel to Sandwich Town’s ongoing efforts to renew the community in spite of numerous issues, and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

This body of work includes mixed media drawings as well as collages on paper and stretched canvas utilizing personal photographs and fabric. Texts from Vieilles chansons du Détroit lyrics are included in some of the works. The music was compiled and performed by folklore and ethnology professor emeritus Marcel Bénéteau.

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Photo credit: Sasha Opeiko

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I would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council.