Stories from Old Sandwich Town

Interested in the ongoing evolution of communities, my art practice has for years been focused on an area of Windsor Ontario known as Old Sandwich Town. This particular project, Stories from Old Sandwich Town: A Bridge to Somewhere (2016) is the culmination of a partnership with an inclusive group of area residents and stakeholders. The resulting work was based on their perspectives about the International Ambassador Bridge’s impact on interconnected facets of community life in their neighbourhood.

The community sits on the territorial land of the Anishinaabe people under the governance of the Three Fires Confederacy. As of 2016, there was still unceded land in the area. The oldest francophone community west of Montreal, Sandwich Town is now a culturally diverse neighbourhood and includes many students and New Canadians.

The town has faced numerous challenges over the years, the most recent one being the Ambassador Bridge’s plans to construct a second span across the Detroit River. It links the northern shore of the Detroit River in the USA to the southern shore in Canada, specifically, Old Sandwich Town in Windsor, Ontario. It is the busiest international crossing in North America and as per the Canadian Border Services Agency, one of the two privately-owned bridges along the Northern Shore.

The discussions were documented and visually interpreted in an interdisciplinary body of work. Mixed media portraits of participants accompany excerpts from the discussions as do mixed media intaglio maps illustrating the location of our meetings in the community. A photo installation with images of the area illustrated the negative impact of the Bridge on the area as well as the area’s positive attributes. A booklet that includes the conversations with participants and the resulting artwork were available to viewers during the course of the exhibition.

My aim was to promote awareness about the Bridge’s long standing impact on the community, referred to as ‘block-busting’ by many community advocates. The issue has been the subject of numerous debates in the courts over the past several years.

The eight people with whom I met to discuss and chronicle their stories are as follows:

Nancy Allen: Founding member and Director of Northstar Cultural Centre; Curriculum Development Consultant, Windsor Essex County District School Board

Mary Ann Cudderman: Old Sandwich Town BIA chairperson and long-standing member; Proprietor of Old Sandwich Town Bakery

Rosemary Denunzio: Retired archaeologist; University of Windsor Archaeology Professor; Windsor Community Museum committee member

David Garlic: Former (and last) Principal of Sandwich Town’s Forster Secondary School; Founding and current member of les Amis Duff-Bâby and Essex County Historical Society member

Dean Jacobs: Consultation Manager with Walpole Island First Nation Council; Former WIFN Chief; Former Director and Research Director WIFN Heritage Centre

Terry Kennedy: Founding member Sandwich Town Library; member of truck watch coalition; former member of DRIC and Herb Gray consultation group

Evelyn McLean: Founder of Friends of the Court, and Les amis Duff-Bâby; retired City of Windsor Heritage Planner and former University of Windsor Dean of Women

Lana Talbot: Descendant of formerly enslaved people; Sandwich Baptist Church Secretary; Heritage Committee chairperson; visual artist and musician

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Photo credit: Sasha Opeiko

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