Barachois cushions

Exhibit of fabric cushions at the Kirk of St. James

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Almost 250 cushions, covered in a kaleidoscope of hooked-rug fabric and colour, will be on display at the Kirk of St. James in Charlottetown in mid-September. They come from Barachois Historic Church in Grand-Barachois, New Brunswick, near Shediac. They are the result of a project to celebrate two historic events: the 2019 World Acadian Congress, and the upcoming 200th anniversary of the church in 2026.

Since its “retirement” as a place of worship, The Barachois church has been a museum, with two art galleries and a concert hall, for the past 35 years—the site for many cultural events. Over that time, because of its somewhat unforgivingly hard pews, people would bring a cushion and leave it…which became a tradition. As the Barachois Historic Church Preservation Committee was considering how to observe the bicentennial anniversary, a photo taken from the second floor looking down on the benches below prompted an idea: make the cushions into works of art.

A call went out to rug-hooking artisans, Acadians and friends of Acadians to create hooked cushions to be exhibited for the World Acadian Congress, and then permanently to adorn the church pews. Two rug-hooking clubs quickly bought into the plan. First was the “Hookeuses du Bor’de’lo” of Shediac. And then, because the World Acadian Congress would be jointly presented in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, the project was presented to PEI’s Island Matters Rug Hookers.

Twenty-eight Island Matters members were among the first to respond; in fact the very first two cushions came from PEI’s Paula Kenny and Sylvia Poirier…and that’s what led to the idea of bringing the exhibition to PEI as part of the World Congress. “I really liked the idea of commemorating our region’s Acadian settlement, and I’m very proud of my own Acadian heritage,” says Paula Kenny. “I’ve driven by that big old church since I was a small child travelling from PEI to visit family across the Strait. It’s wonderful to see people recognizing the significance of the building and the Acadian community it served.”

Over the past two years almost 250 cushions have come to Barachois—from all over Canada, the US, the UK and even the United Arab Emirates. Many artists paid tribute to the church, their ancestors or a family member, Acadian friends, a hooking colleague, or a historical event. The general pattern is that cushions reflect the community where their creator lives—whether Scotland (thistle), Springhill (the mine disaster), even Nunavut …where a response came from a person who had never hooked, but wanted to learn; she got materials and help from hookers in the south, and sent a cushion. “The stories are fascinating,” says Barachois organizer Rémi Lévesque.

The cushions will come to the Kirk on Pownal Street in Charlottetown September 10 to 14, 10 am to 5 pm (till 7 pm on Friday). Proceeds go to The Kirk. An exhibit catalogue will be available to purchase. Cushions then go back to the pews of the Barachois church.

For information contact Sharon MacLeod, 902-629-1234, dandsmacleod@bellaliant.net or Shelagh Lindley, 902-963-2622, shelaghlindley@shaw.ca.