What makes Fernie special to you?
One advantage of being the curator of this exhibition is that in writing my Fernie story, I have had the opportunity to read the personal stories submitted by the other 149 people who are part of this extraordinary show. Reading your stories has been a humbling and moving experience. Thank you for the honesty of what you all have shared – we are a richer community for it.
Like many in this exhibit, I value the sense of community that is found in Fernie. Since arriving back in the mountains two and a half years ago, my experience has been that Fernie is a warm, inviting and accepting community. People say hi on the street, know my name, ask how I am doing – and mean it. It’s a far cry from Vancouver, where I lived for a short time; there I often found people could barely look you in the eye, if at all, as you passed them by on the street.
I like that our community is nestled in the rugged Rocky Mountains, with a pristine river that literally runs through it. People here value their natural surroundings and take care to pass it on the best we can to the next generation.
I like that we have a vibrant arts and culture scene in Fernie. Through my work, I have met many of Fernie’s artists, authors and musicians – they have since become friends and add new dimension to my life by challenging me to see the world in different and wonderful ways.
But what I like the most, as a history buff and a museum nerd, is that people here value our history. It’s not common – people want progress and shiny new buildings– but in Fernie, we value our historic buildings and our shared heritage. Our community’s story is one of overcoming challenges such as fires, mine explosions and the routine up and down of the coal markets. Yet our people stand strong, resilient and eager to help one another in times of need. What better place to call home, really.
What makes you proud to be Canadian?
As a Canadian, I am free to live my life without prejudice for who I am or where I am from.
On one hand, I am a first-generation Canadian, with my roots in Norway and Sweden. On the other, I come from a long line of United Empire Loyalists from southern Ontario and from immigrants that arrived from Poland and France as part of the big wave of settlers that Sifton and Laurier brought to Canada to populate the Canadian West. I am proud that Canada is a welcoming country which values the traditions that people bring with them from other places – traditions they are eager to share – which make for a richer life experience for all Canadians.
I am proud that as a member of Canada’s LGBTQ community, my life has value and that I am afforded the same rights, privileges, and opportunities as all Canadians. I do not need to live life in the shadows or in the closet.
What’s your Fernie story?
I grew up just on the other side of the border in Blairmore. As a child, my community consisted of the three blocks surrounding my house. It had everything – the pool, a corner store, most of my extended family, and all my friends. The BIG stores were on the other end of town. You had to dress up to go to THOSE stores – and what was the point of going there? They didn’t have string liquorice or Dippers fizzy candy.
As I grew up, Fernie became the big town on the other side of the border (with a sales tax, mind you) where we went once a month to shop and where my dad’s family had its start in Canada. It had better grocery stores – more stores in general. As a teenager, in the 1980s, Fernie was the place I bought my first pair of Sergio Valente’s – the all-the-rage-lay-on-the-bed-to-do-them-up designer jeans which make today’s skinny jeans look like baggy sweatpants. In my youth, Fernie was always on the cutting edge! It still is today.
I am now in my 50s, and my life has come full circle. I’ve come back to the mountains and back to the place where my family started a new life in a new country. I walk on the deck at the Art Station, knowing that great-grandmother first arrived there by train in 1912. I occasionally attend service at the Holy Family Catholic Church, where my great-grandparents married in 1913. I lived in an apartment in the “old hospital” where my grandfather and one of his three brothers were born.
Here, I have the privilege to once again work with museum collections and to work with people like you to create exhibits and programs, all stuff which fuels my soul (You know how y’all feel about skiing? That’s the same way I feel about museum work – I’m a nerd, I know).
Thank you, Fernie, for welcoming me back home.