Sunday, April 24, 2016

Founders Dinner

My grandfather, John Schlachter, was identified as one of the founding members of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Organizers brought descendants together for a special evening to honour the founders' contributions in starting the gallery more than 60 years ago.

Rob, Alex, Penny and I attended the Founders Dinner, along with my mom, brothers and sister, nieces and nephews. Our party made up 20 of the 94 guests, likely a few more than organizers bargained for, but we wanted a place at the table and a chance to learn more about this part of Grandpa's life.

The gallery began in a bicycle shed behind a high school, and the first big show featured a Tom Thomson painting. I can imagine my grandfather working to make the humble shed into something more, into a home for beautiful works of art.

I still often think of his passion for art, of his talent, his work ethic and incredible perseverance. He is one of my heroes, and in second year college I made a film about his work as an artist and artisan. 

His paintings hang on the walls of all the grandchildren's homes. He was an amazing man who helped support us through some very tough times, and worked well past retirement to keep us together. He talked about putting a roof over our heads, but it was so much more than basic shelter. I miss him, and wish he could see the results of his efforts in the lives of his grandchildren, and their children.

Grandpa also worked as a finisher at Baetz Fine Furniture for more than half a century. In my living room, there is a coffee table and two end tables Rob's mom purchased long ago when she was making her home in Winnipeg as a young woman. Now as I'm doing the math I realize this would have been about 60 years ago, right around the time my grandfather was busy helping to found the gallery and the artist association, and heading out on Sundays to paint his landscapes. Marian held on to the tables for decades because they were beautiful, and although they cost a bit more than she could afford at the time, they were made even more valuable by the hope of a gracious home. When I first admired the pieces she mentioned they were Baetz, and I was amazed at the providence. Fine furniture my grandfather had likely crafted, had found its way across the country and into the home of my future husband. Now the tables are in my own living room. I know Grandpa would be pleased.

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