New Inaugural Program at the Museum Explores History of French Community


The Museum’s inaugural program features the work of francophone visual artist Isabelle Michaud. The residency which began in October will display pieces exploring the history of the Dionne Quints, the French community of Sault Ste. Marie, and French Town.

“We’re so thrilled to have Isabelle as our first artist in residence”, said Katie Huckson, the Sault Ste. Marie Museum’s Outreach and Programming Coordinator. “This project was initiated to target some of the gaps in our museum’s archives and highlight the diverse cultural community that makes up our local history. It was fascinating to learn about French Town through this project, adjacent to where my mother grew up in what was once called “Little Italy”, now called Jamestown. These neighbourhoods hold stories crucial to the development of the city we call home.”

Many might not be familiar with French Town in Sault Ste. Marie. “It was a community that arose from simple beginnings at the time of the first French presence at Baawating, on the traditional land of the Anishnaabeg, as early as 1623. The trade and interconnection continued when the Coureurs des bois worked and lived here, as early as the mid 18th century. Both shores of Sault-Sainte-Marie were always inhabited by French settlers, known then as Canadiens and Métis in the early 19th century, until the mid to late 19th century,” says Isabelle Michaud.  “Then, the development of the railway, in the late 19th century  brought Québécois families to settle all along Northern Ontario, and the steel and paper industries continued to bring more French families who settled where other French settlers had before,” Michaud adds.

“French Town is bordered by the streets of Toronto, Edinburgh, Huron and Catcarth. According to a map from Andrew Cameron in 1871, it could have even gone to Bruce street all the way down to the locks and up to Fort Creek,” says Michaud.

“It is with great excitement that we are able to host our inaugural artist residency featuring such an amazing Francophone artist as Isabelle Michaud,” says Will Hollingshead, Museum Executive Director and Chief Curator.

“Francophone identity and community presence has been long standing within the city of Sault Ste. Marie right from the beginning, and to highlight this is a significant step into representing our community as a whole within our community Museum. We hope the public take the chance to check out this outstanding work and the in-depth research that has gone behind it,” adds William Hollingshead.

This re-discovery by the visual artist Isabelle Michaud has fueled the creation of works on paper as well as the building of the first Francophone archive a collaboration with Le Centre francophone de Sault-Sainte-Marie. Isabelle Michaud’s exhibition is set within a broader project entitled The J’écoute/Listening Project for which Michaud was awarded an Ontario Arts Council Francophone Visual Arts and Crafts Creation project grant of $5 000.

Walking French Town \ Une balade à French Town will also feature Paysages sonores, a collaborative work with francophone and francophile artists from Crystal Falls to the Sault as part of the 30th anniversary of BRAVO, a Franco-Ontarian Visual Artists’s Association.

The exhibition is set for March 25th-May 30th. The opening is on March 26th at 7 pm and can be viewed on the Instagram feed of the Sault Museum.

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