Signature Grant Announcement – SHMF supports Acadian art restoration project

Le Rideau de scène de la Déportation by the renowned Acadian artist Édouard Gautreau

Kathryn McCarroll from SHMF presenting the cheque to Daniel LeBlanc

The Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation Signature Grant Program provides an opportunity for the Board of Directors to invest in unique needs, opportunities and challenges in New Brunswick. The foundation is pleased to announce a $ 7,500 grant to Nation Prospère in support of a major art restoration project.

Under the direction of Nation Prospère, a significant work by the renowned Acadian artist Édouard Gautreau is destined for permanent exhibition at the Musée de Kent.  Le Rideau de scène de la Déportation is a large canvas that was commissioned by the late Msgr. Camille-André LeBlanc in 1931 while he served as parish priest in Shemogue, near the Village of Cap-Pelé.

Parish churches and congregations of sisters played a leading role in the support of cultural life in French communities of the Maritimes between the late 1800’s and the 1970’s. The Shemogue parish theatre hall was one these cultural centres that served its local community well until it fell into disrepair in the 1960’s. The building was subsequently sold and was ravaged by fire in the 1970’s, thankfully sparing the theatre curtain. In the ensuing years the canvas became increasingly damaged until it was rescued by the late Father Maurice Léger in 1979 and put in the care of the Société Historique de la Mer Rouge.

The protected artwork remained dormant for 40 years in the basement of the Louis-J.-Robichaud High School in Shediac until its ownership was transferred to the Nation Prospère Acadie charity in May 2020, with the promise of restoring and showcasing the painting. The Musée de Kent in Bouctouche accepted the challenge and an ambitious restoration project was begun in July 2020.

Pierre Cormier of Musee de Kent and Daniel LeBlanc of Nation Prospere

Through the efforts of many, the canvas has been saved and an initial cleaning has been done of what is believed to be the largest painting in Acadie, measuring 10 feet high by 18 feet long (3 by 5.5 metres).  The partially restored canvas was displayed to the public in August 2020 for the first time in 50 years and will now enter a deeper phase of conservation.  SHMF is proud to support this conservation effort, involving the New Brunswick Conservator and Fine Art Restoration Specialist, Alena MacAlasdair.

“It has been an inspiring and rewarding experience to see this significant piece of Acadian heritage come to life and we are truly grateful to the many benefactors who have made this possible thus far,” says Pierre Cormier, President of the Kent Museum in Bouctouche. “We look forward to the day of being able to complete the project and having it displayed on a permanent basis in our museum,” he added.

“I wish to express our deepest gratitude to the Sheila Hugh MacKay Foundation for their interest in this epic project and their generous contribution towards this endeavour,” commented Daniel LeBlanc, Executive Director of Nation Prospère Acadie. “We are committed to completing the restoration work on this unique work of Acadian and New Brunswick artistic heritage and to preserve it for future generations,” he concluded.