The annual Medway Head Lighthouse Art & Crafts Show and Sale is making its return to Port Medway after last year’s event had to be cancelled due to pandemic regulations.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the show and sale will be held August 13 to 22 and feature more than 40 artists from across Nova Scotia and beyond. This year’s theme is Coastal Life.
The event has been used to raise money for the Medway Lighthouse Society (MLS) to pay for upkeep and maintenance of the lighthouse that continues to be active and, in most years, available for the public to tour.
The society purchased the lighthouse, which is located about five kilometres from the village of Port Medway, in 2014 from the federal government, which relinquished responsibility in 2010.
President of the MLS, Donald Allan, said he and other volunteers have worked hard to keep the lighthouse among those open and described them as “iconic structures.”
“The government just declared it surplus to their needs and it was in bad shape,” he said. “They said if they needed the light and it is still active, they would just put it on a pole. But it’s just so iconic. It still works and still guides people to shore and has such a history.”
There has been a series of structural improvements over the years, including new windows, siding, painting and other repairs.
The current building itself isn’t that old. Built in 1983, it’s the fourth lighthouse on that site, with the first dating back to 1851.
“Many Nova Scotia lighthouses are photo opportunities. That is, you can get out of your car and take a lovely photo of the lighthouse and its surroundings,” Denyse Contrasty, president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, said in an email. “Fewer are open to the public, and usually you must stay on the ground floor and not climb to the stairs to the lantern. So indeed it’s a special day when people can go inside, and it’s a bonus if you can climb to the top.”
As of 2018, there were 137 lighthouses in Nova Scotia still standing, but only a few of those can be toured inside. This year, with COVID-19 precautions in place, there are just 16 that are open to the public.
In 2019, more than 1,000 visitors stopped at the Medway Head Lighthouse, which is at 925 Long Cove Road.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the lighthouse was closed last year and this year to the public. But the doors will open up once again each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the days the art show is running and from 5:30 to 8 p.m. August 13.
Although it has been closed, members of the volunteer-driven MLS have been busy.
“We are doing lots of upgrades and painting. With regulations changing we said let’s just close and we can focus on the work,” said Allan. “Then hopefully next year we can be open full-time.”
With the money from this year’s art show, the society wants to have an outdoor, interpretive display panel built at the site.
The Medway Head Lighthouse Art & Crafts Show and Sale attracted 75 artists to the 2019 event, as well as hundreds of visitors.
“This year we will have a lot of the old favourites, but we will also have a lot of new people,” said Victoria Fraser, chair of the event. “This area is just so full of talent and it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Typically, the event raises between $3,000 and $4,000 a year for the lighthouse society. But Fraser isn’t focused on the money alone.
“I don’t gauge the success by the revenue. It’s the social interaction that’s important,” said Allan. “It also raises awareness of the lighthouse, which is part of our mandate.”
There is no charge to attend the event, but donations are welcome. Attending artists give a percentage of their sales to the society.
Marianne Weeks, a multimedia artist, has been involved with the event since the beginning.
“The one thing about this art show is that it’s a very inclusive art show. There’s a broad range of arts and crafts from fibre art to wooden art and sculpture,” she said. “And because it’s not a juried show, there’s not that intimidation. I think it’s been successful because it’s been so inclusive. There are emerging artists, seasoned artists and weekend artists that come out.”
Weeks is also a volunteer with the Ark in Bridgewater, a Lunenburg county association for the specially challenged. This year, she’ll be selling 3-D felt art that the clients have been working on.
The show has grown from displays in a small room at the Warehouse in Port Medway to now taking up two buildings, the Warehouse and Seely Hall.
Most of the fibre artworks will be on display at Seely Hall, while the rest will be located at the Warehouse.
An addition to the show this year will be two Saturday workshops. Bruce Smith, a woodcarver will be in Seely Hall on August 14, and quilter Bev Crouse will be on-site on August 21.
The event will open on August 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A reception will be held August 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. as well. The doors will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at both locations.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin