Kay MacGregor: Long-time partner with local Arts

August 25, 2016   ·   0 Comments

A few minutes standing in Kay MacGregor’s beautiful home in East Garafaxa leaves one in no doubt about her passion for the arts and her own place in them as an artist.

She is not simply a painter but also a fine seamstress. Her collection of paintings, mainly but not exclusively her own, make the walls of her home alive and breathing with the faces of those whom she has painted.

Ms. MacGregor’s flair for painting is not confined to portraits, but also flowers – especially those in a variety of vases – landscapes, sheep and whatever else strikes her fancy and her eye.

As a child, she was keen on drawing and, as a teenager, went to drawing classes with her mother. However, her life brought her many years with her four children and the two jobs she held to support them as well as her considerable talents were able.

As a consummate seamstress with a background in dress design and, hence knowledgeable about fabric, Ms. MacGregor worked for a dress manufacturer for the Eaton’s catalogue, for which she sold the excess fabric to local costumers and purchased other fabric for sale. During the evenings, she taught sewing at the Downsview Collegiate in Richmond Hill.

She decided to bring her four children to Orangeville to live in 1969, commuting to work at the dress factory during the day and Downsview Collegiate in the evenings. Before long, she was offered a job with the Patterson’s Furniture curtain business here in town.

Ms. MacGregor continued to teach in Richmond Hill after work in Orangeville until the night when her car slipped off the road on account of her dozing off while she was driving.

After that, she applied to ODSS to teach sewing in night school there, and her application was accepted. Happy at last to have her whole life in this town, she now found time for other preoccupations.

An active member of St. Mark’s Anglican Church, she was having the curate of the day, Rev. David Hamilton, to tea in her home when he asked her, “Do you think we could do a Gilbert and Sullivan?” and Ms. MacGregor replied without hesitation or doubt, “We sure can.”

The “we” to which they were referring became the St. Mark’s Choral Society. They chose Trial By Jury as the first G&S they would do and later it was Pirates of Penzance and Ms.  MacGregor got busy making costumes for the ladies.

She showed us the photographs in an elderly album of the fabulous dresses she made for every female in the show.

“I measured every one of the women,” she told us,  “and each dress fit perfectly. I made the dresses from curtain brocade. It was fabulous.”

From that success to others, they  always chose to perform Gilbert and Sullivan. “There was no royalties to pay for G & S,” she explained. “After the shows, we had money to send to charities.”

As the shows increased in popularity, so did the interest on the part of people to perform with the St. Mark’s Choral Society until it became less of a church organization. In the 1980’s, the name became Orangeville Music Theatre (OMT).

Said Ms. MacGregor of the group and long-time volunteer OMT executive Lucinda Silva, “I’m so proud of them that they picked it up and it has grown so well. Lucinda is something else. We sang together in Everything Goes. We really hit it off – she’s a good person.”   

On the kitchen wall of Ms. MacGregor’s home is a framed certificate from Theatre Orangeville declaring itself to be a platinum award to Kay MacGregor for 15 years of service to the theatre and awarding her tickets to the opening nights of every show to come. Indeed, Ms. MacGregor’s association with the theatre was our next step in learning about her life.

“I began volunteering at the theatre in the very beginning,” she told us. “Jim Betts was the artistic director. I was making costumes. In the early days, you wore many hats.”

She had said earlier, “I always loved the theatre.”

After five years of volunteering at Theatre Orangeville, she was asked if she would like the job of house manager, by which time the artistic director was David Nairn.

“I did that for 10 years,” she remarked, “I was there for all the shows.”

Meanwhile, she was also running her business, Kay MacGregor’s Custom Drapery, which she had started in 1980 when she bought Patterson’s curtain business.

“I ran that for 22 years,” she said, “from 1980 to 2002.”

Living in Orangeville without the necessity to commute also gave Ms. MacGregor time and inclination to go back to her painting.

“Here in Orangeville, I got back to it. I love doing portraits. I have done workshops with Laurie McGaw – four or five. They are weekend workshops. Laurie teaches on Friday and then we have Saturday and Sunday with live models. I have sold paintings and done commissions.”

Currently, she is renting a studio at the Alton Mill and is participating in the upcoming art show at the Orangeville Town Hall under the umbrella of Orangeville Art Group (OAG). The show, titled Harvest of Colour Art Show takes place during the Culture Days weekend, of October 1 and 2. The Art Show will be staged throughout the Town Hall: the Atrium upstairs, the ground floor and the Council Chambers. Very exciting for the artists and the OAG.

In 1998, Ms. MacGregor was able to build the beautiful home in which she now resides on six acres in the country, now 18 years happy. Now she is still painting very energetically and revels with the good memories of her life so far.

“When I think back,” she reflected, “I don’t know how I did it all. All my life, I’ve always done what I loved – teaching, sewing, painting – the theatre. …That’s why I’ve been so happy. I looked after my kids and they’ve all done so well – they’ve worked really hard.”

All these years of hard work with her four children as her focus. Not merely a decent home and good upbringing , she worked for their rights to good education and supported them when and wherever she could. As adults, they acknowledge and appreciate her.

“I’m so lucky,” she said simply. “And they [my children] have repaid me a 100 times.”

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