Local links to a great artist

November 10, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Todd Taylor

I love to learn things about Orangeville and Dufferin County.

Our area is large in size and small in population, yet we as a group of people have had a large impact on the wonderful world in which we live in.

We have enjoyed having famous wrestlers, renowned writers, Nobel Prize winners, hockey players, singers, Olympians, and artists who have hone their craft in our area and then go on to greater achievements on the world stage. Each of these events or accomplishments have ties to people that live in our community here in Dufferin county.

Although not from our region, for your enjoyment, here is another story that has connections to our region:

Have you ever heard of Maude Lewis? Ms. Lewis is one of country’s greatest folk artists ever. In fact, a painting of Maude’s, “Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fishermen” , was found last year at an Ontario thrift store and sold in auction for $45,000. The price received was more than three times what was originally expected!

Recently a movie about the life of Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis was released in Canada. The story of Maude Lewis is enthralling and heartbreaking. During her life, Maude struggles with arthritis, the memory of child she lost, and a family that doubts her ability to function in the world. Ms. Lewis eventually finds love when she moves in with a fish peddler and becomes the wonderful aforementioned folk artist.

I promise I will get to the Orangeville connection, but first let me share a bit more about the back story. You see, in 2016 the Toronto International Film Festival featured Maudie in the Special Presentations section at TIFF and it won a number of awards at other festivals. The movie Maudie was a critical success and is now one of the top grossing Canadian films of all time. If you like to read reviews, the film scored an 88% approval rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes (Tomatoes is famous for being harsh with their reviews). The film starred well-known Hollywood actors Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins.

Personally, I have known about the story of Maude Lewis for some time now. I am not necessarily well versed in the world of art, but I do happen to know Maude Lewis’ great grandson and his family. John Muise has been an Orangeville resident for almost 20 years now. In the time that I have known Muise, I have seen him have success both in business and in his personal life. He is an intellectually stimulating conversationalist, yet is quite modest when speaking about any of his personal accomplishments. That said, ask a question about his connection to the great Maude Lewis and Muise beams with pride.

Mary Young Leckie served as Producer for the movie version of Maudie. Ms. Leckie has been in the entertainment business for the majority of her life. She has worked on previous movie projects such as “The Halifax Explosion”, “The Conrad Black story”, and my personal favourite, “The Arrow”. (The Arrow was all about Canada’s history with the Avro Arrow and starred Dan Akroyd).

I wanted to understand what exactly was it that appealed to Ms. Leckie about the Maudie story. Mary shared that she liked that the story was essentially an “uplifting experience”. “Maude Lewis had a hard life, yet it was so joyful. It makes you feel ashamed when you think about your own life”. In addition, the success of the movie has been wonderful for Leckie and all that worked on the project.

There are 390,000 people who saw the movie in South Korea. Soon the movie will open in China, Germany, Australia, Japan, and Russia.

The idea of living in rural poverty and eventually making a better life for oneself clearly resonates outside the borders of Dufferin county, Nova Scotia, and Canada as well. The Maude Lewis story of success against numerous odds makes all of us feel like we have a chance for success in our lives.

Ms. Leckie is also quite proud that our Orangeville friend John Muise and his family loved the film. Mary and I agreed how nice it was to see what the film’s creation did for John and his extended family.

Cousins who did not previously know each other were now connected via a wonderful story about their artistic East Coast relative. A sister that had been out of contact for some time is now back in touch with and a part of the extended family.

Mary Young Leckie firmly believes that Maudie is smiling down on the Muise family, equally proud of what they have accomplished as they are of her.

The movie “Maudie” was just released on Blu-ray. It is a great story, beautifully acted, and has wonderful cinematography. I implore you to watch this movie and tell everyone know about the wonderful Orangeville connection to it.

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