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Remarks made by His Honour the Honourable John C. Crosbie Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador at the Opening in St. John’s of The French Shore Tapestry, at the Geo Centre
Wednesday, 3 November 2010

This is the second opening of the French Shore Tapestry, first unveiled at Conche, White Bay, on July 27th and created as a result of the collaboration between French artist Jean Claude Roy and his wife Christina, the French Shore Historical Society in Conche led by Joan Simmonds, Program Director, and 12 women from Conche who carried out the embroidery, done with wool thread on linen, measuring 222 feet, possibly more as a result of its mounting in the GEO CENTRE in St. John’s.

The work was completed over a period of 18 months between 2007 and 2009. The 12 women of Conche, fish plant workers, spent more than 20,000 hours embroidering this complex tapestry while Christina Roy spent 1,000 hours on research and other assistance with Jean Claude executing the necessary drawings over three years.

This superb piece of art illustrates the history of the French Shore including the Maritime Archaic Indians, Inuit, Vikings, French and English settlers and is modeled after the Bayeux Tapestry of France which described the Norman invasion of England in 1066.

The story begins at the creation of the world and passes with speed and omissions to the current time. It focuses initially on Newfoundland, then on the 200 years of the French Shore and on Conche itself.

In my view, this work of art is the most significant artistic creation in this Province, if not in all Canada, since Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.

Tonight the tapestry is ly opened in St. John’s in this GEO CENTRE, built as a result of the initiative of and creative powers of Paul Johnson, our outstanding philanthropist. The GEO CENTRE has as one feature the tragedy of the Titanic but I believe that in a positive sense, this Tapestry is a Titanic artistic triumph of all who participated and is worthy of our acclaim, appreciation and thanks.

I believe that this tapestry as created illustrates the important and vital contribution made by the women of Newfoundland and Labrador, both Aboriginal and European, during all our history. Our Newfoundland and Labrador women, particularly in the outport areas, were a significant and important part of the social and work environment particularly in all aspects of the fishery, our most important economic enterprise until recent times, when overfishing and overwhelming pressure on fish stocks, inside and outside our waters, created a crisis particularly in the cod fishery causing closure during 1992.

The women of Conche who live in this delightful but remote part of outport Newfoundland have shown again their characteristic hard work, skill and determination, making a magnificent contribution to the well being of their native isle and Labrador, as our women have traditionally done throughout our history.

It was also most appropriate that a great deal of the artistic work of designing and drawing the entire tapestry, which took over three years, was done by Jean Claude Roy, a French artist who has adopted Newfoundland for much of his artistic career, assisted by his Newfoundland wife, Christina, who spent much time on the project providing materials, adding color to the drawings and writing the embroidery instructions transmitted by e-mail to Conche.

We are also lucky that Joan Simmonds, the Program Director of the French Shore Historical Society, undertook the raising of funding necessary for this work to be carried out, managing grants over the life of the project, hiring the women from the community, supervising their training and technique and arranging the space for the work to be carried out.

Wife Jane and I are proud to be Patrons of the association of people who together created this magnificent and unique artistic creation. We are determined to do everything we can to assist in the next stage of what must be a continuing project needing further funding and organization if this astonishing work of art is to be made available for viewing by the many people worldwide who will be interested in seeing such an epic creation.

For this French Shore Tapestry to be exhibited constructively at Conche, there must be a proper exhibition building and a small museum with space for storage of the historical materials gathered together and proper space provided for exhibiting this unusual and magnificent artistic achievement. It is proposed that the Tapestry be present in the home outport of many of the creators at Conche for six months of the year from Spring to Fall and then at St. John’s in the GEO CENTRE or in travel to other suitable museums and galleries in Canada or elsewhere through the rest of the year.

This artistic creation should be made available not just for the enjoyment of those who live in Newfoundland and Labrador or in Canada but to people who will wish to see and enjoy it throughout the civilized world just as was true with the Bayeux Tapestry.

If the full potential of this artistic triumph is to be achieved, the private sector in Newfoundland must be approached to contribute towards the cost of providing a proper facility at Conche and such other funding as will be necessary to continue the proper showing of this artwork, not only in Conche and St. John’s but other places in the world.

I also believe that if the funding needed to carry out such plans is to be achieved, in addition to the private sector in Newfoundland contributing what they can to the project, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada together must be persuaded to help sufficient funding be provided so that this magnificent tapestry can be properly shown to and appreciated by humanity as a whole. If we are to be successful in the essential fundraising initiative, our governments, certainly our own Newfoundland and Labrador Government, must be persuaded to match every dollar that is contributed by individuals in the private sector dollar for dollar or even two dollars for one so that this creation can be given the support it needs to have this unique work exhibited widely and properly.

This is a titanic or gigantic cultural work originating in outport Newfoundland that deserves to be seen widely wherever artistic creation is understood and appreciated.

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