“It's a constant work in progress,” says artist J. (Jayné) Childs of the former Maryfield Memorial Hospital, which she and her husband Richard purchased in February, 2000. The couple have since transformed the building and grounds into the Atelier Manor on the Atelier Estate, which now houses 'Jardinière', J. Childs' studio and gallery.
“We've started welcoming visitors Sunday afternoons now, and I'm looking forward to hosting some art classes I call 'Creative Sessions' this fall,” says Childs. “They're classes for people who think they can't do art, and they'll be designed as three-class sessions, where the student takes home a finished work. I'm really excited about it.”
Childs' enthusiasm for art and for Maryfield's manor are evident.
“Richard is from the east coast, from Newfoundland,” she says. “I was born and raised in B.C.-in Victoria and Sooke. We each had two kids. We were The Partridge Family. I worked in the trades and Richard is a stone mason.”
“I was working in the film industry-one of the TV shows I worked on was 'Cold Squad'. I worked 16-hour days. Eventually, the doctors finally said I had to stop, because I had fibromyalgia.”
“I started to look at what I was going to do next, and to make a long story short, we saw an ad for a farm in Fort Qu'Appelle. It was an eight-bedroom stone house on eight acres. It was purchased by someone else before we had a chance,” adds Childs. “But what that experience did was open up my eyes and say, 'Don't cross Saskatchewan off my list.'”
“My grandparents had a farm in Manitoba and I was raised in Sooke on a farm,” she says. “Richard grew up on a farm. We were fortunate-two people from both Canadian coasts-to find a quiet, safe little village to call home- Maryfield, Saskatchewan.”
“The people from the economic development group couldn't do enough for us. The entire village was so welcoming,” says Childs. “Darcy Boone picked me up in Regina late at night and Gail Harrison helped me with anything and everything I needed to find out.”
“It's wonderful and we've really gotten to know people in the community. We ran the Manor as a bed and breakfast and we also met hundreds of people from all over country and the world.”
“When I first came here, everyone would say 'Why would you come here?'”
“I would say, 'You have no idea,'” says Childs. “It's gorgeous, fantastic.'”
“The drive to a larger place like Brandon is only an hour and 15 minutes,” she says. “And it's the most beautiful drive. In Vancouver, the drive from your house to your job everyday can easily take that long, and it's a crowded commute. You're not driving, enjoying the beautiful countryside.”
“Of course, the winters are really cold here,” adds Childs. “But the sun shines almost every day. There's no rain or fog or grey. I love the sunshine here. I open up all of my windows and the sun just shines through.”
“With 5,000 square feet in this building, I have so much space and sunshine, I can't get cabin fever.”
The Childs have always embraced and respected the hospital's history, beginning when they transformed part of the building into a bed and breakfast, and they continue to integrate its story into the building's most recent incarnation.
“This building has a feminine spirit,” says Childs. “In the hospital back then, the doctor was a man, and often, he was travelling and making house calls. That meant that the nurses were a constant presence at the hospital. They were the ones who-more often than not- delivered the babies and they were the constant for anyone who found themselves in the hospital.”
“A lot of them were from South Africa,” adds Childs. “They met Canadian soldiers from this area overseas during World War II, married, and came back here. The history they made here is such an important part of the building's legacy and spirit.”
Childs' artistic energy and talents extend to numerous projects that pay homage to her new home, and a visit to the Atelier Estate confirms this.
“In June 2011, (curling champion) Russ Howard came to the village. And of course, curling's a really big thing here. I did a large portrait of Russ Howard in honour of the occasion and gave it to him as a gift.”
“In a conversation with Russ, I found that there weren't paintings of curling champions anywhere, so I started to do portraits of them myself. I did an exhibition of curling paintings at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria two years ago, during the Mens' World Curling Championships.”
“As a result of that show in Victoria, I have portraits in the works of 50 curling champions who have agreed to let me paint them for the portfolio series.”
A local series, “Village Flowers” includes a large steel wreath that now hangs at Maryfield School, as well as steel floral sculptures that have been a feature of Maryfield's Main Street since 2006.
“I had students from kindergarten to Grade 12 draw a flower, that's where the project came from,” says Childs. “The steel wreath at the school includes a hummingbird, which symbolizes Bill Hauseccker, a Saskatchewan artist and teacher who took me in. He was such a powerful mentor, and although he's passed on now, he's still here with me.”
Childs has some of Hauseccker's work for sale along with her own in the mercantile section of Jardinière. “I have a lot of plans for this place,” she says. “It's a work in progress, but the gallery, mercantile and gardens are underway. I also want to add an apothecary. I'd like to sell heirloom plants from our garden and natural products.”
Another of Childs' artistic projects with a local link are her AUD pieces. “The AUD pieces are pieces that I've made from the old aluminum film reels from the movie theatre. Now that films have gone digital, we looked for a way to use these old reels, which are a piece of local history.”
“I've done a lot of metal work-embossing, engraving-and I found these reels could be repurposed into clocks, wine racks and even angels. I'm doing this project as a 50/50. I've done quite a few projects his way, because I like to support my subjects.”
“I also have a 'Living Skies' project, which is inspired by my adopted province.”
“I'm very excited about sharing parts of our home-and this historic building and its latest incarnation- to people. I am looking forward to hosting a series of what I call “Creative Sessions” in September. People think they can't do art, but they can. After a few sessions, I'd like them to walk away with a beautiful, finished work-either a watercolour or an acrylic canvas.”
“My long-term ambition is to house a gallery, apothecary, mercantile and gardens. We're starting with a studio and gallery, and we've embraced and included the hospital's history.”
The medicine cabinets house art supplies, the laundry room is now an elegant mercantile, the former operating room is now the Childs' bright and welcoming kitchen, the hospital nursery is now a dramatic dining room and the former hospital grounds now boast a soon-to-be completed pond, a greenhouse and red maple and dogwood trees.
“I love the building and I'm not doing anything without its permission,” smiles Childs. “I love her and she loves me.”
Jardinière is located at 801 Assiniboia Avenue, Maryfield. To arrange a Sunday afternoon visit, call (306)-646-2005 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit: www.atelierestate.com.