Saturday, January 9, 2016

Let's Talk about Mariko - How Lunenburg Lost an Incredible Artist

"...there are too many leaders and decision makers in key locations that have not yet signaled their understanding of the need for fundamental change.  They do not yet share a vision of a finished edifice or an understanding of how they can contribute to its construction."  The Ivany Report

Let's talk about Mariko.  Mariko Paterson is what anyone would call a world class artist.  Here's her web site-

Out of anywhere in the world, she chose to move from British Columbia to beautiful Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.  She bought a home in the old town with a small heritage accessory building, where she could have her pottery studio.  Now, if I was a leader in Lunenburg and I had learned that such a person was moving to our town, I would hitch up the welcome wagon, load it up with the welcoming committee and pay Mariko a visit.  I would ask her if there was anything the town could do to help her in establishing her business in Lunenburg.  As a leader, I would be so excited for the future tourists that such an artist would bring to the area and I would be hopeful that her choice would inspire other artists of similar caliber to follow suit.  I'd make sure to then shout it from the roof tops that Lunenburg is the place to come and set up your craft business.

Sadly, though, instead of the welcoming committee, Mariko was greeted by our Building Inspector, who told her that if she wanted any visitors in her studio, she would need to have fire separation, wheelchair access and a handicapped washroom in the studio.  The town would have wanted 3 car parking.   I don't know the exact square footage of that accessory building, but I'm going to estimate it at 200 sq. ft.  She would have to choose between a kiln or a toilet.  There was no way that Mariko could make these costly renovations, so the building inspector told her to send him an e-mail promising to not run a business in her shop.  Can we say, "overstepping your jurisdiction?"  Mariko, who had already purchased her home, sent the e-mail.  How would she know that the building inspector had no business asking her to do such a thing?

So, Mariko did what most artists in Lunenburg do, she became a part of our thriving underground economy.  She made her art, sold online, sold at craft shows and when the occasional customer tried to find her, she hoped that her sign to the UPS guy, "please bring deliveries to out building" would be enough for the customers to know where she was.

I was so amazed by Mariko.  When she moved to Lunenburg, it seemed that her first question was, How can I help?  She established  the Lunenburg Community Bulletin Board on Facebook, which continues to be a great tool for our town.  With Karen Lewis, she established the Lunenburg Dog Park.  She also donated her graphic design skills to The Lunenburg Festival of Crafts and made them a spiffy new logo.  People like Mariko don't come around often.

After a couple of years in Lunenburg, Mariko became pretty dismayed with the lack of vision and hospitality in our town.  Every little change she tried to make was met with resistance.  With the love of her life living in Halifax and knowing that Halifax does not harass their artists, moving to the big city was a pretty easy decision.   No councilor from our town stopped by her place and inquired as to why she was leaving Lunenburg.  I'll leave you with one more photo. I don't know what she calls it, but I call it,
'The Lunenburg Welcoming Committee'

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