11 July 2011


Kris Ellestad rocks out.

On July 10 Small Pond Arts played host to Calgary's Kris Ellestad for the Picton Picturefest Afterparty, closing out four days of film screenings, youth workshops, parties, and merriment. Kris and his awesome band played in our Art Barn which had seen (and heard!) fabulous music nearly a year ago during Splashdown! --but this time it was on a fresh new cement floor. This renovation was a long time coming and involved a lot of very hard work by many helpful folks.

The Art Barn in the spring of 2010.

Prior to the reno, the barn (which hitherto housed horses) had already been put to use in several artistic ways: it was studio space for painter Amitesh Verma, it became a museum during Stickfest, and Krista held a lantern-making workshop in there during Culture Days last fall. The space was great, but the floor was uneven, having been chewed up by hooves and horeshoes over many years.

So we enlisted our friend, David Riley, for his expertise in construction and he told us the first thing we had to do was dig a channel around the inside perimeter of the barn. Great! How hard could that possibly be? How long could that possibly take?

As noted in this post, the soil in much of Prince Edward County is incredibly rocky, and digging deeply with mere shovels isn't always an option since you're likely to hit bedrock after only about two feet. So, to answer the first question above: pretty hard, buddy; and to answer the second: seemingly forever.

Honourable Barn Channelers.

Above is a montage of most of the helpful people who helped us dig the Barn Channel. Clockwise from top right: Krista, me, artist residents Nina Hartt and Kris Forge (Toronto), artist residents Urs (Germany) and Kim Thompson (Toronto), a few young ladies from the Otesha Project that camped overnight, and, dead centre, artist residents Catherine Mellinger and Joel Brubacher (Toronto). We thank you all.

Many of the rocks excavated from the channel were hauled over to our new outdoor bake oven site (more on that in the future).

Kingbirds freak out.

Babies need feeding.

Unbeknownst to us, a pair of Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus (I'm not kidding!)) had made their nest in the downspout of the barn's gutter, but we decided to let it stay just in case there were eggs in it. Needless to say, that whole family (now with three chicks!) put up with a lot of noise during the reno.

String Theory in practice.

Several weeks later (we worked hard but intermittently...and we also concurrently began work on our bake oven!) we were ready to install the foam forms that would contain the concrete as well as insulate the floor against winter frost. Dave and I used a laser level to mark lines around the inside so we would have a consistent point to measure down from, ensuring the tops of our forms would be at the same height. String was strung to help with these measurements.

Formed forms.

This stage didn't take nearly as long as the digging, but it did require a relative degree of accuracy, if not absolute precision. I left the mathematics to Dave.

14 yards.

Believe it or not, after weeks of taking out dirt, we now had to put it back in. To stabilize the foam forms and provide a ground the cement can grab onto, we ordered a bunch of screenings (i.e. gravel) from local suppliers C.B. Fennel. That pile is 14 yards (I'm still confused about that measurement) and, apparently, too much --but we used lots around the outside of the barn (with cardboard underneath to prevent vegetative growth) and some will go into our bake oven, minimizing wastage.

In the last shot you can see the right hand door that we had to remove so we could get a good pour without having to over-customize the forms. This door slides inside the barn (the other on the outside) and will have to be cut shorter before we put it back.

The gravel channel.

Not shown above is all the gravel that had to be brought in and raked to cover the floor's surface, bringing the top of the gravel four inches down from the tops of the foam forms (minutes before the cement truck arrived, this was changed to three inches, requiring less concrete).

Here we go...

I can't remember the yardage on the cement, but it was significantly less than that of the gravel. Once again, Fennel's came through with the delivery.

Maximum insertion.

This is as far as Dennis, the cement delivery guy, could get into the barn, requiring somebody to haul the cement to the far corners of the barn in a wheelbarrow.

That somebody was me.

I'm not complaining, but a wheelbarrow full of wet cement is heavy --but it had to be done and I was up to the task. Another friend, Peter Blendell, came by to assist in the pour because he had even greater expertise in this than Dave. It was a day of glorious teamwork.


Cement waits for nobody so you have to work quickly, spreading it around to the desired areas, making sure it gets into all the nooks and crannies of the gravel. Dave and Peter did most of this, ankle deep in cement, but Krista (in the green boots) was there with a ready shovel, helping out.

Smooth operators.

Dave and Peter run the screed across the cement, smoothing it out. It's not as easy or as fun as it looks because wet cement is heavy and hard to push around.

Cemented into a corner.

We split the floor into two halves, making the pour more manageable; we did the far side first, then the near. It was actually kind of fun watching both Peter and Dave Spider-Man their way out of the tricky corners.

Almost done?

Nope. Although the floor looked pretty good even at this point, there was still one more task to perform...

Smoother operators.

Peter and Dave started, to  show us how, then Dave, Krista, and I continued, then Krista and Dave finished the floor by trowelling the cement into as smooth a finish as we could manage. We're quite happy with the slightly imperfect, handcrafted finish.

Finished, but for the decorations.

The finished floor is more reflective, giving the space a brighter look. Also, removing the three non-supporting posts in the middle gives us more room to play with. Here Krista readies the stage for the band with her wonderful patchwork banner and paper lanterns.

My apologies for this hastily-patched-together panorama and for the lack of proper "before and after" shots, but you can click here to see the space as it was the last time we had musicians play in the barn.

Kris Ellestad rocks out (reprise).

The audience was outside and the weather was amazing (if buggy).

Beautiful music.

Seriously: go to his website and check out some tunes.

Low-tech music videos.

Local illustrator Carl Wiens had recently acquired a few reels of 8mm home movies and brought them (along with his gorgeous vintage projector) to show them on a makeshift screen on the sliding door to the right. The band couldn't see the images, but it was uncanny how, quite often, the music seemed to sync up with the movies, creating a score to decades-old memories, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, always fun.

One small step.

We had about a wheelbarrow's worth of cement left over from the floor pour, so I quickly made a form out of some leftover wood and made a step to make climbing up to the Silo Patio a little safer.

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