Hello friends of the Willowbank community,

It has been an exceptionally busy time up at the house on top of the hill! Read on for a summary of the main events from the last six months, and an update on future plans.

Class of 2023 graduates

April saw us bid farewell to the class of 2023 who graduated in front of their peers, faculty and the wider community. These recent graduates of Heritage Conservation are carving out valuable careers in the heritage field and we look forward to engaging them as Willowbank alumni and watching their careers flourish.

Photo of the class of ‘23, from left to right: Joshua Chan, Rémy Bles, Dawn Chan, Sean Blank, Johanna Keus and valedictorian Mackenzie Campbell. Photo credit - Julia Hodgson.

Celebrating Willowbank’s patronage

Proud Willowbank Alumnus Nigel Molaro flew the Willowbank flag on May 6, representing Willowbank at the Government of Canada’s celebration for the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III King of Canada. Nigel remarked how the event itself was a reminder that there are more doors open to Willowbank in Ottawa through Willowbank’s royal patronage. We extend our sincere gratitude to Nigel for representing Willowbank and we look forward to nurturing this unique partnership.

A photo of Nigel’s note to HM King Charles III.

Welcoming Andrew Humeniuk to the Board

Andrew Humeniuk.

In May we were honoured to welcome Andrew Humeniuk to the Willowbank Board of Directors. Andrew brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as co-founder and Executive Director of The Brown Homestead in St. Catharines. The Brown Homestead is a model of how historic sites can become creative educational leaders and community catalysts and there is much that Willowbank can learn from this model, and Andrew’s vision.

Raising funds and awareness at Willowbank

During the Summer months we hosted a number of events at the Estate –  from weddings to the TD Jazz Festival and more – these events raise funds for and awareness of Willowbank. The money raised from these events is significant, and is fed back into the Willowbank ecosystem, supporting student tuition, maintenance and operations.  On December 1 and 2 we are excited to participate in the 24th annual Niagara-On-The-Lake Rotary Holiday House tour. Willowbank will open its doors to the public to tour the House which will be seasonally decorated by the Rotary. More information and tickets can be found here.

If you would like to hold an event at Willowbank please email Katie Houghton at katie.houghton@willowbank.ca to find out what options are available.

Rotary Holiday House Tour photo of Willowbank.

Bursaries broaden the mind

During the Summer months, students were busy nurturing their passion for heritage craft with four students in receipt of bursaries attending European Summer Schools; two students attended the Messors Art Conservation Workshop in Southern Italy, and two students attended The Princes Foundation Summer School at the Dumfries’ House Estate in Scotland. The experiences were life-changing for the students and afforded them a different perspective on heritage, restoration, conservation, and in some instances, life! We are so grateful for the donors who made these experiences possible.

If you would like to learn more about how you can give a Willowbank student the experience of a lifetime, contact Katie Houghton at katie.houghton@willowbank.ca

Photo of Willowbank student Kat Slattery and others at Dumfries House carving a snail shell as an extension of life drawing on limestone. Photo credit - Mattia Thillaye-Kerr.

To see what our passionate, talented students master week in, week out, follow us on our social channels.

Welcoming President (Interim) Dr. Faisal Arain

Dr Faisal Arain.

August saw the culmination of months of searching for a new leader for the School. We now welcome Dr. Faisal Arain as President (Interim), School of Restoration Arts. As interim President, Faisal will spend the next year realigning the school’s curriculum and learning process to conform with the requirements of the province’s regulations for career colleges.

Faisal’s immediate task was to welcome returning students to their second-or

third-year term at Willowbank. In light of refocusing the curriculum to revitalise the program, there was a pause in a first year intake in September and a revitalised program will be ready to market in February 2024, with the next intake in September 2024.

Developing the path forward

Under Dr. Faisal Arain’s direction, Willowbank conducted a Forum for shareholder consultation, re-engagement and sharing the path forward on October 15. A group of ‘primary stakeholders’ (students, alumni, faculty, staff, and board) gathered at Willowbank with the goal of reconnecting and re-engaging the Willowbank Community to chart a path forward together. The primary focus and shared outcome are to have Willowbank resume a first-year cohort in the Fall of 2024. The program revitalisation process, along with rationale for this path was provided. A timeline to successfully launch the revitalised program in Fall 2024 was also shared with the participants.

26 participants in-person and 13 via Zoom joined the Forum. Participants were invited to join an ad-hoc Core Steering Committee under the leadership of Faisal to craft the path for program revitalisation. They were also asked to provide their feedback on the core competencies (skills, knowledge, attitudes, and abilities) for Willowbank graduates, that sets the foundation for program outcomes.

Faisal remarked, “We look forward to building upon the gathered insights to revitalise our diploma program and are excited to welcome our new cohort of 1st year students in September 2024.”

Students return to campus

Photo of second and third year students and Dr Arain on the porch at Willowbank.

September saw the return of the second and third year students to campus. The third year students are either on placement or finalising their placement, and will return to campus in March for their final three weeks before graduating. The second year students will spend the next six months on campus, combining theory and practise in heritage restoration, developing their own unique philosophies. The second years and Dr. Arain are off to Ottawa this week to attend the National Trust Conference – a wonderful opportunity to meet and network with other heritage professionals, a number of whom are Willowbank alumni. Donations have made attendance possible and we thank those donors who continue to invest in our students, and the future of heritage in Canada and beyond.

If you would like to learn more about ways to support Willowbank students and make a difference, please contact Katie Houghton at katie.houghton@willowbank.ca

Archivist Emeritus bestowed upon Dr. Elizabeth Oliver-Malone

On September 21 the board, staff and students celebrated Dr. Elizabeth Oliver- Malone with a certificate appointing her to the lifetime position of "archivist emeritus" to acknowledge her incredible commitment to Willowbank’s history and future.  We thank Elizabeth for her ongoing passion and dedication to Willowbank. In turn Elizabeth said, “Thanks so much for my title as Archivist Emeritus at Willowbank, thus stressing the importance of Archives. Founded by Town Historian Joy Ormsby and Dr. Richard Merritt in 2003, we were aided by Willowbank students and a yearly "archive student" since 2009.  We'll just keep on going!”

Photo of Elizabeth receiving certificate with current and past Willowbank library and archive fellows. Photo credit - Julia Hodgson.

Listening and learning with the indigenous community

Photo of the unveiling the partially constructed cairn in memory of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children. Photo credit - Julia Hodgson.

Marie Louise - Indigenous Community Knowledge Helper and Grandmother Marie Jones and Grandmother Jackie Labonte - Indigenous Knowledge Keeper community Elders of traditional medicines, and others in the indigenous community continue their great efforts in remembering and honouring the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children.

On October 5 as part of the Sisters in Spirit vigil, the community came together to reflect and remember, and the partially constructed cairn was unveiled at Willowbank, by the Appel Barn. When completed by indigenous ally, volunteer and Faculty member, Dean McLellan, this will be an impressive ten foot tall teardrop shared drystone cairn and will serve as a reminder of the aboriginal landscape and raise awareness of the atrocities inflicted upon the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children.

If you would like to be involved in nurturing the Love Garden at Willowbank or to learn more about how you can get involved with the indigenous community, contact Marie Bowering Marie.Bowering@ncdsb.com

Partnering with the Town of Grimsby to protect our communities

Image supplied by Town of Grimsby: Photo of Industrial Era Gibson Cottage – Circa 1840. Designated Under Part IV of the OHA.

In partnership with the Town of Grimsby, Willowbank students have been provided the unique opportunity to contribute to the designation of five notable heritage resources located within the Town. During the student’s Heritage Planning and Designation course, heritage planning staff from the Town provided the students with real world experiences as the students dove into the rich history of the award-winning Prince of Wales community.

Designation provides long term protection to heritage buildings and enables heritage professionals to guide change on these sites, further ensuring the cultural heritage value of the site is preserved, protected and celebrated. The Town has recently provided an update that six out of the nine notable heritage resources studied have been officially designated. The heritage team at the Town consists of three Willowbank Alums - Bianca Verrecchia, Garrett France-Wyllie and Johanna Keus. These Willowbank Alum’s are now teaching our second year cohorts how to successfully write designation research reports, and through this partnership, the students will again be working with the Town to pursue designation on four additional sites. The future of our towns is literally in the hands of our students and alumni.

Rolf Schmitt passing

It is with great sadness that we share the sudden passing of our dear site custodian, Rolf Schmitt, August 17. Rolf was with Willowbank for a little over two years and was an incredible asset - taking pride in all that he did. Rolf will be sorely missed around campus.