Friday, November 25, 2011

Old Royal Bank in the Point being put to Good Use..Thanks to Pieter Sijpkes

You can see some photo's on the Point Saint Charles site of George McCrae's listed in our 'Links' section, and you can look at this Peter fellow's collection of pictures he shared over the years, he also opens his house which is the old Royal Bank building in the Point ,to a theater group,so he does give back to the community in a big way too.....Here's the Gazette story :

MONTREAL - There’s a stage in the living room and a professional quality sound system in the front hall. The mammoth windows of the old bank on Wellington St. have been sheathed in black cardboard to shut out the light.

Looks like Pieter Sijpkes has been practising the “architecture of occupation” again.

A retired architecture professor at McGill University, Sijpkes bought the former Royal Bank building in Point St. Charles 15 years ago. He’d been living nearby – in a former d√©panneur – and had long admired the building, an imposing landmark amid the neighbourhood’s no-frills row houses. So when he learned a local non-profit group was eager to sell, he signed a cheque and moved in with his sons.

Even then Sijpkes, who came to Canada a year before Expo 67 and never looked back, knew something about the psychology of the close-knit inner city village we call the Point.

“Unless your grandmother was born here and you have lived here continuously, you’re from away,” Sijpkes explained over coffee in a back kitchen looking out on an enormous apple tree blossoming with snow.

“Something happens and it’s like ‘Oh, my, did you hear the bank down the street was bought by that boy down the street? It’s ridiculous, it should have gone to Sophie’s daycare.’

“I said, ‘Listen, I bought it fair and square, so don’t give me a hard time.’ But I thought, let me try to mollify that. At least doing community events would take away the crossed eyes, some of the unhappiness. And that has worked, I think. People realized I wasn’t yuppifying it.”

As his sons grew up and moved out, Sijpkes opened his home to struggling young artists looking for gallery space and film crews impressed with the open concept and 40-foot ceilings. On summer evenings, blues musicians perform under the stars, the not-so-distant thump of shunting freight trains providing improvised percussion.

“And then Peggie Hopkins came knocking.”

People in the Point know Hopkins best as a real estate broker. But in her spare time, she runs the Point St. Charles Community Theatre. The amateur drama troupe puts on shows twice a year, with box-office returns helping pay for a youth theatre program at the local YMCA.

“We were kind of desperate,” Hopkins said. “Theatre is complicated, because you really need to get in ahead of time, set up and rehearse on the stage.

“I had run out of options, when I heard he was doing vernissages.”

“She said, ‘I want to come see you but it’s not about buying or selling your building,’ ” Sijpkes recalls. “She was afraid I wouldn’t call her back.”

Five years later, Hopkins says she thought her heart would stop when Sijpkes agreed to let actors take over his living room for a month every autumn and spring, while he retreats to a back bedroom.

Sijpkes charges modest fees to use his space, mainly to cover cleaning – certainly nothing near what it costs to maintain the 110-year-old structure, where heat alone can run to $8,000 a year.

“We are a struggling little theatre, and this makes it affordable,” said Hopkins, preparing for the last performances of this fall’s production of Over the Checkerboard. “It has really meant our survival. Pieter has been extremely fair with is. He’s very community-minded.”

“We fit like a hand in a glove,” Sijpkes says of the amateur theatricals, which usually end with audience members stacking the chairs to make space for a feed of homemade sandwiches, brownies and lemon squares.

“It’s very intimate, the eating after,” says Sijpkes, reminded of house parties in Newfoundland where musicians gather, people dance and money is raised for a family in need.

“The Point is a bit like St. John’s. It has this very strong local feeling about it. When I came to Canada from Holland, I found neighbourhoods weren’t very well defined. But in Point St. Charles, I can tell you, you know exactly where you are.”

Sijpkes calls the gallery L’Espace Les Neuf Soeurs, a tribute to the sisters he left behind.

“Over the years, it keeps producing new events.” On Dec. 3, Sijpkes will put up a giant Christmas tree, early so groups of schoolchildren can come visit. Another art show is planned next week. And he’s invited McGill’s architecture department to hold their Christmas party there, so striking workers who aren’t allowed on campus can attend.

At 68, Sijpkes has a weakness for struggling young artists. “You don’t know if they are Van Gogh or whether they are charlatans or somewhere in-between. It’s hard to tell at the beginning.

“I see these young people putting up their stuff and I say there is some fire in the belly of this fellow that will carry him through. I guess when you get old, that’s not a bad thing, to be a paternal overseer of young talent.”

The rogue nature of the events appeals to Sijpkes’s inner rebel.

“It’s on the edge of legitimacy,” he said. “Every event here is sponsored by me. I think it must be the only non-subsidized place in the universe.”

Meanwhile, more than 40 years after he first came to the neighbourhood as a student to work on housing and community garden projects, Sijpkes says his bonds with the theatre group have make him feel more like a local. “We take care of each other, we lend each other cars, we invite each other to parties. And that’s really quite different.”

.........don't forget to vist the point site through the link here on our verdun site,.the whole site is good,and worth the visit.                                ..Cheers ! HF&RV

No comments: