Artistic talents showcased at Decker Colony

Hutterian history delved into thanks to Artist in Schools grant

Decker Colony student works on a shoebox diorama.

Sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again. For families of the Decker Colony, a part of the Hutterian Brethren Church, a communal body with close to 500 communities spanning the Prairies in North America, education has an intricate role in today’s lifestyle. 

Education values have focused on farm and family, with art styles and types of art media from oil paints to digital art, allowing the Decker Colony students to learn there are no regrets in life, just lessons to be learned. 

In 2020 the Decker Colony School was awarded a three-year “Artist in the Schools” grant from the Manitoba Arts Council, with local artist Joan Trott of Hamiota. The project titled “Building on our Foundation to Make Global Communications through Art” was brought forth in the program’s first year. There were introductions to traditional arts and crafts like carving with local carver Judy Perkins, and to basket and wheat weaving and candle-making with Elias Wipf. 

Year Two study, again under the guidance of Trott, is now complete. The goal was to study Hutterian history and develop an understanding of present-day community through an exhibition of stories, books and art. The exhibition, “Decker Hutterian Brethren... A Journey,” is the result of that learning. 

“The exhibition is set up in chronological order from European history to present day,” Trott said. 

“It ran for a month and a half, but unfortunately the Heritage Arts Centre in Hamiota had to close due to coronavirus restrictions. Only virtual viewing was available on Mid-West Arts Council’s Facebook or website. 

Mid-West Arts administrator Allison Gardham created the virtual tour with Mark Waldner, colony school principal, and with Trott, writing the narrative explaining the exhibition. 

“Students have learned to express their humour, their joy, their understanding of history and their empathy for those who have also experienced discrimination, and most of all, their interest in learning,” Trott said. “One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go, as the Hutterian Brethren has had to do, experiencing prejudice, discrimination and persecution.” 

Also part of the exhibition is a display of hand-made products from the colony — woodworking, gift packs, knitting, handmade chocolate, German language guided reading books created by teacher Kathy Waldner, and other items available through curbside pickup by contacting the arts administrator. 

“The 2021 exhibition is a combination of ‘where we came from and the journey to who we are,’“ said Waldner. “This is your opportunity to see the Decker Colony community through their own eyes — and wonderful talent. We hope you enjoy it!” 

Trott, who has just completed her seventh Artist in the School program for the Manitoba Arts Council since 2007, feels blessed to be working with such a remarkable and talented student body, summing up the experience, as a lesson in life — a lesson enriched in creativity and joy. 

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