Jennifer and I moved to Pender Island seven years ago. One of our favourite cultural events has been Art Off the Fence, held annually on South Pender around mid-July.
Local artists show their newest works in an historic churchyard over two days in the high magic of summer. There is live music, good food and a happy vibe, as people wander among the trees looking at the work of talented local artists. They chat with neighbours, make art purchases and enjoy the beautiful setting. Off-island people are charmed by the event.
This weekend, the Happy Monk Baking Company was honoured to be a part of it, serving wood-fired pizza from Mildrith the oven, cookies and good cheer to the art enthusiasts.
The pizzaiolo of South Pender
The pizza pies were baked starting at about 5am, one at a time. Mildrith had been warmed the previous evening, then fired again at 4am. The choices were a funghi (mushroom) pizza, a butternut squash with Kalamata olives and carmelized onions for vegans and a salami for the meat lovers. One-by-one, the pies went into Mildrith for two or three minutes-a-piece and were watched carefully by your friendly baker / pizzaiolo, who rotated them slowly to make sure the crust was done to perfection. The last one came out of Mildrith minutes before I was due at the site.
With a borrowed truck, Jen and I transported the pizzas to the Church of the Good Shepherd in a mini-fridge and set up shop in the churchyard. As the orders came in, the pizzas were warmed on the barbecue, sliced into quarters and carried off by happy art lovers.
Gratitude and weariness
It was a gruelling few days of work, but by the end of the two days and 60 pizzas later, I was full of gratitude for being a part of this wonderful event. Gratitude and weariness. I was ably assisted on Sunday by our good neighbour Wendy Munroe.
When the first day’s rush was over, I left my barbecue station for a shady spot near the music. And listening to the acoustic strains of Turnstyle, I found myself drifting off. The early hours and hard work caught up to me.
I couldn’t have slept long, but when I awoke, I felt transported. Dave Dandeneau and Kathy McIntyre were harmonizing an old country tune with their guitar, accordion and stand-up bass. The sunlight filtered through towering firs and cedars and dappled the raked grounds. People meandered through the trees past easels displaying paintings, photographs and sculptures. Frank Ducote’s translucent fish sculptures hung on trunks, making the grounds seem dream-like. The air shimmered; it was like a mirage. It was Art Off the Fence magic.
And it lasted until I noticed someone at the food table looking around for the Happy Monk, hoping to buy a piece of pizza or a cookie.
It was a wonderful two days of work and pleasure and I felt honoured to be a part of this wonderful event. Thank you, Pender Island, and thanks to the Art Off the Fence organizers who opened their event to a humble baker such as myself.