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The Musquodoboit Bicentennial Theatre and Cultural Centre, a 3 level wooden building, was constructed in 1928 by the people of Middle Musquodoboit as meeting hall for the 'Old Fellows Lodge'.
This centre was also used for various events ranging from community dinners, local school plays, recitals and travelling performances such as musical acts, stage dramas, magic shows, and dance performance.
By the late 1970s membership was declining and, as a result, maintenance of the building could no longer be efficiently supported. In 1983, the building was turned over to the community for the sum of $1.00. The ownership of the building itself was taken over by the Municipality of Halifax County (HRM). Fundraising efforts began in order to aid the restoration of the dilapidated building. Provincial and Municipal grants were awarded.
Renovations began in 1983. In 1929, Mrs. Harriet Claypool, a Musquodoboit resident, purchased a painted backdrop from the Halifax Majestic (formerly the Academy of Music) for the Old Fellows Hall. The large scenic backdrop, depicting a garden landscape, was the work of renowned Canadian scenic artist William Gill (1854-1943). The backdrop (distemper on canvas) was painted in 1892 as part of the set stock scenery for the Halifax Academy of Music. Distemper (hide glue and dry pigment) was used because it is water soluble and that would allow the paint to be washed out or painted over to permit multiple use of the canvas. The scene was employed as a backdrop in the theatre’s final production, of Victor Herbert’s Fortune Teller in 1929. When the backdrop was moved to the Bicentennial Theatre in Musquodoboit, the painted scene had to be cut down in size (estimated 4½ feet was lost) to be well adapted in its new environment.
By 1983, the painted backdrop was in great need of repair. Local artist Roberta "Bobbie" Annand over-painted about 60% of the backdrop with interior latex based paint in order to save it from being thrown away. In 2002, the painted set was evaluated by James Bordeau, a conservator with the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa. The restoration, done primarily by Michelle Gallinger, Art Restoration and Conservation Services, with the assistance of Elizabeth Jorblonski, was completed in just over a year's time.
Upon completion of the restoration, as well as the completion of the repairs in the theatre, the backdrop was re-installed in order to be enjoyed once again by the local residents.
Although the backdrop is not a painted interior (ornamented architectural space) it is, nevertheless, a rare example of a surviving scenic backdrop painting which is of great historical significance. It should be noted that scenic painters were also interior stencil painters and decorators. In fact, there are two buildings in Newfoundland with painted interiors (restored by conservator Michelle Gallinger) that were painted by scenic artists.
Latitude: 45.046 Longitude: -63.1563