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Southeast Alberta/Maple Creek BY ROSE SANCHEZ —

Jonathan Koch is using his passion for history to help ensure the stories from rural southeast Alberta don’t become just that — history. The Brooks-born Koch has rural roots to a

farm that has been in the family for more than 100 years near what once was Bow City. He’s taken the research he has done because of an avid interest in his own family’s history and expanded on it to learn the history of many remote areas in the southeast corner of Alberta. That history is presented on a website he

created in 2009 called Forgotten Alberta: Sights and Stories of the Southeast. Until Koch read the book Empire of Dust by

PRAIRIE POST - Friday, November 18, 2011 - 9 Writer tries to help people remember Forgotten Alberta

schools, railway sidings, railway passenger stations, rural post offices,wooden grain elevators and other photographs and points of interest he has dug up in his research.

Jonathan Koch has created a website to help re-tell the lost stories of southeast Alberta.

David C. Jones,he hadn’t really understood how much history existed and was being lost in southeast Alberta. “If you managed to stick it out in southern Alberta as a

farmer for 100 years, you’ve really struggled,” he says. Koch grew up in Brooks and stayed until 1996.He

attended Medicine Hat College,then went to Lethbridge College,where he earned a diploma in journalism. At the University of Lethbridge, he earned a Bachelor

of Arts focusing on history and political science. While his work with the provincial government took him north to Edmonton, his avid interest in history remains focused on southeast Alberta. “Creating a website was something I had been thinking about for a long time prior to 2009,” says Koch. His interest in his own family’s history grew into an

interest in the history of many of the farmsteads and early settlers of southeast Alberta. “Looking through history books for the region spurred an interest in me,” says Koch. “I had built up so much research, I needed to start doing something with it. I hatched the idea for the Forgotten Alberta website.” He says the history of small communities which

continue to shrink or no longer exist is being forgotten, as are the stories of the people who homesteaded these areas. He believes this information is something to be revered. “The struggles these people endured, I can’t even think of the appropriate adjective to describe it, but it’s something we need to commemorate ...This is something I never learned about in school.There needs to be a greater emphasis on teaching about our pioneers and our history.” Now Koch tries to record these stories on his website.

The work which goes into every website entry is research intensive and time-consuming.For every hour of writing, at least two to three hours of research is done. Most pieces have between 10 to 20 hours of research behind them using various sources such as history books, newspapers or the provincial archives. He has also found the Internet to be a fantastic

research tool as well as the University of Alberta’s archives Peel’s Prairie Provinces (http://peel.library. Koch’s website also features a google map ( he built of the southeast corner featuring the locations of one-room

“It took me over 100 hours to research and compile the information, and to build the map as well, but it is potentially a handy tool for anyone doing some digging on an old ghost town, or the school their grandmother attended back in the day. “One neat thing about the website, since

I have started it I have heard from a number of descendants of these people I have written about,” says Koch. “Hearing their stories and getting their photos, it inspires me to keep going.” Koch,who lives in St. Albert, has an

understanding wife, Amanda,who allows him to have time to devote to his passion for history.More than just a hobby,Koch believes in its importance. “A whole new civilization was created on the prairies in 1908 and within 20 years it was gone,” he says. “So much of the country in southeast Alberta is just range land, and it used to be homesteads, schools and towns which have disappeared. It’s a big mystery for me — where did these people go?” Family holidays are spent trying to find these stories.

There isn’t a part of southeast Alberta Koch hasn’t visited and he’s sharing that history with his young children.Now through his website, he’s sharing it with the world too. “There’s so many little places in the forgotten corners

of the southeast and there’s history to all of it ...There’s so many neat stories. I love southeast Alberta and I love writing about it.”

Starting in January 2012, Jonathan Koch will

have a monthly column called Forgotten Alberta, Stories of the Southeast in the Prairie Post featuring stories from his website.

Maple Creek, Medicine Hat perfect locale for Banff artists BY ROSE SANCHEZ —

Four years ago Zach Quin decided, with his wife Adrienne Gradauer, to leave the hustle and bustle of Banff behind and find a peaceful place to pursue their pottery work. That peaceful place turned out to be Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Quin is the featured artist for The Clay Trade during the Art Walk taking place in downtown Medicine Hat as part of Midnight Madness festivities Nov. 24. His pottery work is on display and for sale at The Clay Trade in Medicine Hat. “My wife has been throwing pots for 15 years, but

I started in 2001,” says Quin. He was a late bloomer to the craft. He met his wife

when they were both students at the Alberta College of Art and Design. While Gradauer was pursuing pottery, Quin was actually focusing on sculpture, creating jewelry and working with glass. “I didn’t sit down at a (pottery) wheel until after

art school.” While he enjoyed glass pulling, it is hard to have a glass studio working alone. “I sat down to a wheel to see if I liked throwing. It turned out I love working with clay and

everything about clay,” says Quin. “The wheel grabbed me.” The couple were living in Banff and working full-time jobs while trying to do their art in their free time. They longed to live in a place where they could afford to own their home and have the time to create their pottery pieces.With Gradauer’s family being from Saskatchewan, the couple began exploring areas to settle, and discovered Maple Creek. “We fell in love with (the town),” says Quin. They packed up and moved to the small community in 2007. One of the best parts is they live close to the

Cypress Hills as well as the clay they use in their work. They have the room to set up a home studio — Smiling Cow Studio (http://www.smiling The studio space is a covered verandah in their small 1914 house.With only an eight-foot wide by 20-foot long area, it forces the two artists to keep a clean studio, says Quin. While Gradauer produces mainly stoneware, Quin focuses on high-fired translucent porcelain. He creates items such as japanese tea bowls, tumblers and vases. Some of them have interesting images on them

through a combination of stencil work and drawing or painting techniques.With the stencils, Quin meticulously draws and cuts out each one. The image is placed on the object through a tissue transfer, similar to silk screening. Quin loves that he can create items for use by people which are safe and unique. When he creates a tumbler, there is a ritual to how it is held. He creates a spot on every tumbler for the user’s thumb so it will sit perfectly in the hand. “It’s a fun thing when you go to art fairs, people

enjoy the act of picking it up and holding it. It becomes a conversation piece,” says Quin. Individuals purchasing these pieces are supporting local artists who are putting a lot of passion into their creation. “It’s not just about buying a beautiful object,

you’re picking up a symbol of supporting the local economy.” Most of his pieces at The Clay Trade were created this past summer during his residency at Medalta. “It was amazing. Everyone who works there (Medalta) is so passionate about it.” There were many artists from various provinces

Photos submitted

Zach Quin gets a helping hand in his studio from two-year- old daughter, Elsa.

and even the U.S.who came together to work on their pieces. Quin had the chance to fire some of his work in kilns he had never used before. “I fired more in a one-month period than I have

ever fired before,” he adds. He’s proud of the work created during that time. “I let myself do stuff I would never do in my own studio. There were some happy surprises and a lot of experimentation and fun.” Quin is thankful businesses are willing to display and sell his wares, including Jan and Bruce Dynes of The Clay Trade. “They have been so helpful. It’s nice to have people

who will take the time to promote you,” he says. The Art Walk Nov. 24 is an opportunity to see

Quin’s work, but also other artists creations in seven businesses in the downtown. Visitors can wander from gallery to gallery starting at 7 p.m. until midnight, since it’s Midnight Madness the same evening. There are various live musical acts performing at different locations also. There are four or five Art Walks held a year, but this is the first time the Clay Trade is featuring an artist — Zach Quin. Artwork by Empress artist Dean Francis is also on display at The Clay Trade. “We have one of the largest selections of local potters’work in (Medicine Hat),” says Bruce Dynes. The involvement of people in the Art Walks so far has been positive with between 200 to 300 people attending each one. Organizers are hoping for a similar turnout on Nov. 24.

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