Renfrew -- Joanne Beattie-Kalimeris, a well-known artist who introduced a whole new generation to the history of her hometown through a calendar she created in 2022, has again returned to her beloved childhood memories with a new 2023 calendar featuring more old Renfrew landmarks, many of them long disappeared.
The new calendar features a walk down memory lane in a town that has stuck to its cultural roots. However, unlike last year when she was concerned she may have ordered too many copies to sell, that is no problem this year as her phone has been ringing and people constantly stop her on the street asking her when the next issue will be available.
“I am just amazed and flattered when people stop me and ask when the next issue will be ready,” she said. “It brings a big smile to their faces when I tell them they are already done and it is just a matter of coming downtown to get one.”
Ms. Beattie-Kalimeris admits there is a preconceived notion that artists create at their own pace and deadlines are just a guide and not set in stone. In her case, she is fortunate to have Jeff Scott, co-owner of Scott & Sons Hardware, who set firm deadlines with her in order to meet the high demand for her annual calendar.
“Last year we started off slow with small orders of 25 or 50 at a time until we eventually sold about 1,700 in total,” Mr. Scott said. “This year, we anticipate even greater sales and we think we might sell close to 3,000 so we agreed to have them completed by the end of the summer. We have already begun to receive orders as a Christmas gift.”
She has created a calendar that depicts 13 Renfrew landmark buildings that have long since disappeared, with part of the proceeds going to the Renfrew and Area Food Bank.
Born and raised in Renfrew, Ms. Beattie-Kalimeris drew inspiration from what she describes as “passionate childhood memories,” and the need to keep busy during the dark days of the pandemic that forced her and millions of Canadians to stay home and quite often, isolated from friends and family.
With the worst of the pandemic apparently behind us, this edition was created not only out of a sense of a true love of her past memories, but both she and Mr. Scott realized that both current and past residents have fallen in love with her unique paintings and the memories they invoke.
“Earlier this year there was a man who saw a print of the old McLaughlin Store (Magoo’s) and he told me he and his family immigrated to Canada more than 50 years ago and lived in Renfrew when they first arrived,” Mr. Scott said. “He was very emotional when he pointed to the apartment above the store and said that muskrats from Smith’s Creek use to come up and rummage through the garbage and his mother would chase them away. It is memories like those that make this calendar so unique.”
Once again the calendars will be on sale exclusively at Scott’s Hardware and they are being ordered 100 at a time to meet the demand.
“We began ordering early this year because as our printer told us, the demand for the thick quality paper is high as there is a global shortage so we are making sure to order well ahead of time. The quality of the calendar is something people notice right away as it is not cheap thin paper that tends to wear down very quickly.”
They sell for $25 and already the first order of 100 is almost gone. Mr. Scott explained the calendar is a global hit.
“Just like last year, we are getting calls not only from across Canada, but we have emails and phone orders coming in from Europe and all parts of the globe. Many are from people who were born in Renfrew but moved away many years ago. These portraits fill those memories for many who have not been home in decades.
“What Joanne has done is really bring to life the heart and soul of Renfrew and I can tell you when customers stop in to inquire about the calendar, they usually leave with one or two and I am sure they are telling anyone they know about this little treasure.”
Ms. Beattie-Kalameris said the one thing that tugged at her emotions when creating the calendar was the realization that all but two of the buildings are long gone and the glamour and beauty of those historic buildings will never return.
When the historic Renfrew CP caboose came close to joining many other landmarks that were removed from the landscape only to be saved by a last minute change of heart by the current town council, she decided to make it the first print among the 15 prints included to acknowledge its importance.
“Something different this year was I painted sites that were not necessarily buildings,” she said. “Whether it is the caboose or the beloved Mr. Chips fry truck owned by the late Doug Doucette, or the Cenotaph at Low Square, these are symbols of our past and people get very sentimental when they see them.”
Similar to last year, she will be making a donation to the local food bank from part of the sales.
Scott’s Hardware has circled the first Saturday in December as the day Ms. Beattie-Kalameris will be on location to sign the calendars with the annual Santa Claus Parade scheduled to pass by the 107-year-old business.
“I just hope that people get the same enjoyment I get when I paint these childhood memories and come join us on that Saturday to share our love of Renfrew and the sites that makes Renfrew what it is today,” Ms. Beattie-Kalameris said.
Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader