• James Parry

Parrywinkle March 24, 2016

And so, another Hudson St. Patrick's Day has come and gone! And what a glorious day it was.

Following the marchers, floats, and stirring pipe bands along Main Road and up Cameron while snapping pics for Your Local Journal, I couldn't help but think, however, of how the commercial face of our little town has changed so dramatically over the years.

Believe it or not, Hudson once had six gas stations. Also a car dealership, a cinema that would later become a bowling alley with a Sears catalogue outlet, an automobile parts and hardware outlet, shoe shop, bookstore, two video outlets, Christmas shop, a record shop, a top of the line men's and women's clothing emporium, auction house, and more than one big general store selling virtually everything under the sun.

Even a five-and-dime-type shop not too long before the age of dollar chains. Plus, of course, several restaurants that mushroomed only to disappear. Same facilities, perhaps, but with new owners, menus, and different vision. Why, on Main, we once even had a dance studio that was doing fine until it introduced pole dancing. And a community newspaper dating back to … Ah, but that's another story!

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NEVER THE SAME AGAIN - It's no secret, however, that the business face of Hudson - like that of so many small towns in Quebec, and indeed Canada - has been transformed dramatically over the decades. Never to be the same again. And the reasons that are not hard to find.

Burgeoning big box stores just a short drive away. An ageing population that, by its very nature and demographics. is more given to downsizing rather than investing in major purchases. Just check out the garage sales in a few weeks from now. And on-line shopping - although we have never tried it ourselves and have no plans to do so - always preferring to shop locally and seeing a familiar face and real live person at the other end of the transaction.

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FROM MONTREAL TO HUDSON - One thing that hasn't changed, however, is Hudson's continuing commitment to all facets of culture and the arts. Whether it be music, theatre, film, libraries, literature and story-telling, sculpting, handicrafting, or painting. And I'm sure I've missed something out.

But which is why I am so pleased to report that we have a new art studio and gallery in town. What's more, its owners - hubby and wife team and both artists in their own right Allana Benham and Eric Mannella - will continue to operate their superbly successful studio, Atelier de Brésoles, in an old loft building with wooden beams very close to the Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal where they have been teaching and living just above since 2003.

Says Allana, who together with Eric and their 4-year-old daughter, Eva Claire, is looking forward to taking up residence in Hudson this spring, “We are very pleased to open a second location in Hudson just behind Lee's Pizza where our space there will be both an art gallery and a teaching studio.”

Adds Allana, who recently published an English translation of what she describes as a fantastic French text on the artistic anatomy of the female form, “We have developed a program of realistic drawing and painting that blends the traditional approach of European art academies with contemporary ideas of form and structure. Students learn to draw accurately from observation first, and then may continue with oil painting, landscape painting, artistic anatomy, or historical techniques of drawing or painting, according to their own interests.”

Intrigued to learn that one segment of their classes in Montreal are professionals in graphic design, 3-D modeling and character design for video games, or tattoo artists. Says Eric, who I understand is a great guitar player, “Many others are professionals in other areas such as dentists, doctors, restaurant owners, and attorneys, who have always had an interest in the arts but could not pursue it professionally.”

So why now Hudson? Say Allana. “Eric and I both come from small towns. He is from Port Dover, Ontario, and I grew up in a nice town in New York State. Hudson reminded us both of the places we come from, and we feel like it is the right place to put down roots and raise our daughter.”

As for the gallery itself, Eric adds, “We mainly show works related to our atelier teaching, by people who are associated with our school and we will be showing portraiture, landscape painting, and still-life. Over the years, however, we have come in contact with a wide range of artists who have inspired us, and we plan to show their work in group exhibitions whenever possible.”

Welcome to the neighbourhood guys and thanks for your vote of confidence in our little town!

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