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Community ‘staple’ brings people together through art

This is the first installment of our Rooted series, where we look at the people and places that make us proud to call Elora and Fergus home
Peter Skoggard in Elora.

When it comes to the local art scene, Peter Skoggard is all-in.

Whether teaching at the Elora Centre for the Arts, cooking meals at a community kitchen or painting sets for the next community theatre production, Skoggard is a staple in the community, welcoming everyone he sees with the warmest of smiles along the way.

“My wife always said it would take me two hours to run a 10-minute errand because I would stop and talk to people. But that is the enthusiasm I have here,” Skoggard said.

“And there is so much more of that same enthusiasm here in Elora. You just touch it, and boom!”

From theatre and community lunches to concerts, Skoggard said people just come together and make things happen.

“The thing about Elora and Fergus, is that there are so many things going on, and I can just plug into all of them. I can do one hundred things which I could never really do anywhere else, and it’s all community-based.”

A composer, artist and poet, Skoggard has written chamber works, operas, a musical, and works for voice, piano and choir.

Involved with the Elora Symphony of the Arts, Skoggard was choir director at the United Church when he first moved to Elora.

“Although music for me is my most important work, as a young adult, I didn’t have a sense of how I was going to do it, the steps I was going to take, or who I was going to be,” Skoggard said.

“So, I did a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.”

Peter and his wife, Deborah, moved to Elora from Toronto in 1985.

During the pandemic, Skoggard created 1,300 self-portraits which were later displayed at the New To You shop in Fergus. All profits from the sale of Skoggard's work were donated to Groves Memorial Community Hospital.

“My mother was a painter, so I grew up drawing. We always went on sketching trips together,” Skoggard said.

“I’ve always been connected to art. As a child, I would pour through books on art history. When you do art, you look at pictures a different way. You wonder how an artist does this or that. You look at the little details."

Since 2015, Skoggard has been involved with the 'Bungalow Community Luncheon: Feeding the Soul', a program which provides free meals on the second and fourth Tuesday each month at the Elora branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.

“I had a restaurant in Toronto for a couple of years. It was a great thing. I learned a lot of skills in terms of cooking, and how to cook in a kitchen for large numbers of people,” Skoggard said.

“So, many years later, when the whole movement of supplying free meals for people who need it, two people approached me asking if I would like to cook for community meals. I said, 'Sure, I love to cook.'”

The lunch program serves anywhere from 50 to 120 people.

“People ask, who are the meals for? And I say, 'It’s for anybody. If you need a good hot meal, or you want to talk with people, you don’t have to have a reason to come,'” Skoggard said.

“It’s not just for people who can’t afford things. It also for people who just want to meet people. And that way, there’s no stigma to it, because it’s for everyone."

After a long struggle with illness, Deborah Skoggard passed away in 2012.

With a passion for his community, Peter Skoggard continues to makes his mark, however he can.

“Elora is not huge, but it is mighty. When things get bigger, they get more official, rents go up and costs go up. With our size here, and being so rich in talent, you can do things right, left and centre,” Skoggard said. “It’s all there, waiting.”

Skoggard is a member of Elora’s ‘Art in Public Places, where local art is displayed at five chosen locations in Elora Fergus including the Greg Oaks Window, the municipal offices, the hospital and the Wellington County Sportsplex.

“We are a committee of three and we decide through our connections, our ideas, and inspirations, what will go where from local artists. We also want to involve the high school arts departments,” Skoggard said.

Skoggard believes Elora is full of talent.

"And in Fergus, there is so much happening, including the Medieval Fair the Steampunk Festival. I am the court jester, every year at the Medieval Festival. I have the costume from my tickle trunk at home," Skoggard said.

“In Elora and Fergus, there’s this oxygen, and I think people are very giddy with this oxygen. The wonderful thing about it is being able to keep that levity. You can have gravity, but you need levity to keep it going.”

Currently Skoggard is memorizing lines for Elora Community Theatre’s upcoming production of King Lear in July.

“It’s my dream role. I mean who in their life gets a chance to play King Lear? It’s amazing. So, here and there, all of these different things have come to me, here,” Skoggard said.

"“When I  hear the phrase, ‘oh you do so much for the community’ I think it’s more that I do so much 'in' the community. I just love begin part it.”

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Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community
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