Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Celebrating 100 years with art and words

Things change, things stay the same.
The Carnegie Gallery in Dundas exemplifies that paradox so well it should be inscribed in Latin on its stony front.
As it is, the only chiselled words that appear are English and they say Public Library, even though the Carnegie hasn't been one for several decades.
Building uses are like hair styles. They shift from time to time, though one hopes the Carnegie's present incarnation -- art gallery, shop and meeting place -- will remain unaltered for the foreseeable future.
Building uses are like hair styles. They shift from time to time, though one hopes the Carnegie's present incarnation -- art gallery, shop and meeting place -- will remain unaltered for the foreseeable future.
Things change. Things stay the same. When you consider the building's classic architecture, with the noble entranceway columns, handsome windows, and the great roof stone, you are tempted to characterize it as stately, imperturbable, unchanging.
But when you consider the building's past, you begin to realize that it has had its hair mussed up plenty.
Until five years ago, when the building was purchased by the Dundas Arts Community Foundation, it was in danger of being thrown to the jackals on the open market.
Owned for years by the Town of Dundas, the deed devolved to the newly amalgamated City of Hamilton in 2000, and the new city had a surplus of heritage buildings. There were fears it would unload the Carnegie.
After much community effort, the building was saved. Much as it was back in the late '70s when it had ceased to be a public library, its original purpose, and was lying fallow.
"It sat empty for years," says Carnegie executive director Barb Patterson. "Then a group got together and said, 'Let's raise some money to keep it alive.'"
They held a big craft and arts carnival and sale and with the proceeds they were able to revive the building as an art gallery/shop, run by the Dundas Arts and Craft Association. It was incorporated as such in 1980, when the building itself was 70 years old.
And so this year is special for the Carnegie as it celebrates a double milestone -- 100 years as a building and 30 as a gallery.
There are many events planned, celebrations and special exhibits taking place over the course of the year to mark the anniversaries.
For instance, tomorrow noted singer/actor Michael Burgess, star of such hit musicals as Les Miserables, will be performing at Carmen's Banquet Centre, 1520 Stone Church Rd. E., as part of a gala fundraising event, including dinner and auction, with proceeds going to the Carnegie.
The silent auction and other festivities start at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7, and the concert from 8:30 to 10:30.
(Tickets available from the Carnegie Gallery: $55. Call the gallery at 905-627-4265).
"The tickets sales have gone very well," says Allyson Wenzowski, of Publicity Works and a longtime supporter of the gallery.
There will be the gallery's regularly scheduled annual events, like The Secret Garden Tour, in June, which will have a special anniversary feel this year.
And in the fall, says Wenzowski, there will be several special events, some of them organized by renowned Troy potter Donn Zver, another great supporter of the gallery.
Beyond Words will be the centrepiece of the fall celebrations. It will be a combination of art and the written word, recognizing the gallery's history as both library and gallery.
Beyond Words will take place at several venues and will draw in well-known artists, book designers and writers. And it will involve the efforts not only of the gallery but of the Dundas Historical Society Museum, the Dundas Valley School of Art and others, such as Bryan Prince Bookseller.
In the spirit of the Carnegie's centenary celebrations, Hamilton woodcarving artist Lori Skinner is using her show at the gallery to highlight 100 years of changing hair styles. It opened last Friday.
Skinner, who traditionally creates bird and fish carvings, threw herself at the challenge of the human head, and her long-necked totemlike characters are a delight.
She has kept the look of the faces "folky" and not too detailed in order to keep the focus on the hair.
But, she confesses, she did model some of the faces on people she knows, and one of them -- try to guess -- is her own.
"One of the challenges was to find pictures of some of the cuts from the back," says Skinner, who shows regularly at Toronto's One of A Kind Show and Sale.
And that wasn't the only research required. She also had to capture the general character of hairstyle changes and drifting trends over 10 decades in just 28 pieces.
She has succeeded admirably. She's got mohawks and faux-hawks, emo, Farrah Fawcett, crew cut, Sinead O'Connor, ducktails, ponytails, beehives, updos, Afros, bobs and bangs, a Gloria Swanson cut, a Barbra Streisand look, a classic men's style with part on the left, and much else.
And what has been the most popular hair style of the past 100 years?
Says Skinner, "Rachel from Friends. By far."
Also in the show, which continues at the Carnegie (10 King St. W. in Dundas) to May 30, are the striking paintings of Maria Lezon, called The Lounging Soap Opera, and a show of pottery by Lesley McInally called Remnants.

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