Energizing & inspiring: Eclectic – September Group Exhibition @ Fran Hill Gallery

It had been a while since I’d been to the Fran Hill Gallery, so I was very happy to get the heads-up from Fran that the gallery was mounting a group exhibition: Eclectic – September Group Exhibition, which opened last night and runs until September 29.

Located at 285 Rushton Road, Toronto near St. Clair/Christie, Fran Hill Gallery is just around the corner from a lively and diverse stretch of St. Clair. The shops range from the Good Will to the vintage shop Gypsy, from pubs like Dave’s to more upscale eateries like The Rushton, and chain coffee Starbucks to the indie Noir and Pain Perdu. There’s a great neighbourhood feel to the gallery, but you don’t have to be a regular to receive a warm welcome. It’s also a clubhouse of sorts for the artists represented there, to hang out with Fran and other artists, and meet art lovers and prospective collectors.

The participating artists are as distinctive as their work, creating art in a variety of media, and coming from various professional and cultural backgrounds. Pieces done in oil on canvas (Alex Wu’s Untitled lady), pencil or watercolour on paper (Blair Sharpe’s watercolour abstracts), wood (Rosalie Lam’s Canada geese and Lynn Cumine’s nude woman); collage (Steve Rockwell’s thumbnail installation); with digital cameras (Jim Ingram’s NYC photos); sculptures in glass and plaster (Leon Rooke’s “Who’s Your Daddy!); the images ranging from the abstract to portraits and landscapes, to homage to other artists (À la Pablo Picasso’s abstract nudes). “Eclectic” is the perfect title for this exhibition.

The Eclectic – September Group Exhibition artists are, in alphabetical order:

Steve Armstrong

Christopher Arnoldin

Robert Chandler

Tien Chang

Linda Corbett

Lynn Cumine

Michael Warren-Darley

Michael Gerry

Gerald Gladstone

Frederick Hagan

Inez

Jim Ingram

Rosalie Lam

Derek Liddington

Barbara McGivern

Bhashkar Mooljee

Robert Nowacki

À la Pablo Picasso

Leon Rooke

Brian Saby

Robert Schwager

Blair Sharpe

Lanny Shereck (who also has an exhibit opening at loop tomorrow, running September 14 – October 6)

Steve Rockwell

Y.M. Whelan

Alex Wu

Sean Yelland

Standing in the centre of the showroom, immersed in these images, is both an energizing and inspiring experience. And you can feel it too. Eclectic – September Group Exhibition is on at Fran Hill Gallery until September 29. Hours: Friday, Saturday & Sunday 11 – 6 or by appointment. Contact: 416-363-1333 or email: franhillgallery@bellnet.ca

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Fran Hill surveys the gallery & exhibit patrons from the doorway
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The Fran Hill Gallery neon sign glows in the window
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Steve Rockwell’s thumbnail installation
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Alex Wu’s untitled lady gazes at us over her shoulder
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The north room of the gallery
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Lynn Cumine’s nude woman, painted on wood
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Leon Rooke’s plaster sculpture “Who’s Your Daddy!”
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Opening night guests enjoying the patio in front of the gallery

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With gratitude

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Cowbell series – Gratitude

I’ve been reminded – several times this week – how rich I am in wonderful, creative friends. Whether it’s someone recommending or inviting me to go see a band, a movie, a play, read a book or a poem – or whatever – there is such a wealth of sharing and connection in my life right now that I just had to pause and say thank you. And that goes for you, too, dear reader. Thank you for dropping by. Thank you for your comments, compliments, queries, suggestions.

We are all the richer for sharing thoughts, ideas, feelings and art.

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Wink – photo by Lisa MacIntosh

With thanks to photographer Lisa MacIntosh who went out of her way to go outside to her car, take this photo and send it to me today. She says it reminds her of me. I can see the resemblance. 😉

So long, Q Space

I had the pleasure of attending two arts events at Q Space last week: The Beautiful & the Damned (TB&TD) on Thursday night and Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir (LV Cabaret Noir) on Sunday; check out Duncan Armstrong’s TOpoet blog posts of these recent editions of TB&TD and LV Cabaret Noir. Both events showcase local performing and literary artists, and provide opportunities for established and emerging artists to get up in front of an audience for open mic segments. It was the last time that both events would take place in the intimate storefront space. Q Space will be closing at the end of the month.

In addition to being the home of Quattro Books publishers, a gallery, book shop and licensed café, Q Space has hosted numerous poetry/spoken word events (including the weekly Art Bar poetry series and various poetry slam events) and workshops (the monthly Renaissance Revival), book launches and visual art exhibits, as well as cabaret shows like TB&TD and LV Cabaret Noir, which present a variety of literary, music and performing artists. Artists, especially those who are starting out, need a supportive space to showcase their work and try out new material in front of an audience, and have the chance to meet and network with other artists. There aren’t a lot of spaces in the city for such opportunities – and Q Space was one of those spaces. And proprietor Luciano Iacobelli, always the congenial host, would even keep the place open late to accommodate an event.

On a personal note, not being in the mood for a birthday party this year, I decided to celebrate my 50th at the June edition of LV Cabaret Noir, which had just launched its monthly program at Q Space in the spring. It was an amazing evening of friends and artistry – and the atmosphere at Q Space had a lot to do with that. Thanks to Luciano and his staff for staying open late for us that night. LV Cabaret Noir will be moving to the main floor of The Central in September and TB&TD are in the process of finding a new space.

So here’s to Q Space. Here’s to Luciano and his staff, and all the folks who organized and attended events there throughout its history. To the café, book shop and gallery. To the Portuguese custard tarts, which for some reason I never bought at the local bakery when I lived in Little Portugal, but enjoyed at Q Space. You will be missed.

You still have a chance to pay Q Space a visit – they’re open till the end of August.

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TB&TD – Brenda Clews performs her last poem of the evening in mask
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TB&TD – Adam Abbas entertains, reading dirty limericks & other works
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TB&TD – Andrea Matchett gives us sweet sounds in her acoustic set
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TB&TD – Duncan Armstrong, in yet another awesome t-shirt, reads a selection of poems
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LV Cabaret Noir – Our lovely hostess with the mostess, Lizzie Violet
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LV Cabaret Noir – Andraya performs one of three sensual & explosive dance/movement pieces
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LV Cabaret Noir – knot rivals recites some powerful words
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LV Cabaret Noir – Tania Joy brings a heart & soulful acoustic set

Since you asked – cowbell origins

So folks have been asking me about the origins of this blog, what it’s about and if it has to do with a famous SNL sketch of Blue Oyster Cult recording “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and their producer’s (played by Christopher Walken) only note: “More cowbell.”

In answer to the first two questions, I decided to repost my interview portion of “The Next Big Thing Interview” post (see below). To the third, I say – yes, the sketch inspired the title of this blog.

What is your working title of your blog? life with more cowbell

Where did the idea come from for the blog? I was the company blogger at Alumnae Theatre, posting about the shows it was producing, and generally shouting out and supporting the theatre. When I made the decision to “retire” from there, I decided to start my own blog. I wanted to get out to see more live theatre and music, and support local artists. On a broader level, I felt the desire to inject more excitement into my life and generate some positive impact in the process. If that makes any sense. Shout out the work and spread the good word.

What genre does your blog fall under? Arts/culture and entertainment mostly, from an experiential point of view, as opposed to being a review or critique.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? If this blog ever became a movie, it would be a huge honour if Jodie Foster played me.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your blog? Toronto-based culture vulture/social bloggerfly shares her arts/culture and entertainment adventures, with a bit of travel and philosophy thrown in.

Will your blog be self-published or represented by an agency? At this point, I have no representation or plans to turn this blog into a book – but that is an interesting notion. The blog is a serious hobby that I pursue in addition to my “day job” as a copy editor/proofreader for a national public opinion polling company. I’m not really thinking in terms of going “professional” with the blog – to get paid for writing it. Right now, I’m just happy to experience and shout out the art/artists. Though, if someone wanted to pay me to do this – I probably wouldn’t say no.

How long does it take you to write the blog/how much time do you put into it? The blog is ongoing – I post several times a week and a single post can take up to about two hours just to write. Added to that is the time it takes to go out to see the event/performance, maybe take some photos. I usually tweet about it right after, make a few notes, then let it perk in my head over night and write the next day. I also reblog posts of bloggers I follow.

What other blogs would you compare this story to within your genre? Alumnae Theatre Company’s blog, The Magnificent Something. I also contribute to Lipstik Indie Review, so there’s a very similar tone and vibe there too.

Who or what inspired you to write this blog? I come from a visual arts and performing arts (acting and singing) background, then got into writing, short stories and personal essays at first. Then I had the job of bloggergal at Alumnae Theatre – first time blogging for me – and I was hooked. Being this all-around artsy fartsy kinda gal, I wanted to see other art forms and blog about them too. 

What else about your blog might pique the reader’s interest? I’m starting to do interviews and photo essay posts, to mix it up a bit and make for a more interesting visit to the site.

You can also check out the ABOUT page on this blog for more about what cowbell is about.

Now, I’d like to leave you with a fun YouTube clip of the aforementioned SNL sketch, with thanks to Fudo10 for posting. I especially love Will Farrell’s enthusiastic cowbell playing. “I got a fever. And the only prescription is more cowbell.”

50 things I’ve learned

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Me at my fourth or fifth birthday.

I was inspired by Toronto Star columnist Joe Fiorito’s list of 65 things he’s learned to create one of my own milestone lists. In no particular order:

  1.  It’s better to give. – Zoie Palmer reminded me of this in a tweet she posted today
  2.  People who talk to you about others will also talk to others about you. – can’t recall the origin of this one
  3. Whenever you have the chance, go for a pee and drink water. – Brenda Sharpe reminded me of this during our office party yesterday
  4. Life can’t always be champagne and latkes. – Elisabeth G.
  5. Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. – originally thought this was Dr. Seuss, but it’s actually Bernard Baruch
  6. Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss that which insults your soul. – Walt Whitman
  7. When changing a baby boy’s diaper, get the front flap of the fresh diaper in place ASAP.
  8. You can learn a lot about someone – and yourself – by how they/you untangle a mess of Christmas tree lights.
  9. Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance. – British army wisdom (shared by Stephanie Bitten)
  10. If you don’t act crazy, you’ll go crazy. – Dr. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (played by Alan Alda) from the TV show M*A*S*H
  11.  Silence speaks volumes.
  12. Don’t forget to breathe.
  13. In any conversation, listening is extremely important – even more so than speaking.
  14. It’s not a good idea to proofread your own writing.
  15. Always take note of the source of any praise, criticism or information that comes your way; not all sources are reliable, truthful or without agenda.
  16. People are the strangest animals I’ve ever seen.
  17. Trying to organize a group of lively, smart, creative people is like herding cats.
  18. You are what you say you are.
  19. You are not your job.
  20. If someone’s bullying or mistreating you, chances are they were/are bullied/mistreated themselves.
  21. Art is vital to a good quality of life.
  22. Smiling makes you feel better.
  23. Laughing makes you feel even better than smiling.
  24. When shaving your legs, it’s best to not go above the knee.
  25. People, even those you love, will disappoint you. They will also surprise you, in a good way.
  26. Faint heart never won fair maiden.– Elisabeth G., while perhaps not the originator of this quote, reminds me of this always
  27. Better to try and fail than regret not trying.
  28. ‘ Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. – Alfred Lord Tennyson
  29. Be as good a friend to yourself as your good friends are to you.
  30. Lovers may come and go, but good friends – your chosen family – are for keeps.
  31. Don’t be afraid to tell your loved ones that you’re afraid.
  32. Besides death and taxes, the only thing you can count on is that things will change.
  33. This too shall pass. This goes for the good as well as the bad.
  34.  Sometimes, something that initially appears to be a negative can turn out to be a positive.
  35. The body is sexy, but the brain is sexier.
  36. Having a pet to come home to is a truly wonderful thing, especially if you live alone.
  37.  Dark chocolate really does have healing powers.
  38.  So does red wine.
  39. You can never get too many hugs. Same goes for giving hugs.
  40. Having a positive attitude in the day-to-day goes a long way toward staying positive when times get rough.
  41. You and your doctor are partners in the maintenance of your health and well-being.
  42. Finding joy in simple, everyday moments is a really good thing.
  43. When experiencing a conflict with someone, it can be helpful to examine what you have in common.
  44. Be prepared for the worst, and hope for the best – but don’t dwell on it too much.
  45. Don’t pass up the chance to say “I love you.”
  46. Being alone is not the same as being lonely.
  47. When it comes to romance, it’s better to be alone than in a bad relationship.
  48. Make sure to have music in your life.
  49. Be kind to the world and all its creatures, including you.
  50. Be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Life, love & social anthropology in Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

Confessions of a RedheadedCSG - Press Photo 3Rebecca Perry’s one-woman show Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, directed by Michael Rubinstein, opens with song: Rivers and roads / Rivers and roads / Rivers till I meet you… The Hand and the Heart’s catchy, almost melancholy song is a fitting start for our journey with Joanie Little, 20-something barista and self-described social anthropologist, as she observes co-workers and patrons in the jungle of an urban coffeeshop (in this case, the Annex neighbourhood in Toronto).

Accompanied by Noel Thomson on acoustic guitar and vocals, weaving songs, coffeeshop characters and stories, Joanie tries to make sense of life and love, all while navigating the “real” world after graduation, as she searches for connection and self.

Inspired by true experiences, Perry delivers a performance that is funny, touching and self-deprecating, giving us a Joanie that is sassy, wry-witted and irreverent – and also lost, longing and optimistic. The highlight of Joanie’s workday is her daily encounter with the flirty and somewhat mysterious customer Marco, who provides her with moral support and life advice via notes in the tip jar (one of three that Joanie labels each day to make it fun for the customers and add insight to her social research).

The play ends as it began, with the song “Rivers and Roads,” but Joanie is not in the same place she started. The “you” she’s been longing to meet is herself – and the journey continues.

This Toronto premiere of Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl closes at the Storefront Theatre today (Sun, June 16) and moves into the Fringe circuit, playing Winnipeg Fringe July 17-28 and Edmonton August 15-25.

The cat has the right idea

It’s been nearly two weeks that I’ve been sick with this cold, now down to a low-grade congestion and headache these days. And I’m ever wary of slipping back to feeling total crap, as I did last Tuesday and again on Saturday.

I’ve been running myself ragged with social engagements, and arts and culture events – and getting sick is nature’s way of saying: “Slow down. Take it easy.” And when I don’t listen and continue to be too active, it gets all “Seriously. I’m not shitting you. You really need to stop.”

There are a lot of things on the calendar right now, right up till the end of March. I will fulfill those obligations, be they social or otherwise, and then I’ll be taking some time to just hang. This past weekend, partly due to feeling so shitty on Saturday and partly as it was the first full weekend I’ve had off in a long time, I got a taste of what it was like to just hang out around the house with the cat, watch TV, do a few priority errands and chores. And that’s it. It was nice. Well, aside from the feeling crap part.

So I’m going to take a lesson from the cat and make a concerted effort to just hang out and chill more.

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Camille lounging in the sun in our front window

She is the best example I can think of, after all.