A few photos from our first day in London. Winter light. Sun goes down early, the twilight is long, the streets teem with life.
Judith and I close down Artword Artbar every August and every January. These are times to reflect, re-energize and see some shows that aren’t our own.
I also thought it would be a good time to tell you some things you may not know about Artword.
First, the name “Artword”.
“Artword” started as the name of a quarterly magazine, written “by artists for artists“. (Full name “Artword Artists Forum”) Judith was editor and I was the publisher. We published 24 issues from 1989 to 1994.
The first few issues were called “WorkSeen”. This was because Judith was an active member of Workscene Collective, which ran the Workscene Gallery.
Judith and I had a little business doing technical documentation (still do!), so we had computers, layout programs, and an actual laser printer, back when they cost $2500-5000. So we had the bat and ball, and the diamond was in our back yard.
We were fortunate to gather a team of excellent people, and we made our decisions pretty much together. Our philosophy was that decisions should be made by the people who did the work. And that was pretty much how Workscene Gallery also had been operating.
After a few issues, though, we were called to a meeting the Administrative Committee of Workscene Gallery. They had concerns. One of our best, and most reliable writers, who wrote a satirical column called “Le Flaneur” had written a phrase which they considered possibly sexist. It wasn’t, but they thought it might be. The phrase was not “politically correct”, a new concept at that time that was just trying out its wings. They decided that they should review the content of every issue before we published it.
None of them had written anything. None of them had sold any ads. None of them had helped painter Andy Glinski drive out to the art galleries and art stores to deliver the copies. (4,000 copies a month, free.)
So we said no. And they said, well then you have to remove all references to Workseen and change the name. We said fine. We can think of a name.
So we thought. And we came up with “ArtWork”. And our designer and layout person, sculptor Lynn Campbell, designed a logo. ArtWork.
It didn’t seem quite right. Somebody thought it was too “artist as worker”, too agitprop. But for me, the issue was the letter K. It was a fierce letter, arms and legs sticking forward, a bristling letter. How about (I suggested) the letter D. Artword. Combining Art and Words. And it required minimal redesign of the logo.
So Artword it was. Since then, everything that Judith and I have done has been called Artword. When we started our theatre in Toronto, it was Artword Theatre. When we set up our not-for-profit, it was Artword Cultural Projects.
And when we came to Hamilton looking to create a theatre, and decided instead to buy a Portuguese sports bar and turn it into a cultural oasis, we called it Artword Artbar. (World famous for its Artword Artbar Artbeer).
The name Artword turned out to be a bit problematic. People have trouble reading it and understanding it. The say Artworld or Artwood or Atword or Atwood or (indeed) Artwork. But we have persisted. Artword it remains.
Some photos taken last night (February 4, 2016) of Learie Mc Nicolls’ Once I lived in the Box, at Artword Artbar.
Dancers: Angelo Del Franco, Sharon Harvey, Tanis Macarthur and Learie Mc Nicolls. Music by Edgardo Moreno and lighting by Judith Sandiford.
One more performance, tonight February 5, 2016, at 8 pm.
Artword is presenting Once I Lived in the Box by Learie Mc Nicolls February 3 – 5. I know Learie’s work, and I know the dancers (Angela Del Franco, Tanis Macarthur and Sharon Harvey). I know Judith Sandiford very well, who is directing and designing the lighting that throws those beautiful shadows you see in the photo. This will be a very fine piece of dance drama.
There is hardly any contemporary dance in Hamilton yet. Will people come? There is a fundamental principle in entertainment: people go to what they know.
When Learie came from Toronto to Hamilton, he asked “where is the dance?” I told him it was up to us to build it. Learie did two theatre/ spoken word pieces that incorporated dance: Resurrection at The Pearl Company and Transformation at Artword in the Fringe.
Now this is the big step. This is a full-length dance piece, choreographed by Learie with three highly skilled professional dancers, and of course Learie himself. It has a powerful theme, delivered through intense physical movement.
There are years (decades!) of training, and months of rehearsal behind what you see on the stage. Learie Mc Nicolls has an international reputation. This is a stunning show. Come and see it!
Learie Mc Nicolls confronts the demons of poverty, violence and fear in his powerful new work, Transformation: a Journey of the Soul’s Healing, at Artword Artbar, March 25 and 26, 2015, at 9:00 pm. An Artword Theatre production, directed by Ronald Weihs, Transformation combines dance, spoken word, soundscape and visual images, to present one man’s struggle to come to terms with his troubled Trinidad childhood and redeem the forgotten child inside him. The live musical soundscape is by Dale Morningstar, founder of the experimental blues-rock band, The Dinner is Ruined. Visual design is by Judith Sandiford.
Learie Mc Nicolls has been a key figure in the contemporary dance scene in Toronto since the 1980s. He has danced with Toronto Dance Theatre, Desrosiers Dance Theatre, Dancemakers, the National Ballet of Cuba, and his own company, Mythmakers. As a solo dancer, he has been exploring the combination of dance with spoken word, to create a powerful new form of theatrical presentation. His Toronto production, Armour, took two Dora awards for Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Performance.
A year ago, he moved to Hamilton, where he is devoting himself to help build the contemporary dance scene here. In May, 2014, he performed Resurrection at the Pearl Company, and choreographed the dances in Artword Theatre’s second production of James Street. He has created an ongoing series of showcase dance productions at Artword Artbar called Big Dance Little Stage, featuring dancers from Hamilton and Toronto over two nights. There have been four BDLS productions, June, September and November 2014, and February 2015. He has recently opened a dance studio downstairs at Artword Artbar.
Transformation takes the dance/spoken word paradigm to a new level. Ronald Weihs as director, and Judith Sandiford as designer, pushed Learie to incorporate methods based on their approach to theatre. Together, the three of them analyzed Learie’s poems from a theatrical point of view, finding characters and situations that needed to be brought to life. Learie was fine with this, because he is also an actor.
The three collaborators also drew on their experience with Big Dance Little Stage, where Judith Sandiford improvises with projected images and musicians create soundscapes to interact with dancers. It was through BDLS that they became acquainted with Dale Morningstar, who provides improvised music for his wife, dancer Megan English. In addition to his work as a musician, Dale is perhaps best-known as co-founder of The Gas Station Recording Studio, “the hub of the Canadian indie rock sound”, now located at Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island. He and Megan now live in Hamilton.
Transformation: A Journey of the Soul’s Healing will be Artword Theatre’s contribution to the Hamilton Fringe, July 2015, with Artword Artbar as a Bring Your Own Venue.
The Artword team, Ronald Weihs and Judith Sandiford, created and ran Artword Theatre in downtown Toronto for twelve years before coming to Hamilton in 2007. Weihs and Sandiford have had long experience with one-person plays, including three by Charlie Chiarelli, Cu’Fu, Mangiacake and Sunamabeach, Allan Merovitz’s If Cows Could Fly, and Donald Carr’s The Full Nelson. Judith Sandiford has designed and lit dance productions with Meiko Ando, Michael Du Maresq, Leanne Dixon, Hedy Minten, Daryll Tracy, Bonnie Kim and Donald Carr. Artword Theatre’s original multi-cast productions in Hamilton include You Are What You Do, Langston Hughes vs Joe McCarthy, Rascals and Numskulls, Tobacco Troubadour, James Street and Scroogissimo. They own and manage the popular Artword Artbar, featuring music of all varieties, theatre, poetry and spoken word four nights a week, Wednesday to Saturday.
Transformation: A Journey of the Soul’s Healing
An Artword Theatre production
written by Learie Mc Nicolls
choreographed and performed by Learie Mc Nicolls
directed by Ronald Weihs
original music performed by Dale Morningstar
visuals by Judith Sandiford
produced and designed by Judith Sandiford
Performances at Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne Street
Wednesday and Thursday, March 25 and 26, 2015, at 9:00 pm.