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Hamilton Economic Development

John Street North gallery starts a revival of its own

Phil Quick (left) and Dan Banko  own the Nathaniel Hughson Gallery at  27 John St. N.One of the reasons the Nathanial Hughson Gallery opened on John Street North was that it wasn’t James Street North. Owners Dan Banko and Phil Quick chose the main floor space of the John Street building Banko owned when it became vacant, but their reasons had to do with more than simple convenience.

Banko says they wanted to show people art happens elsewhere in the city — that you can run a gallery beyond James North.

“Two years ago when we were talking about doing this, we had looked at space on James Street,” says Banko. “We just figured because of how we’re approaching this it doesn’t matter where we are.”

That’s good, because the gallery is located across the street from Golden Fortune Restaurant, which sits shuttered between a methadone clinic and a dim 24-hour Internet café. The area is coming back to life though, Banko says. King William has a coffee culture. Treble Hall is being renovated. The gallery is surrounded by restaurants like Capri and My-Thai. Business is brightening the west side of the street. Ample foot traffic passes from the sea of parking lots north of the gallery, to the core.

Banko sits in an interior room at the centre of his gallery, on a mod-looking red leather couch the previous tenants left behind. The white walls are freshly painted. The floor is hardwood. A silver duct runs along the length of the ceiling. The walls are hung with work from a handful of local artists.

Unlike many of the galleries on James, where shows switch up monthly to offer something new to Art Crawlers, the Hughson Gallery maintains a stable of 13 mid-career artists including D’Arcy Elliot, Dave Hind, Tina Newlove, Christina Sealey, Sandra Henry, Kevin Tearle, Stephanie Vegh, Todd and Elesavet Lawson, Beverly Hawksley, Ryan Price, Erin Vincent and Fiona Kinsella.

They’re all fairly well established, so the price points are a bit higher than you might find on James (Newlove’s miniatures could go for $200, while Hind’s larger paintings are priced at $16,500), but an affordable rental service is part of the business plan too. The majority of the work consists of conceptual/figurative paintings, though Kinsella’s pieces border on sculpture, and Tearle’s furniture is made from reclaimed local barn board that’s been painstakingly traced back to the forests the wood grew in. Banko says the selection reflects his own tastes.

He runs his own design and photography firm (located above the gallery), but he has a degree in fine art from McMaster University. Four of the artists at the gallery are former classmates of his.

“They all went the art route and I went the commercial route,” he says. “Even when I was in university I saw that they were all far better artists than I was. I saw myself being the guy who was going to bring everybody together at some point and help them sell their work.”

Having a consistent roster is important, he says. A lot of artists don’t do much in the way of marketing themselves. The hope is that gallery can help develop the business side of each artist’s practice while also growing itself.

“We’d like to ideally kind of grow with the artists,” says Banko. “So I realize there is going to be some turnover with the artists as they either retire or we just don’t mesh but we’d like to kind of keep a stable of about 15 artists and then build some relationships in the U.S. and in Europe (where Quick often travels with his job as a computer programmer) so we can kind of cross-pollinate with galleries that have similar set-ups and structures.”

The Nathaniel Hughson Gallery is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12 to 8 p.m. or by appointment for private viewing sessions.

Article courtesy of Amy Kenny, The Hamilton Spectator.

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