Dragonfly Arts in the business of support local culture

October 30, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

On the weekend of October 19 to 21, McMichael Canadian Art Collection – Canadian Art Gallery held a fundraiser art show and sale. Visual artists from across Canada submitted samples or photos of their work to a jury to be invited to participate in this very prestigious affair.  The invitations were limited to 50.

At the opening, it was a fascinating walk to see and visit the many fine, interesting people with their work on display. The McMichael rules were that they must be in attendance for the whole weekend or be represented; that every time a painting or piece sold, they had to be prepared to replace it with another. The gallery charged a fee but provided every need by way of assigned panel, light and space. In addition, a small commission was extracted from each sale. Every artist there considered the weekend, the event and the gallery entirely worth the time, effort and payments.

Of the 50, seven of them show their work or are resident artists at Dragonfly Arts on Broadway, in Orangeville.

Sure enough, Joan Hope, owner of the business, was also there, visiting and talking. We stood back a bit to watch her as she surveyed a panel of work, chatted to the individual artist and sometimes took a card for possible future conversations.

“We opened Dragonfly… with a soft opening in September, 2002,.. Martha Pagel and I.  She does pottery and she owns the building. I didn’t think it would go as far as it has.

“She tried to rent the building out but all she could get were money lenders and [others not wanted]. She said this would be nice for the artists but I thought ‘we’ve done this before.’

“At the time, there were no other shows; not the museum. So many people don’t want to disturb artists at their home studios, even on the tours.”

The design of the shop is inspired by a shop Ms. Hope saw in California. “I had been to California and had seen something like that in San Francisco. That is perfect, I thought. You get to seethe artist at work and you can appreciate how the art is done – not just something brought in from China.”

She added, “Working at home, there’s a lot of distractions. So, having a quiet space where you can just do your art is really great.”

The big opening took place in December of 2002 and it has been successful every since, proof of the need.

Ms. Hope’s tastes are entirely eclectic, as a visit to Dragonfly proves.

Paintings of many styles from the intensely detailed to other worldly to the minimalist, are on display throughout. There are wooden bowls and other wooden items. The hand-made (in all cases) jewellery might come with glass beads that the artist also creates, metallic pieces, could be colourful or austere; wonderful and one-offs.

Standing on a table amidst a wooden carving, pottery jugs and a tidy box holding silver hand made earrings, are odd little birds cut from metal, glassware that is gorgeous and unusual. Over there, hung for display: “wearables.”

There are textiles but this is not a clothing store – they are mainly shawls, elegant and draping.

“Even from the beginning, we started small and grew from there and people came. One of the most interesting moments was when a lady came in, dressed in her finery. She was going to a wedding and she said she knew this was the place for the perfect gift,” said Ms. Hope.

She added, “I wish people would spend a little for themselves – a painting or beautiful piece of pottery. I expected it to be more that way – but it tips for gifts – about 60%.”

Early on, she tried to do a little market research just within terms of the shop, “but it’s just a sense you get where they come from.”

Ms. Hope is herself an artist, making beads with glass. “In the ’80’s and ’90’s, I used to do watercolour, landscapes of Mulmur and Mono. The jewellery glass is so much easier. I can do it in a short period.”

The news from McMichael was that, last year sales were only about $80,000. This year, they raised $139,000.

“It was fantastic,” was Ms. Hope’s comment. “It signals to me that fine art is off its slump.”

Of the artists from Dragonfly who were at McMichael, Ms. Hope made the note that they were “our artists before McMichael.”

Visiting Dragonfly Arts on Broadway is a real source of pleasure. Often one or more of the resident artists are there to talk about their work, as it is, as it might be and anything else that crops up in an interesting conversation.

Said Ms. Hope of her true desire for the shop, “I want to connect the artist with the patrons and make the world more beautiful for both of them.”

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