One of the things you hope for when opening a space to the public is that guests will find ways to make it their own. The delightfully creative and touching ways that Hamiltonians have chosen to inhabit the Art Gallery of Hamilton is what makes working and volunteering here such a unique and pleasurable experience. Guests to the Gallery are incredibly generous, sharing stories about their personal memories of the space and the unique paths that brought them through the Gallery doors.
Our recent retrospective of William Blair Bruce in 2014 rekindled a lot of past memories for many of our longstanding patrons. One gentleman commented that Bruce had been an artistic love of his since the 1960s when he first saw The Phantom Hunter as a child, when the Gallery was still located in Westdale. Part of the joy of such a rich permanent collection is that it allows people to reconnect with specific artworks at different points in their life, as many of our patrons do. Where William Blair Bruce is a touchstone for many of our members, Kim Adam’s ever expanding Bruegel-Bosch Bus has become an all-time favourite that many of our younger patrons have enjoyed visiting again and again.
For some, the Gallery provides a social space and community hub. There are certain faces that have become familiar sights at the AGH. Some are AGH Members that work locally and visit the Gallery to decompress at lunch; others are volunteers that have made the gallery and the people in it a big part of their daily lives. Beyond those, there are a special few who have made the Gallery an almost daily stop, not always to view the art, but often to visit with Gallery and Security staff and volunteers. These people in particular make the Gallery an incredibly welcoming place to be.
Weddings are a frequent occurrence at the AGH as well, but marriage proposals are something special that have been a lot of fun for Gallery staff and volunteers. A few months ago one potential groom went to the trouble of organizing a private tour for his partner that appeared to be available just for them by a stroke of luck. At the groom’s request, a volunteer docent approached and offered them a free tour pretending the original guests had cancelled at the last minute. The couple strolled through the space and ended the tour with a special work of art: a painting of the two of them set out on an easel in the gallery space! Another potential bride found her way into the Gallery on a citywide scavenger hunt with the Art Gallery of Hamilton being the last stop. When she found her way upstairs her partner proposed in the sculpture atrium on the second floor. They are tying the knot in one of our venue spaces this summer.