Hugs & Art - Winnipeg Free Press June 2, 2013

Hugs and art — how can you beat that?

Our Winnipeg

FROM LEFT: Sarah Crawley, Peter Graham, Larry Glawson (holding Mouchette), Diana Thorneycroft, Suzie Smith, Richard Dyck (holding Hermine), and Kevin Waugh.
MARTHA Street Studio is a magical place.
It is more formally known as The Manitoba Printmakers Association, an organization started in 1984 by a handful of recently graduated University of Manitoba art students. Although I was one of the founding members, the leader of the fledgling organization was Bev Jacobs.
Her strength and passion to get it and keep it up and running was relentless. Most notably, when MPA lost its funding in 1997 and subsequently its facility, it was Bev who found temporary storage space for the equipment and volunteered her time to maintain the office while the organization was in a four-year limbo. Although she is no longer involved with Martha Street Studio, Bev Jacobs is the only reason it exists today.
And today it is humming.
Martha Street Studio is one of my favourite places for so many reasons: the exhibitions they host, their highly successful Youth Outreach Programs, their partnership with Arts and Disability Network Manitoba, the adult classes they offer and the excellence of their digital facility.
But the best part of all is the staff. Over the years there have been many exceptional people employed at Martha Street Studio. Within the past couple of years, one by one, people I know well have started working there. Today, more than half of them have been wonderful friends of mine for years — lots of years.
I have known fellow photographer Larry Glawson, who is now the studio’s executive director, since we were in art school together 35 years ago. I got to know Sarah Crawley (community programming co-ordinator), also a photographer, when she and I were on the board of the Floating Gallery (now known as Platform) in the early 1990s. Around the same time I met Richard Dyck (digital technician), who in the late ’80s and early ’90s worked as a technician at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
In 1994, Kevin Waugh (technical support) was enrolled in the Basic Design class I taught at the U of M. In 2003 I met Suzie Smith (professional programming co-ordinator), who very conveniently had fallen in love with another former student and good friend. And, last but not least, Peter Graham (studio assistant) who, in 2005, had just moved to Winnipeg and decided to take a drawing class I taught at the Riding Mountain Artist Retreat. We have been friends and neighbours ever since. 
So today, when I visit Martha Street Studio to attend a class or see a show, I spend the first 10 minutes hugging people I love. How great is that?

PS: A brief love story: Around the same time MPA was emerging, Larry Glawson and his partner Doug Melnyk opened a small gallery on the second floor of the Bate Building in the Exchange, and called it Ace Art. It was an immediate success, and has continued to be to this day.
In 1993, Ace Art moved into its current much larger location on McDermot Avenue. In celebration of their new space, and in honour of the founders of Ace Art, the board and staff welcomed two young cats to their organization and named them Doug and Larry. After a couple of months and several ruined works of art, it became obvious they had to find a new home. That is when Doug and Larry walked into my life and heart.
Dear little Doug passed away when he was 17, and Larry, my sweet cat boy Larry, died last week at the age of 20. To say that I am heartbroken is an understatement. He was my animal soulmate and I am having a hard time accepting he is gone.
When I showed up at Martha Street Studio to have the group photograph taken, Larry (the person), Sarah, Peter, Suzie, Kevin and Richard — all pet owners themselves — knew of my loss and the bigness of my grief. The hugs I received that day were filled with compassion and empathy, and I knew with people like them in my life, I’d be OK.
Diana Thorneycroft is a Winnipeg artist best known for her photographs. This summer, however, her new sculptural work will be shown at the Manitoba Craft Council’s 2013 Juried Exhibition "Small Mediums at Large" opening July 5th from 5-9 p.m. at the Tara Davis Studio Boutique, 246 McDermot Avenue. The exhibition runs until July 27th.