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In our NAC Member of the Moment series, we ask Niagara Artists Centre members about art in Niagara and the number one reason to join the NAC. In this interview, Bart Gazzola talks about recent exhibits at the NAC, his visual arts radio show on CFBU and why signing up for a NAC membership was one of the first things he did when he moved here from Saskatchewan.

Sign up for your very own NAC membership online or stop by NAC at 354 St. Paul Street in St. Catharines during gallery hours to get your membership in person.

Bart Gazzola has published with Canadian Art, FUSE, Galleries West, PrairieSeenHamilton Arts & Letters, BlackFlash and Magenta Magazine. Past curatorial projects include REGION (Contemporary Saskatchewan Painting) and Personal Geographies (an overview of The Photographers Gallery collection). Currently he’s collaborating on his first international exchange exhibition.

Bart hosted and produced The A Word on CFCR 90.5 FM in Saskatoon for nine years, with guests as diverse as Steve Loft and David Thauberger. This was just relaunched / reconfigured here as A Word Niagara, and he recently chatted with Elizabeth Chitty and Stuart Reid. These will air on CFBU 103.7 FM, but are also at his blog right now.

His work has been shown at the Mendel Art Gallery, Platform, Kenderdine, Alternator, paved, Forest City Gallery, Gallery 44 and other spaces across Canada.

For three years, Bart was Editorial Chair of BlackFlash Magazine, and for twelve years he was the visual arts critic for Planet S Magazine. For more than a decade, he taught at the University of Saskatchewan, specifically digital media. He is a founding member of paved, and he has served on boards and worked at galleries in Saskatoon (aka, Kenderdine, Mendel, Video Verite) and Windsor (artcite, AGW).

After nearly two decades on the prairies (in 2011, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix called Bart a “Civic Art Star”), Bart is excited to return to St. Catharines, especially at a time when so much seems to be happening. He is pleased to be part of such a dynamic community.

Currently, Bart contributes to The Sound, and you can see some of his reviews of art and artists there.

When did you become a NAC member and why?
I’d been back in St. Catharines less than 24 hours, after moving here from the Prairies, when I got a NAC membership. I’ve been involved with lots of cultural spaces (in Windsor and Saskatoon), and in researching my move to St. Catharines, I knew that NAC would be one of my first stops, as a focal point of this community’s arts / culture scene. So I showed up right away and got a membership and made it clear I wanted to be part of that. Its been an excellent portal to the visual arts community here.

Are you an artist, an art appreciator or both?
Both: I’ve shown at Gallery 44, Alternator, Mendel, Platform and most recently was in a two person show at paved.

But these days I’m primarily an arts writer for a variety of publications, sometime curator, and a few other things, which you can see in my bio.

What’s the best thing about being an artist in Niagara?
This is a site that has its own identity, but also has the advantage of being situated very close to a number of exciting centres (whether Hamilton, Buffalo or Toronto). This makes it a place that has a variety of influences and ideas that permeate and mix together in new ways, with a diversity of ideas and forms.

Name a Niagara artist whose work knocks your socks off.
I can’t answer this right now, as I’m too new. I’m still researching and finding my feet here…but I should say that one of the things I’m doing here is a visual arts radio show that has launched on CFBU (I’ve already chatted with Elizabeth Chitty, whose Confluence project was a great point of entry to STC, as issues of history and communities both privileged and ignored are all part of her work. I’ve also chatted with Rodman Hall’s Director Stuart Reid in recent show), so I’ll reverse this question and say I want to hear / see / get emails and information from any artist who’s showing and doing here in St. Catharines and beyond in Niagara.

But the recent exhibition of Babeltech IndustriesTM presents…The Assembly Line of Babel by Eric Schmaltz really impressed me, and by the time you read this I will already have written down some thoughts about it at my blog. Excellent show. Language IS a virus.

Tell us about a memorable NAC experience.
Seeing Dave Gordon’s works in Excelsior! that referenced former Ontario Premier Mike Harris – who was premier here when I left Ontario for the Prairies – was a very nice bit of synchronicity. And it was creepy, too, as I left here when it was a Neo Con government that was unfriendly to arts and culture, and now have left Saskatchewan as it’s in the grip of a Neo Con regime that all but destroyed the film industry and seems to be facilitating the Saskatchewan Arts Board toward closure….

What’s the number one reason to become a NAC member?
If you saw Kaie Kellough perform at NAC, the same evening that Babel opened, and were blown away by his peformance both in terms of concrete poetry but also in speaking of contemporary issues with an empathy and intelligence that is rare, then you know you must support a space that facilitates that quality of work. NAC often presents works that are engaged and engaging with the larger STC community, in terms of visual arts but also with readings and other events: this is a form of fostering change, and change is a good and necessary thing that can be supported by your membership.