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June is Membership Month at the Niagara Artists Centre, which means it’s the perfect time to launch our new Member of the Moment feature. We asked NAC members about art in Niagara and the number one reason to join the NAC. In this interview, NAC member Karrie Porter tells us the difference between a Cape Breton twang and an Ottawa Valley twang, why she’s proud of the Niagara arts community, and about a mind blowing NAC event. She says, “It is impossible for me to imagine what St. Catharines would be like without the contributions of this group of artists and risk-takers.”

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. Sign up in June, and your name will be entered in a draw for a Special STRUTT Wearable Art Weekend package that includes a pair of Curator’s Row tickets (front row seats) to the Saturday night runway show.

Karrie Porter is the Project Manager of the Garden City Food Co-op. She is a former NAC Board President and spent many years on the board. She still proudly displays her NAC Volunteer of the Year trophy.

When did you become a NAC member and why?
When I first moved back to Niagara in 98/99, I wasn’t sure what the NAC was about, but it hosted many of my revolutionary meetings and was a place to make friends. I met Steve [Remus] and believed he was from Cape Breton, which made him okay in my books. (I’ve since discovered that his people in the Ottawa Valley speak with a similar twang to my people.) I hung around the NAC for a few years but shamefully did not join until about 2004.

Are you an artist, an art appreciator or both?
I am both an art appreciator and an artist appreciator (my husband is an artist). I hooked rugs. Does that count?

What’s the best thing about being an artist in Niagara?
I’m not an artist, but I’m proud of the arts community here. I am also proud that NAC goes out of its way to make sure artists get paid fairly.

Name a Niagara artist whose work knocks your socks off.
Ernest Harris Jr. and my husband James Desjardins, of course!

Tell us about a memorable NAC experience.
There are so many memorable moments. Here are two:

1. Cracking open a bottle of Jameson’s with Don Dormady, Jeff Ott, Norm Bradshaw, Roslyn Costanzo & crew after my very first board meeting.

2. Parties! The community at NAC pulls off many mind-blowing events. I will never forget “Gavel. Gala. Hey!”, the fundraiser NAC organized in 2008 at the Canada Hair Cloth Factory just before the building was sold to Brock. One-hundred-and-fifty well-heeled folks were invited to a dinner by Chef Erik Peacock and art auction in support of NAC. It was hot and there was no A/C in the building. Everyone had to use outdoor port-a-potties. The stove may or may not have conked out during dinner. I was 12 months pregnant. The stress of worrying about ALL OF THE THINGS had me feeling labour pains, but the baby held tight and the event was a smash. NAC events are organized on a relatively small budget and it amazes me to watch so many volunteers help the NAC staff make big things happen.

What’s the number one reason to become a NAC member?
One word – co-operation. It is part of NAC’s ethos to work together and provide a supportive community. The NAC formed as an artist co-operative by and for artists in 1969. It is impossible for me to imagine what St. Catharines would be like without the contributions of this group of artists and risk-takers. There have been countless amazing initiatives spawned by NAC and its members in this region (including the food co-op, which is something else you should join RIGHT NOW).

Check back for more Member of the Moment interviews throughout June.