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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, artist Rob Elliott tells us about the first time he worked with NAC, a memorable art opening, and why “a membership actually makes a huge difference”. 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.

Rob Elliott is co-founder of Swizzle Studio. A painter and illustrator, Elliott’s work uses mid-century art forms to provoke discussions of human and animal relationships. He has been involved in NAC over the last eight years as an artist, exhibiting work in the Main Space, Member’s, and Flea Market galleries and participating in STRUTT, Niagara HERE and Small Feats. He lives in Toronto but considers NAC his “art gang”.

When did you become a NAC member and why?
The first time I worked with NAC in a real way was the Just Fly It! kite project in 2007. The NAC members I met were friendly to newcomers, had original ideas and had their shit together. The more I learned about NAC, the more excited I got. The centre has an incredible history, yet doesn’t rest on that pedigree. Fresh exciting work happens there every year, and NAC gives me a space to try new ideas.

Are you an artist, an art appreciator or both?

What’s the best thing about being an artist in Niagara?
Having the room to try non-commercial ideas. Look at NAC projects like STRUTT, Flea Market Gallery, Niagara HERE: there’s still room to be creative in Niagara, and less need to ask permission.

Name a Niagara artist whose work knocks your socks off.
John Boyle. Every time I see Boyle’s enamel murals at Toronto’s Queen subway station I feel a bit of NAC pride. But it’s not just Boyle, some of the best Canadian artists in the last 40 years have been members of NAC.

Tell us about a memorable NAC experience.
My Swizzle Studio partner Christine Cosby and myself did simultaneous shows in the member’s gallery and the main space. We brought in friends from out-of-town, partied in the motel, and had the best opening we’ve ever had. NAC gave us the support and the venues to create complex projects that would otherwise have remained sketches and conversations.

What’s the number one reason to become a NAC member?
A membership actually makes a huge difference. NAC is a democratic, creative, critical force in southern Ontario, it pays artists for their work, and it’s run on shoestring (Seriously, I’ve seen their books. You would not believe what they squeeze out of a few grants and membership fees).

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