Nick Treanor died just a few weeks shy of his 90th birthday earlier in January. Nick’s memory had been failing him in his last years and he’d moved from St. Catharines to Gananoque in 2018 to be near family. He died at home, how he’d wanted, and surrounded by works of art. Our condolences and thoughts are with the Treanor clan. Nick had a long-standing request for his wake to be held at NAC. Though guidelines related to the pandemic have imposed a delay on this gathering, it’s a request NAC will honour.
There have been several memorial celebrations at NAC over the years. Alice Crawley, Terrance Cox, Craig Oliver, Jim Marsh, and Ted Farrell were all celebrated with gatherings of family and friends at our centre. Admittedly, this is an odd practice for an Artist-run gallery but it distinguishes the character of ours, an organization that may be described as a small society that functions through the arts. Nick was the first member to talk about having his wake at NAC. Though he was a former board director fluent with our constitution who led some important by-law revisions during his tenure, his request recognizes that the unwritten social bonds of NAC were more the source of organizational strength than the institutional apparatus. His wake, he insisted, should include an open casket and some peculiar Irish pranks for the mourners. Above all, it was to be a party, a real rave-up. There is much to celebrate about the life Nick lived.
Most NAC members will remember Nick as a collector and a regular at opening receptions. The only new things he seemed to purchase were works of art. Almost every other acquisition was a yard or garage sale find, or from thrift stores that traded in used goods like Saint Vincent de Paul. And here, he found discarded works of art too. This made for a nearly unimaginably broad and eclectic collection. Nick amassed fine art, folk art, antiques, and kitsch until his home brimmed with it. It’s difficult to discern what parameters governed Nick’s collecting. As much as the artists represented in it might be reluctant to admit (and there are many of them because Nick possessed a singularly incredible depository of art created by Niagarans), his was a collection of intriguing and beautiful things that shared a type of neglect. It was an orphanage for objects most people had somehow lost — or had never had — the ability to wonder at and appreciate. There is a straight line that can be drawn from why Nick venerated the things he collected to his days in the 1970s and 80s as one of the most knowledgeable dealers of early Canadian furniture and antiques in the province.
For many artists, Nick was the first person to acquire a work of art they’d made who wasn’t family. As a young artist, I benefitted from this encouragement. Going on to work at NAC, I witnessed other artists benefit from this time and again. Nick made the idea of being an artist something more than an abstract notion. He purchased our work but also always wanted to meet us, to discover what motivated us, and to understand us on our own terms as artists.
Nick was guided to this by his incredibly inquisitive nature. He craved experience and had a great appetite for it. Food and drink were to be marvelled at, not in a way wrapped up in consumption and the glimmerings of class, but through pure sensation—This tastes fantastic! Dress was an opportunity to express your individuality, it was principally playful and the aim was to look fabulous. Music was similarly appreciated deliriously. Nick would be right up front for the loudest bands, always primed to dance and hollering out euphorically—Oh, Man!
Along with the revelling he equally craved big ideas and demanded facts as evidence. It follows that he held opinions, but they weren’t anything to him unless he could discuss and debate them with others. There was a quickness of wit that could flash sharply in moments and then just as quickly it would dissolve into a bubbling laugh, a transformation that was a revelation of magnanimity. He always brought with him his boundless sense of humour.
There are anecdotes to share, too many. And there are pictures—lots of them, Nick being one of NAC’s unofficial photo-documentarians. The postponement of our plans to host a get-together to celebrate Nick’s life will last only as long as circumstances dictate. This spring or summer, and likely outdoors, we can plan on being together to share our joy and good fortune in having known him.
Minister of Energy, Minds, and Resources
You can read the obituary and share memories here.
Top photo by NAC Member Melanie MacDonald, 2018
Bottom photo by NAC Member Barsin Aghajan at the Krewe Kompressor, 2012