Stars share magic of music and art in support of County’s library

Story by Sharon Harrison

Barenaked Ladies’ band member Kevin Hearn and singer/songwriter Sarah Slean shared a taste of their music Saturday in Bloomfield, but also their visual art talent, to the delight of an intimate crowd at HatchGallery.

The special opening night for their ‘September Island’ show was a fundraiser for something close to both the entertainer/artists’ hearts – the library.

“My first job I ever had was at a library,” Hearn told the crowd.

“I was a library rat as a child,” said Slean. “I was completely socially awkward and so music and art were my retreat. Sometimes artists wear many skins, and sometimes the magic will work very forcefully and insert itself into our lives.”

The opening of the new exhibition was a fundraiser for the Prince Edward County Library Picton branch expansion efforts. One hundred per cent of the $120 VIP ticket price meant Saturday afternoon’s special event raised more than $5,000 for the expansion fund.

“It has been fabulous to see so many friends turn out; it is warming to my heart,” said David Hatch, owner of HatchGallery. “You all reached into your pockets and dished out a lot of money to help us with the library.

“It is jammed in there, and stuffed to the max. And the number of programs they put on throughout the year is just amazing,” he said. “They really need to expand, and we are doing everything we can to help them fulfill that dream – and we are so close.

“I am so grateful for Kevin and Sarah being here, because they are such troopers,” said Hatch. “With Kevin, the first time I had seen his work at the True North Gallery in Waterdown, and I said I really would like to have a show with you in the fall in the Prince Edward County gallery. I said, I love your work so much, and I love your music, would you please do a show, and right away Kevin said ‘yes’.”

Hatch was looking for someone to co-exhibit when Hearn suggested Sarah Slean.

The art exhibit morphed to include music and Hatch decided a show was in order and the library would be the beneficiary.

“They are both the most amazingly positive, wonderful, warm Canadians I have met, and I have met a lot over the years,” said Hatch.

He described Hearn as a multi-instrumentalist with the Barenaked Ladies, who has also performed with Gord Downie and Lou Reed, and is one of the most talented Canadian artists in Canada.

Hearn’s art, he explained, was created over the years as he toured. “A lot of them are sketched between sets from all over world when he is travelling,” said Hatch, describing the ones on display as whimsical, fun and child-like.

Hearn said he does his art because he loves it, and has been drawing since he was a child.

He also noted he loves his job, “but it’s really hard work. For me, drawing became something I did to relax.”

Hatch described the visual art of both artists work as a lot of fun and a lot of fantasy. He noted the parallels between their art, and described Slean’s work as coming from a fantasy world, some of which come from dreams and thoughts brought to life through art.

Hatch noted Slean was signed to Atlanta-Warner Records at the then tender age of 19, and is a three-time Juno nominee. He described her as a modern-day renaissance woman. She has released 11 albums in 10 countries worldwide, and over a 20-year career, has published two volumes of poetry, starred in short films and spawned two Gemini awards.

Hearn and Slean each sang a couple of songs individually – while playing a grand piano acquired especially for the occasion – before coming together to perform.

Described as a 19th century Kate Bush, Slean’s powerful voice, intensified in the cavernous space, captivated the audience in its sultry deliverance and haunting power.

The afternoon concluded on a perfect note as Hearn and Slean performed a duet of Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’.

It was a perfect day for Barbara Sweet, the Prince Edward County Library’s CEO, who noted she is excited the library fundraiser – now two-thirds the way to its goal – is coming together.

She told the gathering that Picton’s is one of six branches in the County, and as the main branch, sees a lot of information flowing out – through events, resources and materials.

“Our branches are every bit as excited about the expansion in Picton as the staff that traditionally work in the Picton branch,” said Sweet. “They recognize the need for more collection space, they recognize that we are doing things in Picton that they can’t necessarily do in their small branch, but their patrons come to us and we have a great inter-connectiveness that we all currently enjoy.”

The new addition will double the current space and go behind the existing building in tiers, and it will have lots of glass and lots of light. There will be quiet spaces, bookable meeting rooms, multi-purpose rooms and a big open space for art and programming, etc.

Sweet noted that last week the library had to turn classes away from one of its popular events, but noted that would not happen with a new multi-purpose space which would accommodate all the classes who wish to join in.

The goal, she noted, is to give the many patrons of the library a nice, functional place to spend time. “That is one of the big motivators for me,” said Sweet.

September Island, showing the art of Kevin Hearn and Sarah Slean, runs at HatchGallery on Bloomfield’s Stanley Street until Oct. 16.