WRITTEN BY JANET DAVIES
TV Producer and motorcycle enthusiast David Hatch has lived in Prince Edward County for 19 years. You can find him elsewhere on this site talking about his Whistlestop Productions and his long running TV show on TSN, Motorcycle Experience, he’s been making for 28 years. But Dave and his wife Stacey have another passion that led Dave to start another County business. Biker Dave now owns an art gallery. He tells us how that came about.
“We’ve opened an art gallery. Isn’t that great? We opened Hatch Gallery over the May long weekend, supposedly a soft opening but it didn’t feel soft. About 150 people came through here in two hours on opening day – it was packed. A lot of friends and family came to wish us well, but there were also a lot of curious people who heard about it on County Radio or saw the local print advertising. People were curious to see what we were, they were eager to see Canadian abstract art. That’s what we’re focusing on, Canadian abstract artists.”
Has he always wanted to open a gallery? He laughs. “Not at all. This is fairly recent for me, really appreciating and collecting abstract art. When Stacey and I moved here in 1998, we started collecting local artists. That was our entrée into collecting. We were pretty young, my wife and I, and we began buying local art and supporting local artists, and we got a real desire and a thirst for it. It was really fun. We enjoyed it and it made us much more interested in art. Well, recently I met a fellow who moved down here a couple of years ago, Ron Moore who had a major art gallery in Toronto for years. He exhibited primarily abstract art and Stacey and I saw some work in his home and really liked it. We were excited by it, so we started buying and collecting abstract art. Now we really connect with it. I just love the energy of it. It does something for my soul and my spirit. A few months ago Ron said, ‘Why don’t you open a gallery? You like it so much, and you have that beautiful coach house in Bloomfield and it’s empty. Do something with it.’
“Honestly, that is how new this is, and how quickly it all happened. A coat of paint, put some lights up and next thing we know we’ve got a gallery. Of course we also have a great location right on Main Street in Bloomfield and close to some other lovely galleries. Oeno Gallery is right up the road and they feature the same kind of contemporary art. It’s a really nice pairing, people who are interested in this kind of work can drive there and then come here, or vice versa.”
WHY ABSTRACT ART?
Dave doesn’t get hung up trying to explain his choice of genre. “Why abstract? Because currently that is what I enjoy and I am passionate about it. If I’m going to be selling something it has to be something I believe in,” he says with a grin. “This type of important work is exciting to me. We are dealing with a lot of terrific artists, important nationally renowned artists who were very big and popular in the 1970s, and there is a resurgence of 1970s culture just now. I was a teenager in the 70s and I think it’s time we put a spotlight back on those artists who are an important piece of our Canadian heritage and our culture.
“Our plan for this summer is to have a new show roughly every five weeks. Our first exhibition is with Paul Sloggett, a very important Canadian abstract artist who has had work in the AGO and the National in Ottawa. Upstairs we will have an emerging artist running at the same time. This time it happens to be a local emerging artist, Spencer Hatch, and that will change in five weeks, too. So in July the main floor will have another important established artist and upstairs another emerging artist and we’ll rotate that way through the summer and into October. I am very proud of our artists. We also have Tony Urquhart, Dan Solomon and Douglas Bentham with us now and some fabulous emerging artists.” Dave remembers leaner times when owning real art was not an option. “Back in the day, I would visit major galleries in Yorkville to see this kind of work and I loved it and there was no way in the world I could afford it! I’m so blessed and happy to be able to work with these same artists now, some 40 years later. Who would believe it? I’m living a dream to be working with and getting to know these terrific Canadian artists, and they have all been pretty wonderful and helpful. I mean, Tony Urquhart has the Order of Canada and has been credited with pioneering abstraction here in Canada back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s!
“Did I have to sell Prince Edward County to these arts? Hah! Ten years ago I would have had to explain it to them, maybe even five years ago, but today it takes like a two minute phone call! They all know about The County. They’ve heard what’s going on here in the art scene, the music, the food, the wine. That part was easy. They recognize there’s a special culture here.
“When we moved here 19 years ago, there were a lot of people ahead of us on that curve of getting out of the city. Artists were here or coming here, partly because it was affordable but still close to the big city! Carlyn Moulton (of Oeno Gallery) is absolutely right when she says artists and a thriving cultural scene lead to economic growth in a place. Art is a fantastic fit here. It’s a great appetizer before going on to a great meal and good wine. There’s a rich fabric of artists working here and a growing number of galleries promoting them. It dovetails. Go and see some art, have a good meal, drink some wine, what a great way to spend a day!
THE BIGGER PICTURE
“What we really would like is, to get young local people in here to see this important work, see the emerging artists and what they’re doing, maybe inspire those kids to move into the arts if we can show them examples of successful artists making a living in Canada. That’s where we’re going with it. Sure we want to give everybody a good experience in the gallery, but to encourage and inspire young people to get involved in the arts would be wonderful. We are just starting to look at having a residency program here in the winter, maybe partner with OCADU in Toronto or do something with the Canada Council. Encourage young artists to come out here to The County for a residency and have a show for them in the spring. That’s the big picture. That’s a dream for us.”
We told him with that attitude, the ROC will be interested in making Hatch Gallery one of the stops on its program for high school students taking entrepreneurial studies. Seeing world class abstract art on their doorstep is an opportunity not to be missed.
“Yes,” says David. “This is the quality of work you would see in the AGO, right here in The County. We have some historic abstract work upstairs in our bunks for sale that you would see in the National Gallery. Artists like the Painters Eleven. Our niche is important Canadian abstract artists and we want to share it with the kids, get them excited about it. Maybe I’m biased because one of our kids grew up here, went to school here, went on to OCADU and is now making their way as an emerging artist. I’d love to inspire more kids.
A BUSY GUY
Did they have a business plan for the gallery? He ponders that one. “Can’t say we did. I’ve had several businesses over the years and they’ve all had plans and PowerPoint presentations and all that. But this one was drawn on a napkin, if that! Seriously, it was discussed over drinks at The Drake. We just said, hey let’s open up a gallery. We’re not doing this with the expectation of getting wealthy or even really making money. It’s a total passion play. I’m doing it because I love this work, I love all these artists. We have works by all of these artists hanging in our home. I really have to love it to sell it. And I do love it.
“I don’t like to sit still for too long. Motorcycle Experience is celebrating its 28th year on TSN, it’s bigger and more popular than ever, but I was sitting around one day in February. I was bored. I couldn’t ride my motorcycle and the TV show was just in the editing suite being cut, so I started thinking what could we do with our viewers that would be a fun and different? What could we do to bring more motorcyclists into PEC? The idea of a motorcycle film festival popped into my head. I had never heard of one in Canada, although I hear somebody might be organizing one in Toronto now. But I knew about all these old biker movies, and I’ve been collecting old motorcycle movie posters for years, so I thought yeah that would be a fun thing to do. So we’re having a Motorcycle Film Festival on June 9 at the Regent Theatre. Just three great old motorcycle films. On Any Sunday was nominated back in 1972 for an Academy Award, its a very iconic motorcycle film. It’s all about going back to my teen years again, I used to watch On Any Sunday on TV. It’s going to be a pile of fun. Again it’s not for money – just fun. Rosehall Run will be pouring some wine, and Parsons Brewery will be pouring beer, and Picnic Food Truck will be there. Like, what a fun thing to be able to do: go get a beer, go get a taco and go watch some classic biker films in the old Regent Theatre.
I’ve got other plans in the works, too, for a new media company. All I can say it’s still in the development stages, it’s very much alive and going to a whole different level with our investors. We’re negotiating with one of the largest intellectual property companies in North America right now. It’s exciting, but I can’t say more than that right now. The whole tv media business is changing with on-demand and streaming and OTT. There are lots of new opportunities for us. There is a large international company based in, believe it or not, the Isle of Mann who are interested in our back catalogue, because we’ve done 28 years of motorcycle programming. And Motorcycle Experience has now been sold overseas so it’s now in China,Israel, Spain and North Africa, I think it’s nine countries. As host of the tv show, they dub over my voice! I haven’t heard what I sound like in Chinese yet. That’s really something, this little tv program we make here in Prince Edward County is exported to nine countries around the world. I think they must see the County scenery and landscapes and think it’s like paradise. I know I do.
So, yes, it’s all good, all exciting. We’re getting good feedback on the art gallery, which is great, and we’ve made some strong sales, which is even better. Am I surprised? No. Stacey and I knew there were a lot of people interested in seeing Canadian abstract art, and a few that would love to own it.
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