Heaven comes on a brown bottle

Karla Hayward
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Eastern Edge fundraiser brings high art to lowly brew

Alcohol and art have long been linked. From Modigliani's infamous addiction to Picasso's "Sabartes Con Su Cerveza," alcohol has acted as both fuel and folly for many. And now, a whole crew of local artists will pay homage to that most humble of the heady, hedonistic brews: beer. And, they'll even tie it into the most fitting of occasions: St. Patrick's Day.

John Haney is a board member at the artist-run Eastern Edge Galley. He's also an artist himself and participant in the upcoming event, "Heaven = Beer + Art."

Alcohol and art have long been linked. From Modigliani's infamous addiction to Picasso's "Sabartes Con Su Cerveza," alcohol has acted as both fuel and folly for many. And now, a whole crew of local artists will pay homage to that most humble of the heady, hedonistic brews: beer. And, they'll even tie it into the most fitting of occasions: St. Patrick's Day.

John Haney is a board member at the artist-run Eastern Edge Galley. He's also an artist himself and participant in the upcoming event, "Heaven = Beer + Art."

The premise is simple: over 60 local (and close to local) artists are asked to create a label for a 650-ml bottle of homemade beer. The result? Over 60 pieces of one-of-a-kind art available to the public via silent auction for as low as $10 a pop!

Inspiration

Haney explains where this intriguing idea originated: "Michelle Bush, who is the director of the gallery, somewhat innocently asked me if I knew anyone who made homemade beer. As it happens, my downstairs neighbour Bruce makes excellent homemade beer ... So I said, 'Yeah, in fact I do.'"

Turns out Bush was thinking about having some artisanal beer created as a thank-you gift for gallery supporters, but Haney gave it a twist and turned it into a great approach to their upcoming fundraiser.

Yep, that's right. For once, the bucks you spend on brew can be considered charity; proceeds from the event will benefit Eastern Edge's outreach programs, specifically their work with high school students.

"There've been a number of wonderful workshops that the gallery has had for students," Haney explains. "A fellow by the name of Kevin Hehir ... brings in classes from the different high schools and also brings in various artists to do workshops with them." Turns out these student-artist interactions have met with great success and the gallery is anxious to host more - with the funds "Heaven" will generate.

As both an artist and co-ordinator, Haney is doubly excited about the event. "I'm totally obsessed with labels. I have this whole criteria, when I go the liquor store, about how I pick a new bottle ... If a bottle of wine has a crappy label, I'm not going to buy it. I think about labels and typography and design a lot, so I thought it might be really fun to do this."

Also, he adds, the restrictions of the label's physical size - 5" by 8" - interest him as well.

"There's this wonderful thing that happens when you have to be creative but you have these limitations, imposed guidelines. You get to play with that."

And while a beer label might indeed be conventionally composed of just two dimensions, it's not just painters and photographers like Haney who'll be joining in. Those of a more three dimensional bent are expected to saddle up as well. "We have (asked) sculptors, printmakers, a rug hooker," says Haney. Beer cozies can be art too.

Haney is quick to note that it's not the beer that's on auction, but the art itself, with the highest bidder being given a bottle as an additional prize. It's up to him or her to decide whether to "stick on" the label, or display it in a different way and drink up the brew.

Participants

Show organizers are expecting over 60 artists to participate, including the likes of Craig Francis Power, Will Gill and Anita Singh, Gordon Laurin, Bruce Johnson, Melanie Hamilton, Bush and many more.

As an extra incentive to show goer's, Haney clarifies that while beer and St. Patrick's Day do go hand-in-hand, the art won't be all leprechauns and shamrocks. He's expecting all sorts of creative expression; as is to be expected from such a varied group of artists.

In addition to visual feast, Haney also promises stimulations of taste and sound as well: Irish stew in traditional and veggie versions will be served and music will be played.

Overall, Haney's pretty psyched about "Heaven." "It's exciting because at the end of the day a whole lot of art is going to be created for this purpose."

And he's feeling positive about its projected success; "It's really snowballed ... People have been really excited about it. It's been getting a lot more attention than some of the other events. I guess you just have to mention beer and..."

"Heaven = Beer + Art" happens 5-7 p.m., Sunday at the Eastern Edge Gallery, 72 Harbour Dr.

For more information, call 739-1882.

Organizations: Beer + Art, Eastern Edge Gallery

Geographic location: Eastern Edge

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