Spring has sprung which means the Riverdale Art Walk is back!

Andrew Stelmack: A Local Artist Returns To His Roots

Has it really been ten years since my first ever art show? Ten years since I gathered up my art from my home and I shyly set up my abstract artwork inside a dance studio at Carlaw and Dundas for the Riverdale Art Walk? (When it used to be a walk through the neighbourhood, instead of just the present outdoor version at Jimmy Simpson Park.) Ten years from the first EVER sale of my art? To complete strangers, no less? Ten years from when the first seed was planted that maybe, just maybe, I could sell my artwork?

My how time flies!

Fast forward ten years later and here I am, blessed with a solid art career, my work regularly shown in six galleries in Ontario, working with interior designers and architects and engaging a loyal group of followers which is growing every day. It is so rewarding to know that my work is now found in many private and corporate collections all over Canada and the USA. Heck, they have even been given as gifts to Members and Ministers in Canada’s Parliament. I still stop every once in a while I smile and say “Pinch me! Am I really making a living from doing this? Doing what I love? This really isn’t a dream?”

Well, without the Riverdale Art Walk all of this may never have happened.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. Hanging my artwork, stepping back and then looking at it all on the wall. Thinking how it wasn’t any good and no one would like it. Then with trepidation, the door was unlocked, propped open and the two-day event began. People strolled in and looked, and commented, and looked and…they bought! Oh my goodness, how they bought. By the end of it I had sold everything. I was dumbfounded. Most of all the seed was planted. I was given the confidence I was sorely lacking at the start.

I still remember the first couple who bought two pieces. They were visiting from the USA. After paying for the art they smiled and said to me “You do know we are stealing these. We collect a lot of art in our travels and you are much better than you think. Keep at it. You can make a good living at this. You’re very talented.” Then with a bigger smile they said “These are going to increase in value quite a bit we suspect.” I thought “yeah, right” to myself but now, thinking back to what they paid for them then…they sure were right!

Since that first time ten years ago, I have done the Riverdale Art Walk six or seven times. I feel it is a necessary part of my exhibition year. A place I must return to. The place where it all started. To this day, the odd person during the two-day event will still come up to me and say “I remember when you were in that dance studio on Carlaw…” Oh, how that makes me smile!

While it primarily only happens in the park now under what I like to refer as combat conditions — rain or shine – it is definitely one of my favourite art shows to do. To show my art in a casual setting, chatting with people of all ages, ethnicities and demographics, renewing old connections and making new ones in the place where it all began. All with one goal: To enjoy art as we enjoy the spring day!
Sure, it’s even better to sell a few pieces of my art, but the interaction, the connecting and the engagement with fellow art lovers is worth its weight in gold.

If you are looking for some art for your walls — or just love art and love to look — I strongly suggest you head out to Jimmy Simpson Park on Queen Street East on June 4th and 5th. There is something there for everyone! Whether you like colourful abstracts, interesting portraits, landscapes and flowers or minimalist simple, it is all there. Best of all, you can purchase from a newbie, setting up for the first time wondering “am I good enough to be here?” or a now seasoned and established professional like myself.

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