Saturday, December 06, 2014



a personal view of arts and culture in Nanaimo

This is the third a series of articles dealing with the persons and conditions creating cultural experience in Nanaimo.

Last Saturday was a very good day. In the afternoon the Art Ensemble Initiative Of the Universe (AEIOU) involving Valentina, Alejandra and myself hosted a workshop at the downtown library. we created cutout puppets, brought a puppet theatre, crayons, coloured pens, glue guns, and stuff to stick to paper puppets, Twenty or so children showed up. It was hilarious and amazing. The kids did incredible decorative things to their puppets, then they performed skits for everybody. Everyone of us had a great time. What a lovely way to spend the time leading up to the Santa Claus parade.

Then, in the evening, I went to a performance by Andrew Homzy’s N.O.L.A. Nighthawks - OHB (One Happy Band). This was their debut performance in Nanaimo, and, I have to say, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew Andrew as a regular at the Coffee Vault. He is a low key kind of guy. He said he’s putting together a band, they’ll be doing a little something at the Dallas Opera House in the Dorchester Hotel, and you should come see. So I go see. I walk into a room that is packed. The music starts and it is blasting. Of the many outstanding performances I have witnessed in Nanaimo  this would be in the top five. In fact, this would be in the top ten of all the performances I have ever seen. This was New Orlean’s Jazz, the soul of jazz, arranged magnificently and performed brilliantly. Andrew, as ever modest, said he was aiming for a certain level of professionalism, but he surpassed that with the first note and then it went into a realm of artistry where few of us have the skill or the courage to go. That was an amazing night.

One of my regrets is that I didn’t recommend this performance to my friends. Now, I’m telling you, if you ever have a chance to see Andrew Homzy’s N.O.L.A. Nighthawks - OHB (One Happy Band), you go. If you're late, run. Don’t expect to get tickets at the door, tickets are going to go fast. You are not going to regret an evening with this group.

As I said before, Andrew and I have had a few conversations at the Vault; both of us hang there. One of the subjects that he frequents is the notion of sustainability of the arts. It’s a core concern for both of us. We would like Nanaimo to get to the point where it can support a caliber of artistic endeavour that allows the artist enough of an income to live. We have both watched talented artists leave this community, or struggle with two or three other jobs, or give up because the work they do as artists doesn’t support them. My friend Carly Neigum, a very talented actress and painter is in the process of moving back to Alberta because there is nothing here for her. It’s a bit heartbreaking and a true loss for our community.

Andrew was telling me that he produced the show last Saturday, fronted all the costs, booked the room, and paid for the advertising. The room was packed, the show was spectacular and Andrew broke even. This is typical in our community. A lot of people rail about how city taxes are used to subsidize the arts, but in fact, the city subsidizes only a small fraction of the cost associated with performances. The greatest share of the subsidies come out of the pockets and from the volunteered efforts of the artist themselves. If it wasn’t for the generosity of this very capable, very educated, very talented group of people we would have no cultural events ever.

I admit this is turning into a bit of a rant. I’ll wrap this up by saying that if, as a community, we can’t support a larger group of local talent, that reflects badly on us; that’s a shame. We are undervaluing and impoverishing the best and most creative people living in this city. I hope this changes soon so that we can grow a truly sustainable arts community. It would be great if we could keep this One Happy Band in town to enjoy as much as we can.



  1. I am enjoying Dan's series of insights into the arts and culture scene in Nanaimo. Looking forward to future articles and some reporting on the Port Theatre and the expansion project. Good column.

  2. Great articles Dan.

    But according to the NEDC Nanaimo has a very prosperous arts community which brings millions of dollars into the local economy and employs loads of people now.

  3. hi dan - thanks for writing this article.. as a part of the nanaimo 'art' community and drummer from the band pictured above - i really appreciate everyone coming out to support us november 29th at the dorchester. hopefully we'll do it again..

    i would make a distinction between artist and musician although they share much, music is a specific discipline.. regarding NEDC having a prosperous arts community that brings millions into the local economy - i don't know who the NEDC is, but while it may be true, it sounds like a 'rich' statement that may or may not be borne out by the facts on the ground. the truth is musicians typically have to go elsewhere in order to make a livelihood. i don't know of any folks in the nanaimo music community making a livelihood off music, unless they have a gig up the hill at viu - which ends up being a teaching gig, not a music gig. i, like many other musicians here in nanaimo are involved in private teaching and it forms an important basis for earning a type of livelihood. for gigs - i play this thursday in courtenay and sunday in crofton.. in other words - no gig in nanaimo! this is very typical too.. maybe there is some robert bateman type out in the greater nanaimo area making a good living off their 'art', but overall the arts and music at this point in time are generally a very poor choice for making a livelihood and with regard to music - better consider moving elsewhere!! if there is funding on the local level - it is well hidden to this local musicians knowledge.. cheers james -


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