By Darren Lum
Outside what was once Banks’ General Store on Pine Avenue in Haliburton village, local multidisciplinary, award-winning artist Tiffany Howe is lit by the afternoon sun and stands for a photo, illuminating the warm feelings she holds in her heart for the building that she has known all her life.
It’s telling for the homegrown artist that graduated from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School in 2003, who has transformed her rental unit within the historical landmark that dates back to the start of the town into what she is calling the How(e) Creative studio where local creations are showcased in the near 12-foot window fronts.
Officially opened April 17, the new studio maintains an air of the past with its architectural cues from when it was the Irwin Store managed by Frederick Freeman in 1881, intermingled with the contemporary flair Howe has brought with splashes of whimsy from the art work and collectibles she has within the open space, which is inspired by her “seeing the magic in the world.”
Howe, who is the curator at the Ethel Curry Gallery in Haliburton, said how this studio came to be was “serendipitous.”
“I was just looking for an apartment to rent and I was supposed to be renting a different unit in this building and it ended up I got to have this space, so it was just absolutely ideal. As soon as I got in here [I told myself], oh, I have to do something with this so that I can bring the community in and make a creative space out of it,” she said.
With ever-changing restrictions related to provincial safety regulations, hosting events has been put on hold for now. However, that hasn’t stopped Howe from dreaming about potential ideas for the location, whether it’s hosting art workshops such as life drawing sessions, or showings and public events on the weekends.
The idea to open the space up to the public is part of an effort to bring life to the building that she used to frequent as a child with her sister and mother from her home down the road.
“When I was a kid I grew up down the road from here. This was Banks’ General Store and my mom would come here when she needed a couple of things, so my sister would get to get some penny candies and a nutty cone, comic books and stuff,” she said, laughing. “So it was that and I know a lot of people that live in this neighbourhood felt this store was a staple to them. Then after that, when it became the Wild Oats Café, I knew the owners and performed at the open mic nights they had here and that carried on to the next owners … Then when Nicola owned it and had the Heritage House Café, I would come here and plan Newfanglers Arts Festival [as co-creator and director] and have business meetings with people. So I feel like I’ve been connected to this building for my whole life and I know so many other people are as well. There’s a lot of memories that people have here,” she said. “I don’t know why, but I do just feel compelled to want to include people in the continuing story of this place, evolving and changing.”
Howe says she always knew she would grow up to become an artist. When she was just 16, her first job was working for local stain glass artist, Tom Green.
After high school, she attended Sheridan College, studying textiles and ceramics for a year for the Art Fundamentals and Craft and Design program.
Her art background and education includes a variety of learning methods from the formal, which includes Sheridan and numerous classes at the Haliburton School of Art + Design, to hands-on experience with area artists, including her artistic peers, and through her own artistic journey.
From her personal journey as an artist and experience working at the Ethel Curry Gallery, and her own studio, she believes in the importance of art being something that can be appreciated by everyone.
“It’s really been important to me to help people feel like the arts world can be inclusive and friendly. And you don’t need to understand anything about art to appreciate it,” she said. “A lot of people are really self-conscious to ask questions, or feel like they’re not allowed to come in and I think with this space – this is the first space of this calibre that I’ve ever worked in and been … it’s been really liberating for me to be like: I make all the rules and I can do whatever I want. I kind of want to share that idea with people. Of course when you’re learning art there are rules. It’s important to learn the rules, but it’s also good to know that art is for anybody and art is what you decide it is. It’s important for me to share a little bit of a laid back attitude for appreciating and making art with people.”
The poetic quality to the circular nature of her journey from how her space in the building she valued as a child has now fallen to her for its stewardship for its next chapter isn’t lost on Howe. However, this scenario wasn’t ever a consideration during her relationship with the building, which has rooted itself forever in her heart.
“Oh, no. Not in the slightest. It still surprises me almost daily. I walk through here, especially at night when the light is shining through the great big windows and everything silhouettes you feel the grandness of the space. Almost more when it’s the subtle light. I walk through and think to myself: Oh, my god. I get to live here,” she said.
For more info or to purchase, DM her, message her on Facebook (Tiffany Howe Creative) or call/text 705-457-6919. For more information see Howe’s website: howecreative.ca