Getting Hands On with Art in Brantford

Kim and Aliki

Kim and Aliki

Recently I was lucky to join some friends and spend a very relaxing and enjoyable evening with Brantford’s own Paint Club. Started in 2013 by Kim DiFrancesco and Aliki Mikulich, Paint Club is ‘passionate about seeing art become accessible to everyone’. Both Kim and Aliki have degrees in fine arts from the University of Guelph and UofT/Sheridan College respectively, but their very popular paint nights are designed for all levels of experience.

When we arrived at Blue Dog Coffee Roasters on Brant Ave, the evening’s venue for Paint Club, all our supplies were ready- canvas, brushes, paints, and even a great little apron. Step by step we worked together to bring our creations to life- the instructions were easy to follow and a lot of laughs were has as the night went on thanks to the relaxed teaching style of Aliki (Kim was away that evening). A glass of wine helped, too.

Ready to go at Blue Dog!

Ready to go at Blue Dog!

Not only are Aliki and Kim involved in Paint Club, they are also beginning the first (hopefully annual) Holmedale Art Crawl. After checking out the website and Facebook page I was very happily surprised to see all of the artisans that live in the Holmedale area.

“Yes, which is exactly why we thought we’d start this. We’ve all been here for years, and all been aware of each other, and realized while a lot of us have participated in the Brant Studio Tour  there are actually a lot of us congregated in this area. Often we have people out walking or on bikes and touring our neighbourhood. So we thought we could do something and include other artists that might not be part of the studio tour. We are hoping to attract makers- even if you make jam, or soap, anything! It’s a nice way to connect with each other and show Brantford what we have.”

The common thread that connects much of Aliki and Kim’s efforts is bringing art to people and bringing people to art.

When I asked Aliki how so many creative minds ended up living in Holmedale, her reaction was sincere- “It’s just a ‘neighbourhood feel’”  For her, it’s the connection with nature, and it’s reflected in the art she makes. Holmedale is one of Brantford’s more unique neighbourhoods, with classic cottage style homes and plenty of mature trees. The proximity to the Grand River makes it an ideal area for being out on the trails. Set for Saturday, May 27, the art crawl will have 21 makers at 16 locations in Holmedale. There is a great variety of mediums too:  acrylic painting, knitting, mixed media, wooden scroll saw work, candles and soaps, music and song, felted animals and pottery. 

The art crawl provides those who attend with the oppourtunity to put a maker’s work in their hands. “When we had the Brantford Arts Block, we had a gift shop with 100 local vendors- you need to have a retail space to show your work so people can feel and experience it. There’s a creative energy that goes into something that’s handmade. Online stores are great, but as far as local shopping goes we need to fill in that gap. It’s only a one-day event, but it could be the start of something!”

"There’s a creative energy that goes into something that’s handmade!"

Myrtleville House in Spring, one of the paintings taught at Paint Club

Myrtleville House in Spring, one of the paintings taught at Paint Club

The common thread that connects much of Aliki and Kim’s efforts is bringing art to people and bringing people to art. Mostly, they are busy with their very popular Paint Club. Started in 2013, and gaining in popularity each year, the club getting a great reputation for a fun night out. “We started at Blue Dog on Monday nights- we know Marie (who owns the coffee shop) and she embraced it.” Blue Dog, a favourite Brantford hub known for great coffee and baked goods, is also home to an ever-rotating hanging art show that gives local artists a chance to exhibit and sell some of their work. Also on Brant Ave is the Healthy Rabbit, another homegrown venue for great vegetarian/vegan food, live music, and art.

Brantford is once again embracing a more personal approach when seeking out restaurants and businesses as more local start-ups are enjoying success- the Starving Artists Café, our local breweries Bell City and Mash Paddle, and restaurants like The Kitchen and On The Lam. “We have such a wealth of talent and ability here, we need to foster that creative energy- little businesses that are offering things that are ours! You have to come to Brantford if you want some of that!”

Aliki and I agree that much of what’s offered locally is attended well by those who know- one’s social calendar could be full! Part of the mandate of activities like the Holmedale Art Crawl, Brant Studio Tour, and even We Love Brantford is to reach a wider audience. She believes that the success of Paint Club is largely due to Facebook- while social media can be considered ‘global’ it can also be very effective locally. “We’ve got all the makings of a really cool city and we have good people- we really do have all the ingredients! There is so much happening, it’s very exciting!”

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Aliki and Kim are bringing Paint Club to Harmony Square this August as part of a fundraiser for the Brantford General Hospital. The event will also include some of the local businesses and restaurants. “Harmony Square does a great job (for local events)- I take part every year in the Haunted House and it’s so much fun! I always enjoy the movies in the square- it’s like a drive-in without the car. And we faithfully attend the Jazz Festival!” The vision of a downtown that connects our city is gaining popularity. Construction of the amazing new recreational complex proves that the investment is genuine. “The Tragically Hip show brought so many people together,” recalls Aliki. “It was a really nice night- we walked around from place to place. How nice would it be to do that annually- that would be a great summer event, to broadcast a Canadian concert.”

The crowd at Harmony Square enjoying the Tragically Hip's final concert.

The crowd at Harmony Square enjoying the Tragically Hip's final concert.

Huge thanks to Aliki for taking the time to speak with me!