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Spotlight on John Haines (Posted On: Thursday, February 23, 2017)

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I'm writing this to tell you about John Haines, a local artist/musician who has made his mark on Collingwood and further afield.

But first I have to tell you about the building at the corner of Simcoe and Ste. Marie streets which now houses, among other things, the Simcoe Street Theatre.

I have a special affinity for today's Simcoe Street Theatre building in Collingwood. I had a hand in building it back in the winter of 1988-1989. Back then, it was the new home for Collingwood's largest, paid-circulation local newspaper, The Enterprise-Bulletin. Yes, 7,208 copies a week - paid!

I didn't actually build the premises at 65 Simcoe Street by myself. The Thomson Newspapers company, for whom I worked at that time, engaged the services of the Austin Company to do the actual construction. Led by the late Gordon Schmidt, who had a vacation home at Craigleith, and supervisors Roma Thauvette and Gary Rath, the Austin Company built the most-modern of plants from which The Enterprise-Bulletin was published.

Years later, as the fortunes of newspapers, as we knew them, declined, the building at the corner of Ste. Marie and Simcoe streets was sold to Richard Lex, a Collingwood-based entrepreneur.

Mr. Lex, who has many local claims to reconstruction fame - including the fantastic regeneration of the old Tremont Hotel - worked his magic, along with his wife Anke, on the former Enterprise-Bulletin building.

Today, the old newspaper plant is a multi-purpose building, brimming with new life. The Creemore Coffee Shop sits about where our old advertising department used to be. My former office space has been transformed into the Farm to Table market and kitchen co-operative store. The old press room and mailing room area, with its high ceilings, has become the Simcoe Street Theatre with tiered seating. While it is small, it is very functional. There are other things happening at this corner and you will have to make a trip there to see for yourself.

This Sunday, or sooner, would be an excellent time to visit the Simcoe Street Theatre building because local artist John Haines is close to wrapping up an exhibition there.

Entering the building from the corner door which faces Dey's Auto Body, you will immediately come upon art done by John Haines. The display of John's artwork stretches back to the aptly-named Press Gallery and you don't need a press card to see it!

The exhibition is predominantly featuring the originals of drawings from which were produced John's famous Tapestry Maps. For those who have not seen these maps, they are bird's-eye views of many different places. From Mono Mills to the Bruce Peninsula and from Wasaga Beach to Georgian Bay and Collingwood, John's intricate drawing pinpoints geographic details in these aerial views.

"For the Love of Maps", in my old newspaper building across from the Collingwood Public Library, offers anybody the opportunity to bid on John Haines' originals. This opportunity means that as the successful bidder you could become the owner of one-of-a-kind art. This is a collection of paintings that provided the images for various maps, including the Tapestry series and other works by John Haines.

A silent auction is under way for most of the works in this exhibition. The auction ends on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. But there's time, before then, to get in and look things over and - if something strikes your fancy - to make a bid. The amount of current, highest bids is posted next to John's works. All other details of the bids are being kept confidential and that is as it should be.

"I was about 10 years old when I had my first plane ride and it changed my life," wrote John Haines on a promotional piece about the exhibition.

"My father and I took a short flight in a float plane in the Haliburton area on a beautiful afternoon in August and the thrill of that visual experience overwhelmed me," said John adding,

"I kept thinking - 'why aren't maps made like this?' - several years later that's what I set out to do."

Now, John Haines overwhelms us with his visual experiences which range from producing artwork about Earth, artwork about Collingwood (visible on display boards at various places in town) and his beloved map work which I am certain took hours to refine and produce.

Another place at which one can see John Haines' art is at the Olde Red Hen restaurant on Hurontario Street. There, some walls feature various drawings the subject of which is Collingwood.

I first got to know John Haines when he was entertaining at a private party in Duntroon. That was years ago and he was singing and playing guitar. Through the years, I watched John's artwork endeavors unfold and his music career continue. I have seen him dressed up and playing a bass in a jazz group. I have seen him in casual attire, tweaking his artworks.

Along the way, I have got to know John as a modest, quiet fellow who doesn't step out and shout loudly about his work; which, in a way, shouts for itself. However, I'm happy to shout out here about John Haines exhibition in Collingwood. I'm hoping that you will share this story about John and his art with others.

This Sunday, February 26, between 2 and 4 p.m., John has invited everybody to attend a "closing" reception at the Simcoe Street Theatre. It's free and it should be fun to view that special Haines' handiwork and to learn about how he does it. He intends to do a demonstration about his work.

For those who would like to purchase a reproduction of one of John's Tapestry maps, it's best to drop in to Farm and Table market and kitchen. Farm and Table, which you can enter from either the Simcoe Street sidewalk, or from the main hallway inside the building, is a co-op. That means that people such as Darrelle, whom we met there today, will be volunteering inside the store. She's a former co-op board director who keeps her hand in things by continuing to help as a volunteer at the store.

Richard and Anke Lex should be overjoyed at how things are progressing in the Simcoe Street district. They have added immensely to the artistic and cultural life of Collingwood through their endeavors, as has artist John Haines.

Article Written By George Czerny


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