The world is filled with stuff. Masses of stuff. Horrible and beautiful; useless and purposeful: stuff.
Meet the curator of stuff– record collector and granite grabber, Stewart Hughes of Versatile Gallery.
“I think society needs curators. There’s so much good stuff, but so much cack,” says Hughes. He is willing to wade through the litter and use Versatile Gallery, a new curated launch pad for artists, designers, and craftspeople, to bring the best to Squamish and beyond.
The Versatile Gallery was named in an act of radical underthinking: “Versatile just came into my head. I tried to think of some reasons to hate it but couldn’t really. And then I thought about how it looked graphically and thought: ‘I can make a really nice sign with the word versatile. And having no other good ideas, I didn’t want to overthink it.”
“I like stuff with one name. Like Madonna,” says Hughes, who switched gears from writing to visual art when his first child was born.
For this launch event, Hughes has assembled a versatile array of work: flippant flamingo cross-stitches (Diana Watters), wearable dreamscape art (Valerie Nagy and Lan Yao), pottery that re-sacralizes tea drinking (Meghan McCrone), and necklaces of silver-cast salmon vertebrae (Caroline Miller).
An artist himself, working under the moniker MaryMary, Hughes has strong quality control: “I think a lot of time when I look at something, the first question I ask myself is: ‘Would I put that on my wall?’ or ‘Would I have that in my house?’ That’s my main criteria. I think I’ve got good taste.”
Thus, the mantra of Versatile Gallery: Art. Design. Purpose.
A work doesn’t have to be his favourite to get him to admit it’s tight. Right now, the Beatles don’t do it for him. Monet doesn’t speak to him. “They might. But, currently, they don’t,” he says, turning over a record on a custom-built system at his family home in Squamish.
“I listen to music from all genres and sometimes when I listen to it, I’m not even sure I like it but sometimes it starts growing on you. Like this one, from Turkey. I know nothing about Turkish music.”
Stewart Hughes is also testing out Afro-Columbian beats and a new business that is heavy on social media and propositional values.
Welcome to the Future, Stewart Hughes
He is not a businessman and he’s new to social media. When told his Instagram link is broken, he responds: “For what?”
“Stew didn’t have a cell phone until this spring,” says Caroline, impressed by her husband’s dive into the unknown.
In his mission to represent contemporary art, culture, and design in the community, Hughes is willing to take his learning anywhere he can get it.
“I’m all in,” he says of modern business tools.
“I don’t feel like my knowledge is superior. If someone can show me or teach me, I’m open. Got to stay spongy these days. Take a straight line through the corners,” he says before he launches into a half-dozen more driving metaphors.
He takes business advice from his sister, who lent Hughes books on new business models and relevant buzzwords.
One idea particularly struck him: value proposition or making a clear statement on how you will make your customers’ lives better.
The Vision- A Destination Gallery
“In this case, you’re offering people in the town a happening joint where there’s stuff going on. Cultural stuff going on. Young people, maybe even, who are engaged and making stuff,” he says. “It’s them soft values. They’re the things that keep your heart and soul intact in a town when there’s nothing else to do.”
Hughes wants to see a business that is more than a business. He wants to create a cultural hub and retain a curatorial say-so. Squamish lies ahead as a place to have a permanent physical space and that is where he would like to drive the Versatile engine. “A destination gallery in Squamish,” he says about what may manifest in the future.
For Stewart Hughes, each creation, each purchase and exchange is an important cultural communication that extends the work of the maker beyond business and art:
“By making, they are also communicating. It’s like saying: ‘I’m alive. You’re alive. I’m making it and you’re buying it.’”
Hughes’ Versatile Gallery will be at Little Mountain Shop (4386 Main Street)–a Vancouver venue that hosts pop-up retail shops, galleries, and events–for two weekends on November 25-27 and December 2-4.
For more info check here.