Interview With Dave Kuruc @ Mixed Media
1) Can you tell us a little bit about your business?
Mixed Media is a small independent art shop operated by Dave Kuruc and Teresa Devries that has been in business on James Street North since 2005. We feature quality art materials made in Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, France and the USA. What also makes us unique is our range of goods such as greeting cards, books, magazines, kid’s stuff and unique gifts. Our space houses a small gallery where we feature locally made art. We’ve also been making and selling Hamilton-inspired stuff long before it was cool to do so.
2) How important do you feel local talent is to your business?
We have lots of local artists who we are proud to have as customers looking for materials to help them craft their works. We offer discounts on art supplies to artists who are members of Centre3 and Hamilton Artists Inc. and often pass on savings to educational programs offering art opportunities to children in the community. We want people to create and make art and encourage creative expression in many forms. The other half of what we do is selling goods made by artists. This can include original works, prints and other merchandise we consider artistic and local. We feel like we can offer a platform for artists to show and sell their work in our space. We definitely have built relationships with artists and makers like Paul Elia and the Jelly Bros. who both offer a creative take on Hamilton and to help people visualize their love of the city in the form of art.
3) How often do you take the plunge and support new artists?
We get lots of requests to show in the shop and we do our best to accommodate new artists. I am always open to talking to artists and helping them find the right fit for their art. For the month of September 2016, we are featuring self-portraits by local artists to mark our 10th year in business. It was a fun show to mount as they were all 5”x7” in size which meant we could feature lots of friendly faces who have helped contribute to our success.
4) What do you think about the so-called cultural renaissance of Hamilton?
There is lots happening here. No doubt about that. I think some of the interesting things are getting overshadowed by the more corporate ideas of culture that the majority of the city are aware of. I’ve always said that Hamilton has this fierce, underground of makers that actually gives it its identity and uniqueness. Musically and artistically there is a range of talent here who drive the culture. They may not be household names or making a living from their art – but they are very important to the way Hamilton looks and sounds.
5) What made you want to get into the art trade?
My background is graphic design and Teresa’s is accounting (she also has past experience working in arts retail). When we opened in 2005 it was very early on in James Street North’s rebirth as an arts destination. Our go-to art shop, Rath Art Supplies had closed the year before and we wanted to fill the gap left by his departure to the West Coast. We were both looking for something to do after leaving long-time jobs. Contributing to make downtown a better place was also an early motivator for us. It still is.
6) What made you want to set up shop in Hamilton?
When we opened Mixed Media in 2005 – it was a pretty big deal. Small businesses like ours were closing up in the downtown. When we opened our doors to the public and were talking proud about Hamilton in the media – it showed the rest of the city that we cared about our community. We knew it would be a tough slog to build our business and encourage people to come downtown to shop. We weren’t just opening up a store, along with our neighbours and friends, we were building a community. Artists, musicians, activists and urban enthusiasts treated our shop as a living room, a hub and a place to gather. There was a feeling that the impossible was possible here. The village vibe of James North also appealed to us. A street that others in Hamilton had forgotten was still a vital neighbourhood to many who lived within walking distance to it. That community supported food markets, bakeries, hardware stores, banks and a pharmacy. For us – it was the perfect place to be.
7) What do you think would make Hamilton a better place for art lovers in general?
There needs to be more venues for art to be shown and conversations to take place. I think as the downtown progresses we will lose some of those important spaces for exchanges to happen.
8) What advice do you usually give emerging artists?
My number one piece of advice is to know what is happening in the community. Be aware of other artists and go out and check out galleries and events. Stay in touch with the people who may like to show your work one day. Even a simple email or a postcard in the mail goes a long way in creating relationships that may result in your work being seen by the public. Also – always enter group exhibitions. They are a great way of getting a little bit of wall space and eyeballs on your art.
9) What advice do you wish you could give emerging or established artists, but don’t?
Be original. Don’t worry about what is popular or what might sell more. I think there is always a feeling as artists that the end result for a piece of art is it selling to someone. Always nice when that happens. And for some it comes a bit easier than others. Some paintings are just part of a process to get you to the next place. 10) What one piece of art would you most like to live in? I like Gordon Leverton’s world of paintings. I wouldn’t mind living there for a while.
Thank you to Dave Kuruc for speaking with The Anvil team. Stop by Mixed Media next time you’re in the neighbourhood.