• The Larry Spring Museum of Common Sense Physics or What I Do During My Summer Vacations

    August 21, 2018 by Anne Maureen Mc...

    In March 2017, I inherited a small storefront museum located in Fort Bragg, California, that was created by Larry Spring who was a self-taught experimenter, artist and ‘outlier’ curator. This inheritance was not entirely surprising because for close to a decade, the museum had been my ‘labour of love’. I have an affinity for oddball collections and small museums. Spring’s assemblage contains all of the elements – self-taught art, vernacular science and esotericism — that I find fascinating. We had never met in person but we had developed an intimate connection. Spring’s objects bore the mark of his lively intellect, so it was hard not to feel like we were somehow in conversation. It was a fantastic curatorial puzzle to frame the work of a man so intensely curious, productive, and confident in his alternative theories. Yet, in spite of all of this good stuff, the museum was a complicated gift. The building, its contents and Larry Spring himself, was an integral part of Fort Bragg’s idiosyncratic cultural fabric, and the responsibility of maintaining this legacy became my personal challenge.

    Larry Spring with the Spring Demonstrator. n.d. Estate of Larry Spring.

    Who was Larry Spring?
    A self-taught, freethinker, Lorenz 'Larry' Spring (1915-2009) challenged mainstream ways of acquiring knowledge through his tenacious, personalized learning and teaching style. He was a life-long resident of the Mendocino coast, who was uniquely inspired by the area's biophysical environment, and he expressed himself in painting, woodworking and assemblage. Spring identified first and foremost as an ‘experimenter’ who surveyed the world through what he understood to be his keen powers of observation. Experiments in applied physics were his specialty, and he aspired to make visible the complex phenomena described by mathematics through his production of hand-hewn demonstration models. Spring idealized knowledge through making. He dismissed the theoretical musings of Einstein as the 'stuff of dreamers'. Spring was a Vernacular Renaissance Man.

    Postcard designed by Larry Spring advertising The Quints which were a part of his collection of Little Woods Creatures that he created and displayed in his television repair shop. c., 1975. Estate of Larry Spring.

    Common Sense Physics
    “Common sense physics” is the term Spring used to described his amateur work, investigations, and homespun notions of physical phenomena. Throughout his life, Spring maintained a stubborn resistance to mainstream physics and in many ways this resistance enlivened his output. His anti-professional stance was evident in the handmade aspects of his works and displays. Spring’s approach to making objects was about reconfiguring the existing and the recognizable. Found objects and repurposed artifacts were important materials and all in line with his common sense, waste not want not ethos. Fragments of things became things in their own right – a tuna-can became a motor, a collection of rocks became a dinner party, beach and forest detritus became woodland creatures, carton lids became storage systems. Each object took on a different meaning and function according to his use of it, and as always, became part of his kinetic method of inquiry. 

    According to Spring, his most significant project was the Magnesphere, a three dimensional model that he developed using table tennis balls and chicken wire for describing and measuring the shape of energy. He also built a ‘new, more flexible’ model of the atom called the Spring Atom, out of magnets that he contained in a redwood frame. Spring self-identified as an ‘Explorer of Radiant Energy’ and enjoyed communicating his observations, craft explorations, and new discoveries. His work was shared on local cable television, at the Redwood Coast Senior’s Center, in self-published books and at regional amateur science conferences across the United States. 

    Partial views of some of Spring’s demonstration models. 2013. Estate of Larry Spring

    In 1985, Spring established the Larry Spring School of Common Sense Physics in his Fort Bragg storefront. He held 3 hour long classes that could not be interrupted or he would start all over again. Spring attracted a largely male group of students who ranged from fishermen, to beatniks to other like-minded amateur enthusiasts. He likely filled an educational void: Spring was a distinctly regional figure who operated within an economy of generosity. People could drop into his storefront at any time and he would serve coffee and demonstrate his theories without charge. Many former students still view their experience with Spring as positive. Although none could plainly describe what they had learned, they clearly felt that something had been transmitted.

    Larry Spring’s Afterlife
    At the end of his life, Spring expressed the wish that the Larry Spring School of Common Sense Physics would remain a school so that his voice remained authorial and its agency protected. Yet, despite Spring’s self-assigned identity as an ‘experimenter’, he took everyday objects out of context and repositioned them in his language of art. Spring’s unorthodox curatorial eye, combined mediums, materials and object types that suggest that the collection be received as a total artwork — where art, science and unexplained phenomena ‘in between’ coalesce.  So with that in mind, I’ve currently positioned Spring’s storefront as a living museum, a kind of vernacular cabinet of curiosities. While it is curated to a degree, I’ve attempted to break the paradigm of ‘museum as mediator’ through minimal labeling and explication. This conveys to visitors that they are meant to experience the overall effect of the space, and engage with the objects on their own terms without the divide of interpretation. 

    Larry Spring’s storefront allowed him the material and conceptual space in which to pursue his physics investigations, craft explorations and to further an exchange between individualized learning and the community. My instincts tell me that it is within Spring’s everyday practice of curiosity that my inheritance can be sustained. This fall, I am initiating a residency program that will call for artists with an interest in collections and the particulars of the museum’s holdings. Work produced will be site-specific and responsive to Spring’s ideas, the collection, place and community. A residency program is an opportunity to enliven what already exists — without compromising Spring’s voice and place in the community. 

    I am currently working out the details of the residency program and there are still some unknowns. What I do know, however, is that I have inherited something that is difficult, wondrous and worthy of sustaining. 


    For more information about the Larry Spring Museum of Common Sense Physics and/or residency opportunities please contact:

    Anne Maureen McKeating is the Project Manager for the Hamilton Arts Council’s Building Cultural Legacies project. She is also director and curator of the Larry Spring Museum of Common Sense Physics.

  • Culture Guide 2018-19 Events Submissions Call!

    July 12, 2018 by Stephen Near

    The Hamilton Arts Council Culture Guide celebrates what it means to really live and play in Hamilton by reflecting our city’s distinct character and culture. Beautiful full-colour pages of original photography, artwork and feature articles will inspire and entertain
    readers with engaging coverage of Hamilton’s unique artistic landscape.

    This year's Guide will mark an important milestone as we mark our fifth anniversary so we're hard at work on several exciting features including a larger design and a more content-driven format to better represent the scope of the arts in the Hamilton. We'll also include original editorial articles highlighting what’s new and notable in the local arts scene as well as profiles on prominent and emerging artists.

    As before, the Guide will also feature a handy Culture Calendar highlighting major festivals, performances and productions for the coming year and that's where you come in. We're asking our members to submit their event listings for the 2018-19 Culture Guide to be added to the popular Culture Calendar at the back of the publication.


    To have your event added, your Hamilton Arts Council membership must be in good standing.

    (renew your membership by contacting or phone at 905-481-3218)

    EVENTS MUST TAKE PLACE BETWEEN: Sept 2018 - Aug 2019

    Please submit your event listings via emai or add them to the Google Form by July 27, 2018 (any listings received past this date, will not be published)


    Don't miss your chance to be part of this year's Hamilton Arts Council Culture Guide. We look forward to hearing from you and learning about your exciting programming this year


    July 3, 2018 by Annette Paiement

    Taillin is a coastal town in Estonia with a population of 413,782 people. The Republic of Estonia has been an independent state since 1918, shortly interrupted by a half a century long Soviet occupation after World War II. In 1991, Estonia’s independence was restored.

    On June 11, 2018, I arrived in Tallinn where I met up with Rob Zeidler from the Cotton Factory, Hamilton, Ontario and Elin Kard, Vice-President and founding member of the Estonian Artists’ Association.

    The Hamilton Arts Council, in partnership with The Cotton Factory and the Estonian Artists’ Association have come together to build an artist exchange and residency program.

       Dragon | Draakoni Gallery













    An artist and curator in her own right, Elin Kard is the founding member of EKKM (Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia), teaches at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn and curates for EKL gallery; Horse Head Gallery & the Dragon Gallery, in Tallinn.

    Our visit to Taillon was a step towards building relations between our respective organizations, and an effort to set the stage for the Canada/Estonia Artist Exchange taking place in October, 2018. 


    We were fortunate to have Kard as our tour guide for much of the day, she took us to visit the many galleries in the Old City. Kard is involved with the Tallinn Art Hall, where we attended the 18th Annual Exhibition of the Estonian Artists’ Association’s annual juried show “Jubilee Spring 2018”.

    The exhibition was dedicated to Estonia’s centenary and the 75th anniversary of the Estonian Artists’ Association.

    We could not have received a better introduction to the beauty of Tallinn. The day was filled with art, walks through the Old City, conversation, and stories about history, art and culture.    

    Jubilee Spring 2018 was sponsored by the Estonian Ministry of Culture, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Tallinn Culture Department and Estonia 100, and featured the artworks of 107 contemporary Estonian artists. This provided us with an overview of many of the artists currently participating in the Estonian art scene.

    MAARIT MURKA (1981) Mindroom 9, Oil on canvas, 100 x 130 x 20 cm, 2017

    Although it was the 18th spring show, it was the first time the Estonian Artists’ Association installed and presented works in the same manner as an art fair and featured the works of artists at varying career levels. 

    Kard explained that over the past 2-3 years there has been a trend with artists turning towards traditional drawing and graphic works. The resurgence of traditional techniques in drawing, painting and printmaking was evident in many of the works on view.

    “There is a move toward manual skills, leaving a trace of one’s hand. Less artists are working with video, desiring a more direct connection with the media they are working with.” explained Kard.

    This year’s exhibition marks the first time works displayed were listed for sale. This was done in an effort to encourage a new generation of art collectors.

    REIN MAGAR (1944) Time and Potatoes, Acrylic, watercolour, 145 x 95 cm, 2018

    “During the Soviet period, artists made art on a commissioned basis, galleries did not sell artist works.  And subsequently, galleries did not pay the artists.”

    LAURi, 100, Installation, 550 x 350 cm, 2018


    In 2011, as Vice President of The Estonian Artists’ Union, Kard led the way in an unprecedented move to compensate artists who exhibit artworks. This decision was made in an effort to make artists fees self-explanatory as is the case in other areas of culture.

    PEETER LAURITS, Rain News, Invisibly Rays, Diasec acrylic, 2017

    When asked about artists creating an income through the sale of limited edition prints, Kard explained this concept is currently unheard of in the Estonian art scene and considered unprofessional.  

    MARKO MAETAMM, I ONLY WANTED TO EXPRESS MYSELF, blue ball point pen on paper, 24x29cm, 2017

    MARKO MAETAMM, LION AND MAN, plastic, acrylic paint, 17 x 10x 9 (h) cm, 2016


    In Canada, artists prints are an affordable way for people to collect works of art. It also provides an artist with an additional source of  revenue for their work.

    TOOMAS KUUSING (1976), Poor Things Freeze on the Treetops, Linocut, 65 x 73 cm, 2018 (detail)

    Today the Association supports itself with the rental of artist live/work studios, commissioned art sales and memberships.

    After viewing exhibitions in the Old Town galleries, we walked to EKKM. (EKKM is an abbreviation for Eesti Kaasaegne Kunsti Muuseum meaning Estonia Contemporary Art Museum.) The Gallery is situated in the former offices for the Tallinn Heating Plant.

    It began as a squat in 2006 and has since become a not-for-profit, artist-run/do-it-yourself initiative.  

    The 17th Tallinn Print Triennial celebrated a half a century of traditional printmaking.  The exhibition examined the concept, “triennial”; how it plays in cultural history and the theme of tradition in the broader sense. Non-traditionalism in the art process of Estonia and other Baltic countries was integrated.

    There was so much to take in, and to process. The history of EKKM was as interesting to me as were all of the exhibitions presented in the gallery spaces and the architecture of the space.

    Our day ended with an exhibition opening by Liisi Eelmaa - Õrnalt õhus / Gently in the Air, at Hobusepea Gallery.  The event was sponsored by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia and Estonian Ministry of Culture. 

    It would be the first of many exhibition openings I would visit in the coming weeks.



  • Hamilton Planting an Artistic Seed in the Baltic

    July 3, 2018 by Stephen Near

    The Hamilton Arts Council has been busy coordinating our latest arts residency in Estonia. Early in June, the Hamilton Spectator featured an article about this exciting initiative so we're reposting the article here as written by Graham Rockingham. This article was originally written and posted at the the on June 01, 2018.


    Cotton Factory owner Robert Zeidler, left, artist Tor Lukasik-Foss and Hamilton Arts Council executive director Annette Paiement. [Photo: Gary Yokoyama, The Hamilton Spectator]

    Estonia isn't the sort of place that comes up in conversation when local artists sit down over coffee at the Mulberry.

    The kind of chit chat that goes, "Have you heard what they're doing with digital manipulation at the Estonian Institute of Humanities?"

    Or even, "I met the most darling transhuman ethicist from the University of Tartu the other day."

    That may all change due to an extraordinary new collaboration between the Hamilton Arts Council, The Cotton Factory and the Estonian Artists Association, which is based in Tallinn, the tiny Baltic nation's capital.

    It's an artist exchange. They send us one of theirs for a one-month residency and we send them one of ours. The plan is to make it an annual event.

    Tor Lukasik-Foss, one of Hamilton's better known multi-genre artists, will venture to Estonia in September to create new work, deliver talks and mingle with fellow artists, maybe even have a beer with them.

    Lukasik-Foss, who is of Norwegian descent, has never been to Estonia and knows none of its language, but feels confident he will be able to express himself through art.

    Lukasik-Foss works in multiple forms of visual art, but is also a songwriter who performs under the name Tiny Bill Cody. He's already thinking about working traditional Baltic themes into his own unique way of storytelling.

    "I want to do some songwriting while I'm there, contemporizing myth and folk tale as the basis," says Lukasik-Foss, who will take a month-long leave from his job as director of programs and education at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. "I'm hoping to write, perform and be as collaborative as possible."

    So far, the Estonians are one ahead of us in terms of the exchange. Last October, they sent multimedia artist Marko Mäetamm, who spent a month working on new projects in a studio provided by The Cotton Factory and giving artist talks.

    The experiment was considered a success and Mäetamm is returning in Hamilton for an exhibition of his art at the b contemporary gallery on James Street North from Sept. 4 to 29.

    While Lukasik-Foss is in Estonia wowing the locals, Estonian artist Peeter Laurits, who works in photography and digital manipulation, will be working in Hamilton's Cotton Factory.

    The exchange is the brainchild of Robert Zeidler, a Toronto transplant who bought the century-old Imperial Cotton building on Sherman North in 2014 for $4.7 million, renovated it, and turned it into a workspace for more than 110 artists, crafts workers, fashion designers, film and music makers.

    Since his investment, Zeidler has become a huge advocate and patron of the Hamilton arts scene.

    For the past year, he has set aside one studio for an "artist in residence" program, which provides free rent for two emerging artists over a three-month period.

    The residencies are juried by the Hamilton Arts Council, with Zeidler eating the rental cost. So far nine young artists have benefited from the program. (The current artists — Stylo Starr, who specializes in collage, and Tanya Denyer, a quilter — will hold an artists' talk on June 14, 7 p.m., at the The Cotton Factory).

    "It's been a big success and we think it's going to continue to be a success," says Zeidler. "It allows young artists to stay in Hamilton and not go seeking a residency in another city like Toronto."

    Last year, Zeidler decided to broaden the residency's horizon to include an international exchange component. But with what country?

    He started doing research and discovered a lively artistic community in Estonia, population less than 1.4 million.

    "The whole Baltic art scene is exploding right now and has been for the last 15 years," says Zeidler. "And because the country is so small, the artists have to have an international perspective. To be successful, they have to get out and be international."

    Zeidler met the Estonian ambassador to Canada and was even more impressed.

    "She came to Hamilton to visit the local Estonian community," he says. "I was quite inspired by her. She spoke about the arts and freedom, and I thought, this is exactly who we need to partner with."

    Zeidler's Cotton Factory funded Mäetamm's trip here last year, including his flight, apartment rent, and a weekly honorarium.

    The Cotton Factory is doing the same for Lukasik-Foss and Laurits, as well as a trip to Estonia next in mid-June by Hamilton Arts Council executive director Annette Paiement.

    The Arts Council is responsible for selecting the Hamilton participants in the exchange, making sure things run smoothly on the Estonian end, as well as helping to find new sources of funding.

    "I'll be making sure that the residency is set up well for Tor when he arrives in September," Paiement says. "The goal is to create good relations, to investigate other possible opportunities and partnerships so that we can keep the program going and expand it over many years."


    By Graham Rockingham. Graham is the Hamilton Spectator's music editor. He can be reached at, 905-526-3331. Follow him @RockatTheSpec.

  • Building Cultural Legacies Project Manager Applications

    June 26, 2018 by Stephen Near

    Building Cultural Legacies is a new initiative of the Hamilton Arts Council that will collect, preserve and broadly disseminate stories about the history of the arts in Hamilton through a collective memory approach. By engaging all citizens in sharing their cultural memories of Hamilton, we will ensure that today’s and tomorrow’s generation of artists and residents understand and value the significant contributions made by their predecessors in our arts community.

    The Hamilton Arts Council has received a three-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to establish a collective memory archive of the visual arts community in Hamilton that will serve as a foundation for other arts and cultural sectors to contribute their own histories in the future. We are therefore seeking an experienced and visionary Project Manager to lead the creation of a community-engaged platform for preserving Hamilton’s rich cultural legacy for future generations.

    Reporting to the Executive Director and working closely with a volunteer Steering Committee, the Project Manager will work on site in the Hamilton Arts Council office and with the wider community as needed to achieve the following outcomes by May 2020:

    · Establish broadly accessible archives of existing and new material about the visual arts in Hamilton in a range of media

    · Create tangible opportunities for the public and for artists to engage with the project and its work

    · Build a robust web presence including the use of social media to solicit and gather community memories

    · Develop a tool kit to help other genres and communities to identify, collect and tell their stories.


    · Lead the planning and implementation of Building Cultural Legacies according to an established project framework

    · Engage proactively with volunteer steering committees, senior artists, diverse communities and organizational partners to facilitate their contributions to this project

    · Coordinate tasks and deliverables among a diverse team of paid contractors and volunteer contributors

    · Manage all procurement documentation for Building Cultural Legacies such as contracts, invoices, and cheque requisitions

    · Monitor project expenses and provide accurate and timely reports on project status to the Executive Director and other stakeholders

    · Recruit and supervise contract service providers including web developer, archive and digitization specialists, artists and curator



    · Proven success in cultural program delivery demonstrated by 2-3 years of relevant experience in project management

    · Post-secondary education or equivalent experience in archives, art history and/or arts management including research experience

    · Experience managing annual project budgets of $80,000 or more

    · History of effective community engagement with diverse stakeholders of all ages through both traditional and digital means

    · Knowledge of oral history and collective memory practices and approaches is desirable

    · Demonstrated knowledge and interest in Hamilton’s arts community, local history, and cultural heritage

    · Excellent written and oral communication skills

    · Strong time management skills and ability to meet deadlines

    · High level of computer proficiency and digital literacy including databases, web-based research tools and social media platforms

    · Strong personal initiative, creative vision and attention to detail

    · Fluency in French and/or other languages would be considered an asset


    The Project Manager will be paid an annual salary of $31,200 based on a 28-hour work week with specific hours to be determined by consultation with the Executive Director and the time requirements to fulfill the project. Due to the community driven nature of this project, flexibility to work occasional evenings and weekends, as well as occasional travel within the Hamilton region, will be required.

    Applicants are asked to submit a cover letter, current resume and contact information for two references as a Word or PDF file attachment no later than Tuesday, July 31, 2018 **EXTENDED DEADLINE**

    Email your application to with your full name and “BCL Project Manager” in the subject line.

    The Hamilton Arts Council is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applications from all qualified candidates. While we thank all applicants for their interest, only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

    The Hamilton Arts Council is a charitable arts organization working on behalf of Hamilton’s diverse cultural community since 1973. We believe that the arts are a vital part of our culture and economy of our city and work to advocate, mediate and communicate for the role of the arts in Hamilton.