Long-time Tom Thomson Art Gallery volunteer Joan Hawksbridge, left, and interim curator David Huff discuss some of the artwork that could be part of an upcoming exhibit at the Owen Sound gallery.
Huff nominated Hawksbridge for the Owen Sound Volunteer of the Year award. Denis Langlois/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Post Media Network
Denis Langlois / Denis Langlois/The Sun Times/Post Media Network
In her 50 years of volunteering at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Joan Hawksbridge has served under 10 directors, helped out at about 300 Gallery Nights at the Movies and assisted with countless tours, exhibits, projects and fundraisers.“She’s certainly our longest-serving active volunteer,” said David Huff, acting director and curator of collections.Hawksbridge was honoured by city council Monday for her volunteer work, accepting the city’s volunteer of the year award for 2019. She was nominated by Huff.Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy presented Hawksbridge with the award and a certificate, while Deputy-mayor Brian O’Leary gave her certificates on behalf of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller and MPP Bill Walker.“In a community like ours, we rely on many volunteers like Ms. Hawksbridge to make our city such a great place to live,” Boddy said in a statement. “It is truly remarkable for her to have volunteered at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery for the past 50 years.”Hawksbridge said she is honoured by the recognition.“At some point, someone said you volunteer without expecting anything in return. And you don’t, really. But you do know that some things come your way because you volunteer and sometimes they’re very nice to receive. And this is one of the very, very best,” she said, after receiving the award.Hawksbridge, a self-taught artist who became professional about 45 years ago, began volunteering at the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery in 1969, shortly after she moved to Owen Sound.“The normal procedure that you do when you come to town is join groups, you become involved in something that interests you and you just find your way,” she said.The current gallery, built by the city as a Centennial project, was only two years old when Hawksbridge began volunteering. Only one staff person was employed at the gallery then, so volunteers were crucial.“The gallery couldn’t have started without volunteers,” Huff said.Hawksbridge was one of the “gallery guides,” a group of women who showed the collection and exhibits to visitors.Hawksbridge, along with her husband Torben, has also volunteered since 1996 at Gallery Night at the Movies. About 300 Canadian, foreign and independent films have been screened as part of the fundraiser since its inception.“Joan and Torben are both volunteers who work on the door, so Joan takes tickets and she has pretty well been at every single movie other than a handful,” Huff said.Over the years, Hawksbridge has also curated exhibits, helped with fundraisers, organized special events and sat on committees.She is now a collection volunteer.Huff said because 2019 marks 50 years of volunteering for Hawksbridge, he decided it would be the perfect time to nominate her for the Owen Sound volunteer of the year award.“Fifty years of volunteerism is an important accomplishment not only for the volunteer, but also for the organization that they’re volunteering for; that somebody has supported and enjoyed participating in,” he said.Boddy said Hawksbridge has also volunteered with the Art Town Collective & Studio Tour, Roxy Gallery, Canadian Centre for the Arts, Grey-Bruce Craft Centre and Grey County Owen Sound Museum.“Joan is always on the go, spending the majority of her spare time outdoors walking, hiking gardening and camping. Joan says ‘camping is both necessary to my art, and a hobby,’ ” he said.