Originally conceived as a gift to artists, Don Blanche was created in response to the increasing popularity of urban, blockbuster arts programming in Toronto. While these presentation opportunities are an important part of culture in Ontario, they often put a lot of pressure on artists, who are expected to produce large-scale, marketable and fully articulated artworks for a massive public, with little financial compensation. Don Blanche was born out of the idea of giving to artists what blockbuster arts events do not offer, a safe haven outside the city where cross disciplinary experimentation and differences are celebrated. We are not slick; we are gregarious.
Don Blanche was created by Don Miller and Christine Swintak, an artistic collaboration that brings together Don’s wealth of knowledge about sculptural processes, intuitive carpentry, collaborative art and rural living, with Swintak’s wealth of experience as context maker, visual artist, somewhat situationist and creative director. As co-directors, they oversee all artists’ requests, coordinate the residency, administrate facilities, as well as provide creative frameworks that residents can choose to become involved in. Swintak and Miller met at NSCAD in 1998 and have been involved with each other’s projects for the past decade. More about the artistic co-directors:
Don Miller is an idea-based visual artist, intuitive carpenter and poet who lives near Shelburne, Ontario. Miller works in a number of media including performance, video, installation, experimental architecture, snow sculpture and written word. He also works with stone, steel and wood to generate income to fund his artistic pursuits; his creative endeavours tend to infiltrate his life, and his life tends to infiltrate his art. Though the majority of his projects are produced independently, outside the gallery network, Miller has also presented performances, videos, readings and interventions at Ghost Ship (Amsterdam), York University (Toronto), Knock on Woods (Holland), Pleasure Dome/ Cinecycle (Toronto), Engine Gallery (Toronto), Tranzac (Toronto), and Anna Leonowens Gallery (Halifax). His projects include an ongoing series of sensory deprivation and/or sensory enhancement snow caves, a large one of a kind frankenhouse constructed from numerous century old barns, spoken word performances at various venues, and creating what he terms “a strategy for living.” Don received a BFA in 2002 from NSCAD University (formerly the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design).
Christine Swintak is a Toronto-based visual artist who works in a number of media including performance, intervention, installation and multimedia. Her projects include building a full scale ship through collective improvisation, running an election party campaign for the Irish underworld, transforming a dumpster into a luxury boutique hotel, promoting urban quicksand pits to condo developers, attempting to give a shed a consciousness, and producing a series of impossible project proposals. She has exhibited at galleries, festivals and museums across Canada and internationally, including HMK Mariakapel (Holland), Model Niland (Ireland), DCR Guest Studios (Holland), YYZ Artist’s Outlet (Toronto), Toronto Free Gallery (Toronto), Nuit Blanche (Toronto), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), ArtCity Festival of Art and Architecture (Calgary), Khyber Centre for the Arts (Halifax), Dalhousie University Art Gallery (Halifax) and Rockefeller Centre (New York). Swintak has also presented numerous independent public interventions and relational happenings in places like Amsterdam, Banff, Vancouver, Teslin, New York, Salt Lake City, Death Valley and Los Angeles. Swintak received a BFA in 2003 from NSCAD University and is committed to continual self-directed research. Swintak was awarded the Canada Council International Residency in Paris, France at the Cité Des Arts Internationale in 2011 and a fellowship at the Headlands Centre for the Arts.