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This website is a labour of love to celebrate the Embassy Cultural House (ECH), it is voluntary project spearheaded by Jamelie Hassan's son, Tariq Hassan Gordon, to recognize the contribution of the art community of the ECH which came of age in the 1960s. Click here to see the editorial team and advisory circle members.
We are grateful for the support of the Art Department at Western University which has provided us graduate and undergraduate students to support the web development and digital archive of this project.
The ECH generation left a larger than life impact on the cultural footprint of London, Ontario and across Canada. They were the generation that broke the conservative social, religious and cultural traditions and taboos. The Canada of today, which is a more equal, inclusive, tolerant and diverse society, looked very different in the 1950s. Please read about Tariq's experience growing up in the London art scene for his childhood memories of this cultural era here.
It was London, Ontario, in the 1950s where the ECH community came of age, and it was their cultural rebellion that opened the door to new and innovative ideas. H.B. Beal Technical and Commercial High School was the epicenter of London's dynamic arts community, as it was the only school in London to offer an arts program, which attracted art students from all over the city. This generation of London artists became nationally recognized in the 1960s including Jack Chambers, Greg Curnoe, Ron Martin and Murray Favro.
LONDON REGIONALISM BECOMES A CULTURAL FORCE
In 1968, Jack Chambers, Tony Urquhart and Kim Ondaatje initiated Canadian Artist Representation (CARFAC) in London, Ontario, and shortly after its founding Greg Curnoe became one of the memberships leading advocates. This artist initiative has become "the national voice for professional artists" and continues to advocate for artists’ rights today. Jamelie Hassan was the Ontario editor for the organization's paper, CAROT in the mid-1970s. She continues to be an active member of CARFAC today, and is considered one of the few remaining senior members of this organization from that early period.
FOREST CITY GALLERY FOUNDED
In 1973, ten artists (Jamelie Hassan, Dave Gordon, Ray Sedge, Ron Martin, Bob Bozak, Robert Fones, Richard Bonderenko, Murray Favro, kerry ferris, and Greg Curnoe) founded the Forest City Gallery, an artist-run space that emerged after the closing of the 20/20 Gallery (1966-1971) which was the first artist-run gallery in Canada to pay professional artist's fees. These artist-run centers were also among the first in Canada. They were part of a creative and collective response against a more conservative approach from the public art institutions at that time which often marginalized Canadian artists. The Forest City Gallery continues to operate today.
EMBASSY CULTURAL HOUSE ERA
In 1983, ten years after the Forest City Gallery was founded, Jamelie and her partner/artist Ron Benner and jazz musician Eric Stach founded the Embassy Cultural House (1983-1990) located in the restaurant portion of the Embassy Hotel at 732 Dundas Street in London East. The Embassy Hotel was run by Jamelie's sister, Helen Haller, and her then husband Egon and sons, Tyson and Warren. Helen had taken over the Hassan family business which had originally been founded by Helen and Jamelie's father, Alex Hassan. The inspiration for the Embassy Cultural House (ECH) came from a trip Jamelie Hassan and Ron Benner had taken to Germany where they had seen informal art exhibitions, music concerts and other cultural events held in Kunsthaueser (arthouses). Other artists who were members of the board included: Wyn Geleynse, Kim Moodie, Jean Spence, Janice Gurney, Doug Mitchell, Jennie White, Jean Hay, Debrann Eastabrook, and Gerard Pas.
Do you remember the Embassy Cultural House? Get in touch and send us your comments.