John Lister thinks off the wall, in the air, and he’s for the birds!

The folks at MacLaren Art Centre are having mixed feelings these days. The creative guru whose business has given marketing service to MacLaren for the past eight years has made a change in direction. He’s wanting to cut back on his work load and spend some time with his two youngsters and his wife. He’s going for balance.

And everybody who works at the MacLaren, either as a staff or as a volunteer, loves and respects John Lister. So… they want to support his need to change his business activities for himself, and at the same time they mourn the loss of John’s leaving.

Since 1994 John Lister & Associates has provided the Director of Development activities for MacLaren. He was responsible for strategic development for fundraising, special events and liaised within the gallery to pull together supporting responsibilities.

Sounds interesting on paper, but John was much more than that. He has a marvellous mind for the unusual, and if he didn’t coin the word “friendraise” he sure put definition to it.

Remember MacLaren for the Birds? John.

Remember Picket the MacLaren? John.

Remember Against the Grain? John.

MacLaren Off the Wall? Yup.

Something Fishy at the Maclaren? Uh, huh.

MacLaren Screen One? Mmm.

While John wasn’t the only energy behind these projects, he is the creative genius who took the idea, infused it with his belief in the best of people and built teams of individuals who gave only their best. He not only raised enormous amounts of money for the art gallery, but he raised consciousness, support, and true friends. His theory of “friendraising” gives the art gallery exposure to people, and brings honest, faithful interpretation to MacLaren’s mission statement: People to Art.

MacLaren for the Birds came from John’s question… why do exhibitions seem inaccessible? why is art removed from people? why do people feel intimidated? And thus, anyone could enter a birdhouse in the MacLaren’s contest… kids, artists, organizations, ordinary people. And the bird houses were fabulous… 300 entries alone in the first year and hundreds of people coming out to see the entries.

And while that was happening, people were raising money by buying a picket (donated by Bertram Construction and Simcoe County Long Distance), painting it or rendering it absolutely fascinating, and then submitting it to the art gallery to be part of the gallery’s fence. Individually the pickets were interesting… together as a fence they were stunning, magical, and they occurred during MacLaren for the Birds.

When MacLaren Art Gallery Executive Director William Moore wanted to do something in cooperation with the International Ploughing Match, John Lister grabbed grain. Farmer Roy Hickling curated the event. John hooked up with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank that sends grain to developing countries. He sent packages of seeds to every member of MacLaren and people turned out to plant a field in the shape of a horse. Rebecca Truax, communications coordinator for MacLaren, says she’ll never forget John’s ability with this project. “He said,’people will have to be able to see this… let’s get a ferris wheel.’ And he did.

“When he said, ‘let’s send 1500 packages of seeds to our members’, I wondered if it would work. It did. I’ll never gorget it… he got farmers involved, kids involved, and everyone at the Ploughing Match enjoyed and appreciated this project.”

Off the Wall. Get art out of the gallery. Onto rooftops. Inside stores where people shop. On outside walls of businesses. John mobilized the artistic and business communities, found sponsors, and art showed up all over Barrie’s downtown core.

Last winter, 12 of Cannings Fish Huts were painted–really artistically painted–by regional artists. Sean William Dawson pulled together regional artists and Allandale Decorating and Pro Paint supplied the colour for each fish hut. People who have never before ventured onto the ice were wandering around fish huts at Minet’s Point to enjoy colourful, interesting exteriors of what has to be the region’s significant winter past-time. (Except for this year)

MacLaren Screen One, an alternative film series, involved a local theatre owner, the Toronto Film Festival people, the MacLaren’s energy. And John Lister.

Rebecca sums up John beautifully… “he knows how to put his ducks in a row. He understands people, picks out community leaders who will get the job done, inspires the team and keeps them going. He works so well with volunteers and with staff, all are equal.”

The MacLaren is only one of John’s clients, but you’d never know it. He does development work for the Midland Y, he performed a huge service for the Wye Marsh, and his genius is unique, delightful and completely effective.

First thing John did when he announced the end of his contract with the MacLaren… he signed on as a volunteer!

John Lister. People to Art.

Thanks, John.