Artist dedicated to giving back
Broken back can’t stop Hart
Giving back. John David Hart donated a four-foot statue to the York Region Arts Council to generate funds for an arts scholarship program. STAFF PHOTO/STEVE SOMERVILLE
John David Hart admits if you left him alone in a room with uncooked macaroni, he would find a way to make it art.
His modest apartment, heated only by a wood stove, is littered with inspirational works. Paintings hang from walls, some are propped against easels and an earlier work sits on a wooden work bench — it is being restored for a show in New York to benefit Michelle Obama’s Healthy Child Healthy World charity.
“I have always believed in using my talent to help others,” he said, sipping from his coffee cup. “I hope I live for at least another 25 years so I can give back and do well for the community.”
He can’t recall all of the charities he has helped over the years through the sale of his art or by donating his time to fundraising events, such as the annual Persechini Easter Seals walkathon and working with Crime Stoppers.
Being a man of many talents, Mr. Hart has also delved into the world of carving. He transforms granite into sculptures and donated a four-foot statue to the York Region Arts Council to generate funds for an arts scholarship program, arts council executive director Nancy Bodi said.
“He is a very generous and industrious person,” she said, noting the sculpture is on display in the council office.
Mr. Hart, 53, describes carving granite, an unusual choice of material, as similar to getting in a car and driving full throttle. The carving tool, much like the car, weaves all over the place and you just have to go with the flow.
He started carving statues as a symbol of defying an injury.
In 1988, Mr. Hart broke his back when he slipped and fell. He was told he would never walk again, but thanks to his determination, surgery and medication, he’s back on his feet.
“It was the most difficult thing I had to go through. Imagine how frustrating it is to learn to walk again,” he said. “The stone is kind of my way of symbolizing strength.”
Mr. Hart knew since he was five he wanted to be an artist. Having learned to play the piano from his mother, he wrote his first song at a young age.
Having a passion for any type of creative work led him to explore art, more specifically painting, in high school.
“It’s really funny because I got kicked out of art class in school for daydreaming,” he said. “The teacher told me I had to prove I wanted to come back.”
He had painted since he was 12 and felt it best showed what he had to offer in talent. He built an apparatus for his bicycle to transport the five-foot by seven-foot painting to school to show his teacher.
“The teacher was just floored,” he smiled. “He let me back into class and made me promise I would never stop painting.”
He has remained true to that promise, no matter what else he is taking on. Painting for him is an experience, a quest to make the next greatest work of art and capture a moment in time forever, he explained.
Following again in the footsteps of his mother, he got a broadcasting job right out of high school.
He never stopped painting, but his parents went separate ways and Mr. Hart needed a full-time job.
“It was really exciting as a kid to be working at a radio station,” he said.
In 1980, he came to Newmarket and was one of three who started radio station CKAN, which is now Foxy 88.5. Through his work as an on-air voice, the spark for music was reignited and the urge to create music became strong once again.
He plays in the band Open Eye Universe and is one of many artists who have come together to produce two albums to raise funds and awareness of health care improvements needed across North America. His need to help others led him to create his own recording studio in his apartment.
“I have realized how hard it is to navigate the music industry,” he said. “With the contacts I have made over the years and my own experiences, I felt I needed to help others.”
Mr. Hart finds people are stunned at the multiple arts he practises as many artists are focused on one discipline. Having been a broadcaster who did voice work for President Barack Obama’s campaign, the painter, sculptor, occasional actor, musician, mentor and active community member isn’t easily overwhelmed.
“It’s like I have multiple personalities sometimes,” he laughed. “I enjoy every minute of it no matter what I am creating.”