Don Holman

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“In 1967, while a student at the Kansas City Art Institute, Don and Chuck Wall rented a Studio/ Living space in Westport, Kansas City. There were three small bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen and a large studio room. Initially, Don was the only one living there. Chuck and Lisa would occasionally stay the night. After a while Greg and Janice moved in and then Chuck and Lisa started to stay there. Don met and fell in love with Barbara Bondurant and then she too began to stay there. The landlord became distraught because of the number of people occupying the Loft and asked us to leave. We rented another, larger house for a short time but the Lisa and Chuck, Janice and Greg all moved to Toronto in June. Barbara and Don got a small apartment and did not leave Kansas City for Toronto until late in the summer of 1968 when he was forced to. He had given several talks to various church groups about his beliefs regarding the Vietnam War. He was automatically drafted and told report for service. Since he was not going to go to jail or to fight in Vietnam, he and Barbara left for Toronto late in the summer of 1968.

When Don and Barbara arrived in Toronto we stayed with Colleen and Bruce Anderson, Chuck Wall, Lisa Steele, Greg Sperry and Janice Spellerberg at a house on St Paul Street. Barbara moved back to Kansas City, Bruce and Colleen moved out and Greg Sperry and Janice Spellerberg and I moved to a cheaper apartment on King Street east of Parliament Street. Janice and Greg broke up and Janice moved as well. Chuck Wall and Lisa Steele had already left Toronto for British Columbia. When winter came Greg and I discovered the building had no furnace and we too moved out. I moved into 224 McCaul Street and got a Job at the Toronto General Hospital. After working at Toronto General Hospital for a few months I was offered a job as the head of the Painting Department for Humber College.

Janice and Greg got back together and Chuck and Lisa returned from British Columbia. That fall they found a beautiful house at 418 Dundas Street. They asked Don, because he had a “real job”, if he would sign the lease and share the house with them for a year. They promised that they would all stay the year so Don agreed and signed the lease. Dave Woodward and Myra Kaplan joined the group. All of them left before the year was out and Don was stuck with the lease. To pay the rent Don rented out the space to other people and met Judith Gorton. Judith and Don fell in love and got married. When the lease on the house was up they went out to Nova Scotia. Don had friends who were teaching at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. They had invited Don out for a visit and possibly to find work. Don reported that, “It was a great visit but there was no work to be found”. He and Judith returned to Toronto and Don went to London, England for a job interview at Electro Editions. He and Greg Sperry traveled to London together and they both stayed with Greg’s friend Nigel at Nigel’s flat in Hampstead. The job did not pan out so Don returned to Toronto. In 1969 Don got a job at the Art Gallery of Ontario as a Preparations Officer. He and Judith briefly shared a house with Chuck Wall, Lisa Steele, Greg Sperry and Janice Spellerberg on Baldwin Street but the couple wanted their own space and so moved to a flat on McCaul Street.

In 1970 Don got a job offer from Landfall press in Chicago and he and Judith moved there. In 1971 because they were going to become parents and did not wish their child to grow up in the United States, they returned to Toronto. Don joined Barbara Hall and Richard Sewell to create Open Studio, a Printmaking Workshop at 401 Richmond Street West. Both Chuck Wall and Greg Sperry worked there for a couple of months. Barbara, Richard and Don gave Chuck a job under a L.I.P Grant and Greg tried to run an offset press, printing business there. Don Holman worked for Open Studio as the Director of Lithography for 13 Years.

During the winter of 1970-71 the workers at the Ragnarokr leather shop had brought home a number of limestone slabs that had been used to print posters in the now-demolished print shops along Simcoe and St. Patrick Streets. Mary Rauton made a walkway in the backyard using the lithography stones as steppingstones. Mary told Don about the stones and he carried them to the Open Studio where he reconditioned them for use in the Open Studio’s Litho Shop. In January 1972 Philip Mullins invited Judy and Don to join the leather shop’s back-to-the-land project at the Frostpocket but they declined the invitation.

In March of 1972, their son, Chiah, was born. Chiah was delivered at home with Lisa Steele and Don attending the doctor. Judith and Don were both active in “Snowflake,” an under-two daycare set up on Baldwin Street by a community of parents. After a few years Judith and Don separated. In a very short time Chiah came to live with Don and his new partner, Liz Zetlin, and her son, Ira Zingraff. Liz and Don eventually married and are still married. Their children, Chiah and Ira, are now also married and Chiah and his wife Tracy have two beautiful children, Keagan and Zoe.

In 1973 Don began teaching at The University of Toronto in the Department of Humanities, Visual and Performing Arts, Visual Arts Studio. Don became one of the preeminent printmakers in Canada and in 2004 was a Senor Tutor at the Division of Humanities, University of Toronto at Scarborough.

Don commented that, “Even though I felt very close to the people at Ragnarokr and my other immigrant, American friends, as an artist, I felt I needed to explore the possibilities available to me within Canada. Not just mainstream Canada. Almost all Canadian artists do not fit into the mainstream of cultural life in Canada. But I wanted, if possible, to find for myself an identity as a Canadian artist. Not just doing work for other American immigrants but for all Canadians. After all, in Canada, everyone who is not an aboriginal person is an immigrant. But to be fixed into a role as an American, who is only in Canada because they had no choice of where they could be, did not set well with me. I knew, when I came to Canada, that almost all of my family and friends thought I was a “bad” American. I did not know if I would ever return. But I did return. When Judith and I came back from Chicago my passions about Canada were amplified. I did not want to live in the United States. I did not want to have my children grow up in America.

Even though I respected all of the Americans I met in Canada, I suspected that most of them were only in Canada until they could return home to the U.S.A. The R.C.M.P., on a work day, actually came to where I worked and interviewed me. They asked simple questions. They asked my name, date of birth, when I immigrated to Canada, and my address.

But, at the end of their routine interview, and I will never forget this, they closed their notebooks and one of them said, “Enjoy your visit”. That interview with the Mounties was before I went back to America to work. I think I knew then that I really wanted to be a Canadian. When I knew for sure that I wanted to be Canadian was when I found out that the promised land of the African Slaves in America was Canada.

I never thought of living with my friends as an extension of any revolution. I thought of us, as friends, trying to find an economical solution to the plight we found ourselves in. We needed affordable housing.”

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