In Conversation with Free Admission Sponsor Allan Bush

Earlier this year, we welcomed perennial KWAG supporter Allan Bush as our newest Free Admission sponsor. The support of CIBC Wood Gundy- Allan Bush Investment Team ensures that admission to KWAG and its exhibitions remains free for everyone.

Photo of Allan Bush, an older man in a dark suit and glasses, standing alongside signage recognizing Free Admission Sponsor CIBC Wood Gundy - Allan Bush Investment Team

Our Executive Director Shirley Madill caught up with Allan last month to personally thank him for his support of the Gallery and learn more about what inspires him to support the arts.

Shirley Madill: Why do you think that having art as part of one’s daily life is important?

Allan Bush: Art is important because it can be inspiring and can also help with one’s mood.  It is very important to have art in your life because it gives you the ability to have expression and with that expression it gives you freedom and a chance to be inspired.

SM: Was art a part of your childhood experience?

AB: Yes, I took art classes in school. My favourite experience was going to New York City with my art class and going to all the museums in New York from the Guggenheim to MoMA.  That was the highlight of my art life. 

SM: Do you remember how old you were?

AB: I was about 15 in Grade 10.

SM: We, at the Gallery, have really appreciated all the support you have given us. What inspired you to engage in this partnership with us?

AB: My daughter, Melina Panara. I have done a lot of work with the Food Bank, women’s sports, the Women’s Crisis Centre, Mary’s Place, and what I found was that there was a lack of support for the arts. My daughter had studied fine art at the University of Guelph, so I thought this was a great way to show my support for women, my daughter, and the arts community because there is a big void in funding for art in our community. I found this place, KWAG, to be a treasure, and a hidden treasure at that.

SM: There is one thing that people love about you. You have an upbeat personality, a great sense of humour, are personable and outgoing, with a positive outlook, even during the pandemic. I noticed this. What is your secret?

AB: Happiness is a choice. For me, if you are happy you can expend that energy on other people. One thing I learned in my first year of business was from a gentleman who always used one word for himself to feel happy. I came up with my own word, and my word is “fantastic.”  You can never say “fantastic” sad. It brightens yourself up and brightens up the person you are with. Happiness is a choice, so I want to make that choice every single day.

SM: If you were to travel on an art excursion anywhere in the world, where would that be?

AB: The Louvre. I have experienced art in Ottawa, New York City, Washington, San Francisco, and many other art galleries in North America. I’d want to jump over the pond and see some of the older works of art.

SM: Is there a work of art at any museum or otherwise that triggered an emotive response for you?

AB: Anything my daughter does gives me emotion. What I find most when I go to an art gallery – and I experienced this when encountering work by Indigenous artists at KWAG, or when an artist has lived through pain and suffering whether from pandemics, life, sexual abuse – the feelings you get from those works of art are unbelievable. When you see pain and suffering in a work of art it exudes emotion. The other end of the experience is a work that expresses a passion for life, like an image of a parent and children. How art can take you through the full range of emotions from sadness to happiness is what makes art so amazing.

SM: Is there any work or artist in particular that has resonated with you through the years, that you can still remember?

AB: I can still see the Group of Seven – these were some of the first paintings I saw of this great country that we live in. I was very lucky that my parents encouraged me to see all of this incredible art. My home town of Hamilton has an amazing art gallery. To travel across the country and see all of those spots in paintings… he Group of Seven has made an impact on my life and has made me eager to learn more.