As a professional observer of the craft community in Newfoundland and Labrador I try to keep up with emerging talent. I find satisfaction in trying to pick "the winners" –those artists and craftspeople who will make it over the long haul. I often see skill, even talent but I am not convinced because I know that this is not enough to make it, to be successful. Years ago, when I lived in Toronto and worked in arts administration I was an assistant to a talent agent who handled most of the placements for Stratford, the Shakespearan drama mecca in Ontario. I've also worked in the St. Lawrence Center for the Arts and Theatre Passe Murraille, which gave me a wider appreciation for the cultural scene of Toronto and beyond. I noticed that directors picked actors based on work ethic more than talent or looks. But what was more crucial than a work ethic was "the fire in the actor's gut" somebody who is willing to outwork the next guy to be successful. Talent and looks just gets you in the door, it is the price of admission. You are looking for someone with the ability to deliver.
When Jason had his second solo show I was convinced he had a story worth telling and one that a larger audience than St. John's would appreciate hearing. So, I approached Fusion magazine about a feature story because Jason's "back story" was more interesting than a short review would allow me. I wanted to communicate his intensity and sense of street smarts and just talking about the work would not be enough. Jason has the "fire in his gut" factor. The story made the cover of Fusion.
Basically, I opened a door but Jason Holley walked through it. You can give all the good advice in the world but it doesn't matter if no one is listening. Holley is not only a listener but he is also a doer. Thank God. In short order, he had acquired a gallery in Halifax, Studio 21, one in Ottawa - L.A. Pai, been in a 3-artist show at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery and tested the waters further afield. This week he participated in The Artist Project an exciting event in Toronto that showcases 200 artists and their work in a retail environment - think art fair where the artists do their own selling. Jason and his work sold very well and together they generated a lot of "buzz". It was a good match for his personality and his art. He's no shrinking violet. Holley relished meeting collectors. And this is just the beginning.
When Jason came back he made the time to talk with me about The Artist Project (thank you Jason). He expressed surprise that so many people in Toronto "got" what he was doing. I wasn't surprised at all.