ARON HILL, BFA, 2000, INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES
ALUMNI DISCOVERY INITIATIVE INTERVIEW BY VANESSA NELSON
VANESSA NELSON: When did you graduate from ACAD? (And what was it called then?) What was your major?
ARON HILL: I think it was actually called the Alberta College of Art still, I don’t think they had added the “Design” yet. I graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies which allowed me to access upper level courses in a couple of disciplines. It was nice for me because I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to do Drawing or Sculpture. I know they’ve stopped offering it, because I think, there’s potential to get a little lost in the system.
NELSON: It sounds like a more traditional academic European program…
HILL: Exactly, when I did my Master’s in Europe, that’s exactly how most Master of Fine Arts were set up… you would have access to all the facilities. They just want you to produce work. This is normally how many artists work, in many different mediums. So my Bachelor’s at ACAD was more like a Master’s program would have been like. Primarily, I did sculpture as I had a studio down in the Sculpture Department. Since graduation I’ve been all over the map but have still focused on sculpture, drawing and installation. In the past, I think this worked against me as it’s harder working with galleries when you’re all over the map. However, recently I’ve felt more comfortable working that way.
NELSON: A lot of graduates use the ACAD degree as a creative stepping stone. So, what do you do? How has what you do evolved since graduation? How did your education at ACAD direct your career?
HILL: When I initially decided to go to ACAD it was right after high school; I kind of lucked out in that my parents encouraged it. I didn’t view it as anything but the next step, I had no career in mind. Neither of my parents are professional artists but they both have an appreciation for the arts.
After ACAD I lucked out again, there were about six or seven years between graduating from ACAD and going to grad school that I was able to live off of my work in a couple of galleries. Like most artists, I had weird part-time jobs. I started working with someone whose background was with the Glenbow dealing with people’s private and corporate collections. Then I decided to go back to do an MFA at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 2005, when I returned, I found a job as a curator with Red Deer College, and I did some teaching. They actually have a really good collection, which they mostly lend out to traveling exhibitions. Eventually, I had to leave the job as the commute was tough. Since then I’ve been doing my own work, I work with people’s art collections and do some consulting. And I work with interior designers hanging their clients’ art, as well as with a couple of galleries.
So yes, ACAD and the MFA were both stepping stones. Through ACAD I was able to see instructors outside of the context of school, their studio and work. That was inspirational. It made the idea of being an artist a reality, it made it accessible. There were a handful of instructors who showed me, “oh this is what a practice can look like.” It was ingrained in me right from the start that an artist’s “career” doesn’t necessarily look clean and linear. I don’t see it as a career necessarily, not in the way that I wouldn’t do this or that because of a projected idea of a career. I enjoy trying new and different things.
NELSON: Given your experiences, what advice would you give a student when it comes to establishing a creative business?
HILL: To be as diverse as possible. I’ve had many different jobs and roles at the same time, that’s what I always wanted, with that I have freedom. That does take a lot of creativity. And it’s allowed me to make connections. I think being involved in different roles rather than a single job has allowed me to be social and personable. One project leads to another connection or some sort of work, classic word of mouth. I was born in Calgary, so when you’re in community for a while it allows for connections; I’d say I benefitted from staying here in a community. Also, I’d say lose the ego of an artist, artists can believe they’re above certain things – that can actually be a detriment.
NELSON: What obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
HILL: I think, thinking mostly internal things, such as thinking that I knew what my ideal life as an artist would be. Or finding out how long a process it is finding an ideal gallery for your work. And there’s always these ideas of what you think your work should look like or how you should produce work. There’s no one way about any of those things.
About four or five years ago I stopped looking at art magazines. To this day they still make me cringe, however, outside the context of art magazines I enjoy looking at art. In this last year I’ve become really comfortable with what I’m doing. I think I stopped asking art to do things it cannot do. I’ve stepped back and just said, “I’m going to do it,” mostly because I enjoy doing creative things.
NELSON: Why do you think that creativity matters in the big picture?
HILL: I think it matters because it does present another option of how to live. To me creativity is more about how you are living your life, rather than what you are drawing.
NELSON: Where does art fit into your future?
HILL: For whatever reason boundaries have blurred… there’s so much in my life that happens, side projects, different things come up all the time, my job dealing with people’s art collections. These lines have been blurred, but art is there throughout. A lot of things I have and do are connected through my love of art.