Editor’s note: According to Volunteer Canada, International Volunteer Day takes place every year on Dec. 5 to shine a light on the impact of volunteer efforts everywhere. The Chronicle is proud to tell the story of community volunteers.
For the last three years, Peter Bherer, 74, has been a member of Station Gallery’s (SG) volunteer board.
He began his painting “career” about four years ago and started submitting his work for the annual Drawing for Art fundraiser and other exhibitions, when he found out the board was looking for new members.
“I answered the call,” said Bherer.
“I’m not an artistic person by nature. I’m a jock or used to be a jock. I’m an analytical sort of hard-nosed business guy. Station Gallery is probably the last place I figured I’d end up volunteering, but I enjoy it,” said Bherer.
He spent six years at Queen’s University earning three BA’s in education but spent the majority of his career working for financial institutions.
Bherer said he is happy to represent the gallery as a spokesperson because he’s on the board, but said the volunteering goes way beyond him.
“In any given year, when the gallery is fully open, there are hundreds of people that volunteer for the gallery in a variety of ways,” said Bherer.
He said, “the gallery literally could not exist without the volunteer component.”
Like Bherer, there’s more to the gallery than meets the eye.
On the top floor, there are three main galleries where artists like Ruth Abernethy, Barry Ace and Brendan Fernandes have displayed their art. Bherer himself had a piece on display in the Station-to-Station exhibition last month.
But displaying art is only one component of what the gallery does.
In the basement there are three workshops where people of all ages can come and learn the basics of art.
Bherer, who received his Master of Education from the University of Toronto, said the workshops can help children go from “passive watchers of television to active creators of their own art.”
He said the workshops can help them understand “their work isn’t perfect, but it isn’t meant to be, and they can improve.
“When they can critique themselves without beating themselves up, and then build on that as they mature as adults. They can do anything,” said Bherer.
But the benefits aren’t just limited to children.
He said if you’re not just sitting trying to make a pretty picture, if you’re actually trying to learn to get better; then you’re using your brain creatively, and that’s important. It has huge health benefits, he said.
Bherer said the gallery is unique. If a kid can produce a piece good enough, it could get hung on the wall for their grandparents to come see it.
“It’s not going to happen in Toronto, or at the Ontario College of Art, but it can happen in Whitby,” said Bherer.
Kerri King, the gallery’s CEO, said Bherer brings a discerning voice to the gallery. She said he is an active member of the board and visits the gallery frequently as a patron and an artist.
“He’s got this ability to look at things from a policy and board perspective. But also, as an artist and a member of the SG community,” said King.
Bherer said board members have the responsibility of ensuring the gallery survives.
“All we need is two unlimited resources, one of them is money and people, and we don’t have unlimited amounts of either,” said Bherer.