Jorgen Klausen photo / Telegraph Journal

Former SJHS Grad -Where are You Going and Where are you From?

by Herb Duncan - Thursday, June 30, 2011

This article is courtesy of Telegraph - Journal

I had a meeting the other day that lasted until early evening. On the way back to the office I couldn't help but notice a fair amount of activity at Klausen's Framing at a time when the store would normally be closed. Was it one of the now-familiar and popular gallery hops and had I missed the announcement?

Curious, I stuck my head in the door. Unfolding was the coming-out party for young Saint John artist Hilari MacLeod.

I made my way through the crowded gallery to a counter that yielded a variety of cheeses and beverages. Wine in one hand and Hilari's Artist Statement in the other, I began to read one of the paragraphs: "To me, Harbour Passage represents everything that is wonderful and unique about Saint John, and is therefore a never ending source of inspiration. As it weaves its way past the historic Uptown architecture and towering cruise ships, the passage shows what a unique effort can be achieved for our unique city. I traverse its length almost everyday and each time I am struck by the way the Passage expertly and magnificently connects our heritage to our future. I have chosen to paint the flowers that are planted along the Harbour Passage, because to me they stand for the ever-increasing awareness and celebration of the beauty and potential of our city."

Hmmm... this from a mere sapling, a 19-year-old with an abundance of both talent and insight? At times, I have trouble remembering where my car keys are. How did a 19-year-old pull this classy art show together?

Would you believe through Saint John's generous business community?

Mr. Klausen offered his gallery so that Hilari could display her interpretation of Harbour Passage.

An offer by Miranda McCausland (cello) and Helen Gallings (flute) provided ear-pleasing music while food and drink were compliments of Mahogany Manor's Carl Trickey and it all came together for Hilari's show. Along with the buzz the show created, I noticed one wall was entirely covered with canvases of brightly coloured flowers. The paintings will be on display for a couple of weeks at Klausen's. If you drop by, you will be inspired and impressed.

Until last year Hilari had been living with her parents in the uptown core and was all too happy to get out of town - leave for big-city Halifax and King's University. After talking to her I learned that she missed Saint John and was happy to return.


"Because Saint John is beautiful, vibrant, alive and happening," she said. "It has a big-city feel with small-town intimacy. I'm very hopeful for Saint John's future. Going away was, for me, a wakeup call."

Hilari told me that living in, and being exposed, to the city core helped her develop a more rounded and grounded perspective, one she didn't think she would have had if she lived outside the city.

Hilari MacLeod, with her youth, talent, energy and maturity, is Saint John's future.

Later while driving down Main Street through the old north end as the sun moved slowly towards the western horizon, I saw a lone, nameless teenage girl standing on the curb patiently painting a flower on the rough surface of a hydro pole. No beverages, no music, no cheese and crackers as she painted a flower for all to see. She too, with her youth, talent and determination, is Saint John's future.

The question, "where are you going and where are you from?" has been asked by many over the centuries, including the Greek philosopher Plato. The question is not meant to be taken literally. As with Plato, Hilari and the unnamed girl are asking, "what are our values and the evolution of our values as a society and community?"

How will the decisions that we make as individuals, or as a city, contribute or take away from our journey to where we are going?

It remains a current - and age old - thought-provoking question for Saint Johners to ponder as we determine where we are going.

Herb Duncan is a Saint John businessman who has followed city issues for more than three decades. He can be reached at