It’s two minutes until our meeting time on Sunday night and I’m scurrying to shove an assortment of coins into a Robson Street parking meter. I look through the window, and I can already see the buoyant Miria Hood patiently waiting for me. She’s perched on a barstool in the local cafe, Papparoti. When I rush in the door, she turns and welcomes me with a warm smile. I haven’t even sat down and she’s already offered me the menu.
Hood was born and raised on the North Shore. She completed her undergraduate degree at UBC with a major in psychology. She went on to work in social services for ten years, concentrating on family services. For a decade, it was Hood’s job to aid immigrants, those with addiction issues and any others that needed help connecting with community services. After Vancouver won the Olympic bid in 2008, 25-30 city programs were closed down, including hers. It didn’t take long for the hopeful and inspiring Hood to change tracks and chase down the artistic dreams she always had inside of her. She started by calling galleries and asking what she needed to do to work for them. She commenced her art career at the Douglas Udell Gallery, where she began making contacts in the art community. Searching for more knowledge, she went back to UBC for her Art History diploma, while working part time at the Elissa Cristall Gallery.
Her circle of friends in the arts grew and there was one thing that they all agreed upon. Many of the women they knew loved art but felt intimidated going into galleries. There was a strong dichotomy behind the gallery door. Hood noticed that women would go into galleries, but they wouldn’t become collectors. When collections were donated back to galleries, men almost always gave them. The only time you would see a woman’s name on the collectors list, is if she was associated with her husband’s name. Hood told me, “I want to hear the female voice in collecting”, and so she began her new art consulting company, Women: Art: Wine. Their motto is “view it, discuss it, own it”. Her goal is to give women the confidence to own the artwork that they want to purchase.
While she didn’t start her profession in the arts, Hood has always coveted herself a closeted artist. Although she reserves her personal artwork for herself, her professional objective is to facilitate the dialogue between women and galleries through Women: Art: Wine. She brings the three components together into the ultimate art consulting experience. She guides a small group of women at a time into the art-collecting world, without judgment or hostility. She handles the process of contacting galleries and setting up private tours with curators, so that as a member of W:A:W, you merely show up to the gallery, view the artwork and ask as many questions as you need. Afterwards, everyone is expected to join the group at a designated restaurant for appetizers, art discussion and of course, wine.
The biggest fault with most art consultants is they are one-on-one, and it can seem like the consultant directs you on what to buy. In her atmosphere, everyone is encouraged to ask questions, and develop their own opinions on the artwork that they enjoy or don’t enjoy. All the members are encouraged to network with each other and even exchange their cards. When you bring like-minded women together, inspiring things can happen.
After 45 years of living in Vancouver and working at galleries, Hood has gained access to many local directors and artists herself. Furthermore, from working in the social services sector for many years, facilitating those around her with opportunities and resolutions has become her nature. She is also fully immersed in the social media game and comfortable contacting galleries to set up private tours for her W:A:W members.
Her most recent tour took the W:A:W group to Vancouver’s 20th anniversary Culture Crawl. The Culture Crawl is held every year in the warehouse district and invites locals to walk through temporarily opened art studios. Patrons travel in and out of the open studios and watch the artists at work. It can definitely be intimidating especially by the size of the event; however, with Hood the experience is fluid. As Hood said, she wanted the experience to be organic; “everyone freely wandered in and out of the spaces at their own discretion”. Afterwards everyone met at the predetermined restaurant for appies, wine and the hotly anticipated discussion.
Hood is an artist herself, closeted or not. She currently has a few conceptual side projects, but the majority of her time is dedicated to W:A:W. She’s worked at galleries and studied art history, which allows her to expertly analyze an artist’s work. “I can tell when an artist has really got it or if they’ve gone that extra mile”. I could see a light flicker on inside her when she began educating me about the process of buying a piece of work. She told me that “instead of buying that mass-produced print at Ikea, if you buy a piece of artwork, you are personally helping that creator”. The piece that you bought, that hangs above your fireplace, reflects a specific period of time. It could express a part of history, politics, or an artist’s personal struggle at that particular time. “When you buy that piece of work, it’s that artist’s message of that time period, and that dialogue will continue through time.” I left the interview with a new appreciation for purchasing local artwork, the consultation process and a craving for a crisp glass of chardonnay.