Richard Moorhouse. Photo by Gord Fulton.

New award in architectural conservation honours ALCT Foundation founding president

The Foundation has a new award in its portfolio.  In partnership with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Foundation (RAICF), The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto Foundation’s Award for Architectural Conservation was created in recognition of Richard Moorhouse for his leadership as the Founding President of The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto Foundation, and former Chair of the National Trust for Canada and in appreciation of his life-long contributions, both as a professional and as a volunteer, to the field of heritage conservation.

The $1000 annual award is the RAICF’s first to highlight architectural conservation.  The call for submissions is open until March 18, 2022. It will be awarded to a student at an accredited Canadian school of architecture or a recent architecture graduate during the annual RAIC Conference, commencing in May 2022.

Since retiring as Executive Director of the Ontario Heritage Trust, Richard has been actively involved in volunteer work in the cultural and heritage conservation sectors.  He is the past Chair of Heritage Toronto and a former Chair of the National Trust for Canada, a former board member of Willowbank, the School of Restoration Arts, and a former President of The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto.  He is a retired member of the Ontario Association of Architects and studied architecture at the University of Waterloo.  In 2012, Richard was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his years of service and his significant contributions to the conservation of Ontario’s heritage.

I had the opportunity to interview Richard.

What made you decide to establish The Arts and Letters Club Foundation?

It was one of my key priorities when I became President of The Arts and Letters Club in 2012.  I felt strongly the Club needed a Foundation to be able to seek and encourage donations to support young people in the arts.  Fortunately, others agreed and through the work of many, the Foundation was established.  It was understood that such actions would not only assist artists in their careers but also function as one of the Club’s key outreach activities to encourage young people to become involved in the life and times of the Club now and into the future.

What were the key skills and experiences that you brought to the Foundation as its founding president?

Working for a foundation for a greater part of my professional life, volunteering with other not-for-profit heritage and cultural organizations, and being an active member of The Arts and Letters Club, I had a good understanding of how this foundation should work to achieve its goals.  I was also able to encourage excellent people to join the Foundation to round out the skills and expertise that we needed to be successful.

How has the Foundation grown since it was set up in 2014?

It has been wonderful to see the impact the Foundation has had in a brief period of time.  Within five years, this small but mighty Foundation raised more than $100,000 to support exceptional artists in a wide range of art disciplines.  The most rewarding aspect of the work was young artists, having won a Foundation award, asking how they might give back to the Foundation and assisting with fundraising and board activities.

What challenges do you believe artists are facing now?

This is a challenging time for all artists during this pandemic.  No artistic activity is as it was, and everything has been turned upside down.  Organizations and artists have had to invent new ways to continue to ensure their work can be seen, enjoyed, and supported.  Many have risen to the challenge. One of the key components of the country’s vitality is the creativity of our artists and this needs constant recognition and reinforcement to ensure it will endure.

When did you first notice art?  How did it affect you?

Growing up in Northern Ontario with many visits to Toronto and beyond, I liked to visit buildings old and new and explored their design, construction, and interiors.    Over time it became my passion that drove my desire to become an architect and to be involved in the conservation and protection of our built environment.

Do you have an artistic hobby? 

Exploring architectural interiors made me more aware of art, objets d’art and furniture and as a result one of my most enjoyable artistic hobbies involves the buying and selling of antiques and vintage pieces.  It is fascinating to learn about the history of a particular piece, how it was made, its age and the context in which it was created.  I enjoy the creative challenges involved in designing each booth and its potential impact at shows and creating interesting object vignettes.  I am always bringing home interesting pieces found while traveling in Canada and abroad.

What do you think is the role of art in the world today?

Art is a great connector.  It feeds the soul and the spirit.  Just hearing and seeing musicians on their balconies in Italy serenading citizens isolated in their homes because of the pandemic, clearly illustrates the importance art and culture play in our daily lives.

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