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Artist honours her band of 'brothers' - Calgary Herald, June 2005 - Heath McCoy



Ask Calgary portrait artist Sam Hester, and she'll tell you she comes from a family of at least 18 brothers.

Only one of the 18 is an actual blood brother, mind you. Oh, and one is a woman.

Hester's latest art showcase, on display until June 29th at Artpoint Gallery in Calgary's Ramsay neighbourhood, is a celebration of this unusual brotherhood, forged in the fires of rock'n'roll.

Confusing? Yes. But understand her inspiration and it's also quite touching.

Hester's brother is Matt Masters, a country rambler and singer of Alberta songs who's turned heads from Vancouver to Toronto with his backup band the Gentlemen of the Rodeo. For the past decade, Masters, 29, has been a key player in the Rock Central Stampede Breakfast, something of an underground institution during Stampede week.

Rock Central, once a nondescript house in the 300-block of 12th Ave. S.E., became something of a music scene breeding ground when members of Calgary bands The Dudes and The A-Team began living there, along with a revolving door of local musicians and artists, including Masters.

Much of the group had grown up together in the upper-class Calgary district of Scarboro and the 102-year-old, three-floor, red-brick building served as a sort of party-house/jam-pad.

Hester, 31, grew to love the Rock Central crew.

"These guys are like a big, extended group of brothers for me," she says. "All the music they've made and the Rock Central breakfast, it's been really inspiring for me."

Her art showcase, The Brothers: Portraits of the Rock Central Family Band, includes 18 paintings of these "brothers", including not only Masters and members of the Rock Central bands, but also pictures of the various close friends of the group.

The exhibit is not so much a celebration of Rock Central as of the friendships that spawned the place.

"I'm more a fan of their brotherhood," Hester says. "It's worth celebrating the fact that these guys lived in this unit... Everybody's friendship should have an art (tribute), sort of freezing in time where everybody's at."

Bob Quaschnick, 29, who plays guitar with The Dudes, is among those immortalized by Hester.

"It's flattering," he says of the exhibit. "The whole exhibit is like a scrapbook of the last 10 years, of the last 10 summers. So walking around at looking at (the portraits) is very interesting."

Unlike Quaschnick, Masters hasn't yet seen the exhibit. "I'm going to see it tonight for the first time," he says over the phone Friday afternoon. "But I was talking to a fellow named Dan Vacon yesterday - a singer for The Dudes, he's actually the longest Rock Central resident of them all and features prominently in the show - and he was saying he essentially went on a trip down memory lane through these portraits. So it sounds pretty cool - a real archive of these 18 lives."

Alas, the Rock Centralites are coming to a crossroads, Hester says.

Those still living in the house have received an eviction notice for the end of August. It's expected Rock Central will be torn down as part of redevelopment plans for Victoria Park and the Stampede.

This year's Rock Central breakfast, tentatively planned for July 16th, will be the last of its kind. At least at the original address.

"It was something we always knew was going to happen," Quaschnick says. "I guess it's nice that it lasted this long.

"When we first thought of Rock Central as being torn down, maybe nine years ago, we vowed that we'd chain ourselves to the house if they tried to tear it down. And the only way that we would get unchained would be if we could play a rock show while it was getting torn down," says the Calgary-based finishing carpenter. "But I don't think that's going to happen."

Masters has an equally strong opinion about the upcoming destruction of Rock Central's locale.

"Tearing down a 100-year-old building in Calgary that has served as a location for a rather unique and nationally acclaimed arts festival is, in my opinion, a travesty," he says. "I appreciate that business is business and that the city has to grow, but I just don't get it."

Meanwhile, the crew members are beginning to go their separate ways. The Dudes, who have gained a national foothold, are going on tour. Masters will also continue to hit the highway, guitar in hand. Drummer Dan McKinnon has started a family. Paul Spence, who starred in the movie FUBAR (as the destructive Deaner) is firmly entrenched as an actor.

Another member of the crew is a Toronto laywer and still another resides in Vienna. Andy Sparacino, who still lives in the house, also continues to pursue music and acting. He too appeared in FUBAR.

"The house was a really magical place where these guys were able to live and do their thing," says Hester. "But (my project) is more about their bond; their ideas and creativity that could thrive anywhere."

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