Nov 28, 2018
Down to a fine art: Meet Stuart Keeler, senior art curator
TD is proud to employ more than 85,000 individuals across North America and around the world, many of them in unique roles that aren't often associated with financial institutions.
In the latest iteration of our 'Meet TD' series, we introduce you to some of the people working at TD in creative roles that add new depths and dimensions to our culture.
Like many great artists, Stuart Keeler has always believed that if you can make people just comfortable enough, they'll share a little something special about themselves.
Such is the revelatory nature of art. Born in Vancouver and raised in Seattle, Keeler – who now serves as TD's senior art curator – always knew he wanted to use the power of art to tell great stories. But he also wanted to engage people in conversations about what they get from a particular piece of work, and what it revealed about who they are.
Of course, he never thought that would be possible to do at a bank.
"Truthfully, I always thought the banking world was a bit more uptight," said Keeler.
In all, Keeler and his team are responsible for curating, acquiring and preserving the bank's extensive collection of contemporary and Inuit art, which numbers nearly 6,000 pieces across Canada and includes works from such renowned names as Jean Paul Riopelle, Jack Bush, Douglas Coupland, Ed Pien and Group of Seven luminaries Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson.
TD's commitment to supporting the amplification of new, under-represented and diverse voices in arts and culture, through the bank's new corporate citizenship platform The Ready Commitment, is the driving force behind the collection for which Keeler and his colleagues serve as caretakers.
When they are looking to add new pieces to the collection, Keeler said that contemporary pieces chosen to be acquired and displayed throughout various TD buildings and branches across North America must reflect each region and its diverse cultural landscape, while using a variety of mediums, such as photography, paintings, print, and sculpture.
"Living in the world we do now means less traditional forms of art have become part of the norm; experimentation and innovation are what makes contemporary art engaging to our clients and colleagues," said Keeler, referencing his team's current approach to focus on building a new media art collecting stream of video, sound and other digital genres.
"There is more to it than buying cool art. It's about communicating the story behind the pieces and hoping that narrative inspires people to engage in conversation with those around them."
Keeler said that one of the most enjoyable aspects of his work is seeing the reaction and unique connection to a piece that someone gets when they look at a piece of art, whether it's a senior executive catching a glimpse of a piece in the hall, or a client walking into a space and seeing something for the first time.
"You would be surprised to see what happens when you give the back story on something to someone who thinks they have no connection to it," said Keeler. "Sometimes they begin to see the world within the work, whether that's something historical, a glimpse of the future or even themselves."
While it would be understandably difficult for Keeler to choose just one piece from TD's vast art collection as his favourite, a self-portrait by Vancouver-based contemporary artist, Jin-me Yoon, stands out.
Souvenirs of the Self : Artist Jin-me Yoon challenges many preconceived views of what it means to be Canadian. (Credit: Jin-me Yoon)
The piece is entitled Souvenirs of the Self, and it captures the South Korea-born Yoon during a family visit to Canada in the early 1990s. Dressed in a Norwegian sweater, the artist stands in front of Lake Louise in Alberta. Snow-capped mountains are visible in the background, serving as an almost instantaneous recognizable Canadian landmark for those familiar with Alberta's Banff National Park.
By looking like an "average, everyday tourist in front of an iconic backdrop," Keeler said he sees someone who is "owning the landscape and challenging many preconceived views of what it means to be Canadian."
In fact, exploring the Canadian identity and expressing our shared history is a major theme running throughout TD's art collection.
"Some might say they see sadness and loneliness in that picture…but I see empowerment, someone who wants to create an inclusive future," he said. "It's a piece that represents everything I stand for, and everything the bank stands for, and when we see ourselves reflected in a meaningful way, that to me is what art is all about."
To learn more about TD Art please visit https://www.td.com/corporate-responsibility/art.jsp