An evening of sparking conversation

May 19, 2007

The Globe and Mail

An evening of sparking conversation

At a growing number of salons, the city’s cultural set are mixing drinks with thoughtful discussion
I went to a marvelous party. The artist Francois Xavier Saint-Pierre, a new acquaintance, extolled
the virtues of classicism in our contemporary times. He spoke of tradition. He spoke of dynamic

“The past in art continues to inform our sensibilities even as we attempt to suppress or supplant it.”
We sipped champagne, and then I asked him again, “Why do you paint?” And he pretended to faint.
“For the love of beauty,” he said. “And this.” And he motioned to all the extraordinary people in the
room, some in suits, some in silk. Oh, I went to a marvelous party.

The occasion was a salon – conversation, not coiffeur – that took place at the Corkin Gallery. It was
designed by gallery owner Jane Corkin as an intellectual dinner party attended by 50 hand-picked
guests from Toronto’s art, fashion and business communities. The idea, Ms. Corkin says, “was to
give people an opportunity to gather and speak about art in new and interesting ways.”
It’s an idea that is catching on in Toronto, where there are now at least six regular salons: Salon
Voltaire, which meets at the Gladstone Hotel: New Radicals Salon at the Hotel Intercontinental;
Influency 2: A Toronto Poetry Salon at the University of Toronto; the Kama reading series at the
Royal Ontario Museum; the Grano speakers series organized by Rudyard Griffiths and Patrick
Luciana at Grano restaurant; and Café Scientifique at the Ontario Science Centre.
Soon to be added to the list is a new salon series, tied to a Sotheby’s charity auction, that the Power
Plant Contemporary Art Gallery will be organizing for the fall. The plan is to host several preview
salons – intimate dinners that will offer Power Plant patrons close viewings as each auction lot
arrives in Toronto, along with informative discussions about the artists and their works.
“The salon idea is based on 18th-century French salons, where groups would gather in homes for
entertainment and to better themselves through art and philosophy,” the Power Plant’s Gregory
Burke says.

“Salon dinners will feature artists or curators speaking about the art. It’s about disseminating ideas,
sparking conversation.”

As a salon theme, it provides an occasion to weave a vibrant culture of ideas into the city’s fabric.
Mr. Griffiths has a similar explanation for his popular Grano series (the next event, featuring author
Gore Vidal, is June 5). He says it’s about “bringing together a mix of opinion leaders and
trendsetters in Toronto business, arts, media, and academic communities… to engage with thinkers
who have international influence and impact.”

Jonathan Ezer, who created the Salon Voltaire series last fall after attending similar events as a PhD
student in London says, “Toronto is a multicultural city. So there is a real opportunity to talk about
global events in a way that matters to a lot of residents.

“Toronto is also a highly educated city,” he continues. “I think a lot of people miss the intellectual
buzz that they felt at university. Salons can fill that need.”

His most recent event, on Thursday, featured artist Judy Singer giving a talk entitled, “How to Look
at Paintings”, followed by Stephen Morris, a physicist, presenting a lecture called “Why the
Universe is Not Boring.”There is often, Mr. Ezer says, “ a lot of flirting.” Salons, it seems, are
stimulating in more ways than one.

It is why speechwriter and executive coach Julia Moulden founded her New Radicals Salon. “I
started it in 2004 as an instant social life while going through a very unpleasant divorce,” she says.
“I discovered that lots of people feel lonely and isolated, including married people, and were also
eager to meet others they wouldn’t normally cross paths with. With the salon, I noticed that people
really liked having a place to go where they could just show up, have a drink and relax without
having to put on a show for anybody.”

In fact, start showing off what you know (or don’t) at a salon, and you can be banished – as young
fools used to be banished from the famed salons of Parisian hostesses who ruled the intellectual
landscape of Europe – a pariah on the outskirts of a good conversation.

“It ends up being about having a wonderful crescendo of people,” Ms. Corkin says.
And a marvelous party.

Discussion topics for a successful salon, courtesy of Julia Moulden
1. Are things getting better or worse?
2. Life takes on the meaning you give it.
3. Can we be joyful, despite considering all the facts?
4. Let’s make up a new list of the wonders of the world.
5. Failure is a good thing. Talk about your best one.
6. Do you believe in, and practice, kindness?


May 15, 2007

MORE Magazine
Premier Issue
Spring 2007

By Kim Pittaway

Ever wished you could do something more, well, meaningful with your life? Julia
Moulden did. A few years ago, the speechwriter/copywriter was ready to make a change.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t like what I was doing,” she says now. “But it just didn’t feel like
enough.” As she listened to friends and colleagues speak about the same desire, she
realized there might be a way to earn a living helping others turn their dream into a
reality, and became a midlife coach.

Still, Moulden had the lingering feeling that there was more to do — and say — about
those she saw around her who were yearning for more meaningful work, and more to
learn from those who had figured out how to satisfy that yearning. Articles about midlife
career shifts and good works — from Bill and Melinda Gates’ mega-philanthropy to the
ordinary people building eco-friendly businesses — started catching her eye. Maybe
there’s a book in this, she thought. And come next spring, there will be: Moulden’s WE
ARE THE NEW RADICALS profiles midlifers who are reinventing their work-lives to
create a better world.

“Many boomers have done well in their careers, and now they want to do good,” says
Moulden. Take heart: Doing good doesn’t necessarily mean selling your worldly goods
and volunteering full-time (though it can!). “It’s a continuum, from small changes that
affect the way we live our daily lives to bigger changes that transform our careers and

What’s next for the 50-year-old? She wants to become the “Google for new radicals”: a
connection hub where the like-minded can interact and inspire.