The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - Natalie Pad­don npad­don@thes­pec.com 905-526-2420 | @NatatTheSpec

NAME: Jeremy Freiburger COM­PANY: CoBALT Con­nects TI­TLE: Cul­tural strate­gist LO­CA­TION: 80 Queen St. S. 1. What is your com­pany’s mis­sion state­ment?

To spur in­no­va­tive re­search, fa­cil­i­ties and projects that ad­vance the cre­ative sec­tor in Hamilton and On­tario. 2. What ad­vice have you re­ceived that has helped you the most?

When I was a very young ac­tor, the late Bill Pow­ell was my agent. He al­ways told me if some­one asked if I could do some­thing the an­swer was al­ways yes, and that we would fig­ure it out later. This wasn’t a li­cence to lie, but the idea that cre­ative peo­ple are re­source­ful and that we could solve any prob­lem thrown at us if we ap­plied our­selves. While I’ve learned when to ad­mit I have no idea how to do some things, I still love diving into the un­known with con­fi­dence. 3. Can you think of a mo­ment in your life that pushed you to be­come who you are? A defin­ing mo­ment?

I re­mem­ber see­ing “Man of La Man­cha” at Theatre Aquarius in 1991 or ’92. I would have been 14. I re­mem­ber the sense of un­con­trol­lable ner­vous energy it gave me as a young boy — not like any other feel­ing I had ex­pe­ri­enced. I knew from that mo­ment on that art, cul­ture, es­pe­cially live per­for­mance, would be a part of my life for­ever. 4. Can you think of a time in your ca­reer when things were not go­ing well, but you man­aged to turn it around? How did you per­se­vere?

I think in the non­profit arts world we of­ten feel this way, es­pe­cially with the work I do with CoBALT Con­nects as we’re of­ten work­ing in a space where there

are more ques­tions than an­swers and cer­tainty. In our sec­tor you learn to ac­cept risk and just keep work­ing with what you have. You per­se­vere by hav­ing amaz­ing peo­ple close to you. 5. What are the key prin­ci­ples that guide you in your day-to-day life? Cu­rios­ity. 6. What makes you laugh?

My son Miles just kills me. Ev­ery day he presents some­thing new and fresh and filled with joy that leaves me in awe. The com­edy is never-end­ing. It cur­rently re­volves around farts, as it should with a four-year-old. 7. What is your guilty plea­sure?

Gran­dad’s Donuts. Coke. Not great to­gether, but it’s not un­heard of. 8. What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

I’m not re­ally cer­tain which job came first: de­liv­er­ing the pa­per, mow­ing lawns/rak­ing leaves. Ru­mour has it I also tried, suc­cess­fully I might add, sell­ing hand­fuls of gravel at camp­grounds on sum­mer va­ca­tions with my fam­ily. From all of these I learned that a smile goes a long way, win­ter sucks, and some­one will buy any­thing — you just need a com­pelling nar­ra­tive. 9. What do you do to wind down from work?

I’ve al­ways en­joyed mak­ing things. I’m not frac­tion­ally as tal­ented as my broth­ers in this do­main, but I still en­joy it. It might be an ill-con­ceived piece of fur­ni­ture or art, a mi­nor home reno, a gar­den box, what­ever. But there is some­thing re­ally re­ward­ing about mak­ing things with your own hands. 10. How do you mo­ti­vate peo­ple?

That re­ally de­pends on the re­la­tion­ship. With artists it’s pay­ing them and re­spect­ing their prac­tice — I love find­ing and cre­at­ing pay­ing work for tal­ented peo­ple and then just stand­ing back and watch­ing their minds work. I also do a fair bit of speak­ing at con­fer­ences or with com­mu­nity groups, and in that realm it’s about help­ing them un­der­stand they are pow­er­ful, cre­ative and ca­pa­ble forces in their com­mu­nity. I’ve also learned that one of the great­est ways to mo­ti­vate peo­ple, es­pe­cially young peo­ple, is to give them li­cence over some­thing. Let them own their choices, and so­lu­tions and fail­ures. 11. What is your big­gest pet peeve? The smell and taste of cof­fee. It’s just burnt, sour dirt to my palate. 12. What are you good at?

I’m re­source­ful as all get-out, which makes me a gen­er­ally pos­i­tive per­son be­cause I don’t see many things as be­yond re­pair. 13. What do you want to work on?

Big­ger, more com­plex projects. Fig­ur­ing out Auch­mar or the wa­ter­front. Af­ford­able hous­ing for artists. Ini­tia­tives that have sys­tem-chang­ing ef­fects. 14. What is on your bucket list? See­ing Tom Waits per­form live. 15. What is Hamilton’s most valu­able


Peo­ple will al­ways be our big­gest as­set. That’s not to di­min­ish our in­cred­i­ble nat­u­ral as­sets, cul­tural achieve­ments, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, etc. Those things sim­ply mean noth­ing with­out peo­ple in the mix. 16. What is the city’s big­gest li­a­bil­ity? Politi­cian-driven di­vi­sive­ness. 17. How do you balance your life?

Poorly. I work too much. Some of this is be­cause I love what I do — some of this is be­cause I work in a sec­tor that is typ­i­cally un­der­val­ued, so to earn a de­cent liv­ing I need to put in more time. Thank­fully, I work with my bril­liant wife, which means we get to cel­e­brate lots of mile­stones and mo­ments to­gether on both the work and life sides of the equa­tion. 18. What is your favourite spot in Hamilton?

That’s re­ally tough. I love the Rock Gar­den at the RBG, watch­ing in­dus­trial mad­ness in ac­tion in the North End. The Cot­ton Fac­tory will al­ways hold a spe­cial place in my mind, Gage Park is a gift, James North when it’s shut down for Su­per­crawl, stand­ing on stage at Hamilton Place. Too many to choose just one. 19. What would peo­ple be surprised to know about you?

I was on a TV show with Mr. T once. Just got paid to smash up a car with a crow­bar. I was a street­tough. Mr. T’s job was to re­form street-toughs. 20. What ad­vice would you give to young en­trepreneurs?

Com­mit. Do­ing things halfmea­sure is point­less, re­ally. Get used to re­jec­tion and learn how to get past it with­out be­ing self­de­struc­tive. 21. What is your dream job?

Quite hon­estly, do­ing what I’m do­ing — just with greater re­sources and free­dom.


Jeremy Freiburger of CoBALT Con­nects: “While I’ve learned when to ad­mit I have no idea how to do some things, I still love diving into the un­known with con­fi­dence.”

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