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.”