Todd Hawkwood

Todd Hawkwood
Todd Hawkwood | Photo: Trina Arnett

Todd Hawkwood

Todd the Hawk’s creative life

If there’s a single Calgarian who bridges the city’s past, its present and its future, it might just be Todd the Hawk.

That’s Todd Hawkwood, a Calgary communications professional, former actor, and longtime Stampede volunteer who still lives in the only home the Hawkwoods—the same ones they named the neighbourhood after—ever lived in since they moved to Calgary to start a dairy farm in 1913.

“I live where my grandparents settled,” he says, “when they moved from England. They moved there in their 20’s. It’s a homestead—and no one has left the house I live in since it was built in 1950.

“No one has physically moved out,” he adds, “other than dying… my siblings moved out, but left their childhood stuff there.”

You can’t miss him if you attend a Calgary cultural event, such as the High Performance Rodeo, or a Vertigo mystery, or a Broadway Across Canada musical, for two reasons: One, he has spent most of the last decade working for all those organizations and two, because he’s generally the best-dressed man in whatever Calgary room he happens to be standing.

Really, he looks as if he just wandered off the stage of a George Bernard Shaw drama about 19th century British socialists and into 21st century Calgary, in a wardrobe that’s a blend of steampunk and Milan, all of it framed by a big, bushy Shavian beard, underscored by the crisp diction of a retired British soldier returned from a success in the Boer War (I made that last part up).

But he isn’t really any of those—underneath all the facial hair and fine stitching and superb posture, he’s really truly a Calgary guy, leading an extraordinary Calgary life unlike any other.

“I lead a creative life,” he says, “not only by working in the arts and cultural sector, but [also] by participating in it—going to see music, bands, and performances I’m not involved with.

“But living a creative life is also beyond that,” he adds,  “it’s about being mindful about planting flower baskets, liking colour—and [answering the challenge of] how to make my life and lifestyle a creative expression of myself.”

He also loves beautiful, well-made objects—and thoughtfully-designed cities filled with architectural idiosyncrasies, the way (European and east coast) cities used to be before they got all efficient—and which energy corporation-dominated Calgary, sadly, has managed to hardly ever embrace.

“I appreciate aesthetics,” he says. “And long for the days of World War II era architecture, when aesthetics were important to buildings, and chairs and design—[the days before] everything became so functional.

“We lose a lot,” he adds, “when everything is kind of functional and straightforward.”

Exhibit A: A second-hand artifact that has been hanging around the Hawkwood homestead for more than a century.

“One of the things I inherited with the house,” he says, “is a bookcase with a glass door that has the bubbles in it. Original blown glass, carving—my grandmother bought it used, when they moved to Calgary in 1913.

“It must have been made in the 1880s,” he says. “It’s beautiful. Stunning. I look at that—the carving—it has a woman’s head and a pedestal with a lamp on it—and I’m like, why don’t we do this anymore? Why did we lose this?”

That said, he senses that design and architecture—both residential and commercial—are beginning to get the memo that they need to search a little harder for ways to create beautiful spaces again.

“I see a lot of new homes being built,” he says, “that are starting to get back into architectural detail. Like the front entrance, which we kind of lost over the years.

“Anyone can get a designer to throw stuff in a room,” he adds, “but the creativity lies in being mindful and looking and seeing how very different things fit together.”

He might be talking about individual homes, but he also might be talking about Calgary in total, as its own unique architectural entity.

“We’re a young city,” Hawkwood says. “Just a baby. I think we’re developing our style. The Peace Bridge and the Bow [Building] have changed how we think about our city.

“I think it’s just a question of changing people’s architectural perception about what office buildings can be.”

But just as you think Todd the Hawk is some hopelessly romantic Anglophile Euro-worshipper, he reveals the Alberta farm boy lurking underneath.

“I feel like where I live influences my aesthetic,” he adds,  “and growing up as a farm boy, I do have an appreciation of paintings with horses and cows in them.”

That appreciation has extended to a long relationship between the Hawkwood family and the Stampede, that goes on to this day. Hawkwood is a committed volunteer to the city’s iconic summer festival.

“My family’s been involved for a million years,” he says. “What I’ve learned recently from my role with the Calgary Stampede is that the Stampede is truly a cultural event. It’s a cultural festival and it was designed by the Big Four to hold on to the cowboy spirit that was being lost—in 1912.”

In other words, Stampede was a nostalgia show the day it launched, 105 years ago.

“And it still is going strong,” he adds. “It engages the community to celebrate who we are in this particular spot and how the history and culture and [Alberta] landscape define us.”

Hawkwood volunteers on the Community Projects and Development committee, which means getting out into areas one might not normally associate with a Stampede and seeing how to make people feel connected.

“The committee was formed out of the idea,” he says, “that the Stampede is a community-wide event and that’s one of its strengths. You can go to a barbeque, a dance, a free pancake breakfast or any number of Stampede events throughout the city, and never actually go to Stampede.

“That’s one of its strengths,” he says, “because the community has bought into it.”

However, for someone who has lived as much of a traditional, stable life as a creative one, Hawkwood—like the city—finds himself in 2017 in a state of transition and upheaval.

His mother died in 2014. After agonizing about it for just over a year, with his siblings he decided to sell it.

He also ended an almost decade-long relationship working with Bottom Line Productions, working on things like Broadway Across Canada , and other events. He’s still a part of High Performance Rodeo’s communications team, but overall, his life seems to be in transition, to something new. If only he could know what that means.

“I like working with artists and working in the arts and cultural sector,” he says. “I don’t know what’s next. Film and TV maybe? Step in there? Given that Calgary just opened a new facility dedicated to film and television, and several TV series and films are currently being shot here, who knows?

“I do like producing and getting something up on stage,” he adds.  

If he ever chose to go that route, you know the final product would look spectacular.

For now Todd the Hawk remains committed to living his creative life in the 403, even if he’ll be leaving the Hawkwood homestead.

“I’ll stay in Calgary,” he says. “I just don’t know exactly where yet.”

About The Storytelling Project

On November 16, 2015, Calgary Arts Development hosted a working session with approximately 30 creative Calgarians from various walks of life. Many of the small working groups voiced the need to gather and share more stories of people living creative lives.

That need has turned into The Storytelling Project.

The Storytelling Project raises awareness about Calgarians who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, effecting positive change and enriching others’ lives.

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