Kick down a door and kick-start your art

University of Winnipeg alumnus Andrew Stelmack talks about his successful career as an actor and painter

Winnipeg-born actor Andrew Stelmack has found success in recent years as a visual artist.

In the theatre world, “triple threats” are performers who can act, dance and sing. Andrew Stelmack is a quadruple threat.

Not only is the University of Winnipeg alumnus in the 24th year of a successful acting career, but he’s also become a celebrated visual artist since he first picked up a paintbrush four years ago. With no previous artistic training, Stelmack took up painting as a reward to himself after completing four years as part of the Toronto production of The Lion King.

While he admits his first paintings weren’t very good, he has since finished two solo art shows in Toronto galleries and some of his pieces sit in major art collections.

“I pinch myself everyday – I have a charmed life,” the 46-year-old said over iced tea at an Osborne Village café last month. “I love, love, love what I do.”

Since graduating from the U of W’s theatre and drama program in 1985, Stelmack has made his living solely from acting. He has been in over 50 theatrical productions all across Canada, as well as many TV and film projects.

Although he now makes his home in Toronto, the native Winnipegger has returned to this city many times over the past few years, appearing at Manitoba Theatre Centre in Fiddler on the Roof (as Mendel), at Rainbow Stage in Peter Pan (as Smee) and at Manitoba Theatre for Young People in Seussical (as the Mayor of Whoville).

This past August, Stelmack reprised his role as Lefou in the Rainbow Stage production of Beauty and the Beast. He describes working in Winnipeg as a “paid holiday.”

“I get to go home and reconnect. I stay with my mom and spend my days off at the cottage,” he said. “You don’t leave Winnipeg because it’s not good enough. Toronto is just where the business is. I love coming back.”

He has nothing but good things to say about the training he received at the U of W, and praises the addition of music, dance and film to the theatre program.

“The more tools you have, the more likely you will be successful.”

The five years he spent working in Winnipeg’s theatre scene before moving to Toronto were also invaluable and he recommends that aspiring performers get involved in local productions.
“Take advantage of what’s here,” he said. “Just the cultural vibe of the city – being in the arts is encouraged, not frowned upon. The symphony, the ballet, three or four quality theatres; we have things cities with twice the population don’t have. And may it always be that way.”

While in Winnipeg, Stelmack brought a body of his artwork with him to display at Hair FX on Grosvenor Avenue. A gallery exhibition is in the works for next year.

It wasn’t easy transitioning into the visual arts, but trying new things is part of Stelmack’s upbeat outlook.

“I always tell people, kick open a door and see what’s behind it,” he said. “If there’s nothing behind it, kick open another. You never know.”

“We don’t have to do and be the same thing for our entire existence.”


Published in Volume 64, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 10, 2009)

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