Skip to main content

Henry Greenhow

Alternate Names:
Vital Dates:
Born: 1935
Died: 17 July 2017


Cecil Henry (Hank) Greenhow was a Canadian, Vancouver-based teacher and co-founder of the
Western Front Society. Greenhow was involved throughout the 1970s in successfully
developing the Western Front as "a space for the exploration and creation of new art forms"
and a Canadian new media artist-run centre. Greenhow worked under the
pseudonyms 'Estelle Friend' and 'S.S. Tell,' and the projects 'Borderline Studios' and 'Butch
Bank.' Greenhow is best known for his published work Ziggurats (1974) and collaborative
work with the extended Western Front community.
Greenhow was born in Walkerville, Ontario in 1935. He studied zoology at the University of
Toronto from 1953 to 1955 and English at the University of Windsor, from which he
received his Bachelor of the Arts degree in 1959. He returned to the University of Windsor
to specialize in 18th-century literature and was granted his Master of the Arts degree (cum
) in 1963. From 1959 to 1967, Greenhow held various positions teaching English
Literature at the secondary and post-secondary level across Ontario and divided his time
between Ontario and Detroit, Michigan where he shared an apartment with life-long friend
Dr. J. Norman Austin. He taught secondary school from 1959 to 1962 holding positions in
Wawa and Toronto, Ontario. He worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Windsor
from 1963 to 1964, was an instructor at St. Clair College in Windsor from 1964 to 1965, and
was a lecturer at the University of Waterloo from 1965 to 1967.
In 1967, Greenhow moved from Ontario to Vancouver, British Columbia to pursue graduate
studies further. There, he continued working in the field of education as a teaching assistant
at the University of British Columbia (1967 to 1968) and finally as a long-term instructor at
Vancouver City College Langara (1969 to 1998). Through connections made at UBC and his
interests, Greenhow developed a network of friends and colleagues associated with
Vancouver's emerging avant-garde art and poetry movements. One of the first friends he
made was Mary Beth Knechtel (née Estok, pseudonym Myra Peanut), the sister of a friend
from Toronto whom he met at UBC. Through Mary, he met Warren Knechtel and Michael
Morris (aka Marcel Dot/Marcel Idea). Through Morris, he met Vincent Trasov (aka Mr.
Peanut), Alvin Balkind, Abe Rogatnick, Arthur Erickson, Mick Henry, Chairman Johnson,
Sonia Arntzen, Maurice (Moe) van Nostrand, Martin Bartlett, Glenn Lewis (aka Flakey), Eric
Metcalfe (aka Dr. Brute), and Kate Craig (aka Lady Brute). Other close friends and colleagues
from Greenhow's first years in Vancouver include Ian Wallace and Bryan Mulvihille.
In 1973, Morris, Trasov, van Nostrand, Bartlett, Lewis, Metcalfe, Craig and Greenhow
purchased the former Knights of Pythias Hall at 303 east 8th street in Vancouver. The
purchase was aided greatly by the fact that Greenhow, then teaching in the English
department at Langara College, and Lewis were the only two founding members with a
steady income. Named after the iconic look of buildings in Hollywood Western movies, the
Hall was transformed into the Western Front Society, conceived of as a centre for artists,
writers, musicians, and various creative types. The Western Front operated in relation to, and
each founding member’s practice was guided by, the ethos of the 'Eternal Network.'
Together, the eight founding members established the artist-run centre as an important node
in Western Canada for the collective, and intimately collaborative, approach to art creation
that defined the 1970s and 1980s.
Of note is Greenhow's 1974 show Ziggurats at the Western Front Ziggurats. Sponsored in
part by the Vancouver Art Gallery's Pacific Vibrations show, Ziggurats was a display of
slides featuring the Image Bank's Colour Bar Research project, Eric Metcalfe's Leopard
, and the accompanying text by Greenhow, Ziggurats. The show is evidence of the
collaborative, social, and jovial approach to art production and work by members of the
Western Front. Greenhow's involvement also included curatorial work in the mid-1970s and
the publication of Ziggurats by Air Press in 1976.
The publication Ziggurats was part of a varied and ongoing exploration of ziggurat forms
by Greenhow. Developed at 'Babyland'—Morris' summer cabin near Gibsons, British
Columbia—the ziggurats project developed alongside Morris and Trasov's Colour Bars project.
Of note as well is Butch Bank, Greenhow's personal exploration of conceptions and
depictions of masculinity and collaborative art project. The title and plays on
the name, are used in reference to the project and is used as a pseudonym for Greenhow.
Greenhow lived at the Western Front from February 1974 to mid-1977 and again from July
1986 to December 1989 and was one of the first members of the Board of Directors, sitting
on the board almost every year from 1974 to 1989. He was also in close contact with
affiliated artists and collectives including Dana Atchley, General Idea, Opal L. Nations,
Lowell Darling, Willoughby Sharp, and Robert Filliou. Finally, in 1996 Greenhow sold his eighth of the share in the property to Peter Bingham. He retired from Langara College in 1998.

Henry Greenhow died July 7, 2017.

Related Records