Blog

  • Quiet Study

    July 22, 2016 by Madeleine McMillan

    I find it difficult to approach blog posts, because I think it is hard to speak outwardly to any readers when my go-to is either formal or personal writing.  Writing a blog is different from any other form of writing that I find comfortable, in that it is a personal experience, but you share it with others. For any posts in the future, I think I may tie together my love of research and analysis of art with my personal musings, and have this first blog post give some context as to who I am and how I found myself in this field of work.

    I have always loved all forms of art. However, I put it on the back burner in my high school years, as I had built up this 15-year plan of becoming a neuroscientist and researcher. My focus was primarily maths and sciences, and while I did enjoy my studies, I realized by the end of my first year in Undergrad that the science route was not for me. I love education, and research, and problem solving, but I was burnt out all of the time, and sought out arts-related courses for my electives. I switched into Art History and Multimedia in my second year of University. I have not looked back.

    Most of the friends I made throughout my University career were either in Science, Engineering, or Kinesiology. I was in Art History and Multimedia, but I could not seem to bridge that gap between my science-based past and my desire to discuss the arts in my free time. My attempts at making the connection were founded in dragging my friends to Art Crawl and show openings (which I still do to this day). I would like to think that my friends enjoyed these exposures to art, but I think it is more likely that my excitement towards a gallery showing might have blinded me from seeing what they really think.

    With this background in mind, I tend to shy away from bringing up art-related discussion topics. It was not until my seminar classes and position as Teaching Assistant in my Fourth year that I fully embraced what I had chosen for myself three years ago. Being in a classroom setting, discussing Contemporary Art that I loved, with only six other people, was an extremely cathartic experience. For two hours on Monday mornings, I could open up and analyze pieces without thinking that others were not interested in hearing my opinions. As a TA, I found that reading others opinions were just as significant to my understanding of art. With so many views, Art History is revolutionary in and of itself. It is a transformative field of study, and I think that as I grow as an artist and as a person, any observed art piece may also change.

    I hope to further my studies and either pursue a career in Archiving, Curating, or Teaching. I want to speak to people who are already interested in art, as well as those who have no interest, but might just listen anyways. So this is just a little bit about me. The posts to come might tie together art and science, and analyze studies, or pieces of art, or artists. There are so many possibilities, but what it comes down to is writing about what I care about. It took me eight years in school to find something I am passionate about, and I am so thrilled to have an opportunity like this right after graduation. As the Arts Outreach Officer at the Hamilton Arts Council, I am literally immersed in what I care about most. It is amazing.

    *Banner image: Installation view with work by (from left) Barbara Astman, Suzy Lake, at McMaster Museum of Art [Photo: MMA]

     

  • Singing the Praises of Business Volunteer for the Arts

    June 29, 2016 by Mary Ellen Forsyth

    Submitted by the John Laing Singers (JLS), on behalf of the JLS Board of Directors. JLS is a 28-voice chamber choir in the Hamilton-Burlington area, established in 1982 by Conductor and former Artistic Director John Laing. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter @JLSingers.

    The 2015/16 season of the John Laing Singers (JLS) has given the choir much to celebrate, with two world premiere compositions and several new community collaborations. Adding to our sense of celebration is a new sense of confidence in meeting the challenges of the future. Under the guidance of the Hamilton Arts Council, the choir has been able to step out of its “safe zone” and begin a new journey in its 34-year history.   

    Before the start of our 34th season last fall, the feeling in the JLS Board was one of discouragement as we pondered our disappointing grant application results, a challenging budget and dwindling audience size. Like many arts organizations, the choir was struggling to find funding and support among the ever-growing and competitive Hamilton area arts community. Over the years, the JLS had evolved using a variety of resources from box office revenues, grants, community sponsors and memberships, but with the increasing competition for funds among local growing arts groups, it became evident that we needed to adapt to the changing arts environment or face our final curtain call.

    John Laing Singers in concert

    Realizing that as an organization we had fallen into a comfortable but ultimately unsustainable pattern of relatively predictable performances, we reached out to our friends at the Hamilton Arts Council (HAC). Aware too that we needed a strategic plan to guide the choir on a new road of sustainability and growth, we requested a meeting to explore resources that might be available to us as a community partner.

    Choir representatives met with Stephen Near, Operations Officer of the HAC, with no expectations other than to walk away with a few ideas to try out. We never expected to be offered a resource that would have such a profound impact on our organization, and could not have predicted that the outcome of this meeting would reshape our identity so completely.

    Stephen introduced us to a new HAC initiative, the Business Volunteers for the Arts (BVA) program, which partners local business experts with struggling arts organizations. He had a candidate in mind who would be willing to work with us and act as a guide and mentor. Through Stephen, we arranged to meet with BVA consultant Dawn Cattapan to discuss our group and our plans for the next season, hoping to make an impression that would encourage her to partner and help us with our strategic plan.

    Changing logos for JLS over the years.

    Dawn’s résumé reflects extensive experience in community arts administration, communication, customer engagement and creative program development in the music sector. Our cordial initial meeting at a local café, to chat and discuss our choir’s successes and challenges, augured well for a great partnership. Dawn responded with warmth and empathy to the challenges that we described. She accepted our invitation to meet in early September with the JLS Board, where we presented our Strategy Document. The document gave an overview of the challenges we were facing and what we hoped to accomplish over the next year to address them. We had many projects outlined, which needed both business expertise and an objective eye.

    Dawn provided a wealth of information regarding funding opportunities and strategic planning processes. With this information we developed and refined the strategic plan for rebranding and marketing for the next year. Dawn then recommended grants that would be beneficial to review, based on our strategic plan and objectives for the next year. She reviewed our grant responses and provided feedback that was extremely helpful in focusing our strengths and clarifying how we viewed ourselves as an organization requesting funding. For example, Dawn encouraged us to emphasize the choir’s “sweat equity” in planning extra concerts to increase our community presence; to stress vital points such as accessibility, visibility and community enrichment; and always to discern and reflect back the tone used by grantors in their mandate. With Dawn’s input, our application for an Ontario Arts Council (OAC) Compass grant, requesting an Arts Consultant to support our strategic plan implementation, was successful – a major step forward for the choir.

    Dawn also helped to keep us questioning what we were asking and refocusing on the important elements such as community outreach, using local musicians and partnering with local businesses. With each new grant application, Dawn has made us more aware of the importance of these partnerships. She has taught us to be consistent, honest and focused in reaching further for the growth of our organization. Her input has been invaluable to us.

    The John Laing Singers

    Through the BVA, we now have far more confidence in our ability to submit a strong application, knowing we have put our  best efforts forward with a focus on our strategic plan, rebranding and community partnerships. A renewed vision, an increase in grant funds, the expertise of a strategic planning consultant and the confidence to rebrand and rebuild our choir: the BVA initiative has provided the JLS with all of these.

    Plans for our next season (2016/17) include a new name launch; celebrating 35 years as a community choir; a choral celebration of Canada’s Sesquicentennial; and a studio recording that will include local and national composers and musical artists. Thanks to the HAC and Dawn’s guidance, we have much to celebrate now and as we head into the future.

    Stay tuned for more news about the strategic planning and rebranding of John Laing Singers here.

     

  • LivingArts: The Next Chapter

    June 3, 2016 by Stephanie Vegh

    Some of our more loyal readers will have no doubt noticed a distinct lack of new LivingArts blog posts these past couple months; I, for one, have definitely missed reading the smart, rashly honest and sometimes downright funny observations of our six amazing artist-writers during this time. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. 

    The end, in this case, was the conclusion of a generous two-year grant from the Province of Ontario. The Culture Development Fund enabled us to launch LivingArts Hamilton and explore new ways of providing professional development for artists: not only through workshops and panel discussions delivered through our Symposium last October, but also by creating an online platform for artists to share their stories and create their own solutions through conversations. Both our blog and podcast flourished under the leadership of our incredible Community Outreach Officer, Lesley Loksi Chan - so much so that they have become an integral part of our identity as a community arts council. 

    Even as we say farewell to Lesley and our CDF funding, the Hamilton Arts Council remain committed to ensuring the core conversation of LivingArts Hamilton endures in a sustainable format that will also enable us to expand our reach to a wider circle of arts workers. 

    The new LivingArts Hamilton will be familiar in many ways, but with some significant changes:

    • the LivingArts Podcast will continue to record a new season of episodes with the same great team of Lesley Loksi Chan (producer) and Christopher James Denise (recording technician) behind the scenes
    • the LivingArts Blog will relaunch later this summer with an expanded roster of twelve writers who will each write quarterly articles on their area of artistic practice; this means you'll have four LivingArts blog posts to look forward to each month
    • while our six LivingArts Blog contributors - Tor Lukasik-Foss, Brandon Vickerd, Jessica Rose, Laurie Kilgour-Walsh, Crystal Jonasson-Haygarth and Steve McKay - will be resuming their blogging duties, we are also seeking six new LivingArts Blog contributors to write on six new subject areas

    I encourage you to check out and pass along our current Call for Writers as we commence the hunt for our next six LivingArts Blog contributors. We have enjoyed extensive coverage from our current writers on the Visual Arts, Public Art, Literary Arts, Arts Education (Visual Arts), Theatre and Music respectively, but are now looking to expand the conversation to include the following:

    • Fine Craft (ceramic, textile, glass, jewelry, woodworking - any or all practicioners welcome)
    • Dance (any and all genres and traditions)
    • Film & Media Arts (filmmakers, digital artists, electronic soundmakers - you get the idea)
    • Arts Education focusing on Music
    • Arts Education focusing on Theatre & Performing Arts
    • Arts Administration (yes, it's time to have a conversation about the organizers behind the scenes - any arts focus welcome)

    The deadline for expressions of interest from new writers is Monday June 20th - I look forward to hearing from all the new voices who will add to the richness of our conversations about living and working in Hamilton. 

  • Tips to Help "Fit-In" Practicing Into A Busy Schedule

    May 19, 2016 by Ian Green

    By Ian Green

    I am the first to admit: we are all very busy! We all have challenges (some more than others) with managing time. In our busy lives, we have to make time for a lot of the various activities that we enjoy. Some of us find the sense of being organized an easy task, some of us find this a challenging task to overcome. Based on personal experience, I would like to share some tips and tricks that will result in successful practice time at home.

    1. Set up a regular schedule

    To help make things easy to everyone, set up practicing into the schedule just like setting up an appointment. This tactic will help you to find time in your schedule instead of putting practicing at the bottom of the list.

    2. Play fun pieces at the beginning and end of a practice session

    By starting and/or finishing a practice with something fun, students will stay engaged throughout the practice session. Keep the mind sharp by learning and working on new material, however, let your brain rest after processing a healthy dose of new materials.

    3. Quality vs. quantity

    Many of us consider a successful practice session to be a lengthy marathon in which the student works hard at various tasks for hours and hours at a time. Success does not come in large packages. Rather, quality comes in smaller bundles. Instead of looking for quantity of time, look for quality of time as students focus on materials that are challenging to them. This will create a successful experience as well as a successful practice session.

    4. Try to practice every day of the week

    Even though this is a lofty goal, it is a similar theme to that of point #1: consistent practicing (daily is always preferred) will create the best long-tern results. Consider it from this perspective: if a student works hard at the lesson and makes great progress in a particular area and then does not look at their musical material for 2-3 days, when the student revisits the materials later in the week, 80% or more of the new material that had experienced progress will be lost. If a student looks at new materials the same day as the lesson or the following day, the progress will stay with them 100% due to the “fresh” feeling that the new information has over the student’s mind.

     

  • The Turning Tide in Arts Funding

    March 23, 2016 by Stephanie Vegh

    After a busy winter of arts advocacy on the budgetary front, we have seen some very positive developments that bode well for the future of the arts. The most notable and timely of these have no doubt already hit your radar with yesterday's 2016 Federal Budget announcements including $1.87 billion in arts and cultural investments over the next five years. The media coverage and response from arts organizations at the national level has already been in active circulation so I'll leave it to these notable links to speak to the particulars - though we are naturally very excited about the direct support to artists that is brewing in Canada Council funding increases and the reinstatement of international touring programs.

    CBC: Budget boosts funding to Canada Council, CBC

    Canadian Art: 2016 Budget: What Artists and Arts Orgs Need to Know

    Globe and Mail: Arts community had better spend its budget money wisely 

    Even better still for our local arts community here in Hamilton is the decision of our City Council to wholeheartedly support both the second and third years of phased increases to arts and cultural investments through the City Enrichment Fund. After last year's protracted game of Budget Survivor to secure that initial $500,000 increase to support new Arts programs as well as $250,000 for other City Enrichment Fund programs, this year's Budget process proved to be a welcoming environment - one in which our Mayor and Councillors understood the positive impacts of last year's decision and the merits of maintaining that momentum by following the three-year road map proposed by the Arts Funding Task Force in their 2014 recommendations. 

    As such, the City Enrichment Fund received an additional $300,000 for Arts programs and $150,000 for other funding streams, including Communities, Culture and Heritage funding that supports much of Hamilton's grassroots cultural celebrations. This 2016 budget boost provides the funding needed to deliver two new Arts funding streams that were opened to applications last autumn: Capacity Building for Arts Organizations, and a much anticipated Creation and Presentation Grants program that provides support directly to individual artists in all disciplines. 

    In an equally encouraging move, a motion from Mayor Fred Eisenberger to extend advanced approval to 2017 increases to the City Enrichment Fund passed during this year's budget process. This alleviates any remaining uncertainty around the final $200,000 increase in Arts investment for next year and paves the way for City staff to implement the remaining funding programs proposed for the City Enrichment Fund, from Arts Innovation Grants to Capital Improvement and Equipment Grants. A full listing of the proposed Arts framework is available on the City website via this PDF.

    Another benefit of this City-level support for the arts is that Hamilton Community Foundation will continue to deliver its own new grant programs through the Creative Arts Fund, which was established as equal parts incentive and enhancement to the City Enrichment Fund.  As though in acknowledgement of this exceptionally good week for the arts, HCF has just opened applications for the 2016 Creative Arts Fund. Be sure to follow that link for guidelines and forms to pursue this valuable funding opportunity - the Creative Arts Fund is exceptionally well suited to small arts presenters and community engaged programming.

    Notable Dates:

    The Creative Arts Fund deadline to receive applications in Wednesday June 1. 

    2016 Grant Recommendations from the City Enrichment Fund will be reviewed by the Grants Sub-Committee at its Tuesday May 24 meeting.

Pages