• The Sensations of the Season

    December 17, 2014 by Sheri Crawford

    It’s that time of year; twinkling lights reflecting in our eyes, the smell of pine and cinnamon, and the sounds of bells and bustle that the holiday season infuses into our spirits as we travel down our streets, enter public spaces and seek comfort in our homes.

    Maybe you’ve never realized the power of your senses and how they create an experience within your surroundings.  Think about what you see, smell and hear every day and how some of those simple elements enhance the experience within that environment.  As a designer, I love to walk through our city streets and look at the many talents that local artists and designers have played on my daily experience within this city.

    I think of these experiences, such as heading into our public library and smelling the pages of a book, or walking through my local grocery store and being drawn to the freshly baked goods that make me want to ditch my diet.  At this time of year, I especially appreciate the enhanced beauty of artistic gestures that adorn our streets representing what the holiday season means to each of us culturally or even traditionally.  The beauty of art and design is the ability to change someone’s life through experience; creativity infused not only in the aesthetics of the space, but strategically placed elements ensuring the experience captures a moment in time.  In Hamilton, we are especially blessed as our city is infused with artistic influences that are embraced as we transpose our identity from Steel Town to Art Community.

    Our worlds are based on stimulating our internal senses to enhance our journey through life.  This holiday season, I encourage you to take a moment to really appreciate the beauty around you.  Infuse your life with the sparkle, smell and message that only this holiday season can bring.

  • The 21st Hamilton Literary Awards: The Kerry Schooley Award Shortlist

    December 16, 2014 by Stephen Near

    Once again, this year's Hamilton Literary Awards will feature the presentation of the Kerry Schooley Book Award. Named in honor of the late Kerry Schooley, this Award recognizes those books that celebrate and are most evocative of the city of Hamilton. Although he passed away in 2010, Schooley was a well-known writer, poet, teacher, publisher, and editor heartened by the growth of Hamilton's arts community especially the vibrant literary scene. This year, the Hamilton Arts Council is pleased to feature four intriguing publications that capture the spirit of this great city.

    This House Is Condemned represents a hard-hitting and heart-felt testament by author David Haskins to a life lived on the edge of Lake Ontario. It is an exploration of the currents of humor and sadness that flow through both his physical landscape and his memory of it. Within the book, Haskins combines a myriad of forms, from fictionalized prose to personal essays to poetic interludes, to capture the geographic impact of the lakeside environment on the human condition and his own personal journey from childhood to adulthood.

    In Slack Action we again encounter Jeffery Donaldson's thoughtful yet witty verse. Borrowing its title from a railroad term describing the interplay between train cars, where free movement transmits from one to another, Donaldson’s words highlight the floating space of mid-life. The uncertain space where children are leaving home and parents may be returning, where one can’t always remember how things started and certainly can’t tell how things will end. It is a slippery concept to capture in poetry but Donaldson succeeds admirably in this innovative collection.

    Chris Pannell's A Nervous City reads like a synthesis of many urban environments, including Hamilton, and looks at how some people embrace change as a way of getting ahead while others fear change as the cause of their falling behind. Pannell captures the hum and energy that animates these urban spaces with an eye for the unexpected and a genuine understanding of the common man. An acknowledgment of urban anxiety as a natural yet modern state, the book walks readers down streets they thought they knew to show them in a completely different light.

    Ross Pennie's Up In Smoke is the third instalment of his medical thriller series featuring the exploits of Hamilton-based epidemic investigator Dr. Zol Szabo. As in previous books, Pennie combines his passion as a writer with his expertise as a medical professional and weaves real science with crackling suspense. This time, Dr. Szabo tackles an epidemic of high school deaths in Ontario’s tobacco country linked with contaminated, cut-price cigarettes and the clandestine tobacco trade. A slickly plotted medical thriller with lots of action, Pennie is a master of the genre in this intellectual page-turner.

    Coming Next: The 21st Annual Hamilton Literary Awards! RSVP your ticket and we'll see you on January 5th, 2015!

  • Your Hamilton Arts Holiday Gift Guide

    December 5, 2014 by Stephanie Vegh

    Ever since December turned the corner, I’ve been seeing a lot of interest in our gift-giving season, from the international scale of generosity on #GivingTuesday (and thank you to all of you who chose to donate to the Hamilton Arts Council this week!) to many of our local businesses enticing Hamiltonians to buy local this holiday season.

    Of course, you could go one step further by buying local and buying local art at the same time. A lot of our members and friends in the Hamilton arts community have been shouting out some great gift-giving options – I’ve seen so many this week that it only makes sense to bring them all together for your shopping convenience.

    GritLit took to Twitter today to announce some amazing writers coming to town for next year’s festival taking place April 16-19, 2015 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Starting next week, you can purchase advance weekend passes at Bryan Prince Bookseller for the bookworm in your life who would no doubt be thrilled to rub elbows with the likes of Ian Hamilton, Heather O’Neill, Russell Wangersky and Richard Wagamese.

    Speaking of books, we’ve been rolling out the shortlists for the 21st Annual Hamilton Literary Awards these last couple weeks and there’s plenty of great local authors waiting to be enjoyed. Have a look at our recent blog posts on the Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry short lists – many of these titles will be available at one of our fantastic local booksellers like Bryan Prince, J.H. Gordon Books, Epic Books and A Different Drummer Books.

    Hamilton has no shortage of talented ceramicists and you’ll find many of them plus a wealth of all things artist-made in the Small Works Christmas show at Dundas’ Carnegie Gallery, which will be open seven days a week starting this Monday December 8 to give you extra time for shopping.

    For a different sort of art buying experience, Cobalt Connects has brought back Community Supported Art for its second year. The 2014 Collection features works by local artists Greg Voisin, Andrea Carvalho, Lisa Pijuan-Nomura, Jesse Senko and Chris Farias, with a small number of 2013 Collections also available for purchase. The 2014 Collection will be available for a full year, but buying in the next few days will also get you and four friends free admission to the CSA Pick-Up Party at the Players Guild on December 10.

    The Hamilton Children's Choir has been busy travelling around the world this past year but you can also listen to this internationally acclaimed youth ensemble in your own home. Until December 12, the choir is offering all three of their CD recordings for the price of two, including a number of holiday-friendly tracks.

    We’re partway through the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2014-2015 season, but you still have the chance to customize a 3-concert subscription for your favourite classical music fan starting from $61. Those purchasing subscriptions at A-, B- and C-level will also receive a single complementary ticket for themselves.

    Or if someone on your list would rather make music than watch, Sheepdog Studios has a great holiday offering in the form of a gift package to record, mix and master your own acoustic single using standard singer/songwriter instrumentation.

    All these offerings barely scratch the surface of all the arts you could be enjoying in Hamilton over the holidays - don't forget to keep an eye on our Events page or subscribe to our Hamilton Arts Events newsletter to find out about the shows and concerts coming up this season!



  • The 21st Hamilton Literary Awards: The Fiction Shortlist

    December 3, 2014 by Stephen Near

    From a compelling story of two souls experiencing a spiritual crisis and an awakening, to a recounting of memories both peaceful and passionate, to a heart-warming journey from hardship to hope, the titles in our 2014 Hamilton Arts Council fiction shortlist offer a diversity of voices and approaches that make them unique and engaging .

    Amanda Leduc’s debut novel, The Miracles of Ordinary Men, is the story of two unlikely dreamers: Sam, a man who wakes up to find himself growing wings, and Lilah, a woman who has lost her brother to the streets of Vancouver. The novel, with its two separate yet connected storylines, is both enchanting and visceral in its exploration of spirituality through the lens of magic realism. Leduc isn't afraid to ask big questions about the existence of God and divine Providence and, in the end, challenges readers to wonder what is righteous and what is sinful... and whether it even matters.

    Nightswimming by Janet Turpin Myers is another engaging debut novel that harnesses the sights and sounds of the Muskokas, the momentous events of the Apollo 11 moon landings, and the stirring passions of first love. Beautiful yet funny, Myers explores the major turning points of the 60s and how these events affect us in our consciousness and our memories. In language that is lyrical and moving, Myers takes readers to places they know like the back of their hand and then flips the hand over to read the map of its lines.

    Much like the protagonist in her book The Manager, Caroline Stellings' book packs a powerful wallop and is not to be underestimated. Whip-quick narrative and dynamic characters combine with a twisting road-trip that leads readers into the boxing ring for a charming adventure that will have both young and adult readers cheering. Short and powerful, Stellings book surprises readers with characters who are heroic and flawed, a conclusion of unexpected revelations, and a journey that touches the heart.

    Coming Next: The Kerry Schooley Award Shortlist

  • The 21st Hamilton Literary Awards: The Poetry Shortlist

    November 25, 2014 by Stephen Near

    For a city known for its gritty urbanism Hamilton abounds in poets. Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of the beauty of the escarpment against the light of the flares from the steel mills that inspires them, but this year we’ve quite the poetry shortlist. From a several strong collections submitted this year, three experienced poets have been selected for our shortlist. Slack Action, Jeffrey Donaldson’s fifth collection, A Bee Garden Marilyn Gear Pillings fifth collection and John Terpstra's seventh collection, Brilliant Falls show the unusual strength of the poetry being written in our city.

    Marilyn Gear Pilling's A Bee Garden is composed of poems of family, memory, love and friendship, centered around a searing sequence of poems tracing a family’s grief at the death of a young woman from suicide. Laced through these all-too-human stories are gardens, greenery and beauty. Gear Pilling writes of this difficult topic and all other poems in this book with warmth and forgiveness, balancing them with her delight in the physical world. She brings her well-known compassion to bear, and invites the reader into her poems.

    In Slack Action we again encounter Jeffery Donaldson's thoughtful yet witty verse. Borrowing its title from a railroad term describing the interplay between train cars, where free movement transmits from one to another, Donaldson’s words highlight the floating space of mid-life. The uncertain space where children are leaving home and parents may be returning, where one can’t always remember how things started and certainly can’t tell how things will end. It is a slippery concept to capture in poetry but Donaldson succeeds admirably in this innovative collection.

    John Terpstra's Brilliant Falls is grounded in the grace notes of the everyday. The epiphanies that occur as you teach your daughter to drive or as you clear a house of years of a parent’s accumulated belongings. These poems acknowledge endings, either slow ones or sudden, but as all good poets do, Terpstra tells us these truths slant. We consider being let into heaven due to cutbacks or whether or not a crow on a prairie road might be Sitting Bull. As always Terpstra questions our place in nature and what constitutes divine. But he does it while wrestling an old mattress from the roof of a Honda.

    Coming Next: The Fiction Shortlist