• The Accessibility of Art

    April 22, 2015 by Elizabeth Abraham

    Spring is here!  This is a time of year that I associate with many happy things, most particularly getting outdoors and exploring what our great city has to offer.  Monthly Art Crawls on James Street North are at the top of my list.

    One thing that I’ve struggled with at Art Crawls past is purchasing pieces of art to take home with me.  I’m a person whose background is mostly in musical performance, with no formal training in visual arts.  One of my biggest regrets was never taking an Art History course during my schooling.  This has in the past made me feel somewhat self-conscious about what constitutes good art. I’ve historically been drawn to abstract paintings, sculptures and mixed media that incorporate vibrant colours, geometric shapes and textures, but I find it difficult to articulate why I’m attracted to these elements, and if these pieces could be considered “good art”.

    I recently came across a post on my Facebook news feed about a working class couple from New York who had amassed a priceless contemporary art collection over several decades.  In reading the article, I discovered that the couple had been the subject of a 2008 documentary entitled Herb & Dorothy, which detailed Herb and Dorothy Vogel’s infamy in the New York art world as unassuming collectors of modest means.  Herb worked as a Postal Clerk, Dorothy as a Librarian, and both made a pact that Dorothy’s salary would go towards the couple’s living expenses, while Herb’s would be entirely devoted to acquiring pieces of art.

    The couple had no formal training in art collecting, but they had simple rules: the piece had to be affordable, transportable via taxi or subway, and small enough to fit in their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment.

    The Vogels gravitated toward Minimalist and Conceptual art in the 1960’s at a time when both were unpopular, and Pop Art was on the rise.  They purchased pieces from unknown artists according to what they liked, rather than collect works based on who or what was popular.  They eventually donated their entire collection to the National Gallery in Washington in 1992, which was where they spent their honeymoon decades earlier.

    Artist Richard Tuttle was an interview subject in the film, and perfectly encapsulated what Herb and Dorothy’s process was for selecting works of art: “Something goes from the eye to the soul without going through the brain.”

    Filmmaker Megumi Sasaki, who spent a great deal of time with the couple in preparing the documentary, summed up best what I enjoyed about Herb and Dorothy: “One of the greatest lessons I learned from Herb and Dorothy is that you don’t have to explain, you don’t have to theorize art to like it.  The important thing is to look.”

    After viewing this documentary in full, I honestly feel more motivated than ever to go out and acquire pieces without feeling the need to explain why I love them.  In the words of artist Lucio Pozzi, “Art is not something you have to explain, but feel.”

    With that I say support our local artists, buy what you love, and happy hunting!

    Elizabeth S. Abraham is a Family and Criminal Lawyer at Wasserman Law Firm in downtown Hamilton.  She currently sits on the Board of Directors at Hamilton Arts Council and Wesley Urban Ministries.

  • Did You Just Profile Me? A Introduction

    April 21, 2015 by Rachel Forrest

    Hello everyone, my name is Rachel and I'm a student doing my co-op placement here at the Hamilton Arts Council. After looking through our website I've seen that some of our members haven't completed (or even started) a member profile. This got me thinking that maybe some of you have no idea you even had a member profile and could use it to promote your work as an artist and member of the Hamilton Arts Council. So, as part of my co-op work, I'm writing a blog on the how, what and why of creating a member profile. Hopefully, these posts will give you a better understanding of the importance of a member profile and how to maintain it once you have everything set-up.

    First off, what is your member profile? Well, your profile is your presence and voice as a member on our website. It not only allows you and your organization to raise awareness about what you do but also lets you add current and upcoming events to our Events calendar for direct contact with new audiences. Remember that these member profiles aren't set in stone. In fact, every time you log in on the website your profile immediately becomes active for any sort of editing and retouching.

    You may be asking yourself why do you need a member profile? Again, the member profile is a fantastic way to expand your online presence. Even though a lot of you may have websites and blogs of your own, the Hamilton Arts Council Member Profile is a great way to reach people who use the Hamilton Arts Council as a database to find out about the arts in our city. Your actual website can also be linked to your Member Profile on the Hamilton Arts Council website. That's a trifecta of linkage! The Internet is a perfect place to raise awareness about your organization and taking the time to make a Member Profile allows a greater range of exposure within the online community.

    The Carnegie Gallery Profile (above) is just one example of how an organization affiliated with the Hamilton Arts Council can take advantage of setting up a member profile. As said, many of you may not have heard of your Member Profile in the first place and that's okay! It is a feature we want more of you to understand and take advantage of so I hope this introduction was eye-opening and helpful. Next time I'll be tackling the how. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

  • Volunteer for the Win

    April 17, 2015 by Stephen Near

    This week is National Volunteer Week which means you may have seen a lot of talk across social media about the importance of volunteers and the contribution they make to the not-for-profit sector. Part of my job with Hamilton Arts Council involves finding volunteers who are willing and able to contribute their time to furthering our goals. Aside from finding the right person for the right job, organizations that seek volunteer support must themselves be prepared for the experience. This can present challenges to those in the not-for-profit sector where a do-it-yourself attitude often rules the day.

    Join Volunteer Canada in celebrating Canada's volunteers!

    Like many not-for-profits, the Hamilton Arts Council has worked extensively with volunteers to shape our work in the community. Our organization has gone through many changes and volunteers have helped us turn ideas into action along the way. And some of our most valuable volunteers have come from the most unexpected places. For example, my friend Marvin was a recent arrival to both Canada and Hamilton back in 2011 and was looking to put down roots in the city. He not only offered to volunteer for the arts council in a number of ways but also took our mission to serve the arts community very much to heart. From designing our e-newsletter to troubleshooting office technical issues to support at countless fundraisers and events, Marvin exemplified the type of volunteerism that is a boon to the not-for-profit sector and greatly helped the growth of the arts council. Much of that has to do with the fact that, as a volunteer, his desire to contribute and strengthen the community was close to our own. In other words, the arts council and our volunteer shared the same values in common. This alignment creates a meaningful volunteer experience and helps retain their talent in the long term.

    The Hamilton Arts Council's MVP volunteer!

    Ultimately, volunteers are an important agent for organizational growth not just because they are an extra hand but because they advance our mandate in the work that they do. Tasks that might seem mundane are often exciting opportunities for growth in the hands of dedicated volunteer. It all comes down to giving your volunteers a stake in the success of the organization and tying their success to the future of your organization. So, this week, I hope you'll remember to take a moment to thank all of your volunteers who have helped make your organization what it is now and what it will be in the future.

    For further resources regarding volunteers and Hamilton volunteering opportunities check out the following resources:

  • Open Call for Nominations: Board Treasurer

    March 5, 2015 by David Premi

    After nearly three years of loyal service, Sandy Towle will be stepping down from the Board of Directors to pursue an exciting career opportunity in the Windsor region. On behalf of the entire Board, I wish Sandy all the best and thank him for his outstanding contribution to the Hamilton Arts Council as our Treasurer.

    Due to this development, the Hamilton Arts Council Board of Directors now has an immediate vacancy for the role of Treasurer. We are seeking a dynamic, hard-working individual who will champion the arts in the Hamilton region by contributing their financial expertise to the organization.

    The role of the Board of Directors is to advise on policy, planning and strategic direction, and assist with the leadership and promotion of the Hamilton Arts Council’s Mission, Vision and Values in accordance with its bylaws. Responsibilities of Directors include, but are not limited to:

    • attending six annual board meetings and the Annual General Meeting
    • serving on one internal committee by attending monthly meetings
    • acting as a vocal and positive ambassador and advocate of the Hamilton Arts Council’s Mission, Vision and Values

    In addition to fulfilling the expectations of Board Directors, the Treasurer is responsible for the following functions:

    • preparing and presenting Board Financial Reports using updated data provided by the Bookkeeper
    • presenting the annual Financial Report and motion to appoint the Auditor to our membership at the Annual General Meeting
    • assisting the Executive Director in providing requested documentation to the appointed auditor at the end of each fiscal year
    • assisting the Executive Director in the preparation and presentation of the Annual Budget
    • acting as a signing authority on behalf of the Board for legal and financial purposes

    We welcome applications from people of all backgrounds and experiences. Demonstrated capacity to read, understand and interpret financial statements is a requirement of this role. Previous service on a not-for-profit board is considered an asset.

    Please respond with a cover letter and resume by Friday, March 20.  Applications may be submitted to David Premi, Board President via email with the Subject Line “HAC Board Treasurer.”


  • The Real Dirt

    February 23, 2015 by Lennox Toppin

    When first approached with the opportunity to write the February blog for the Hamilton Arts Council, I did what any arts loving Board Member would do: I balked. In spite of it originally being discussed early last fall, I knew, come February, we would likely be in the middle of some kind of enduring deep freeze. I figured even those among us who go on about the heat and humidity would likely be saying how they could not wait for the bitterness of winter to end. I felt I would be stressed, exhausted, and most of all irritated – because I would rather suffer in the heat of summer bliss than a mind-numbing deep freeze.

    Yet, here I find myself on a frozen Sunday evening with a glass of wine in hand, trying to suss up enough energy to put together some words. Not only words, but thoughts that convey some kind of meaning in the middle of this long winter. Thoughts which express something about arts and culture and Hamilton. And I keep coming back to the same thing: what I really want to write about is my garden.

    I could write about my passion for my garden, and how that passion came about. I could write how one of my colleagues said one of the most interesting things she discovered about me was this passion lay dormant until it exploded in a wild frenzy when I purchased my Hamilton home. I could write about some of the themes I place in my garden – themes which explore love, sex, death and decay. But I am going to save those for another time and place.

    Instead, I think I am going to write about my dirty side: how I have been on my hands and knees in the pouring rain, caked in mud, beads of sweat co-mingling with my tears and those from the heavens, listening to the voice and heartbeat of my garden. There is a deep, profound, spiritual and physical connection that I make with the earth, and I can tell you – not only is my garden as hungry as I am, but it is surprisingly carnivorous!

    While it rests under a thick blanket of snow in a winter that would seemingly never end, at this time of the year the garden represents hope and renewal...and work. While most people only see the end results of the garden, the real joy for me, as with many artists, is the work that goes on behind the scenes, down and dirty, while the world is not watching. In keeping with that theme, while we anticipate the arrival of the Spring season, I think Margaret Atwood summed it up best, from Bluebeard's Egg: "In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."