Blog

  • LivingArts: HOW SUPERCRAWL SAVED MY BABY (AND BY 'BABY' I MEAN MUSIC CAREER) by Steve McKay

    September 18, 2014 by Lesley Loksi Chan

     

    SUPERCRAWL!!!  It’s the greatest thing that’s happened to downtown Hamilton since the Eaton Centre.   The greatest thing since the short-lived Hamilton Skyhawks basketball franchise played at Copps Coliseum (look it up). 

    135,000 people came downtown and they enjoyed themselves so much, that they’ll probably come downtown again.  From a musician’s perspective, this is a huge deal.  Huge, like the EUREKA moment when we realized that we have a billion waterfalls in Hamilton…

    Why?  Because downtown is where music happens.  Put simply, there is a correlation between the number of people hanging out downtown and the vibrancy of the music scene.  Imagine what the Nashville or New Orleans scene would look like if the musicians didn’t have an audience?    

    I imagine it might be like downtown Hamilton, ten years ago.  Your audience was just the sound guy and the occasional tumbleweed rolling through the bar… 

    So what happened?  Supercrawl happened.  It’s the only free festival I have ever attended that has a huge local music component.  Not only does it remind people that downtown Hamilton is a happening place on a Saturday night, but it is engaging Hamiltonians in the local music dialogue. 

    What’s more - it gives local musicians a boost.  I’ve had the good fortune to perform in some capacity at each Supercrawl since 2010 and every year, I walk away feeling like a rock star. 

    This year, I was playing an ambient electro set with Awesollator (Dylan Hudecki) at the AGH Design Annex.  The electricity of the big audience gave us a buzz that I’m still feeling days later.  That buzz is what keeps you moving, pursuing new sounds and exploring as an artist.

    The trick will be to keep up the momentum, so let’s hope at least a fraction of those 135,000 Supercrawlers will be coming back downtown this weekend to enjoy some more local music!

    [Next month – introducing the brand new Arkells’ fruit stand at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market…is there anything they can’tdo!?!]

     

    Steve McKay - Born-and-raised Hamiltonian, Drummer, Songwriter, Father, Mortgage Broker, Chorister and Technical Director of the new classical music venue at Church of St. John the Evangelist (Charlton & Locke).  His musical travels have taken him around the world with the likes of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Bruce Peninsula.  

    You can catch him performing locally with YerYard (Hidden Pony), High Kites and as a member of the Central Presbyterian Church choir.

    @STEVEathePMG

     

     

  • LivingArts: THE HOST WITH THE MOST by Laurie Kilgour-Walsh

    September 17, 2014 by Lesley Loksi Chan

     

    People think I get paid to sit around and look at pictures all day.

    Well... I sort of do. Just not in the dismissive, easiest-job-in-the-world way they think. Being an arts educator means wearing many hats and few of them fit perfectly. There's the teacher hat, the writer, the artist, the budget-planner, the coach, the counsellor ... but one that I take very seriously is the host.

    One of the most important things I want to accomplish in my work is to make people feel comfortable and welcome in the gallery. For those of us who have been visiting galleries all our lives this may seem easy, but so often I see people who are coming (often reluctantly) to the gallery for the first time, as parent-chaperones, guests of friends or as part of a corporate programme. They have often decided that they are not going to enjoy their visit because "they don't know anything about art". They are afraid of looking foolish or being wrong so they just don't try to engage with the work. Especially when it's contemporary. Sometimes they want to but just don't know how.

    As a good host, I must make my guests comfortable in an unfamiliar setting. If I can’t do that, nothing else I do with them matters because they won’t enjoy their time with me and they won’t come back. People must be welcomed to art experiences on their terms and be able to have their voice heard. Even if that voice starts with "my kid could do that".

    I spend a lot of time learning about the art on display, educational theories and current trends in museum learning. But I also think about ways to make others feel as excited about that art as I am. As an educator, my job is to mediate the space between the art and the viewer, providing some interpretive content at times, but also facilitating the viewer's own independent experience, and allowing them the opportunity to develop a transformative experience for themselves. At its core, art appreciation is about seeing art and forming an opinion. Everyone can do that.

    Here's what I have learned:

    Start with something comfortable.

    Encourage engagement by asking questions that relate to the visitor.

    Make people laugh by saying something foolish.

    Don't provide more information than they want at once.

    Once, they've relaxed throw them a curve to make them think.

    Remind them of what they've learned on their own and how they succeeded.

    And always obseverve your audience to adapt to them.

    Kind of sounds like being a good party host, doesn't it?

     

    Laurie Kilgour-Walsh is a confirmed gallery nerd who is passionate about art and believes that art-based experiences are essential for everyone.  Her experiences include working as the Educator at the Art Gallery of Hamilton since 2006 as well as work at several other galleries in the region. She spends her days thinking about ways to engage visitors in the arts through tours, classes, individual encounters and active social interactions with art.  As a visual artist, she maintains an active studio practice, working in mixed media in a studio littered with scraps of old books, rusted metal, insect wings, and carefully hoarded treasures. @lauriemkw

  • LivingArts: INSECURITIES by Tor Lukasik-Foss

    September 15, 2014 by Lesley Loksi Chan

     

    As a means of an introduction, let me describe my insecurities, of which I have many:

    Over twenty years ago, I got a degree in English and History because I was too chickenshit to go into an arts program.  Instead I learned by doing, making a lot of very naïve, sometimes very bad art, and by dabbling in as many different things as I could pursue.  I have always felt vulnerable because I don’t have an arts degree; but I also know that because of my education, and my constant dabbling, I can do things like write a decent grant proposal, design a postcard, effectively use a biscuit joiner and table saw, yodel, facilitate a public meeting, to list just a few things. 

    I describe myself as being an artist / writer / performer because I am legitimately passionate about all of those things, but also because I’ve never been able to figure out a way of making a living from just one of them.  In fact, I routinely have to tack on arts administrator / educator / casual laborer to my name, in order to make even a modest annual income.

    I live in mortal dread of the German/Yiddish word ‘luftmensch’ which translates as ‘dreamer with no business sense’ or more literally ‘air person’; I also dread the term ‘charlatan’, ‘jack of all trades’, and the proverb ‘bagful of knives, none of them sharp’.  In my low moments, particularly after having met someone who is my age, who is either deeply skilled in a single pursuit, wealthy, or just well organized in their affairs, these words and phrases gurgle up in my brain and haunt me.

    Being a working artist carries with it some public responsibilities. I first learned this in the mid-nineties, after taking a job with the Arts Hamilton (then called the Hamilton and Region Arts Council) and volunteering as a board member at the Hamilton Artists Inc.  It was a palpably different climate back then; art and culture was routinely described as a frill, and there was an unwritten understanding that to remain in Hamilton as an artist was to handicap one’s own potential.  Still, there was a small, angry, dedicated community of people trying to challenge those assumptions.  To be part of it felt in equal measures intoxicating, rebellious, and foolish.   Eventually I learned that fighting for the artistic soul of a mid-size post-industrial city is an absurdly beautiful pursuit, a cause worthy of devoting one’s life. 

    Insecurity is part of the fabric of creative work. Your doubts become the things you confront in order to produce your art.  You put yourself at financial or physical or professional risk in order to keep working.   And you don’t ever vanquish your insecurities; you find ways to use them to make yourself stronger.

     

    Tor Lukasik-Foss (born Hamilton, Ontario, 1967) is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes writing, sculpture, performance, and varied other pursuits.  A major part of his creative practice for the last decade has been a series of performances and performance-related sculptures, loosely assembled under the moniker ‘unlikely concerts’; they are attempts to reformulate the performance stage as a place that is simultaneously public and private, confident and insecure, hidden and exposed.  

    Lukasik-Foss has exhibited both individually and as part of TH&B, an artist collective of which he is a founding member (along with Ivan Jurakic, Simon Frank, and Dave Hind). He writes arts profiles and a regular column for “Hamilton Magazine”, is assiting the City of Hamilton’s Public Art Program, and has recently taught at the Dundas Valley School of Arts as a instructor in the full-time foundation and advanced studies program.   The artist has been awarded the 2007 K.M. Hunter Award for Visual Arts, 2008 Visual Arts Award from the City of Hamilton, a 2009 Hamilton Music Award (Best Male Artist) four Ontario Arts Council Mid Career Visual Arts Grants, and a 2014 Canada Council Visual Art Grant.

    www.torlukasikfoss.com

    www.tinybillcody.com

    www.thbcollective.com

     

  • LivingArts: LITERARY CROWD by Jessica Rose

    September 15, 2014 by Lesley Loksi Chan

     

    You've seen Hamilton's literary crowd before. We're the ones at Mulberry, Radius, or My Dog Joe, obsessing over word counts and syntax on our laptops. We're the ones rushing off to planning meetings, racing against deadlines, and nervously getting up on stage to share our work with others. You've seen us browsing the shelves at Bryan Prince, Bookseller and J.H. Gordon Books. We're not just writers. We're editors, booksellers, festival organizers, librarians, publishers, readers, spoken word artists, and educators. The list could go on.

    Hamilton's literary scene may sometimes seem to lurk in the shadows of Toronto, but we have created our own identity, one that continues to expand to include new faces and new ideas. Some might argue that print is dead, but Hamilton's literary community proves otherwise. Besides our many talented novelists, poets, and essayists, there are literary arts organizations and festivals: gritLIT, Lit Live, Steel City Stories, the Hamilton Poetry Centre, the Hamilton Youth Poetry Slam, and Project Bookmark Canada, to name only a few.

    This Living Arts column will be a space to share my own experiences and observations living and working as a writer, editor, and festival organizer in Hamilton but, more importantly, it will be used to chronicle the ongoing conversations in literary circles. Like all artists, those in the literary arts face challenges, from navigating grant systems, finding our voice in the national scene, and capitalizing on change in the digital age.

    To steal lyrics from a favourite song, "the city loves you; it gives you oxygen." It's a great time to be an artist in Hamilton. I look forward to contributing to the ongoing dialogue and bringing to the page the conversations already being had in bookstores and coffee shops around the city. 

     

    Writer and editor Jessica Rose was born and raised in Burlington, but escaped the suburbs to become a proud Hamiltonian living in the downtown core. Since earning a degree in journalism from Carleton University, she has written for a number of publications across Canada, including THIS, Ricepaper, Broken Pencil, H, and rabble.ca. She is currently a committee member of gritLIT, Hamilton’s Literary festival. She also writes the “Shelf Life” column which appears in every issue of Hamilton Magazine. Jessica edits children's books by day, and writes book reviews by night, many of which appear on her personal blog at www.notmytypewriter.com.

  • L A Y I N G: LivingArts Hamilton

    September 12, 2014 by Lesley Loksi Chan

     

    “To lay is to set something down or put it in a horizontal position. It can also mean to position or prepare something for action, or, simply, to lay eggs.”-- vocabulary.com

    A few days ago, Stephen plucked a book of poems from our office shelf for me. “Read this.” Since then, Amanda Jernigan’s Groundwork has been a gorgeous and sensitive companion to the in-between moments of my day. The first sequence of poems, “Excavations, displays delicately lit vignettes of various labourers on an archaeological dig: The Night Guard, The Fieldworker, The Scholar, The Smuggler, The Physical Anthropologist, The Cartographer, The Cook, The Photographer.  Displaying equal strength in their singularity and their sum, these pieces prevail as a roughed in and wrinkled group portrait of workers by foregrounding the nuances of their work. Jernigan quietly underscores how observing the details of each person’s profession has much to tell us about the larger work site. I don’t know if this is the reason why Stephen recommended Groundwork, and perhaps it is too much of a stretch for me to even connect these dots, but somehow the spirit of this set of poems reminds me of our recent quest for a group of writers for the LivingArts series.

    Assembling a crew for our site has been an exercise in estimation and hope. The search has settled now and we are pleased to announce the following writers for LivingArts Hamilton:

    Crystal Jonasson (Theatre & Performing Arts) - @crystalinhammer

    Laurie Kilgour-Walsh (Arts Education) - @lauriemkw

    Tor Lukasik-Foss (Visual Arts) - @tinybillcody

    Ciara McKeown (Public Arts) - @ciaramckeown

    Steve McKay (Music) - @STEVEathePMG

    Jessica Rose (Literary Arts) - @notmytypewriter

    This series, comprised of six individuals sharing their perspectives on their particular fieldwork, is meant to build a foundation for a better understanding of the current artscape and guide us toward a stronger future for the livelihood of artists. By now, we've all  heard the talk about how revitalization of the Hamilton arts scene is in the pipeline, but how are we to proceed with thoughtfulness and care for artists? It is our hope that the LivingArts writing series can offer us some concrete clues.

    These writers were selected because they have a personal yet broad understanding of what it means to be a working artist in Hamilton: they understand the day-to-day, they have travailed in manifold contexts of arts and culture, they see how the landscape of this city has changed (is changing, will always be changing) and have a deep concern for reconstructing the road for arts workers in this city.

    The LivingArts articles will offer us a close-up of each artist's experience and artistic discipline, but read in relation to each other, they also offer us the benefit of the panoramic view. How does each field have its own set of challenges? Are there similar struggles across the board? Are there ways that we can exchange ideas with other industries and draw from strategies outside of the arts? How can we expand what “art scene” means to benefit artists? What do arts workers need?

    Whether you are an artist or not, LivingArts will speak to you. What I appreciate about these writers is their commitment to make their lived realities relevant and accessible to all, to lay language. Above all, their pieces will widen our viewpoints and give us a clearer picture of how we can all contribute to the improvement of artists’ lives.

    Tor Lukasik-Foss’ article "Insecurities" marks a strong beginning to LivingArts series. Sincere, insightful and fraught with fragile truth, he generously offers us a glimpse into what it means to live with art. Read this.

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