• 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.

    Kerry Schooley (1949-2010)

    ABOUT THE AWARD: First awarded last year at the 20th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards, the Kerry Schooley Award was named after the late Kerry Schooley, the well-known Hamilton poet, teacher, publisher, editor and writer who passed away in 2010. Hamilton born, Schooley was a tireless advocate for writers and writing in the city and was involved in numerous committees and organizations to establish and advance the thriving literary scene that Hamilton now enjoys. Schooley deeply believed in the writers that called Hamilton home, and in the stories that fill this city. Now a key part of the Hamilton Arts Council Literary Awards, the Kerry Schooley Award is awarded to the book from any genre that is “most evocative of the Hamilton region.”


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

  • 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

  • I'm not an artist, but I love the arts!

    November 19, 2014 by Kerry Jarvi

    I don’t sing, dance, sculpt, write or paint. My work history is rather varied and I have never been employed by something within even arm’s reach to the arts.   So... why am I fortunate enough to be on the boards of two incredible arts organizations?  Well… I wish I could sing, dance, sculpt, write or paint.  I am fascinated by the amazing things others create.  I have paintings on my walls that bring me joy every day and never tire of written words that can make me laugh out loud or draw the sincerest of tears.   I hope that in some way, channeling my envy of artists through the skills that I have will support those that can do all of those wonderful things.

    Why are 'non-artists' helpful on arts boards?  We are enthusiastic about what you do.  I have been known to share with great exuberance the wonders of Hamilton Fringe or the supports made available through the Hamilton Arts Council.  It is very easy in our day to day lives to find ourselves surrounded by the same network of people.  We 'non-artists' most likely have a network of people who may not be as involved in the arts community.  We can share what is happening with a broader network.  When signing on to volunteer on a board there is an expectation to fundraise for the organization. This is to benefit what you do and we each have varying abilities to fundraise whether it be cutting a cheque or connecting our colleagues to the cause.  All board members I work with, either artists or not, appreciate the work that staff of arts organizations do.  Generally, wages are not exceptional for staff in arts organizations and I believe most of us hope that we can volunteer our time at events or through committees to lighten their load.   Lastly, us 'non-artists' are generally great consumers of the arts.  We volunteer in arts organizations because we appreciate what you do and want to see your shows, buy your art (although some of us may have walls that are about to burst) or read your articles or books. 

    Help us!  Share with us!  Tell us why you do what you do.  We are genuinely interested and can’t wait to share your work!  Sometimes you may need to ignore our ignorance in your process and teach us.  Speak to us so that we can be better advocates of your work and the arts in general.  Support the organizations that are supporting you.  If you have spare time, volunteer at an event or attend the events that they host.  Share with others why you are involved with those organizations.  Please keep singing, dancing, sculpting, writing and painting - there are many 'non-artists' out there that can't wait to share what you are doing!


    Kerry is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Downtown Hamilton BIA.  She is Vice-President/Secretary for the Hamilton Fringe Festival and a new Director for the Hamilton Arts Council.