• The 20th Hamilton Literary Awards: The Non-Fiction Shortlist

    October 28, 2013 by Stephen Near

    What do ghost stories, kidnapped infants and wandering artists all have in common? They’re all integral parts of the wonderful books that are finalists for this year’s Non-fiction Literary Awards.  From Mark Leslies’ Haunted Hamilton, to Empty Cradle by Diana Walsh, to David Collier’s Hamilton Illustrated, these books have pulled in their readers in many different ways.

    Hamilton Illustrated  is a graphic collection that celebrates the city of Hamilton, created by award-winning graphic novelist David Collier. From the North End to Hamilton Bay, Collier captures the city in his signature style. Gritty and honest, this collection of images and essays brings the city dynamically to life, and explains why Collier has chosen to live and draw in Hamilton for over a decade.

    Mark Leslie’s Haunted Hamilton, is part work of history and part ghost story. This is the book to pick up if you want to explore the city on foot, looking for a supernatural thrill.  With extensive research from the files of the original Haunted Hamilton paranormal group, Leslie takes the reader from the Customs House to Dundurn Castle, pointing out every skeleton in every closet.

    Empty Cradle is Walsh’s true account of the events leading up to and surrounding the abduction of her five day old infant, known to the public as baby Shelby. In a poetic and moving account of the eleven hours that her daughter was missing, Diana Walsh weaves a captivating story. And even though readers know the ending, if they remember the news stories, they still read to the very end, held by the strength of Walsh’s story telling.

    Coming Next: The Fiction Shortlist


  • Writing your Artist Curriculum Vitae

    October 18, 2013 by Stephen Near

    Like the Artist Statement, the Curriculum Vitae (or CV) is a critical component of any artist's portfolio and body of work. An overview of your artistic professional history and achievements, the artist CV lists the chronological order of your career and marks your major accomplishments. Whereas your artist statement is a testimony to your work, the CV is record of your career milestones. When coupled with your Artist Statement, an effective CV illustrates your growth as an artist and the development of your work over time. Although there are many conventions to how to present the information, all artist CVs should be done in a clean and professional manner.

    The following is a list of the information that should be included in your CV followed by some suggestions on what to look for when you go to write your own CV. Just remember that not all of these suggestions necessarily apply to all artists.

    • Personal Information:  Include Name, Address, Phone Number, Email, and Website (if applicable).
    • Education: List all the academic degrees you've earned making note of particular honors. You can include periods of study at schools and universities attended without completing a degree. Additional course work or studies in addition to workshops can be included. Be sure to mention any notable artists and instructors with whom you have studied. Always list these in descending order with the most recent being at the top.
    • Grants and Awards: List any awards or prizes won in competitions as well as grants, fellowships, scholarships and other recognitions. Always list these in descending order with the most recent being at the top and naming of the grant/award as well as city and province.
    • Works Produced: List your accomplishments and major works as an artist. Always list these in descending order by year with the most recent being at the top and delineated according to type (see examples below). List the name of the exhibit/production followed by gallery/theatre company and then city and province.  In the case of exhibitions, you can split them into two or more categories: solo exhibitions, group exhibitions, and even duo exhibitions. For performance artists and theatre, list relevant projects or productions and divide them up according to your role (director, playwright, performer). The same for digital and film artists. The variety of arts disciplines might include:
      • Exhibitions
      • Productions/Performances
      • Performances/Recordings
      • Films/ Videos/Shorts /Digital Media /TV
      • Published Works (where you are the author or co-author)
      • Collaborations (if you have work with others you may want to list it, as well, by indicating your role in the collaboration)
    • Publications: List any items or articles that you have written pertaining to your work as an artist. In the case of authors, this section is different than the Published Works since it is referring to work related to your career as an artist but distinct from your body-of-work. Publications might include non-fiction writing as well as magazine and newspaper articles. Online articles can be included but be selective about such entries and limit them to those directly relevant to your practise and best encapsulate your work. Always list these in descending order with the most recent being at the top.
    • Commissions: List any public or private commission you have done. Always list these in descending order with the most recent being at the top.
    • Collections: List any public or private collections that you are a part of and always list these in descending order with the most recent being at the top.
    • Media and Bibliography: List any items that have been written about you and your work. This includes articles, reviews, catalogues entries and radio and television interviews. This section should not be confused with the publications category. Always list these in descending order with the most recent being at the top and naming the article title, author, publication details, pages, and date of publication or broadcast.
    • Residencies: List any arts residencies in which you have participated and remember that these should be separate from education. Always list these in descending order with the most recent being at the top.
    • Public Speaking: List any lectures, readings and keynote addresses you can mention it here. Always list these in descending order with the most recent being at the top.
    • Professional Affiliations: List any arts memberships you are a part of or any board you have served on. You can also list conference at which you have been an invited or featured guest but speaking at these events is listed elsewhere. “Professional Memberships” or “Professional Service” may also be used. Always list these in descending order with the most recent being at the top and naming the organization as well as your specific role.


    • A CV should be easy to read, typed, and printed on quality paper. The paper should be white, off white or ivory in color. Font size should be no smaller than 10 pt. and should be a font that is easy to read (Arial, Times Roman, Helvetica, Palatino are good examples). Always proofread your CV for errors.
    • The headings or categories that outline your creative work will be most critical to catching the eye of the reader.

    • Don't oversell your work and always remember that less is more. Your CV should be neatly organized, and only include information pertinent to your artistic career. Be sure the headings and sub-headings are clear. They should stand out and can be bulleted, bold, underlined, or italicized.

    • The CV is more conventional than a resumé. It doesn't have an objective or a narrative profile so the emphasis is on content. The CV can also comprise several pages but probably shouldn't be longer than four or five Many artists have two versions: a long and a one-page short.
    • Every CV should detail your accomplishments, endeavours, knowledge and abilities but  should be tailored to your career. So, for example, a visual artist will have exhibition and commissions whereas a theatre artist would have productions and performance workshops. This is why we have included several templates (see examples below).
    • Some artists include resumé experience on their CV if it is relevant to their artist career. If you do this, isolate the experience to things such as teaching or jobs related to your field of art like technical experience or workshops you've given as an artist.
    • Consider using the heading of “selected". Whether or not you have a lot of exhibitions or productions, this heading has benefits as it allows you to weed out those works that are no longer relevant. If you don’t have a large body of work, it also works towards assuring the reader that they are looking at your most relevant history.
    • One of the best ways to write an effective CV is to see how other artists do it. There are many different practices and ways of organizing your information available online. Many galleries or artist’s post CVs on their website so they are easily accessible. Google is your friend.
    • Update your CV regularly. It's easier to apply for grants when you have your CV prepared and updated with your latest work. In this sense, your CV will always be changing and evolving with your development as an artist. You'll find yourself editing out old or irrelevant factors. You may want to keep copies of old CV so that you can keep track of the entirety of your body of work.


    We've included these downloadable links to a series of CV Templates. These Templates are tailored to several arts disciplines and have been created as something to help get you started. As always, feel free to mix and match categories that will best suit the diversity of your artistic career:

    Visual Arts CV Template
    Fine Craft CV Template
    Theatre/Dance & Performing Arts CV Template
    Music Artist CV Template
    Writing Artist CV Template
    Media Artist CV Template
    Community Arts/Arts Education Artists CV Template
    Arts Management CV Template

    **Citations in these templates have all been modeled off of the MLA Style Guide. For details about citation formats use the following LINK.


    For further tips on writing your CV please check out the following books and online resources:

    Get it Right the First Time: An Introduction to Creating Your Artist Résumé by Susan Myers

    How to Write an Artist's CV in 10 Easy Steps by The Practical Art World website

    How To Write An Artist's CV When You Don't Have Much Or Any Professional Experience by The Art World website.


  • Writing the Artist Statement

    October 18, 2013 by Stephen Near

    It's a strange thing that the very artists who are committed to expressing themselves through their art form are sometimes the least outgoing of individuals. Many of us are shy or critical of ourselves and our work. This isn't altogether surprising given the nature of artistic inspiration and the discipline needed to follow through towards a completed work. But it does mean that artists sometimes have a challenge crafting what is an equally important part of their profile: the Artist Statement.

    Yes, I know. "Why do I need an Artist Statement," you might be thinking, "my work speaks for itself so there's no need for a statement." But the Artist Statement benefits you and your profile in ways you might not realize. If you are applying for an project grant or submitting for consideration as part of a competition or awards program, you will need to write an Artist Statement. But, as I said, it's not an easy thing to write. So we want to give you hand.

    We've put together this summary on how to write an Artist Statement including some quick and dirty and pointers on what and what not to write when you sit down to do it.

    • Remember that your Artist Statement is about facts. It is a basic introduction to your art as an artist. It is the what, how, and why of your work, from your own perspective and not a set of instructions on what to experience, what to think, how to feel, how to act, or where to stand.
    • The Artist Statement should serve as a concise personal story of the how, what and why of your work. It should help you convey a deeper meaning to your audience and put your work in context. It should also illustrate your relationship your own work which, ultimately, creates a lasting connection to boost your profile in the minds of the public.
    • A good statement works towards reaching out to as many people as possible and welcomes them to your art, no matter how little or how much they know about art to begin with. A good artist's statement should never exclude the reader.
    • The Artist Statement should be about you and not about the viewer. It should explain what YOU think about your work, not about how the viewer should interpret it. Don't shy away from explaining why you create this kind of art or the motivation behind your work. Just remember that the reader is already "at the table" as it were. There's no need to promote yourself or work. Just tell the reader the personal reasons why you create your art.
    • Like an introduction to a book, your Artist Statement presents the fundamentals of your art so you should write it for people who like what they see and want to know more and NOT those who already know you and everything your art is about.
    • A concise statement isn't longer than a page with three to five succinct paragraphs that provide basic information such as: Why You Make Your Art, What Inspires You To Make It, What It Signifies Or Represents (In Your Opinion), What Is Unique Or Special About How You Make It and What It Means To You.
    • Don't bog readers down with details but rather entice them to want to know more. Think of the Artist Statement as a good first impression. You should hook and invite further inquiry in the same way that a really good story is about to unfold. Give too little and not too much. People have short attention spans and often adjudicators are dealing with large piles of submissions and artists statements. So be concise and keep your writing simple, clear, and to-the-point. Don't feel the need to go into too much detail. That's what your portfolio and samples are for.
    • Your Artist Statement is about you, so personalize it. Write it in the first person and not like you're talking about yourself in the abstract. Infuse it with your unique perspective. Whenever possible, make the statement conversational as if you're speaking directly to readers. The more complicated, theoretical, arcane, inscrutable, or impersonal your statement, the more trouble people will have connecting with you and your art on meaningful levels.
    • On a related note, imagine that your Artist Statement is speaking to the viewer in the artist’s absence.  Therefore, the artist statement should be short, concise and well written in a conversational language. Furthermore, avoid comparative or evaluative comments that have been made about your art by third parties such as gallery owners, critics, collectors, or curators. These testimonials belong in your bio or curriculum vitae. In an Artist Statement they will read like name-dropping which can instantly turn a reader off.
    • Be specific, not vague. For example, if your art is "inspired by assessments of the fundamentals of the natural world," tell which fundamentals you're assessing and how they inspire you. As well, don't instruct people on how to see, feel, behave, respond, or otherwise relate to your art. Nobody likes being told what to do. Instead of saying "You will experience angst when you see my art," say "This art expresses my angst" or "I express my angst through my art."
    • Where possible, the words should match the work. Take a look at the tone or moods expressed in your art. Is it often whimsical? Or is it violent? What is the scale? Make an effort to make your prose reflects some of the qualities of what it describes. Using verbs and adjectives to match the qualities of your creative output will create a statement that both excites and informs.
    • When approaching the writing of your Artist Statement, you should ask yourself questions about your work. Why you have created the work and what is its history? What is your overall vision for your body of work and what are you trying to say in the work? Are there any recurring themes in your work and how does your current work relate to your previous work? What influences your work or is your inspiration?
    • Once you've written your Artist Statement you should keep it up-to-date. If your work begins to change or you tackle new subjects, you can update your statement to reflect your growth. It can be helpful to save previous versions of your artist statement, so you can see how you've changed and grown as an artist.
    • If you have troubling writing the first draft of the Artist Statement, think about it context with art that you've seen elsewhere. Think about a painting, photograph, or exhibit that you loved, hated, or didn’t understand. Then consider a time when someone was viewing your work and asked you questions. What did they want to know? What were they most curious about? It might help to imagine that you were talking to a non-artist friend about your work.
    • You should explain to the reader the “how” of your artistic process. This can include any special techniques that were used in producing your work in the past.  Don't get too technical here. Mention any special materials or techniques but don't go into a step by step guide on how to create your art.

    That's just a rough list but there are plenty more tips that you can find by searching and researching. Good luck!

  • Hamilton on the Fringe

    August 2, 2013 by Stephen Near

    This summer saw the 10th anniversary of the Fringe Festival in Hamilton. For those who may not be aware, the Fringe is an annual 11-day theatre festival where artists from across the city and elsewhere present new and previously produced plays at a variety of venues in the downtown area. This year’s Hamilton Fringe took place at four venues in the downtown area but also included two Bring-Your-Own-Venues (BYOVs) and a new series of mini-gallery shows at three locations along James Street North.

    The Fringe is a summer tradition for theatre artists not just in Hamilton but all across Canada and internationally, as well. As a playwright and performer, myself, I had the opportunity to speak with the Playwrights Guild of Canada about the unique process of playwrights developing new work in the Fringe. I also had the privilege of being involved in this year's Fringe as one of the producing companies with the debut of my new play.

    One of the things that struck me at this year's festival was how diverse and how supportive the companies and artistis were to each other. Without question, this year's Fringe was one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) in the history of the organization with over 45 theatre companies or independent artists performing during the run of the festival. You would be forgiven if you thought that such a large number of artists and shows might not find a wide reception in Hamilton but such is not the case. If anything, the reverse seems to be true.

    Indeed, this year's Fringe was likely one of the most successful in the 10 year history of the Festival. Certainly, it was one of the most dynamic with eclectic and off-beat shows that pushed the boundaries of theatre and took risks in ways I haven't seen in years past. And it sure seems that Hamiltonians wanted to see these plays. Audience numbers were up and the enthusiasm by many local artists both in the line-ups and at the Fringe Club was at an all time high. All of this just serves to remind me that not only is Hamilton growing but that theatre as a form of storytelling in this city is becoming more important and more powerful.

    One of the most exciting things about being an artist in the audience for the many of the shows in this past Fringe was wondering how plays that got their start here might evolve down the road or how artists beginning their career would grow and focus their practice. But regardless of their experience, every artist involved in the Fringe essentially was given a fertile and safe venue for experimentation of new and daring work. And that's at the heart of the Fringe's power.

    Of course, this year there were some bumps along the way. The massive storm that knocked down trees, knocked out power, and flooded some venues served to remind us all that theatre isn't always clean. It can be messy and chaotic. But sometimes that's precisely when the real magic emerges and the beating heart of the story truly comes through.

    No doubt, the folks at the Hamilton Fringe are now taking a bit of well deserved break. But I, for one, can't wait to see what's in store for the Fringe in Hamilton. Be it next year or ten years down the road, I have feeling there's plenty more stories waiting to be told.

  • January 2013 Theatre Arts Committee Meeting Notes

    February 14, 2013 by Stephen Near

    The Theatre Arts Committee was convened this past January by the Hamilton Arts Council as part of our mandate to promote critical dialogue in our creative community. Aside from a general discussion on how to encourage a greater sense of community with the Hamilton theatre scene and the importance of nominating local theatre artists for the upcoming City of Hamilton Arts Awards some of the specific talking points are covered below.

    The TAC was reformed last year with all of the members being theatre artists in the Hamilton region who work to advocate on behalf of theatre arts in the city. The meeting on January 14, 2014 took place at Theatre Aquarius and was attended by Trevor Copp (Tottering Biped Theatre), Ray Louter (Redeemer University College), Radha Menon (Red Betty Theatre), Luke Brown (Theatre Aquarius), Barbara Milne (The Pearl Company) and Stephen Near (Hamilton Arts Council Liaison).

    1) Theatre @ Supercrawl: The Committee discussed how the theatre community could present at Supercrawl 2013. The obstacles of how to present the diversity of Hamilton’s theatre scene amidst a bustling music and visual arts event were also discussed. It was suggested that the community might collaborate together to create a pictorial collage of “moments” from the past year of Hamilton theatre. This might be punctuated by sound bites, video-clips, etc. to create an interactive, multimedia, installation about theatre work and artists in the city. The goal would be to paint a picture about what stories have been told on Hamilton stages in the past year. The Committee also discussed encouraging the use of the Twitter hashtag #hamonttheatre.

    2) Media Coverage for Theatre: The Committee talked about how to better market and promote upcoming productions more to the media in the city. There are concerns about the coverage of theatre by both the Spectator and the View as well as by CBC Hamilton. The Committee discussed the idea of encouraging more widespread use of blogs and to building relationships with local theatre critics and arts reporters to improve coverage of theatre artists.

    3) Upcoming Theatre Events and Productions: The Committee summarized some of the events and productions coming up for them or their companies. Tottering Biped is staging a new work at Theatre Aquarius called First Dance which is in the midst of a tour of southern Ontario universities. Red Betty in partnership with Hamilton Festival Theatre is producing her new show The Circus at the Lyric Theatre also involving Lori Le Mare‘s aerial performance troupe. Barbara reported that the Pearl Company was holding the 1st Annual Winter Theatre Festival featuring plays by Bob Wiseman, Krista McNaughton and playwright Bruce Gooch. Ray reported that Redeemer is doing South Pacific. Luke reported that Aquarius is staging Last Romance with Jamie Farr and is in the midst of planning a series of training workshops open to Hamilton theatre artists.

    4) Hamilton Arts Council news:  Stephen reported that the Hamilton Arts Council will be significantly revamping their website to allow for greater interactivity bu users and members. He gathered feedback from the members of the TAC as to what they would like to see on the site. Stephen also talked about the Annual Theatre Guide and reported on both the positive comments and the critical feedback received from the community. The HAC is planning on releasing a new Guide for 2013-14.

    5) Project Funding: The Committee discussed the issue of Hamilton artists getting theatre project funding. They discussed the recent initiative by the City of Hamilton Arts Advisory Commission and the Arts Funding Task Force to address the issue of municipal level arts funding. The Committee discussed the deficit of project funding from the OAC towards artists in Hamilton. Much of the funding seems to be going to artists in Toronto. The Committee raised the prospect of Hamilton theatre artists communicating to the OAC about the growth of the arts community in the city and opening a dialogue about how to improve the prospect of funding from the province.

    6) Canadian Plays and Playwrights: Stephen mentioned that he is in talks with thePlaywrights Guild of Canada and local Guild member playwrights on how to get more new Canadian plays by local playwrights produced by community theatre companies in Hamilton.