• The 20th Hamilton Literary Awards: The Kerry Schooley Award Shortlist

    November 8, 2013 by Stephen Near

    Making its debut at the 20th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards is the Kerry Schooley Book Award. Named in honor of the late Kerry Schooley, the Award recognizes those books that celebrate and are most evocative of the city of Hamilton. Schooley was himself a well-known Hamilton poet, teacher, publisher, editor and noir-fiction writer but passed away in 2010. Born in this city, he was heartened by the growth of the arts community and was a cornerstone of the Hamilton Literary scene. This year, the Hamilton Arts Council is pleased to feature three intriguing stories that capture the spirit of this great city.

    A Private Man, by Chris Laing, is an smart novel about the adventures of a former RCMP officer and army veteran turned private detective in post-war Hamilton. Laing's hard boiled story leads the reader to the upper echelons of Hamilton's high society and then back through the gritty streets of steeltown as our "medium-boiled gumshoe" tackles a complex conspiracy of arson, art theft, murder and money laundering. Given how much A Private Man embraces the genre of noir, it is an appropriate finalist for this Award given Schooley's own love of the mystery thriller.

    Jeffrey Luscombe's remarkable debut novel, Shirts and Skins, shows the reader Hamilton through the ever-changing perspective of a young man coming-of-age. In a series of compelling  stories, the books tells the tale of a boy who yearns to escape the city for a better life far from the steel mills. But Josh eventually learns that you can never truly leave your hometown behind. Both charming and realistic, Shirts and Skins is a unique take on the ‘coming out’ novel set amid the sometimes gritty environment of industrial Hamilton.

    The Fishers of Paradise, by Rachael Preston, tackles one of Hamilton's forgotten chapters in history and breathes new life into the literary character of the city. Set amid the 1930s boathouse community of Cootes Paradise, Preston's story follows the Fisher family in a story about about choices, relationships and how we allow such factors to define us. A finely drawn work of historical fiction, The Fishers of Paradise shows readers the currents of civic conflicts running beneath the more intimate human drama of crime, passion and intrigue that are set centre stage in the book.

    The 20th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards take place on November 12th, 2013 at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton, ON.

  • The 20th Hamilton Literary Awards: The Fiction Shortlist

    November 6, 2013 by Stephen Near

    This year, the Hamilton Literary Awards features three outstanding and stylistically wide-ranging  books as finalists for the Fiction Award. From Sky Gilbert's Come Back, to Sleeping Funny by Miranda Hill, to Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy, these books offer a diversity of voices and approaches to fiction that have made this category one of the most intriguing in this year's Literary Awards.

    Come Back, the sixth novel by noted Canadian author and playwright Sky Gilbert, embraces the notion of the novel as autobiography. With his signature wit and cutting insight, Gilbert tells the story of a 138-year-old Judy Garland still alive in the mid-21st Century and writing a thesis at UofT on a gay Canadian playwright named Dash King. A unique entry into the realm of speculative fiction, Come Back asks questions not only about celebrity and aging but also the nature of sexual identity.

    Sleeping Funny, Miranda Hill’s short-story collection, is a rich mixture of down-to-earth realism and the fantastical. Throughout the collection, we see Hill's understanding of the strange and magical comedy of life as she moves through a kaleidoscope of voices and characters, each of whom easily connects to the reader. Filled with both tragedy as well as unusual, even miraculous, events, Sleeping Funny is a remarkable debut collection and a showcase of Hill's writing abilities.

    With Small Medium at Large, first-time author Joanne Levy weaves a captivating tale of a young girl named Lilah who suddenly gains the ability to hear the voices of the dead after a freak turn of fate. Levy skilfully captures the self-deprecating humour and angst of a seventh-grader while seamlessly cutting between Lilah's dialogues with the living and the ghosts following her. An accomplished work of Young Adult fiction, Small Medium at Large is an optimistic tale which never forgets to remind readers about the turbulence of being an teenager.

    Coming Next: The Kerry Schooley Award Shortlist

  • Hamilton Arts Council Membership Survey

    November 5, 2013 by Stephen Near

    Since our founding in 1969, the Hamilton Arts Council has been membership-driven organization, dedicated to serving and supporting the diversity and talent represented in our arts community.

    Our 2013-15 Strategic Plan renews our commitment to advocating for the arts in Hamilton and empowering artists to sustain their creative works.  Learning more about Hamilton’s artists and the issues they encounter is an important part of our work and helps us identify new and better ways to serve both current and future members.

    This short, 10-question survey will ask you about your role in Hamilton’s arts community and seek suggestions for how the Hamilton Arts Council might be able to assist you and your work in this city. Completing the survey should take no more than three minutes of your time.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feedback with the Hamilton Arts Council!

  • Innovation through Stimulation: How the Arts Can Drive Economic Development

    October 30, 2013 by Diana Weir

    The Hamilton Arts Council is pleased to launch a new monthly series on our blog featuring observations and reflections from individuals on our Board of Directors. First up this month is Diana Weir, our Board’s Vice-President, Membership Committee Chair, and Partnerships Manager with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.

    The Creative Industries sector is one of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s five priority points taken from last year’s Economic Summit.  Music, craft, design, visual arts, symphony and theatre are all part of the creative industries sector as are commercial ventures as film, television, radio, graphic design and entertainment distribution.

    One clear message among Creative Industries is an unrelenting thirst for innovation. In fact, 2010 – 2015 Hamilton’s Economic Development Strategy is so bold as to base its entire strategy on an infrastructure to support innovation—one that encourages us to continuously learn and productively change. 

    So, what do the arts have to do with innovation and economic development?

    To support the innovative change that our community will thrive on, Hamilton needs to be exposed to new ideas, new practices and different ways of doing things that shift underlying assumptions and are discontinuous from previous practices.  If, as Todd Hirsch tells us, we’re “only as good as our last creative idea” then the arts and culture in Hamilton are the catalyst to that type of thought.

    Steve Zades, chairman and CEO of US advertising firm LHC (now Mullen), once said, “Contemporary art is the R&D lab of the future.”  Zade grew up playing guitar and cello and later got his MBA at Columbia and worked for Procter & Gamble.  He felt it was time to make the connection between arts and economy, gain a fresh perspective through the arts and encounter new experiences that generate ideas. 

    The arts challenge our ideals, present new ways of perceiving the world, show us that there is a multiplicity of answers to life’s questions and encourage us to think critically of our surroundings. 

    Economic development rests on a foundation of innovation.  If we want to innovative, we have to be creative.  Creativity needs a stimulus and that stimulus is the arts.  The arts allow all Hamiltonians, including entrepreneurs, corporations, small businesses and investors, the opportunity to be bombarded by new experiences, open their minds to different ways of doing things, and share and compare ideas on life, community and society.   

    As an example, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra is shifting underlying assumptions of classical music and engaging corporate and community partners with new ways of interacting with the arts.  Radius Café on James St. S. partnered with the HPO’s young patron program, hpoGO, to bring a mini-performance to the streets.  Guests on the outdoor patio heard dogs barking and busses driving by as they enjoyed a Mozart Violin and Viola Duet by HPO musicians Cecilia Chang and Elspeth Thomson. 

    There are countless other ways to inspire your creativity: attend live professional theatre at Theatre Aquarius, take in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton or create art first hand by volunteering or taking classes at the Dundas Valley School of Art.  

    It is through a combination of these activities and other business initiatives that our community will experience the kind of innovation that leads to economic growth. Communities that invest and participate in the arts will see benefits.


    Stretch your Mind

    Concertmaster Stephen Sitarski makes his solo debut as he performs Antonio Vivaldi’s exquisite Four Seasons, in a program featuring the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra brass in the riveting Canzonae by Giovanni Gabrieli, and climactically ending with George Frideric Handel’s magnificent Royal Fireworks Music at Hamilton Place on Saturday November 2 at 7:30.

    November's Lit Live Reading Series on Sunday November 3 features lost canoes, ranches, bullets, broken china, epithalamiums, nervous cities, moon howling, and hosting from Epic Books.  Not to mention good food and drink at Homegrown Hamilton and the always warm and convivial audience.

    Graeme Patterson: Secret Citadel is a major solo exhibition from this New Brunswick artist which premières at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Patterson's detailed large scale sculptures of a mountain, houses, bunk beds and more contain miniature worlds within that hint at nostalgic memories.

  • 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