February 26, 2018 by Stephen Near



    Hamilton’s Tower Poetry Society Turns 50 and Shelagh Rogers gets on board.
    March 2001


    The Tower Poetry Society, the oldest poetry group in Canada, is proud to announce that 2001 marks the society’s 50th year of publishing and promoting poetry.

    Such is the exclamation that graces the top of the Tower Poetry media announcements this year - all year. Also new: Shelagh Rogers of CBC Radio has agreed to be the honorary patron for the 2001 anniversary. Society president Eleanore Kosydar couldn’t be happier. Kosydar speaks about the group with the excitement of a new employee on the cusp of a career change. Yet Kosydar has spent the last two years as the organization’s most active volunteer and president, promoting the group, attracting new members and participating in the society’s monthly discussion groups and readings. She claims she was hooked on the group after attending only one meeting. According to Kosydar, Tower Poetry Society is a lively group of people from diverse backgrounds. Meetings are stimulating experiences that involve critiquing each other's various styles of poetry.

    The Tower Poetry Society currently has a membership of about 300, but all meetings are open to the public. The next two are February 11, 2-4pm and March 11, 2-4 pm, at the Carnegie Gallery in Dundas. These meetings are open to the public, but the society encourages people who participate regularly to become members. “That’s how we keep the society going,” Kosydar states. It’s also one way they keep the Tower Poetry Society’s biannual publication afloat. Sales from the publication basically pays production costs, Kosydar explains. The launch of the next issue on June 14 is an extra special event: it’s the society’s special event - Volume 50, issue 1. The launch is at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, 7-9pm and features a poetry reading beginning at 7:30pm. Admission is free, but they request that everyone reserves a seat.

    The Tower Poetry Society had an interesting start 50 years ago and it’s no doubt a story Kosydar will be asked to share more than once this year. In the early 1950s, founder Ida Sutherland Groom, a mino religious poet in England, came to Hamilton with her brother, a McMaster English professor. She came packing the idea and drive to establish a poetry society in the city. After rallying a group of like-minded University types around her the Tower Poetry Society was born. The organization still boasts one founding member: honorary president Jean McCallion.

    Telenko, Sherri. “The Internet: New Medium or Shear Madness?” Arts Beat, vol. 13 , no. 5, February - March 2001, p. 4.


    February 26, 2018 by Stephen Near


    Volunteering for Art’s Sake

        He volunteers for the Hamilton & Region Arts Council. He volunteers for the Tivoli Theatre, for Theatre Aquarius, for Festival of Friends, the YMCA, the Library, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, and… well you get the idea. Maurice W. Rondeau has been called “Downtown’s Art Ambassador’ for all the work he does, gratis.

        “They say volunteers don’t get paid,” says Maurice - the bearer of good cheer and good news, “but I get paid in so many other ways. I’ve had organizations give me free tickets to shows. I’ve got a collection of T-shirts you wouldn’t believe. I go to events and get behind the scenes, cause I like to be where the action is, not to mention the hundreds of good people I meet in my walkabouts.”

        If you venture downtown Hamilton on any given Thursday you’ll probably cross paths with Maurice as he goes from theatre to gallery to office, handing out flyers, posters and brochures. His “walkabout” is his form of exercise (he figures he puts in 10 miles each day). “I got fed up hearing people say ‘I didn’t know this was going on’ so I had to find a way to touch base with different people and distribute what they were doing to a bunch of other people. This is a big city. There’s lots of room for the arts. People should be in touch with other people,” he advises, meaning more than just the sharing of information.

        Maurice has been doing his downtown walkabout for almost five years. He’s handed out programs and worked the front house at Aquarius for almost as long. He’s “done everything” at all the festivals (Mustard, Aquafest, Festival of Friends, and Buskingfest). “Volunteering came naturally to my family,” Maurice explains. “We were involved with Scouting and church activities as a matter of course, so you could say I’ve been volunteering all my life.”

        Figuring he volunteered 700 - 800 hours in any given year, as this year, the International Year of the Volunteer, rolled around Maurice set a goal for himself - 1,000 hours. Trouble is, he passed that mark sometime in September. And in true Maurice style handed out certificates of gratitude to the organizations he volunteered for - thanking them for giving him the opportunity to reach his goal. Now he’s set another goal - another 250 hours by year’s end. The hours are duly recorded at the Volunteer Centre of Hamilton. Maurice says, “If you want to put a little fun in your life - try volunteering.”

        “I volunteer because I want to, not because I’m, obligated to,” says the 59 year old Maurice. In addition to this volunteering, he signs in three choirs (Dofasco Male Chorus, Stoney Creek United Church and Enchanted Ensemble). “I’ve been a singer and dancer my whole life. I love getting in front of an audience.” His self-confidence and talkative nature easily attest to that. Maurice always has a positive opinion, an encouraging word or a cute little story to brighten up anyone’s day. According to Maurice it’s a gift that along with his harmonic voice, deserves to be shared. And those of us who live or work in downtown Hamilton are better for it.

    Hunter, Lawson. “Volunteering for Art’s Sake” Arts Beat, vol. 14 , no. 1, Jan 2002, p. 8.



    February 26, 2018 by Stephen Near


    The Internet” New Medium or Shear Madness?
    March 2001

    Are you online? Will something be passing you by if you’re not? It’s an anxiety that’s sweeping into the art scene especially when we we hear of its potential as the new media, the new form of international communication, and the new revolution. What can the Internet do for artists (or vice versa)? Many artists claim the technology is out of their realm of expertise and don’t know how to benefit from it. Those involved in Website design and distribution claim artists in communities like Hamilton aren’t interested. Others claim the Internet can revolutionize our perception of art and creative expression. WHat does it all mean? An exploration into the issue can be summarized by two trendy words: making and medium.

    For most artists open to new technologies, the Web has a practical use. It is a place to post images of art. Theoretically, the Internet can give you international exposure and it can reduce the cost of sending out portfolios or slides. Of course, there are some disadvantages. Currently, images on the net are no more than 70 dpi and that doesn’t always do justice to the work. Also, many curators haven’t embraced this method of Viewing. You’ll still need shoot slides. But you also need sales, and this seems to be the number one motivator for everyone to explore Internet possibilities. There are several organizations or people who specialize in getting artists on the Internet and often their offers come with the suggestion of income. Does this work? Do people actually buy art on the Internet?

    The answer seems to be not often, judging from Martin Nye’s experience. Nye is a painter living in Dundas who inherited the much-publicized Website. from his sone who expanded the project from a one-site city art Website based in Guelph, to a company responsible for so many art-in-various cities across the world. Nye has since turned the project into a non-profit organization dedicated to helping artists promote themselves on the internet. Curently, he has several sites active including the original;,, and several others including a Seattle-based site and one in London, England called

    Despite the international focus of the entire project, each site is community specific and Nye is continually looking for people interested, on a volunteer-basis, in running each of the 250 registered city sites. Artists who wish to be on a site pay $30 a year membership that includes three scanned images. Most of the works on the sites are original pieces, and most are paintings. But do any of the works sell through the Internet?

    “Not really” Nye states, “but it’s difficult to sell art anywhere. But some people bring the site and it brings them into the physical gallery. Most people want to see the actual pieces they are buying before they commit to purchasing them.”

    Nye also runs the Sunset Gallery on Sunset Avenue in Hamilton. Only artists who are members of art-in-hamilton Website may show at the actual gallery and this is one way he’s been able to attract artists onto his site. He explains that the Internet sites have become a PR tool to entice people to go to an artist studio in their area. “We’d prefer to get rid of the sales part altogether,” he states, “and channel people to where they should go - directly to the artist.”

    The sentiments are echoed  by Evelyn Myrie who runs the Eman Gallery in Hamilton. Her gallery specializes in African art, much of which is displayed on the Website: . She confesses that even though her gallery’s website is equipped for selling over the Internet, few sales are cone this way. “Our site was put up for credibility,” she states. “People take you more seriously and perceive you as a serious business and not a hobby [when you have an Internet site].” She says she has had some international queries about the artwork, but mainly the site is a PR tool designed to attract people from Southern Ontario to come into her Hamilton-based gallery. So predictable, we’ve discovered it’s hard to sell art, in Hamilton and on the Internet. For individual artists, cyberspace might be little more than another place to document work. Or is it? What about the Internet as art?

    The Medium
    More exciting is the potential for the Internet to be used as an artistic medium. Much like the difference between home movies of family gatherings and independent video art, Internet art utilizes the same technology - HTML coding and Javascript - as commercial Website but with a completely different intent. Internet art is supposed to be experienced as art - the site created is a cerebral creative experience meant to engage and stimulate the viewer, not simply to sell or promote anything. However, it’s a very new medium and one with a huge learning curve. There is no one site that can lead you to a plethora of works and few artists are exploring this medium in Hamilton.

    Montreal, Vancouver and to some extent Toronto appear to be the hub of this emerging medium - in Canada anyway, according to Mary Cross the programme director at Ed Video Media Arts Centre in Guelph and curator of digital me, a year-long exhibition of digital and Internet-based art.

    Cross states that she sees an amazing potential for the medium, particularly because the Internet is able to reach international audiences. “Now, it’s who can make it to your show [that gets to see your work], she states. “On the net, it’s who can surf your site.” In addition, she adds, what is unique about Internet rt is its interactive aspect. “Often viewers can add and actually participate in the development of the work.” That said the medium imposes a new set of challenges for traditional artists. In addition to being willing to invest the time in learning coding, artists wishing to work in digital must be willing to let go of some conventional notions of artistic expression. Web artists are aware that not only is the audience able to manipulate their works to varying degrees, but also rarely are the works experienced the same way twice. “Often, viewers are not flipping pages chronologically or watching a video from beginning to end,” Cross explains. “But they are choosing what sequence they want to look at the work. The meaning doesn’t evolve linearly but builds onto itself.”

    Images, sound and definitely text are currently components of digital art works, but how each viewer experiences each work varies and changes. This might explain why the medium is more likely to be embraced by performance artists than artists currently working in traditional mediums, or even video. Granted, the potential for any new medium is exciting, vast, even scary and highly criticized. But more than anything, perhaps what is needed now on the Internet is a bit of self-reflection, and this is exactly what art is equipped to go. Whether we like it or not, technology and the Internet has exploded into a powerful cultural force. It’s time we began to utilize the medium to ask some serious questions about the nature of technology itself.

    That is the beginning. In February, Ed video is presenting an Internet-based art show called Pace Maker. The show will utilize Internet technology to explore the nature of human relationships. The Internet, after all, is a medium we are using more and more as a means of relating, to each other, to society, and, eventually, to art. Maybe it’s time art had a say in the process.

    Telenko, Sherri. “The Internet: New Medium or Shear Madness?” Arts Beat, vol. 13 , no. 5, February - March 2001, p. 8






    February 12, 2018 by Stephen Near


    Canadian Independent Art Video the Next Frontier?
    February 2001

    The True North Strong and Free - and we’ve got it all on tape

    At a time when survivor and Temptation Island dominate television screens, it is easy to forget that video can also be art. But, as long as the medium has existed, there have been artists who have used it as an expressive tool. Against the onslaught of commercial television, video as art may be seen as peripheral, but that has not kept artists from exploring its potential as an art form.

    Not concerned with the then, poor image quality, artists’ use of video appeared alongside, and under the influence of, conceptual art of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Video’s placement as accessible technology and the immediacy of the cultural product it generated made it especially attractive to artists. In the years that followed the form underwent considerable change and was further influenced by concerns of personal narrative, drama, and social activism. In Canada, the network of artist-run centers has been the primary source of production and training for video artists. The existence of these centres has allowed for intense experimentation as well as access to expensive technologies. Unfortunately, for much of the last thirty years, artist-run centres were also the only places in which to see video art. In the last decade though, with the rise in popularity of film/video festivals, and increased participation of video within the wider art and cultural milieu, access to video art has increased.

    What makes working with video unique as an art form is that video artists deal with imagery taken from real life. Artists mediate this experience by interpreting and manipulating it. But at its core, it is a reflection of our world and our selves. A melding of the imaginative with the real gives video its intimacy, its power. Boundaries between high art and popular culture are rendered almost unrecognizable by the medium. It’s one of the reasons so many people have trouble seeing video as art. This clash of medium and message, so well hypothesized by Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s, continues to inform the interaction of video art and its viewers. “Any one of our new media,” he wrote, “is in a sense a new language, a new codification of experience.” Artists mediate this experience by interpreting and manipulating it, but at its core is a reflection of our world and our selves.

    Never before has memory and identity been so accessible in public domain. Video art, as opposed to the commercial nature of mainstream broadcast television, takes as its starting point the artists’ desire to create. Video tends to be an incredibly self-reflective medium, giving artists a previously unknown ability to direct their gaze at themselves. As well, the artist/machine relationship has also given cause for artists to turn their gaze toward our relationship with technology. This ironic, often sardonic treatment of television and mass media culture provides much of its humor.

    Identity too is played out visually and aesthetically. It is this personal and public gaze that characterizes much contemporary video art. It is also willing to take risks. And this includes risks for the artists personally, as they reveal intimate secrets about themselves, or politically, as they often risk offending or being censored. Ultimately, video art refuses to simply entertain.

    Compared to television, video is an ubiquitous presence in our lives. But the dominance of commercial network television has acted as a barrier to the viewing of video work as art. We have become so numbed to the formulas of commercial television production that is is hard for us to see beyond the narrow parameters of the mainstream broadcast format. Commercial broadcast television is seductive. We imagine that through television we can be anywhere, do anything and live vicariously through the lives portrayed there. Television is, despite many cultural critics’ statements to the contrary, an imaginative place. It does reside in a creative space, but it does so without respect to authorship or artistic intent. It becomes generic and homogenized. It is ‘memory-light’. Taste-less and less filling.

    Video art, however, forces the viewer to think and form opinions,  all without leaving room for commercials.


    Loft, Steve. “Canadian Independent Art Video The Next Frontier?” Arts Beat, vol. 13 , no. 5, February - March 2001, p. 9.


  • About ALERT

    February 8, 2018 by Claire Calnan

    Written by Micahel Kras & Sunil Puri

    ALERT (or, Artistic Leadership and Entrepreneurial Training) is a creative producing training program, hosted by the Hamilton Fringe, for young artists and administrators who aspire to be artistic leaders in Hamilton’s burgeoning cultural scene. Each year, a small pool of people is accepted into the program for intimate, hands-on training in a number of essential skills like grant writing, budgeting, community engagement, marketing & social media strategy, curation, fundraising, and more.

    For the past three years ALERT has brought together a diverse group of young people committed to making art in Hamilton. Presented here are the perspective and experience of two of this year’s members.  

    For Michael Kras it started in his third and final year of theatre school:

    I thought of myself as a Capital A Actor, making it through the whole conservatory training thing and preparing myself for what I was sure was going to be an immediate and fruitful career. But half of our final year of training wasn’t about technique anymore. It was about producing skills.

    We were told we’d need those skills. That the work wouldn’t always, or ever, come to us and we’d need to be prepared to make our own if we really wanted to keep doing this whole theatre thing after graduation. They were serious. I was dismissive. Of course I’d get hired out of school! I was a good actor and a good playwright, right? And good actors go to Stratford or Shaw Festival! Good playwrights get programmed by theatres of all sizes! FOREVER!

    Then I left school. And, surprise surprise, Shaw Festival wasn’t calling. Stratford didn’t mail me a contract. I found out it’s wicked difficult to get a theatre company to actually READ your play, let alone produce it. And all at once, I thought: “Damn. They were right. I’m gonna have to do some of this myself.”

    Sunil Puri’s relationship with theatre in the city began as a Fringe volunteer:

    I have always been interested by theatre, and by art in general but I do not have any professional artistic training.  While I had the opportunity to take a number of litterature classes in university that taught me to think deeply and critically, they did not give me any skills to produce my own form of creative expression.  

    I was first introduced to the Fringe Festival when I moved to Hamilton five years ago.  Looking to make new connections in what I considered then to be a “big city” I volunteered with as many cultural organisations as I could.  I was immediately struck by the community of excited and engaged artists that surrounded the festival, and the very capable leadership behind the production of the festival.  

    As I settled in the city I had the chance to work a number of administrative jobs for artists and arts organizations (including the Fringe Festival), all the while I hungered to create.  In partnership with a close friend, Jenny Vasquez, I began to put my creative ideas onto paper, but still lacked the skills and professional context to be able to confidently produce work.  

    That’s where ALERT comes in.

    Through the ALERT program a series of workshops are led by industry professionals and leaders in their respective fields. As a central, practical piece of this training, each member is tasked with heading a component of producing Frost Bites, the Hamilton Fringe’s site-specific sister festival that happens every winter. You not only leave with the theoretical training from workshops, but the practical skills learned and earned through working tangibly on a legitimate arts and culture event in the city. Furthermore, the program offers a place for each of the members to learn from one another’s diverse backgrounds and experiences.  

    Kras explains: When I studied at my particular theatre school, I didn’t realize at the time how lucky we were to get some producing and business training alongside our acting and creation work. In fact, my school is one of the only ones that actively teaches it. Many trained actors are shoved out of their conservatories with three years of technique worked into their bodies and voices, and told “Go!” without having the first clue where to start.

    From there, you face the reality of the theatre industry: you can have talent and drive to spare, but in an oversaturated and underfunded career field, major institutions only have so many resources and opportunities to give out. The reality is, if you want to work frequently in theatre, chances are you’ll have to make much of that work yourself.

    Frankly, in Hamilton, theatre has fallen way behind in the arts and culture boom. Programs like ALERT are there to train our city’s next generation of theatre professionals to help it catch up. It starts with working on Frost Bites (which is going to be loaded with awesome art invigorating Barton Village and you should come check it out), and, hopefully, moves beyond into the creation and nurturing of a robust professional theatre scene in our wonderful, scrappy city of Hamilton. We need a theatre scene that can allow artists to live here, make their art here, and actually make their living doing it.

    That’s a long time off, still. But the training ALERT offers to young artists who are planning to take the community by storm means that it’s far from impossible.