• Committee Notes: Arts Education in Hamilton

    February 8, 2012 by Stephanie Vegh

    As part of the Hamilton Arts Council’s commitment to keep our community informed of the latest discussions affecting creative practice in our city, we’re pleased to introduceCommittee Notes as one of several regular features to appear on this blog. These posts highlight the key conversations emerging from our committees, inviting you to reflect and share in their future development.

    The Arts Education Committee is a new committee of the Hamilton Arts Council, formed in January 2012 in response to feedback from a number of our organizational members and community partners. Our first meeting on January 19 was attended by Beth Gibson,Industry-Education Council; Astrid Hepner, An Instrument for Every Child; Tricia LeClair,Hamilton Children’s Choir; Matt McInnes, The Print Studio, Tessa Ryan, Turn-Around Projects; Stephanie Seagram, The Cossart Exchange, Diana Weir, Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and Karen Wilkins, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, with Hamilton Arts Council representation from Stephanie Vegh, Executive Director and Stephen Near, Program Director. Guests invited to present to this group were Sarah Ehmke of the City of Hamilton’s Culture Division and Paul Weston from HECFI.

    Guest Presentation from Sarah Ehmke, City of Hamilton Culture Division

    Sarah Ehmke presented the 2012 Nominations guidelines and explained updates to the eligibility criteria. Nominations are due February 17, 2012 – for more information.

     Guest Presentation from Paul Weston, HECFI

    Paul Weston proposed to HECFI that rooms in the Hamilton Convention Centre be offered to arts organizations to run youth summer programs. The space would be offered rent-free with minimal costs to cover staffing for set-up, cleaning and catering. A workshop has been scheduled for March 5 at the Hamilton Convention Centre to present this opportunity to the wider arts community.

    Roundtable Discussion

    The group was asked to reflect on their present experiences working with youth, challenges being faced, and what we think this group can achieve to address these challenges.

    Shared Resources: Interface between arts organizations can create access to a larger pool of art instruction talent and an overall sharing of resources.

    Arts organizations have the capacity to help both students and teachers by providing arts activities typically not offered in students and providing expertise not available to generalist teachers, especially at elementary level. Access to arts educators who can work with both students and teachers could be facilitated by this group.

    Visibility/Communication: Arts organization working with youth need visibility and communication with schools in order to attract students to their programs.

    Beth Gibson of the Industry-Education Council has contact with both school boards as well as post-secondary institutions and is well placed to pass this information along to educational institutions.

    Karen Wilkins, Arts Consultant for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) has an elementary arts contact in every school committed to passing information on to staff. In secondary schools, this information is passed to specialist arts teachers and department heads. Responses of principals to this initiative have been very positive and welcoming.

    Developments within HWDSB: Arts Consultant Karen Wilkins shared a number of developments in HWDSB’s commitments to Arts Education.

    An Arts Strategy document identifying the HWDSB’s commitments to Arts Education and implementation strategies for short and long term will be released to principals in Spring 2012. The document addresses students, staff/teacher development, and community/parental involvement.

    Karen is collecting “exemplary timetables” to identify best practices for integrating arts into the curriculum. Arts educators are increasingly recognizing the value of integrating the arts as a multidisciplinary link between curriculum areas, as in the case of The Print Studio’s Eco Arts program. Karen lauds this approach over the one-off field trip and the arts presented without a wider context.

    Media arts is linked to several curriculum areas and taught by specialists in arts, sciences, and communications with no specific accountability to teach digital media as an arts discipline. Technologies along with creativity are 21st century fluencies that are in high demand in HWDSB schools. Principals want support as instructional leaders in their schools and collaborative learning is also in high demand.

    Barriers to Equal Access: At present, arts education is not consistently and readily accessible to youth across the city.

    While individual teachers within schools can sometimes develop outstanding arts programs in a high-needs setting, these opportunities arise by chance rather than design. In Hamilton in particular, diverse populations create more pressing socio-economic concerns in the classroom that compel teachers to meet basic needs at the expense of arts programs that could also play a positive role in improving the quality of life for these students.

    This committee would like to see education programs that bring together students of different backgrounds and bridge geographic divides such as that between the mountain and downtown. At present, affordability of programs and transportation for youth from socially disadvantaged backgrounds are key challenges to establishing such programs.

    Ontario Arts Council Granting Programs: The Ontario Arts Council administers a number of programs to fund artists working in schools.

    Very few Hamilton artists are applying for the Ontario Arts Council’s grants for artists to work in schools and those artists outside of Hamilton who receive grants are not opting to travel to Hamilton schools. The Hamilton Arts Council plans to invite the program officer to Hamilton to educate local artists on these opportunities. Karen notes that music expertise is in high demand in Hamilton schools, especially in for grades 4-6.

    Learn more about OAC Granting Programs for Arts Education by following this link to the OAC website.

    A Facebook Group has been established to connect members of this committee with others in Hamilton’s Arts Education community. Join the conversation today at Arts Education in Hamilton.

    The Hamilton Arts Council is still welcoming arts writers to contribute articles to this blog –see our guidelines here. Member Profiles are also welcome on an ongoing basis – see our standard profile questions here.

  • Coming Soon: Member Profiles

    January 20, 2012 by Stephanie Vegh

    Starting in February 2012, the new Hamilton Arts Council blog will include an ongoing series of Member Profiles that will celebrate the work of our member artists and organizations across all disciplines. Member Profiles will be posted here on a bi-weekly basis and will be scheduled wherever possible to ensure equal representation of the range of creative disciplines supported by the Hamilton Arts Council.

    Members in good standing interested in being included in this recurring feature are invited to submit their responses to the following questions to – please note that the Hamilton Arts Council reserves the right to edit responses for spelling, grammar and clarity before posting your Member Profile to our blog.

    1.a) Your Name:
    b) Your Website URL (optional):

    2. Tell us about your creative practice:

    3. What motivates you to live and work in Hamilton?

    4. What have you seen or experienced in Hamilton lately that has inspired you?

    5. What are you working on right now? Which upcoming project are you most excited about?

    In addition to your written responses, members may include up to three images, video and/or audio components as part of their profile in any combination desired (for example, three images, one image and two videos, two audio and one video) provided the total number of images, video and audio is no greater than three.

    Please note the following criteria before sending your materials:

    Images: File size not to exceed 1MB, 72dpi resolution. Please include captioning information of images depicting visual art, fine craft, etc.

    Video: Links to video posted online with embed coding enabled (via YouTube and Vimeo for example) is preferred; otherwise, video files sent for upload cannot exceed 2MB.

    Audio: Links to audio posted online with embed coding enabled (via Soundcloud for example) is preferred; otherwise, audio files sent for upload cannot exceed 2MB.

    There is no deadline for this call but priority within our posting schedule will be on a first-come first-served basis. Please send your responses to the questionnaire, images and links to

  • Call for Contributors

    January 20, 2012 by Stephanie Vegh

    The Hamilton Arts Council is inviting expressions of interest from all creative disciplines to contribute to the Hamilton Arts Council Blog. Starting in February 2012, these pages will feature a range of topics relevant to the arts in the Hamilton region, creating opportunities to promote and discuss the work of Hamilton artists.

    At this time, we are particularly interested in receiving proposals for the following:
    - reviews of exhibitions, events and performances in the Hamilton region
    - behind-the-scenes experiences that shed light on the creative process
    - professional development advice for artists (e.g. portfolio preparation, how to audition, etc.)

    Writers are asked to submit a brief proposal of their intended topic as well as two writing samples as either Word/PDF attachments or links to work published online to Please note that writers are asked to contribute on a voluntary basis as we are not yet able to pay writers.

    For questions and comments, please contact Stephen Near, Program Director, at


  • Out with the old…

    January 6, 2012 by Stephanie Vegh

    As 2012 gets underway, the Hamilton Arts Council has been working busily behind the scenes to lay the groundwork for some exciting new changes to improve our ability to serve and promote the many artists and organizations working to make Hamilton the brilliant creative city that it is. One such change coming soon will be hitting this blog in particular – what was previously a means to promote the artists of our Hamilton Club auction back in November will grow to cover a far wider range of topics relevant to Hamilton’s cultural community, so be sure to watch this space for new developments in the coming weeks!

    In the process of preparing for this new direction, however, it has come to our attention that many of the latter Artist Preview posts we created leading up to the auction are no longer archived on this blog. Our tech support monkey attributes this to an event he refers to as the “Great Server Migration” but the bottom line remains that these posts are now irretrievably lost to the digital ether.


    An apt metaphor – William Blair Bruce, The Phantom Hunter. 1888, oil on canvas. Collection of the Art Gallery of Hamilton.


    Regardless of this loss, we will be moving forward in the security of our shiny new server to send a greater diversity of content your way, from advocacy to member profiles to news on all our upcoming events and initiatives. Suggestions for articles are, of course, more than welcome – drop us a line at with your thoughts.

  • Featured Artist: Sonya de Laat

    November 10, 2011 by Stephanie Vegh

    Rounding out a selection of featured artists this week who take their inspiration directly from the streets of Hamilton is Sonya de Laat, who is contributing an excerpt of her prolificBarton Village series to An Evening of Art at the Hamilton Club.

    Barton Village, a small neighbourhood nestled at the base of the industrial heart of the Steel City, has had its glory days but has also suffered neglect and, at times, abandonment.  Reflections of this shifting identiy are visible in the images Sonya de Laat has produced of storefronts both old and new, reconfiguring her panoramas as businesses open and close.


    Barton Village


    The photographs of Barton Village are produced with a heat transfer technique de Laat developed specifically for this series. The resulting works are muted in tone, and soft in effect.  The loss of detail produced in the transfer technique does not romanticize the image; rather it becomes a reflection of the accumulated grit that is part of urban living.  Ultimately, each canvas becomes a uniquely rough yet softly positive record of history.

    About the Artist:

    Sonya de Laat is a photographer and anthropologist whose work has been exhibited in a number of shows locally including the Fine Art and Craft Festival at Burlington Art Centre, Art in the Workplace at McMaster Innovation Park, and Sunrise Gallery. Her Barton Villageseries has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions at Carnegie Gallery in 2010 and the Hamilton Arts Council in 2011.