• Talking Arts Education on Culture by the Minute

    March 6, 2012 by Stephanie Vegh

    The dialogue we started around Arts Education in Hamilton at our inaugural Committee meeting took a step further into the public sphere last week with our appearance on Cable 14‘s ‘Culture by the Minute’. Hosted by Stephanie Seagram from the freshly rebrandedCobalt Connects and a member of our aforementioned committee, the conversation allowed us to build an even wider awareness of the need for equal access to Arts Education for all students in Hamilton. We were also able, in the world’s fastest fifteen minutes, to celebrate the achievements of Hamilton arts organizations that are working to foster that equal access, represented by our co-panelist Pat Gough from CORE Hamiltonand a visit with Matt McInnes at The Print Studio.

    Culture by the Minute, February 27 2012

    Thanks again to Stephanie and Pat for a great conversation! The Arts Education Committee’s next meeting will take place in April depending on the schedules of our hard-working team; feel free to get in touch with us with any questions or comments about this or other committees of the Hamilton Arts Council.

  • Committee Notes: Executive Director’s Circle

    February 24, 2012 by Stephanie Vegh

    The first Executive Directors Circle convened by the Hamilton & Region Arts Council in 2002 brought together Directors, Managers and Administrators of arts organizations in the City of Hamilton four times a year to share successes, information and challenges. As part of the Hamilton Arts Council’s renewed mandate to promote critical dialogue in our creative community, we have restored this valuable forum to promote collaboration among arts organizations and inform our ongoing arts advocacy in Hamilton.

    This first meeting of the 2012 ED Circle on January 25 was attended by Cheryl Blakeney,Factory Media Centre; Jeremy Freiburger, Imperial Cotton Centre for the Arts; Arthur Greenblatt, Dundas Valley School of Art; Colina Maxwell, The Print Studio; Elizabeth McLuhan, Workers Arts & Heritage Centre; Carol Podedworny, McMaster Museum of Art; Stephanie Vegh, Hamilton Arts Council; George Wale, Burlington Art Centre; Diana Weir,Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra; Vitek Wincza, Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts; and Lorna Zaremba, Theatre Aquarius.

    Hamilton Arts Council’s Strategic Direction – This meeting was convened in the context of the Hamilton Arts Council’s recent shift towards networking, service and advocacy. Our new office at 22 Wilson Street will provide a drop-in centre for public information, artist consultations and meeting space for committees and workshops with off-site venues used for larger meetings and events. The Hamilton Arts Council is also developing a new website with an events calendar to help coordinate community activities. In this context, the ED Circle is asked to provide feedback on the services and advocacy required by the arts community.

    Communication with City Hall: The Hamilton Arts Council advocates on behalf of the arts community, allowing artists and organizations to focus on fulfilling their creative missions.

    The present funding model for arts organizations under the Community Partnership Program is a difficult fit that creates competition with social services for funding. A change in the granting structure is expected once Culture merges with Tourism under Planning & Economic Development though details of such a change are as yet unknown. The Funding Task Force of the Arts Advisory Commission is researching a municipal funding model for the arts in Hamilton. The ED Circle will be proactive in reviewing the recommendations of this study and advocating in the best interests of Hamilton’s arts community.

    The City’s process for commissioning public art has become more difficult, expensive and inaccessible to artists and small collectives, particularly those at an emerging level.

    A strong relationship between the Hamilton Arts Council and the Culture Division is vital to fostering transparency between the City and the arts. The ED Circle would like the Hamilton Arts Council to hold the Culture Division accountable to the cultural community and request a quarterly report for discussion with this group. As well, the successes of the arts community should be shared with City Councillors on a regular basis to keep culture’s contributions to Hamilton continuously known.

    Creating a Cultural Action Plan for Hamilton – The City of Hamilton does not yet have a Cultural Policy document, without which it is difficult to hold the City accountable to the arts.

    The ED Circle needs to speak with a cohesive voice that maintains our mutual strength. Citing Toronto’s Cultural Action Plan as an example, the group proposes creating its own Cultural Action Plan from a place of positivity and strength to demonstrate what the sector can achieve collaboratively. James Street North is one example of an unforeseen socio-economic transformation achieved by culture working together. The arts promote a strong positive image for the city and receive little support in return for their contribution, though this perception is slowly shifting in recent times.

    The Imperial Cotton Centre for the Arts’ new mandate will place increasing emphasis on cultural research at a regional level. Their new website will include data collection that will support the cultural community and aid the development of a Cultural Action Plan. The ED Circle also notes the importance of developing and creating meaningful change as a result of this research.

    Connecting the Arts with Private Sector Support – The real economic impact of the arts is a message that needs to be widely communicated.

    Rich and powerful people are able to influence funding and policy decisions in spheres that are often inaccessible to cultural workers. Those who lend their influence to the arts need to be visibly celebrated as advocates for the arts and equipped with the research necessary to back up their support. MP David Sweet and MPP Ted McMeekin are cited as strong political supporters of the arts.

    The Hamilton Arts Council should provide an economic case for supporting the arts in Hamilton and help establish connections between the arts and local business. Support from the business sector needs to be grown and shared, especially now that so many large businesses in Hamilton are gone. At present, ArcelorMittal Dofasco and Upper James Toyota are cited as strong local business supporters of the arts.

    An informal poll of the ED Circle found that most arts organizations present raise only 5-10% of their total annual budgets through private sector support with 40% as the largest percentage. A collective development officer funded by organizational contributions and matching grant funding is proposed as a means to share resources across the sector. While a shared development officer may be able to mediate private sector funding for the widest community benefit, expectations of a development officer can run high and it is essential to have the right person in the role to make effective use of the investment.

    The ED Circle will continue to meet quarterly throughout 2012. Inquiries about this committee of the Hamilton Arts Council can be forwarded to Stephanie Vegh.

  • A Promising Kick-off for LitLive 2012

    February 13, 2012 by Stephanie Vegh

    The first LitLive reading series event of 2012 had some Super competition from a certain sporting event held on the same night. But the lineup of diverse and animated authors to take the stage at Homegrown Hamilton on February 5 did not disappoint.


    Maria Meindl

    Maria Meindl began the evening with biography, reading from her new book, Outside the Box: The Life and Legacy of Writer Mona Gould, The Grandmother I Thought I Knew. Meindl’s literary tribute grew out of the five years she spent sorting through 38 chaotic boxes of Gould’s journals, letters, and personal effects.

    Her reading, like the book itself, was an intersection of family myth, her personal memories, and actual excerpts from Gould’s archives. Each piece brought to life a different layer of a renowned poet and broadcaster—an eccentric, wildly talented woman who began publishing in the 1920’s and later ventured into radio. Along with Gould’s extravagantly told anecdotes and Meindl’s tender, inquisitive recollections, she offered “curmudgeonly earfuls” of letters from prolific Saturday Night editor BK Sandwell, who worked with Gould throughout her poetry career. A real treat.


    Gary Barwin

    Next up was a lyrical smorgasbord of science, pirates, and….dinosaur porn (yes, you read that right). Hamilton’s own Gary Barwin read from his frenetically imaginative body of poetry and fiction with theatrical flair. He began with a magical-realist tale of a “single, marvelous hair” –a hair that grew so astonishingly long that it drew crowds, confused migrating animals and became “a comb over for Jupiter.”

    Barwin then read an ode to the briefcase, a poem about a virus on a wrestler’s shorts, and a piece from a novel-in-progress told from the perspective of a Yiddish pirate’s parrot. He ended with a prehistoric romp of a poem, which imagined the ancient coitus of giant dinosaurs. No one could claim he went out with a whimper.


    Rebecca Rosenblum

    Rebecca Rosenblum ended the first set with fiction, reading from The Big Dreamher collection of stories whose characters all work at the same magazine publishing company. Her story, “Cheese Eaters,” took place in the workday world of Photoshop, aquarium screen savers, and awkward office mate lunches. It was a setting likely familiar to many audience members, but made freshly inviting by her realistically quirky dialogue and characters.

    Rosenblum read only half of the story, stopping just as Rae, the jaded, dryly witty and newly divorced mother at the heart of the story receives a panicked phone call from her ex-husband. Surely many audience members either purchased a copy at intermission – or went home eager to secure a copy – just to see what happens next.


    Intermission at LitLive, Homegrown Hamilton


    Poetry from CarapaceLaura Lush’s newly published fourth collection, began the second set. She started off with intimately voiced poems on motherhood. First was a glimpse of the eerie, moon-like environment of a Toronto maternity ward during the SARS outbreak, where she gave birth to her son amid hushes and masks and gloves, with awkwardness and awe. She also shared from her series of poems inspired by the life of famousAmerican arctic explorer Robert E. Peary, stunning us with sensory imagery of flowing ice, “barely stitched together wind,” and noises “rising from the depths of tundra neither animal nor human.”


    Russell Smith

    If you’re a Globe and Mail subscriber, you’ve likely read at least a few words by Russell Smith, a weekly columnist on culture and arts as well as advice for men. Smith shared two scenes from his seventh and latest novel, Girl Crazy.

    As the audience learned in the introduction, the novel is currently being adapted for the screen. And it was easy to see why. Set in stylish suburban Toronto, Smith’s novel explores the life of a 32-year old community college instructor with an appetite for violent video games and ogling women. The two excerpts read by Smith that night—one Justin’s phone conversation with an ex-girlfriend and the other a date with a sexy young woman from another class—were executed in punchy dialogue that hinted at a work that dared to challenge social mores without boring its audience along the way.


    Adam Sol

    The night ended with planets and prophets. Poet Adam Sol opened with a mischievous lament to Pluto after its recently demotion to a “dwarf planet”. It was part political satire, part ironic meditation on art, and all playfully original. But Sol was just getting warmed up for the epically inventive reading to come: excerpts from Jeremiah, Ohio, his modern recasting of the biblical story of the doomed prophet.

    Described as “a novel in poems,” Sol’s novel has two narrators—the prophet-protagonist himself and his scribe, Bruce—and Sol shared both of their voices. Instead of taking a longsuffering journey through ancient cities, these two characters embark on a pilgrimage through American towns—the land of Twinkies, state parks, road kill, and flea market women “selling suitcases at the Sunday Jubilee along with ceramic geese and rifles.”

    Appropriately, Sol read in an urgent, commanding voice—and mimicked scriptural style in language and cadence. He was also unapologetic about “stealing liberally” from the two books of the Bible that inspired his imaginative tale.

    “[Their town was] an astonishment and a hissing?” he said, quoting but one of his many stunning phrases. “I couldn’t have invented that. That’s just way too cool.”

    As for the night itself, it was an astonishment of literary talent, and an exciting beginning to a new season of this beloved, long-running monthly reading series.

    For more information about the LitLive Reading Series, visit

    Adele Konyndyk is a Hamilton-based based freelance writer and editor. She’s also a huge CanLit adorer and, like many in the country, especially fangirly about Alistair MacLeod and Alice Munro. Currently Adele is at work on her first book, a collection of short fiction. You can email her or follow her on Twitter @AdeleKonyndyk.

    The Hamilton Arts Council is still welcoming contributors to write about music, theatre, dance, visual arts, fine craft and all manner of creativity in our city – check out our call for contributors and contact us today at with your ideas!



    February 10, 2012 by Stephanie Vegh

    The Hamilton Arts Council is happy to report the unanimous vote of our Board of Directors to relocate our offices to the Sonic Unyon Record Company building on Wilson Street from April 2012.



    Our new home on the 2nd floor of 22 Wilson Street in downtown Hamilton offers a professional public office setting that places us in the heart of an ever-expanding cultural community in the James North Arts District. We look forward to joining a vibrant group of creative industries within this building that includes Sonic Unyon Records & Distributing,AdFilms Ltd.Environment HamiltonE-Mission TouringHidden Pony/Upper Management,Jenna RoseJeremy GreenspanLori LeMare Studios, and Silver Reel.

    This new location will support the Hamilton Arts Council’s reinvigorated mission to advocate, mediate and communicate for the role of the arts in Hamilton. This centrally-located, administrative centre will continue to provide cultural information to the public as well as professional development support to artists and meeting spaces for our active committees.

    As we turn our focus to those activities that will have the greatest impact on all sectors of our creative community, we will also be bidding farewell to the Boutique and Gallery programs that have been features of our current location at 279 King Street East. We will be contacting member artists shortly to arrange for collection of art, fine crafts and books registered in our Boutique prior to the end of our lease on March 31, 2012 and remain available to answer any questions you may have at any time.

    Stay tuned for further announcements as we continue to work towards our re-opening at 22 Wilson Street in April 2012 – we look forward to welcoming you to our new home!

  • 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.