• The Real Dirt

    February 23, 2015 by Lennox Toppin

    When first approached with the opportunity to write the February blog for the Hamilton Arts Council, I did what any arts loving Board Member would do: I balked. In spite of it originally being discussed early last fall, I knew, come February, we would likely be in the middle of some kind of enduring deep freeze. I figured even those among us who go on about the heat and humidity would likely be saying how they could not wait for the bitterness of winter to end. I felt I would be stressed, exhausted, and most of all irritated – because I would rather suffer in the heat of summer bliss than a mind-numbing deep freeze.

    Yet, here I find myself on a frozen Sunday evening with a glass of wine in hand, trying to suss up enough energy to put together some words. Not only words, but thoughts that convey some kind of meaning in the middle of this long winter. Thoughts which express something about arts and culture and Hamilton. And I keep coming back to the same thing: what I really want to write about is my garden.

    I could write about my passion for my garden, and how that passion came about. I could write how one of my colleagues said one of the most interesting things she discovered about me was this passion lay dormant until it exploded in a wild frenzy when I purchased my Hamilton home. I could write about some of the themes I place in my garden – themes which explore love, sex, death and decay. But I am going to save those for another time and place.

    Instead, I think I am going to write about my dirty side: how I have been on my hands and knees in the pouring rain, caked in mud, beads of sweat co-mingling with my tears and those from the heavens, listening to the voice and heartbeat of my garden. There is a deep, profound, spiritual and physical connection that I make with the earth, and I can tell you – not only is my garden as hungry as I am, but it is surprisingly carnivorous!

    While it rests under a thick blanket of snow in a winter that would seemingly never end, at this time of the year the garden represents hope and renewal...and work. While most people only see the end results of the garden, the real joy for me, as with many artists, is the work that goes on behind the scenes, down and dirty, while the world is not watching. In keeping with that theme, while we anticipate the arrival of the Spring season, I think Margaret Atwood summed it up best, from Bluebeard's Egg: "In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."

  • The Sensations of the Season

    December 17, 2014 by Sheri Crawford

    It’s that time of year; twinkling lights reflecting in our eyes, the smell of pine and cinnamon, and the sounds of bells and bustle that the holiday season infuses into our spirits as we travel down our streets, enter public spaces and seek comfort in our homes.

    Maybe you’ve never realized the power of your senses and how they create an experience within your surroundings.  Think about what you see, smell and hear every day and how some of those simple elements enhance the experience within that environment.  As a designer, I love to walk through our city streets and look at the many talents that local artists and designers have played on my daily experience within this city.

    I think of these experiences, such as heading into our public library and smelling the pages of a book, or walking through my local grocery store and being drawn to the freshly baked goods that make me want to ditch my diet.  At this time of year, I especially appreciate the enhanced beauty of artistic gestures that adorn our streets representing what the holiday season means to each of us culturally or even traditionally.  The beauty of art and design is the ability to change someone’s life through experience; creativity infused not only in the aesthetics of the space, but strategically placed elements ensuring the experience captures a moment in time.  In Hamilton, we are especially blessed as our city is infused with artistic influences that are embraced as we transpose our identity from Steel Town to Art Community.

    Our worlds are based on stimulating our internal senses to enhance our journey through life.  This holiday season, I encourage you to take a moment to really appreciate the beauty around you.  Infuse your life with the sparkle, smell and message that only this holiday season can bring.

  • I'm not an artist, but I love the arts!

    November 19, 2014 by Kerry Jarvi

    I don’t sing, dance, sculpt, write or paint. My work history is rather varied and I have never been employed by something within even arm’s reach to the arts.   So... why am I fortunate enough to be on the boards of two incredible arts organizations?  Well… I wish I could sing, dance, sculpt, write or paint.  I am fascinated by the amazing things others create.  I have paintings on my walls that bring me joy every day and never tire of written words that can make me laugh out loud or draw the sincerest of tears.   I hope that in some way, channeling my envy of artists through the skills that I have will support those that can do all of those wonderful things.

    Why are 'non-artists' helpful on arts boards?  We are enthusiastic about what you do.  I have been known to share with great exuberance the wonders of Hamilton Fringe or the supports made available through the Hamilton Arts Council.  It is very easy in our day to day lives to find ourselves surrounded by the same network of people.  We 'non-artists' most likely have a network of people who may not be as involved in the arts community.  We can share what is happening with a broader network.  When signing on to volunteer on a board there is an expectation to fundraise for the organization. This is to benefit what you do and we each have varying abilities to fundraise whether it be cutting a cheque or connecting our colleagues to the cause.  All board members I work with, either artists or not, appreciate the work that staff of arts organizations do.  Generally, wages are not exceptional for staff in arts organizations and I believe most of us hope that we can volunteer our time at events or through committees to lighten their load.   Lastly, us 'non-artists' are generally great consumers of the arts.  We volunteer in arts organizations because we appreciate what you do and want to see your shows, buy your art (although some of us may have walls that are about to burst) or read your articles or books. 

    Help us!  Share with us!  Tell us why you do what you do.  We are genuinely interested and can’t wait to share your work!  Sometimes you may need to ignore our ignorance in your process and teach us.  Speak to us so that we can be better advocates of your work and the arts in general.  Support the organizations that are supporting you.  If you have spare time, volunteer at an event or attend the events that they host.  Share with others why you are involved with those organizations.  Please keep singing, dancing, sculpting, writing and painting - there are many 'non-artists' out there that can't wait to share what you are doing!


    Kerry is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Downtown Hamilton BIA.  She is Vice-President/Secretary for the Hamilton Fringe Festival and a new Director for the Hamilton Arts Council.  


  • Invest in Hamilton : Invest in the ARTS

    June 9, 2014 by Petra Matar


    Show me a culture in the history of civilization that hasn’t embraced the arts as a means of expressing its cultural values; that hasn’t seen the function of beauty as an overall improvement of the experience of life.


    Every memorable culture, no matter how limited its resources, invested enormous time and energy to create beautiful structures, craft, music, and performance. Only in the past few decades did our culture abandon these values because the price tag showed no obvious return on investment. Yet, time and time again cities that do invest in the arts experience the benefits in the “money-generating” and even the “money-saving” areas of that spreadsheet. To name just a few well-documented benefits: bolstered tourism, job creation, a diversified economy, and a unique identity for the city in which the arts are able to thrive. The arts improve the overall health of society by creating a stronger community that has a sense of place; they raise the overall level of cultural literacy; they speak to and better the lives of at-risk youth; and they enrich the educational experience. The arts make us happy, which improves our physical and mental health.

    Hamilton is a city rich with artists. I have seen the most inspiring performances, musicians, visual art, and community in this city. They have created life on the streets, and woven an enviable art community. Hamilton’s renaissance, I would argue, is thanks to these individuals who spend their days seeking, creating, and sharing beauty in many different forms. I cannot see how anyone can view investment in this city’s richest resource as a waste.

    If you see any value in the arts, we would like to invite you to voice your support at Hamilton City Hall on Wednesday, June 18 starting at 9:30am. (click for facebook event) And if you are unable to make it, you can use this graphic to voice your support. You can put it in your windows, on t-shirts, posters, coasters, buttons, stickers, your blog, profile picture, cover photo or any other medium you would like to show that investing in the arts matters to you and to your city. 


          Here are links to the graphic : PDF , PNG, JPG


    Research on the economic and social benefits for arts funding:


  • What is WHAT?

    May 30, 2014 by Paul Elia

    The West Hamilton Artists Tour (WHAT) just wrapped up its 5th and most successful year to date! It was a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend with perfect weather for walking from studio to studio while exploring picturesque West Hamilton.

    WHAT is the only self-guided, free walking tour of its kind in the city.  Nestled under the Niagara Escarpment, this year’s tour featured a remarkable collection of over 20 juried, professional, local and regional artists working in a variety of media, including paint, pastels, photography, wood, glass, jewellery, pottery, mixed media and more.

    Many of the locations are in the artists’ homes and studios, tucked away in scenic locations throughout the Locke Street South / Kirkendall neighbourhood, where local artists and guests present their new work. The tour provides an exciting opportunity for art-lovers to go behind the scenes to meet and connect with the artists themselves. With the abundance of talent in our community, you might be surprised to discover some of that creativity happening right next door.

    This was my third year with the tour and I am always struck by the enthusiasm from the large crowds that come out to support the arts in our community. What I like most about being a part of WHAT is its intimate quality. I get to open up my space and connect with visitors directly. This year I noticed how my pieces really come to life when people share their personal stories with me. It’s a joy to watch a viewer have an immediate emotional connection with the streetscapes depicted in my work. Considering the diverse range of artwork featured on the tour, I’m certain there is something for everybody!

    The tour is run by an organization of artists who work together to plan a first class event to celebrate the artistic talent in Hamilton.  The tour aims to inspire visitors to experience first hand the quality of locally produced art, our vibrant community, and the beauty of West Hamilton’s natural environment. From administration to graphic design and marketing, the artists involved successfully collaborate and share their strengths to make it happen. The tour receives strong support from the public, attracting over 200 visitors at each location, each day and receives financial and in-kind support from local businesses – The Friends of WHAT.  

    The West Hamilton Artists Tour is a fun event for the artists and visitors alike and a great way to spend Mother’s Day weekend! Event dates, the tour map, a list of participating artists and all other details are available at:

    WHAT 2014 Organizers:

    Paul Elia

    Tara Lynne Franco

    Gordon Leverton

    Siobhan Lynch

    Julia Veenstra