• ArtsVote Hamilton - How You Can Get Involved

    May 6, 2014 by Claire Calnan

    In March we told you about ‘Stage Directions’, an Open Space meeting that brought Hamilton Theatre folks together around the central theme of imagining the next steps for theatre in Hamilton. Many many ideas were born that day, and you can count on hearing about some of those developments here. Today’s post is from a new group in town, called ArtsVote Hamilton. Here they start the conversation about the need for this advocacy group and how you can get involved right away.

    The goal of Artsvote Hamilton is to raise awareness about the importance of the arts in a vibrant growing city. We are doing this by encouraging local politicians to get behind funding for the arts at City Council. And how will we achieve this? By educating city councillors about the benefits of a vibrant arts scene. How will we do that you ask? Good question – and we need your help.

    Hamilton is a city known for its diverse social scene, with a pulsing mixture of upper, middle and working class people. Hamilton has a proud history of being on the side of workers and recently has focused on tackling poverty issues. How can a city that must focus on poverty find the time and money to spend on the arts?

    The two issues need not be in competition.

    The arts in Hamilton not only bring a brighter spiritual life to the city but naturally encourage the revitalization of older, poorer neighborhoods (witness the recent Renaissance of James Street North)! The truth is that cities such as Birmingham, England and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have recently discovered an important principle: both cities, like Hamilton, have seen the demise of heavy industry, but both have also focused on the arts as a way to actually improve their city’s economy.

    The arts not only improves the quality of life in the city by providing venues and opportunities for artists to create inspiring work, but the arts positively impacts these aspects of city life:

    • JOBS               

    In a 2012 Hill Strategies study of arts funding, Hamilton ranked 7th out of 8 Canadian municipalities (compared to Toronto, Winnipeg, Waterloo, Halifax, Windsor, London). That’s $3.08 per person.

    A city with a vibrant arts scene creates jobs, and encourages the growth of the service industry, and many other city businesses. Hamilton can look back on a proud history of being a tourist destination due to its gorgeous scenery and very special bay location. The ARTS offer another very good reason for people to come here to visit, and pour money into the economy.

    The arts, most importantly, help to build a civil, spiritual life for its citizens. But beyond that, and on a much more practical level, the flourishing arts community increases investment, attracts tourists, generates revenue and boosts our city’s international profile.

    Here’s what you can do: ArtsVote Hamilton needs volunteers for the May 9th Artcrawl to ask folks in the street what questions they would like to ask their councillors about art funding in Hamilton. We’ll have some newly designed postcards, with the gorgeous picture above provided by Clarence Porter. We are inviting city councillors to our first ArtsVote Hamilton event where host Jeff Mahoney (Hamilton Spectator) will ask them many of your questions and discuss with the candidates their positions on arts funding for the city.

    That’s not all! Go to our new Facebook page and ‘Like’ us in order to be kept in the loop about events. Leave a comment and or question on the page! Write to us directly at and let us know if you can give ArtsVote Hamilton a couple hours of your time on Friday, May 9th 7-9pm. Can’t go to the May 9th Artcrawl? That’s okay, write us anyway to tell us you would like to get involved.  Thank you! And we will see you out there.



  • Five Years Later: A Board Member's Journey

    January 21, 2014 by Ilya Pinassi

    I’ve had the privilege of serving on your Hamilton Arts Council for almost five years. That means I’m entering my final year as a Board member. This affords me the opportunity to reflect on what it’s like to be a part of this organization, what Staff and the Board have accomplished and where I see us moving in the near and long term future. I hope to convey how challenging and rewarding it has been to serve on the Board of the Hamilton Arts Council while encouraging the best, brightest and most engaged individuals to consider applying for a position on the Board and help advance our arts service and advocacy in Hamilton.

    At my first two meetings at the HAC I sat quietly, obediently not making a peep so as to soak in what we were all about. Well, that didn’t last long. Three months after joining, our Executive Director took ill and the Board began a difficult year and a half of intense leadership requiring everyone to pitch in. Suddenly we were assisting with daily operations when none of us were arts administrators. It was a pretty crazy year for a Board I was told I would spend about two hours a month participating on. Ha!

    As our Interim Executive Director, Patti Cannon was immensely helpful during that time of need. She gave us much needed stability and the short term guidance to perform a thorough review of the arts council, which at that time was called Arts Hamilton. That was a huge step forward that brought the Board, Staff and the community we serve together to answer the fundamental question of whether Hamilton needed and wanted an arts council. The answer was a resounding yes. We then had to identify how to be better, more relevant. That was tough. It was uncomfortable. It was emotionally draining and I felt like I had no idea what direction we were headed in. However, I don’t think we would be enjoying our relative resurgence in support among artists and the larger community today without all of that hard work.

    The review, conducted by the well respected Janis Barlow, resulted in our necessary shift away from programming and working instead to amplify the voice of the arts community of the Greater Hamilton Area. Responding to all of this soul searching, we changed our mission to communicate, advocate and mediate for the arts in the community of Hamilton. Since then, the HAC has hired Stephanie Vegh as our Executive Director, rebranded, restructured, launched a new website to benefit members, placed arts service at the centre of our strategic plan, and become a vocal presence at City Hall and in local media to convey our perspective as an umbrella organization for the arts in Hamilton.

    So now what? We continue to work on providing improved services to our membership base and to growing that base. This will be done through our amazing new website, an improved membership affinity program and a new annual print publication that will expand on all the best features of our current Theatre and Gallery Guides. We have a lot of work to do in 2014, and for this current Board that also means finding some great new people to join the team at our Annual General Meeting later this year. We’re already thinking ahead to recruiting new Board members in June so we would love to hear from you if you think you would be a good fit to join us in serving on the Board of the Hamilton Arts Council.

  • Home-ilton

    December 20, 2013 by Petra Matar

    Downtown Hamilton, what a great place to be right now. I am ecstatic I found a home here. The heavily creative un-pompous burgeoning art scene, the amazing music, the good theatre, and this strong sense of connection and community you experience downtown are absolute gold. I didn’t come from Hamilton, I didn’t grow up here, but this is what I call home. Being a “third culture kid," I never considered a place “home," but Hamilton I definitely would. Now, I don’t consider this city home because it is perfect, but because it has a potential that I would love to be a small part of realizing. I have a vested interest in this city.

    I see now, non-Hamiltonians, like myself, are starting to see the potential in this city, and the city is beginning to understand that too. My only hope is that the outcome of all of this doesn’t drive Hamilton to be like this city or that city, but instead to continue to grow organically like it has been, and just realizing the potential it already has. Due to my architectural background, my stance tends to be more about the built environment in this city, and currently I am both excited and worried about the development in the city.

    Downtown Hamilton doesn’t need that much work in establishing character, because it has some great bones that all the empty lots can learn from. I often look at old architecture in this city (and old pictures in the Library’s Archives), and the first thought that comes to mind is there was a time in this city when people put up structures that had character. Buildings spoke to the street a la the Lister Block, the Right House, Treble Hall, the Bank of Montreal, and all the great old storefronts in its downtown streets to name a few. Public space was understood to be important, which is why Hamilton boasts a public park in the middle of its busy core. That’s some “prime real estate” invested on some grass there. The old homes are gorgeous, and they weave so perfectly with the urban fabric, maintaining their privacy, but not existing in isolation (totally trashing the development up the hill in this statement). So it hurts when I see mundane buildings being built here, or even buildings that exist in towering isolation not even speaking to their surroundings. That isn’t the character of this city, but let enough of these get built and it soon will be. If someone from a 100 years ago in Hamilton saw some of the developments happening today, I promise you they would weep, and I have spoken to many old Hamiltonians who feel that way.

    Hamilton, the ambitious city, deserves even more ambition in its built environment, and I am making this my mission in the city.



  • 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.