Blog

  • Volunteer for the Win

    April 17, 2015 by Stephen Near

    This week is National Volunteer Week which means you may have seen a lot of talk across social media about the importance of volunteers and the contribution they make to the not-for-profit sector. Part of my job with Hamilton Arts Council involves finding volunteers who are willing and able to contribute their time to furthering our goals. Aside from finding the right person for the right job, organizations that seek volunteer support must themselves be prepared for the experience. This can present challenges to those in the not-for-profit sector where a do-it-yourself attitude often rules the day.

    Join Volunteer Canada in celebrating Canada's volunteers!

    Like many not-for-profits, the Hamilton Arts Council has worked extensively with volunteers to shape our work in the community. Our organization has gone through many changes and volunteers have helped us turn ideas into action along the way. And some of our most valuable volunteers have come from the most unexpected places. For example, my friend Marvin was a recent arrival to both Canada and Hamilton back in 2011 and was looking to put down roots in the city. He not only offered to volunteer for the arts council in a number of ways but also took our mission to serve the arts community very much to heart. From designing our e-newsletter to troubleshooting office technical issues to support at countless fundraisers and events, Marvin exemplified the type of volunteerism that is a boon to the not-for-profit sector and greatly helped the growth of the arts council. Much of that has to do with the fact that, as a volunteer, his desire to contribute and strengthen the community was close to our own. In other words, the arts council and our volunteer shared the same values in common. This alignment creates a meaningful volunteer experience and helps retain their talent in the long term.

    The Hamilton Arts Council's MVP volunteer!

    Ultimately, volunteers are an important agent for organizational growth not just because they are an extra hand but because they advance our mandate in the work that they do. Tasks that might seem mundane are often exciting opportunities for growth in the hands of dedicated volunteer. It all comes down to giving your volunteers a stake in the success of the organization and tying their success to the future of your organization. So, this week, I hope you'll remember to take a moment to thank all of your volunteers who have helped make your organization what it is now and what it will be in the future.

    For further resources regarding volunteers and Hamilton volunteering opportunities check out the following resources:

  • 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."

  • Give Me Space

    February 20, 2015 by Stephen Near

    Get in a conversation with any theatre artist working or living in Hamilton these days and talk quickly turns to a variation on several topics including who is doing what work in the city, where to look for additional funding for projects, and how theatre is growing in Hamilton. But no other topic seems to arise with such force as the urgent need for more space.

    The Bright Room at the Staircase Theatre

    At last year's Stage Directions, hosted by the Hamilton Fringe Festival, one of the discussions was on how theatre artists can have greater access to what is seen as a hidden cache of space in Hamilton. And if what many theatre artists say holds true--that the best way to get a project off the ground is to book a space--then the need to reveal this cache is critical to the growth of Hamilton theatre. With this in mind, the Hamilton Arts Council has begun a project to gather information on available spaces in the region and post it on our site in our new Space Directory.

    The Hamilton Theatre Inc space

    This Directory not only includes performance and rehearsal space for theatre artists, musicians and other performing artists but also gallery and studio space for visual artists. It is meant to be a widespread and growing resource that can be easily accessed by artists wherever they are with contact information and details on venue availability and suitability. The Directory includes widely known spaces as well as a handful of lesser known venues with a goal of being as comprehensive a listing as possible to serve the arts community of Hamilton.

    The factory floor space of 270 Sherman

    The question of finding viable and affordable space is, in many ways, the issue of the day in arts creation circles. A recent blog article on performance space in Toronto cited ten under-the-radar live venues that are actively in use but which deviate wildly from conventional theatres. All of these are repurposed venues with some being modified retail and storefront properties. Though our Space Directory isn't meant to address such repurposing, we do hope it will make the process of finding suitable space easier and encourage further talks between artists and developers in Hamilton towards creating new and innovative venues that can accommodate the cultural growth we're now seeing here.

    For more information, feedback or suggested additions to our Space Directory follow the LINK or contact our offices at info@hamiltonartscouncil.ca.

  • Trending Ham Lit Awards

    January 9, 2015 by Stephen Near

    On Monday January 5th a packed house at the Studio Theatre of Theatre Aquarius celebrated the literary arts and the accomplishments of local authors at the 21st Annual Hamilton Literary Awards. The literary tradition of this city is a vital phenomenon and Monday's ceremony showed the rich diversity of voices telling stories that matter and that are coming from the experience of living and writing in Hamilton. Our Master of Ceremonies for the Awards was the ever-indelible Robert Howard who has hosted the Awards for the last four years with true aplomb.

    Robert Howard, Master of Ceremonies

    This year's Awards ceremony saw recognition given to outstanding authors writing in a variety of categories including Poetry, Fiction and Non-Fiction. Taking home the prizes in these categories were local poet John Terpstra for his most recent collection Brilliant Falls (Poetry Award), children's author Caroline Stellings for her young adult novel The Manager (Fiction Award), and iconic author Lawrence Hill for his noted Massey Lectures book Blood: the Stuff of Life (Non-Fiction Award). This year, the Awards also featured several noted presenters who read from the winning books and offered their own reflections on the importance of the written word in Hamilton. Those presenting the Award included Judy Marsales (Judy Marsales Real Estate Ltd), Diana Walsh (Winner, 2013 Non-fiction Award), and Ian Elliot (Different Drummer Books).

    Also recognized was the recipient of the Kerry Schooley Award for the book that best captures the spirit of Hamilton. First introduced last year, the award is named in honour of Kerry Schooley, a prolific author and mentor who passed away in 2010 yet made an indelible mark on the Hamilton writing community that he called home. Sponsored by The Hamilton Spectator, and presented by the Manager of Community Partnerships, Jane Allison, this year's Award went to poet Chris Pannell for his recent poetry collection, A Nervous City. A close friend of Kerry Schooley, Chris remarked how pleased he was that Kerry's legacy would live on as part of the Awards.

    John Terpstra, winner of the Literary Award for Poetry

    As one of the principle organizers of the Literary Awards at the Hamilton Arts Council, I was deeply impressed not only with the calibre of the nominated books but also with the increasing profile of the Awards. This year, more than any other, it really seemed as if a lot more people were talking about and getting excited about the Hamilton Literary Awards. Indeed, the amount of social media activity leading up to and during the ceremony itself was astonishing. To see for yourself simply check out the tweets coming from #HamLitAwards.

    The Literary Awards are over for another year but before you know it the call will be going out for the 22nd Annual Literary Awards and that means another crop of books submitted to our offices from authors all around the region. I'm looking forward to seeing the stories, and hearing from the Hamilton voices, that come our way this year!

    Chris Pannell, winner of the Kerry Schooley Award

    If you want to learn more about the Finalists from this year's Lit Awards, scroll back through our blog and you'll find individual highlights for the different categories along with summaries of the books. As well, many of our sponsors were local bookstores who will be stocking the nominated and winning books so we encourage you to check them out the next time you're shopping for something to read.

  • 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.

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