• The 21st Hamilton Literary Awards: The Non-fiction Shortlist

    November 12, 2014 by Stephen Near

    From one man's poignant and intimate recollections about growing up on the shores of Lake Ontario, to another's recounting of four Hamilton murders and the ensuing work of police to another's provocative and profound review of the scientific and social history of blood, the finalists for this year's Non-fiction category for the Hamilton Literary Awards are all examples of true and compelling tales matching that of any work of fiction.

    This House Is Condemned represents a hard-hitting and heart-felt testament by author David Haskins to a life lived on the edge of Lake Ontario. It is an exploration of the currents of humor and sadness that flow through both his physical landscape and his memory of it. Within the book, Haskins combines a myriad of forms, from fictionalized prose to personal essays to poetic interludes, to capture the geographic impact of the lakeside environment on the human condition and his own personal journey from childhood to adulthood.

    Lawrence Hill's Blood: The Stuff of Life is a meditation and examination on the power of blood. Written as a series of essays for the CBC Massey Lectures, Hill boldly breaks down ideas of identity, belonging, gender, race, class, citizenship, and nationality by looking at the scientific and social history of blood. Through his examination  of how it liquid pulses through the veins society, Hill offers a profound insight into ways that blood both unites and divides us all.

    Death's Shadow is Jon Wells' taut and visceral recounting of four harrowing stories of murder and justice in Hamilton. Collected from his multi-part series from the Hamilton Spectator, Wells shines a light on the details of these crimes while focusing on both the investigations by police and the unheard voices of the surviving family and friends of the victims. What emerges is an intimate yet captivating addition to Canadian true crime writing.

    Coming Next: The Poetry Shortlist

  • Hamilton Literary Awards Update

    October 27, 2014 by Stephen Near

    November is literary award season, and everyone is watching the big prizes being announced across Canada, but here in Hamilton we’re all particularly interested in celebrating the talent in our own city.

    This year we have even more reason to celebrate. We’ve had an abundance of books submitted with 18 in total and in all four categories. In addition to this year’s awards for Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry, we will once again be presenting the Kerry Schooley Award for the book most evocative of the Hamilton region in honour of the late literary icon Kerry Schooley. The submissions are all of the highest calibre and have generated a lot of excitement at the Arts Council offices.

    We’re also happy to be presenting our upcoming Literary Awards with the continued generosity of The Hamilton Spectator as well as our long partnership with our Venue Sponsors at Theatre Aquarius. Each year they have given us the perfect place to enjoy our ceremony and raise a glass to our winners and we couldn’t ask for a better venue in which to hold our celebration.

    This year we’ll be holding the awards a bit later than usual due to the exceptional preparations for Theatre Aquarius’ run of Mary Poppins, which we encourage you all to see. As a result, we’re moving the date of the 21st Annual Literary Awards to January 5th, 2015, in the Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre at the Dofasco Centre for the Arts. We hope you'll join us in ringing in the New Year with true bookish style.

    Keep watch for our shortlisted books, which will be posted very soon. The judges are still deliberating the last few titles, and we invite you all to read our shortlists once they’re posted to see just how hard a decision the final choice will be.

  • Culture Days Coming

    August 22, 2014 by Stephen Near

    Five years ago, when I first started at the Hamilton Arts Council I was a newly arrived resident to the city of Hamilton. I was excited about the promise I saw in the arts here and eager to get started in a role that would see me working with so many in Hamilton's culture scene. One of the first programs I became aware of was a new initiative called Culture Days. Envisioned as a cross-Canada celebration of the arts, Culture Days was set to take place over the last weekend of September.

    Though I wasn't sure how our organization could best be involved, I did think it was an exciting prospect. Back then, Culture Days was entirely new and the idea of a national weekend of arts events largely organized at the grass-roots level seemed like an innovative if somewhat daunting proposal. But what excited me the most was that any artist or group could participate with just about any sort of event. So long as the event was free and engaged the public in a direct or participatory way with the culture of their community it was viable for Culture Days. Now, five years on, that still holds true and the initiative that started at the grass roots is growing into a celebrated part of Canada's culture landscape.

    But Culture Days is a bit of a curious thing in Hamilton. Set at the end of September, the Culture Days weekend takes place in the wake of large-scale festivals like Locke Street and Supercrawl and around the time that many local arts groups have already begun their fall programming. Perhaps because of this proximity, Hamilton has never fully embraced Culture Days with the same drive as other similarly-sized cities. Is it a bit of festival or community fatigue? Or is it simply that many artists and organizations still aren't sure how they can participate in this national event?

    As the community organizer for Culture Days in Hamilton, this year I was determined to get more artists aware of and interested in the array of possibilities open to them with this event. And given the growth of this city's culture sector, along with the influx of new artists, I think there's a greater appetite for Culture Days activities to take root. And if you're an arts and culture maker, it's incredibly easy to plan an activity in time for the end of September.

    Just about ANY arts or cultural activity can be promoted as part of Culture Days. Be it professional, community, amateur or educational, all it takes is for the activity to meet the following criteria:

    • FREE to the public
    • Takes place during the Culture Days weekend (Sept. 26, 27, 28, 2014)
    • Involves audience participation or reveals a behind-the-scenes aspect to the public

    It's really that simple. So, if you've got something that fits these criteria go to the Culture Days website and Register Your Activity. This will allow Culture Days to promote your activity and include it in their upcoming national ad campaign. The website is also a veritable trove of handy tips and tools to make your activity shine, from marketing resources and PR toolkits to useful advice on how to publicise and promote your arts event in the community and to the media. You can even print a customized hand-book of Culture Days events in your area!

    Last year, attendance at Culture Days activities topped 1.7 million with over 800 communities participating across the provinces and territories. This year, they're predicting an even bigger and better turnout so let's put Hamilton on the map for this national celebration.


    TWITTER: @culturedays

    FACEBOOK: Culture Days | Fête de la culture

  • 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