• 25th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards: Poetry Finalists

    November 21, 2018 by Stephen Near

    This is the first in a four part blog series showcasing the finalists of this year's 25th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards. Find out which authors will take home the prizes by attending the gala celebration on Dec. 10, 2018 at Theatre Aquarius.

    Hamilton is a city that abounds in poets, and this year's finalists speak to the diversity of the poetry being written in our city. From the struggles of mental illness, to a playful and provocative exploration of language, to the ghostly voices of Dundurn Castle, these books move from the conversational to the surreal and blur the boundaries between genres.

    In No TV for Woodpeckers celebrated Hamilton author Gary Barwin straddles and crosses the lines between haunting and hilarious, wondrous and weird, beautiful and beastly in a unique new collection of poems. Through the realities conjured in these poetic lines, Barwin explores the connection between bodies, language, culture, and the environment all while being both philosophical and hilarious. Gary Barwin is a Canadian poet, writer, composer, multimedia artist, performer and educator. His novel Yiddish for Pirates won the 2017 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, the Canadian Jewish Literary Award (Fiction), and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Award for English-language fiction.

    Dysphoria by Shane Neilson is a heart-rending and deeply affecting commentary on the pain and anxiety of mental illness as well as the negotiation between a doctor, their patient, and an outside observer. Dysphoria follows Neilson’s previous collections of poetry; Complete Physical and On Shaving Off His Face, and in his own words it "throws acid from half-glasses but drinks some first to be fair." Shane Neilson is a poet and physician who, in addition to several collections of poetry, has published in the genres of memoir, short fiction, biography and literary criticism. 

    In Elizabeth Tessier’s The Words They Cannot Say, the poet took inspiration from the city’s heritage sites and museums. In words that are inviting and beautiful, Tessier conjures the stories of all those ghosts at Hamilton’s Dundurn Castle that she says have been her muse for years now.Inviting readers into the lives and voices of both well known and mysterious figures form the past, Tessier allows readers to eavesdrop on a time far removed yet altogether close to Hamiltonians. Tessier has previously been published in the Hamilton Arts & Letters and Thema and lives in Hamilton where she has worked in the city’s civic museums for thirty years.

    This year's Award for Poetry is sponsored by:

    Next: the finalists for Non-Fiction

  • NEW Cotton Factory Artist in Residence Recipients Announced!

    November 2, 2018 by Stephen Near

    The Hamilton Arts Council is pleased to announce artists Nick La Rocca and Keira McArthur as the recipients of the Hamilton Arts Council’s newest Cotton Factory Artist in Residence Program taking place from December 2018 to February 2019.

    The Artist-In-Residence Program is a partnership between the Hamilton Arts Council and The Cotton Factory. It is a opportunity for emerging and mid-career artists to focus on their practice. Participating artists are encouraged to use their time to experiment and develop new ideas and skills in addition to forming ties with fellow artists in residence and The Cotton Factory creative community. The participating artists are invited to present their work during the final week of the residency.

    We are also excited to also announce a new partnership with the Women’s Art Association who have generously donated a $250 bursary, in support of their mandate and mission statement, Working to Advance Women in Art.  The bursary will be awarded to Keira McArthur to be put towards materials.

    Nick La Rocca is an award-winning artist and illustrator from Hamilton interested in sequential, conceptual, and experimental art. He graduated from Sheridan College and now works as a fine artist and freelance illustrator. Nick has had solo and group exhibitions in Hamilton, Oakville, Mississauga, and Toronto. Living his entire life in Hamilton, Nick enjoys encoding Hamilton subject matter and mythology into his work.

    Keira McArthur is a visual artist and performer whose exhibitions include interactive performance art, live music, and a synthesized re-interpretation of the whole process in book form. She has been in solo and group exhibitions across Ontario and been trained at such institutions as Wilfrid Laurier University, OAC/Royal Conservatory, Sheridan College, York University, and the Mary Schneider School of Fine Arts.

    Find out more about our new Residency program and some of the success stories that have come out of the artists involved HERE.

    Stay tuned to our website for the next call for submissions and download the PRESS RELEASE.

  • Call for Curators and Writers - Building Cultural Legacies

    October 26, 2018 by Stephen Near

    The Hamilton Arts Council is pleased to announce this call for curators/writers to produce feature sections to be included in the Building Cultural Legacies website.

    Building Cultural Legacies (BCL) overview:

    The arts have been a significant force in the shaping of Hamilton. Its current vibrancy owes much to the efforts of those who came before us, and yet this history is at risk of being lost or forgotten as individuals who lived and worked through these decades age and pass on. The Building Cultural Legacies: Visual Art digital storytelling website aims to build community knowledge, understanding, and pride, by engaging citizens from different communities and generations in the sharing of knowledge about the history of the Visual Arts in Hamilton.

    Key Project Goals:

    • To capture and preserve individual stories related to Hamilton’s visual arts history
    • To create additional public engagement and awareness of Hamilton’s rich artistic history          
    • To understand the pivotal role of visual art throughout the City of Hamilton’s history
    • To create digital stories to preserve and make accessible Hamilton’s local history
    • To ensure that stories from the Hamilton community are representative, inclusive and diverse.


    There are Three (3) opportunities in total:

    1) Call for Indigenous curators, artists, collectives, writers, researchers, and others interested in providing innovative research and critical discourses on Indigenous arts and culture in the Hamilton region between 1950 and 1999. The selected applicant(s) will engage with Indigenous-led projects and highlight their context within the visual arts during this period. The details of the research question to be determined by the curator. The final work, which can include still images, audio, video, links, and text, will be included as a feature section within the website.

    2) Call for curators, artists, collectives, writers, and researchers of colour to provide engaging research and critical discourses on the history of racialized artists in the Hamilton region between 1950 and 1999. The selected applicant(s) will work to give voice and to showcase ideas from underrepresented artists in Hamilton. The details of the research question to be determined by the curator. The final work, which can include still images, audio, video, links, and text, will be included as a feature section within the website.

    3) Call for curators, artists, collectives, writers, and researchers to provide engaging research and critical discourses on the history of LGBTQ artists in the Hamilton region between 1950 and 1999. The selected applicant(s) will work to give voice and context in showcasing ideas from this specific community of artists in Hamilton during these times. The details of the research question to be determined by the curator. The final work, which can include still images, audio, video, links, and text, will be included as a feature section within the website.

    The selected applicant(s) will receive a curatorial fee of $1500 for development of written and visual components for this featured section. Each selected applicant will also receive administrative and technical support from the Hamilton Arts Council as well as support from the Hamilton Public libraries Local History and Archives department.

    • Deadline for Submissions: Nov 30th. Midnight. 2018
    • Selected curators/writers will be notified: Dec14th, 2018
    • Completed projects due: March 15th. Midnight. 2019


    Materials Required for Proposal:

    • Brief letter of introduction including a brief curatorial vision of how you will pursue this project.
    • Biographies of Curator(s) (max 300 words) and CVs (max 2 pages).
    • Images/links to completed exhibitions/projects (max 5 total) that convey an impression of your curatorial approaches, achievements, and interests.
    • Image resolution of 72 dpi is recommended.

    Incomplete submissions will not be considered.


    Please address any questions to

    We define the term Curator to mean any person or group that is critically engaged in curatorial practice — meaning here the research, development, writing, design, and production of original exhibitions and other projects — including independent curators, artist-curators, curatorial teams, curators at institutions and other arts organizations, and more.

    This project is supported in part by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Hamilton Public Library

  • Cotton Factory Residency Success Stories

    October 5, 2018 by Stephen Near

    Earlier this year, the Hamilton Arts Council partnered with The Cotton Factory to host a series of year-round artist residencies. The Cotton Factory generously agreed to donate a studio space and the Hamilton Arts Council, would facilitate an artist-in-residence program. This partnership has providing a valuable opportunity for local artists from a wide range of disciplines and career levels, the unique residency program exists to build the practice of these artists and engage them with the flourishing hub of creative activity at the Cotton Factory. Over the past year, the Residency has hosted a handful of accomplished artists who have enriched their practice and furthered their careers in some key ways.

    Hamilton-based painter Kristofir Dean remarked that "the residency was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed working outside of my home studio over the summer." Dean also spoke about the community of creative individual at the Cotton Factory as "a stimulating aspect of working in the space... socializing with other artists and creatives became part of a regular residency day". It wasn't something he consistently was able to experience when he was working at his home studio and that was definitely a plus when it came to the Cotton Factory studio.

    Dean made a splash with his work on social media, too. In posting updates on Instagram, he caught the attention of a new Montreal-based gallery called Gallerie Bloom and secured a showing with them. And, he has just confirmed a featured exhibition in Vancouver at Ian Tan Gallery after posting installation shots from a recent talk he gave regarding the Residency. In this way, working at the Cotton Factory has been instrumental in Dean's outreach to curators across Canada which has been part of the goal of this initiative.

    For quilter and an artist Tania Denyer, being a part of the Cotton Factory Residency was a validating and pivotal change in her career as an artist. "I can now say “career as an artist” in reference to myself," says Denyer, "without feeling like a fraud." Before the program, Denyer describes she had been defining herself as single, working mother. "Of course I made things. I have always made things but to call them art? To take that a step further and call myself an artist? That was crazy talk."

    The pivotal change happened when she attended one of the Hamilton Arts Council's Art Bus Studio Tours. "Meeting Annette and visiting Albright Knox, where I had last been when I was 16 was the beginning of the shift. Annette told me about the [Cotton Factory Residency] program and encouraged me to apply. In fact her last word as I left the bus was "Apply!" Her daughter added fuel to fire when, on the way home, she said to Denier "you're are going to apply right?"

    Denier stresses the importance of having a "dedicated space to create". Calling it transformative, Denier says, "To be somewhere that I was known as an artist, that I did not have to explain that yes I make art, was the key.  If others saw me as an artist then it was only a matter of time before I did too."

    The Cotton Factory Residency hasn't just opened doors at other galleries or inspired artists to dig deeper into their practice. Indeed, for visual artists Danielle Roberts, the Residency has been key to accessing additional funding and opportunities that might never have been possible before. During her time at the Cotton Factory, Roberts was selected as one of the recipients of the Dean Collection 20 Award.

    The Dean Collection was founded by Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean and Alicia Keys as a contemporary, family art collection focused on the support of living artists. Supporting artists and cultural visionaries around the globe, the Dean Collection gives 20 artists from anywhere in the world $5,000 each to pursue their art however they wanted. The grants are unrestricted but there’s incentive for the winners to do something ambitious with their money. Roberts recalls there were "over 5000 applicants and a team of curators choosing the candidates"

    She says, "the grant is funding for me to complete the work I had proposed to do during my Residency and to host an exhibition of that work upon completion." Local audiences will get a chance to see this work in November when it opens at HAVN on Barton Street. "Right now", she says, "I'm in the process of contacting media outlets to get the word out."

    With space is now becoming a commodity in Hamilton, especially for artists, the establishment of a consistent and supportive residency for Hamilton artists speaks to the core of the HAC’s mission statement. With success stories like these, we’re confident that the Cotton Factory Residency is the kind of winning partnership that will continue and should be pursued by other arts organizations in this community.


  • Culture Guide 2018-19 Events Submissions Call!

    July 12, 2018 by Stephen Near

    The Hamilton Arts Council Culture Guide celebrates what it means to really live and play in Hamilton by reflecting our city’s distinct character and culture. Beautiful full-colour pages of original photography, artwork and feature articles will inspire and entertain
    readers with engaging coverage of Hamilton’s unique artistic landscape.

    This year's Guide will mark an important milestone as we mark our fifth anniversary so we're hard at work on several exciting features including a larger design and a more content-driven format to better represent the scope of the arts in the Hamilton. We'll also include original editorial articles highlighting what’s new and notable in the local arts scene as well as profiles on prominent and emerging artists.

    As before, the Guide will also feature a handy Culture Calendar highlighting major festivals, performances and productions for the coming year and that's where you come in. We're asking our members to submit their event listings for the 2018-19 Culture Guide to be added to the popular Culture Calendar at the back of the publication.


    To have your event added, your Hamilton Arts Council membership must be in good standing.

    (renew your membership by contacting or phone at 905-481-3218)

    EVENTS MUST TAKE PLACE BETWEEN: Sept 2018 - Aug 2019

    Please submit your event listings via emai or add them to the Google Form by July 27, 2018 (any listings received past this date, will not be published)


    Don't miss your chance to be part of this year's Hamilton Arts Council Culture Guide. We look forward to hearing from you and learning about your exciting programming this year