• 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

  • 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.



  • After Stage Directions

    March 7, 2014 by Stephen Near

    On Saturday, March 1st, I had the opportunity to participate in the Hamilton Fringe's Stage Directions event to brainstorm and discuss the future of Hamilton theatre alongside a host of theatre artists and organizations. The event took place at the Players Guild, the oldest community theatre in North America, spread out in various rooms within the historic Guild House. As I walked into one of Hamilton's most unique spaces, I was reminded of the statement on the Guild's website:  "theatre is happening in Hamilton and it all happens in the house with the big red doors". It was certainly true for today's event!

    In writing about Stage Directions in a previous blog, I think I went into it with some expectations. That didn't last long. Given that it was to be an Open Space event, many of my expectations were swiftly thrown out the window. One of things I didn't expect was just how wide-spread and far-reaching some of the ideas and proposals discussed would be. Ranging from straightforward plans to organize an "arts-vote" initiative for the upcoming municipal election to concrete strategies on how local amateur theatres could work together to help independent troupes in the area, Stage Directions was a flurry of active and engaging dialogues.

    It helped that the Guild House had several break-out rooms where discussions could take place. Yes, it was close quarters and rooms were often crammed with participants. But that was part of what got people talking to and listening to each other. And I was pleased to see the Fringe folks had organized a "newsroom" where notes made by participants could be collated and posted for the rest of us to read. But the big thing I took away from Stage Directions? Something I rarely see in the Hamilton theatre community... all of us in one space talking with each other about how to get things done.

    Stage Directions was just that: a direction for Hamilton theatre artists to work towards regarding the future. No one left the event believing every issue had been tackled or that every obstacle had been solved. But it was an important first step. And for a theatre community that's seen a lot of change in a short amount of time perhaps that's enough for right now.

    Want to find out more about Stage Directions? I encourage you to contact Claire Calnan at the Hamilton Fringe Festival!