Making art in the community accessible
Centre is opening a new studio to serve the Hamilton arts community
In our learning and community spaces, we have an obligation to ensure our online and physical environments are inclusive of individuals with disability. Now, Centre for Artistic + Social Practice is expanding their services in the Hamilton arts community with the grand opening of their new studio space, designed to be wheelchair-accessible and inclusive of disabled community members.
Founded by Colina Maxwell and Katherine Zarull in 2004, Centre first started as a print studio. It was conceptualized as a space where artists could create art together, though later they expanded their services to include education, gallery spaces and a wider range of studio equipment.
As a registered charity, Centre is an entirely non-profit organisation. The cost of membership and access to facilities are entirely donation-based, allowing all members access to traditional studio spaces as well as screen printing services.
The name Centre represents the organisation’s three major mandates: art, education and community. The number  also represents the three floors in their flagship building at 173 James Street North. The upper floor houses a high school program called Nu Steel, an alternative education program for print and media arts run in collaboration with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. The middle floor is where gallery spaces are held and the basement level is where screen-printing happens.
The artist-run centre is led by staff and community members who are passionate about the arts and providing accessible services to the community.
“Centre is unique in the fact that it is really trying to be accessible to everyone. We're not an exclusive organization but a community organization and I feel like art does bring us all together. When I drive around town I see a lot of graffiti and even that in a sense is bringing us together because it makes me think: who are these people? It’s really beautiful . . . and my wish is that artists come forward and have a place to be themselves and to be accepted,” said actress, producer and playwright Melissa Murray-Mutch, who currently serves on Centre’s board of directors.
The new studio space opening at 126 James Street North is a hub for three new studio facilities: audio, film and digital services. There is also a studio technician on-site, who can assist with recording, composing and more in the new studio space.
“Centre is just thrilled to embark on this new journey of providing digital media services at our second location while ensuring accessibility. Colina Maxwell definitely made sure, thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation grant that we received, that it is accessible for all, so anyone is welcome . . . It’s a very proud project,” said Jeannie Kim, a local artist and administrative and sales coordinator for Centre.
The new space was made possible in part thanks to the recent Ontario Trillium Foundation awarded to Centre. After receiving the grant, David Hosten, one of Centre’s board members, proposed the idea of starting a podcast but the organisation soon realized they lacked the proper space and resources to make it a reality. From there, the space at 126 James was conceived to address the organisation’s expanding needs and to better serve the community accessing their studio spaces.
“I'm especially proud of having a tiny hand in the podcast booth. I know a lot of people put together podcasts in their houses but there are limitations to doing it yourself. You've got to deal with sound and personally I have some equipment at home but I've had to deal with sound issues, family and all those sorts of things. Now people have a place they can go that’s super affordable,” said Murray-Mutch.
The grand opening happened on Nov. 12 during Art Crawl, consisting of a formal Ontario Trillium Fund recognition ceremony and opening to the public where artists were invited to try out the space for the first time. Donna Skelly, the MPP for Dundas-Flamborough, and Andrea Horwath, leader of the NDP party, were both present at the grand opening, The event was an opportunity for the public to experience the space and was held as a celebratory ceremony for the committee and studio members who made the opening possible.
For students, the current annual membership fee at Centre is $35, aiming to provide services at a price point accessible to students. Memberships allow community members to receive access to the Centre studios and enjoy member benefits, including access and discounts to artist talks, workshops and more.
“Centre is all about accessibility and our price points are definitely going to be a lot lower [than other professional studios] because we have this in mind,” said Kim.
As a non-profit centre run by artists for the community, Centre is dedicated to being an inclusive community space for engagement, for both students and the greater Hamilton arts community. They hope to expand their services and better serve the community through the opening of their new digital studio space.