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.
McMaster University’s fine arts program has been given three million dollars—the largest donation ever made to the program—to renovate and expand existing studio space.
The benefactor is Robert Fitzhenry, a McMaster alumnus and philanthropist, who made the donation in honour of his late wife Andrée, who was a painter specializing in landscapes.
The announcement was made at an emotional ceremony, on Wednesday-the same day of Andrée's birthday-with administrators and art students in attendance.
“I believe that art is an essential component of a complete life. My wife Andrée’s devotion to art was a beacon for us, and continues to be an inspiration for sharing with others the value of art in all its forms,” said Fitzhenry.
Livia Tsang, a fourth-year honours art student, was at the celebration ceremony.
"He dedicated it to his wife and it was her birthday today. It was super emotional," said Tsang.
She continued, "It's just so generous the fact that he's donating so much money. We heard that he was giving something, but we weren't thinking anything so big. It is so exciting."
The gift will establish the Dr. Robert and Andrée Rhéaume Fitzhenry Studios and Atrium, an open space filled with natural light, set aside for painting, sculpting and other media.
The atrium will face Stearn Drive near the David Braley Athletic Centre and will act as a reception area allowing visitors, students, faculty and staff to view completed art as well as works in progress.
McMaster’s fine arts studios were first built in the 1960s in Togo Salmon Hall and were originally intended to house only 15 artists at a time. Since then, the program has expanded and the need for space has grown.
"The space does get cramped. Having an expansion will be helpful," said Lydia Santia, a second-year studio art student."
"The studio here has its own charm, and the tight quarters mean that we do often get close to each other, but at the same time, having not enough space can cause tensions," said Tsang.
In her first year, Tsang was one of 22 artists who entered the program. Current first-years entered into a class of 30.
Tsang said that, due to the cramped space, many artists have to work from home.
"The people who do work in the studio, they take over certain areas and other people get irritated when their space is impeded or when people use their things without permission,” she said.
The new atrium will cover a courtyard workspace, adding 1,700 square feet to the lower level of Togo Salmon Hall.
"They're going to bring in a lot of light. We're all stuck in a basement [now] all day and in the winter it gets kind of drab. Obviously natural light is optimal for when you're working with paintings and drawings and colour," she said. "Being in a basement can be tough. Especially in the winter when it's dark and it's cold."
Nikkie To, a fourth-year fine arts student, said she feels that space is integral to the artistic process.
“It allows us to present art properly and express our ideas. We can talk to one another, receive feedback and get help from our peers,” To said.
Second-year studio art student Mary Duncan could only think of "dingy" when asked to describe fourth-year studios upstairs.
"Most of them don't have indies and only have of them has a sink. They're essentially closets," she said. "There's no light up there. Having some natural light up there will be amazing."
McMaster president Patrick Deane expressed gratitude for Fitzhenry’s donation to the program.
“This critical investment will have an impact on the entire campus, altering the way our students learn and creating an environment that can support all their artistic endeavours,” Deane generic viagra price said.
Robert Fitzhenry grew up in West Hamilton and graduated McMaster in 1954 with an honours B.A. in political economy. As a student, he played football and served on the Board of Publications.
He holds an honourary doctorate from McMaster and has been a member of the McMaster Alumni Association board of directors.
Construction on the site will begin in 2014.
This article was originally published online Nov. 13 and was updated for Nov. 14.
Photo: An artistic rendering of new studio space planned for the fine arts program. C/O McMaster University.