C/O Safer Spaces

The Safer Spaces Project, a joint initiative by Industry and Hamilton Fringe, seeks to create safer theatre and art spaces

Theatres and other art spaces are often perceived as safe spaces — spaces upheld by mutual respect, trust and kindness where folks can comfortably express themselves and feel supported.

However, this view fails to completely capture the real definition of a safe space: an environment free from harassment, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, oppression and emotional or physical harm. In reality, the view that artistic spaces are fundamentally designed to be a safe space could not be further from the truth.  

The Safer Spaces Project is a research project led by two arts organizations at the forefront of change in performance and art spaces, Industry and the Hamilton Fringe. The aim of the project is to collect data on harm that exist in theatre and art culture through a survey and use the information obtained to develop an internal cultural guide on mitigating harm and setting expectations of behaviour and accountability at Industry and Hamilton Fringe. 

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The survey launched in July 2021 and the hope is to collect 250 responses from all folks who engage with theatre and art spaces — performers, musicians, directors, producers and patrons just to name a few. A select number of survey participants will be interviewed to expand on their lived experiences. It is open to folks from any location; participants don’t need to be from Hamilton nor have an experience in an art space in Hamilton. 

Robin Lacambra, also the Founder of GOODBODYFEEL, a pilates, yoga and mindfulness studio in Hamilton, is the director of the Safer Spaces Project. She was brought onto the project because of her previous work in creating safer spaces and collective liberation. Her online courses such as Sharing Privilege focus on how folks can implement more inclusive and anti-oppressive daily practices and be more aware of their individual privilege. 

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Laura Welch, the project coordinator, joined the Safer Spaces team to address and open the conversation on toxic norms of creative spaces that are too often swept under the rug. As an actress, she witnessed first-hand the abuses of power and discrimination in theatre. Outside of this project, she is the Safe Spaces Coordinator for Industry and Artistic Director of Light Echo Theatre.

“This project is really near and dear to my heart because throughout my experiences of working in the professional-level theatre, there’s just been so many abuses of power, harms and a lack of care in many of the spaces and it has deeply affected the quality of my artistry and my ability to seek employment in a field I have wanted to do my whole life. This project is a way to start addressing that,” explained Welch.

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Everyone on the Safer Spaces Project team contributes unique perspectives and diverse, lived experiences to the conversation about issues in theatre and art spaces. 

Researchers on the team include Maddie Krusto, an artist, educator and community outreach coordinator at the Hamilton Fringe, and Kitoko Mai, a Black, non-binary, multidisciplinary performance, media and community artist. 

The project’s steering committee is composed of Karen Ancheta, a Filipina theatre storyteller and theatre performer; Adrienne Crossman, queer and non-binary curator and artist; Juan Jaramillo, a Latinx, deaf performance artist; Josh Taylor, Black dancer and owner of Defining Movement Dance studio; Talli Osborne, a performance artist born missing her arms; and Cher Obediah, an Indigenous storyteller, writer and artist.

“It’s a very colourful steering committee and that’s very rare. It’s really rare to have steering committees that aren’t predominately White . . . Even though all the experiences are individual, because we have such an intersectional team, we are getting way more data from our steering committee meetings than just a boardroom of White men talking about what they think will be best,” explained Lacambra. 

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So far, the response to the project has been affirming. Many people have shared their appreciation about the conversations the team is promoting online, through the survey and at panels. On Nov. 25, Safer Spaces Project will have a booth at the Garden Project Party for folks to complete the survey at the event and ask questions.

Once 250 survey responses have been collected, the team is planning on hosting a public panel to share the findings. When the internal culture guide is complete, it will be available on the Industry and Hamilton Fringe websites for feedback and re-evaluated annually. On a broader scale, the team hopes the guide can serve as a blueprint for other arts organizations and places to cultivate a safe space in their own practices. 

“The hope is to create this takeaway: we did all this research, we spoke to a lot of people, we have such a diverse steering committee, so many experiences are being considered in this document we are presenting, [so] take it and run with it and make your space safer for more folks,” said Lacambra.

In addition to the development of the internal cultural guide, the Safer Spaces Project facilitates discussions about oppressive and harmful practices in the entertainment and art industries through its interview series called Midday Musings. The series is conducted by the core team of Lacambra, Welch, Krusto and Mai featuring guest speakers to share their experiences and the changes they would like to see. 

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The series re-emphasizes the importance of the Safer Spaces Project and amplifies voices of those that have gone through challenges and are surviving and thriving. In doing so, the team also hopes it will increase engagement and encourage others to take part in the survey. 

“[Collecting enough survey responses] has been a little tricky so far. I think partially because to actually name there’s an issue in an industry where you are so replaceable can feel really scary. We are trying to continue a conversation that has been happening underground for a while and spark something in artists to do the survey so we can get data and make change,” said Welch.

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In an industry in which success is heavily reliant on fame, power and influence, it can be difficult to speak up. Silence is demanded. Complaints are shut down. And the squeaky wheel doesn’t get the role. However, it is more the reason why the project requires support and action.

“It’s important for all folks to recognize we are all required to intentionally contribute to creating equitable futures and just futures and liberated futures. If we aren’t intentionally contributing to such a cause, then we are unintentionally holding that reality back from manifesting. We are all required in the revolution of collective liberation,” said Lacambra.

By participating in the survey, folks can enact their leadership and power to drive tangible change in fostering safer, braver theatre and art spaces. 

“And wouldn’t that be an amazing thing to do?” said Lacambra.

C/O Rania Saxena

Singer-songwriter Rania Saxena discusses her musical journey, passion for outer space, and upcoming EP

By: Edwin Thomas, Contributor

This article marks the beginning of Behind the Beat, a new series highlighting Hamilton-based music artists, their musical journeys and recent work.

Emerging singer-songwriter Rania Saxena’s creative journey began when she was very young. Growing up as an only child, Saxena took to making up games and drawing to keep herself entertained. Looking to explore new creative outlets, she also began taking guitar lessons. Her guitar teacher encouraged her to sing while playing to improve her technique, which unintentionally improved her vocal abilities as well. 

In high school, Saxena surrounded herself in a group of friends who wrote original songs and performed at their school. Her peers inspired her to start writing her own songs. Her first few performances were as gifts for her close friends and family, with the most notable being a song she wrote and performed for her father’s birthday. She received a lot of praise from people attending the event for how relatable the song was, which encouraged her to continue writing and performing songs.

“I realized that music can not only be a way for me to express myself, but for other people to find some of their truth in my words . . . that was pivotal,” said Saxena.

“I realized that music can not only be a way for me to express myself, but for other people to find some of their truth in my words . . . that was pivotal.”

Rania Saxena, singer-songwriter

She continued playing original and cover songs for her friends and family, which eventually led to her performing original songs at her high school’s talent shows.

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In 2018, Saxena began attending McMaster University’s Health Sciences program. She found the atmosphere to be very welcoming, encouraging her to grow and try new things. She found herself surrounded again by musically inclined peers as part of the Health Sciences Musical. She recalled the excitement and energy she felt performing in her first performance in 2019, and later on in her 2021 performance in BHScreentime. She considers her peers in the musical her family and an integral part of her university experience. 

Saxena started publishing her music to Soundcloud during her time at McMaster, using the microphone on her earphones to record and Garageband to produce. Her early songs involved only her voice and a ukulele as they produced the best quality given her resources at the time. These songs were heavily influenced by artists such as Lorde, Hozier, and Dodie. Later on, in songs like don’t you need a break, Saxena expanded her musical repertoire, incorporating drum loops, piano chords, and a plethora of other sounds in her songs.

She began to develop her writing style, incorporating events from her life, such as heartbreak, and her admiration of nature into the lyrics. Another major influence on her writing style came from her grandfather’s passion for poetry. She started with couplets which later evolved into free-form poetry that she used as a foundation for her lyrics. Her songwriting process typically begins with either the poems she has written or the melodies she has recorded in Voice Memos on her phone. Additionally, she made original album covers for her singles using paintings and digital art she created. After releasing her first few singles, she performed mini-setlists in fundraisers for the Health Sciences Musical at the McMaster University Student Centre. 

In her songwriting process, she often draws inspiration from her fascination with space. The imagery in her lyrics is used to illustrate the likeness between the grandeur and vastness of outer space to her experiences with love and heartbreak, seen in the song cosmic avenue. She often uses space-related symbols to signify the importance of events in her life, such as comparing her mother’s love and care for her to the moonlight that wraps around the earth at night, in mama moonlight, a birthday tribute to her mother. Cosmic Queries by Neil deGrasse Tyson in particular has been an important inspiration for songs in her upcoming EP.

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Over time, her music has evolved to include a variety of themes, including self-conflict and frustration in her most recent single, speculation, where she described an inner turmoil during a darker time in her life. She found her relationship with music became a therapeutic outlet for her. 

“What started out as a fun hobby has turned into a form of therapy for myself. What started off as me just goofing around and trying out different things has ended up with me using song-writing and composition as a way for me to process my emotions,” explained Saxena.

The new circumstances of the pandemic, however, limited her access to the resources she used during her time at McMaster, so she invested in a midi keyboard, guitar and microphone to continue making music. Though the pandemic hindered her plans, she used her spare time to teach herself how to produce, mix, and master records using Logic Pro through YouTube tutorials. She found the experience to be very valuable to her musical comprehension. It was also at this time when she started writing songs for her EP.  

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When asked about advice that she would give to future artists, she said it is important to find your voice.

“Why aim to be the second Billie Eilish when you can be the first you?” she asked.

“Why aim to be the second Billie Eilish when you can be the first you?"

Rania Saxena, singer-songwriter

This is a mantra she has taken to heart to find her own music style. She encourages other artists to experiment with rhythms and sounds outside of their comfort zone to help them find their style.

Her first EP is set to come out later this year, drawing influence from Sarah Kinsley, Lorde, and Clairo. She has kept most of its details under wraps but revealed there will be rock-influenced songs as well. As for her future after McMaster, Saxena plans to continue her music career, hoping to make a debut album. Additionally, she has not been able to perform in-person since the pandemic but looks forward to more performances in the future.

Her music is available on most music platforms and can be found here

C/O Mary Luciani

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Art Crawl returns from its long hiatus and brings back a sense of community

Artistry. Magic. Community. These are a few words that may come to people’s minds when they think of Art Crawl. After many months in lockdown and just in time for back to school, Art Crawl made its return to James Street North. On the second Friday of every month, public health guidelines permitting, restaurants, cafés and retail shops on the street, as well as artists and other vendors, will gather on James North to create a mystical event filled with food, music, art and handcrafted goods.

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Art Crawl started years ago as a grassroots event by the vendors and artists on James Street North. It is important to stress it is not a single person who is behind the event but rather a melting pot of many creatives in the community. It was also this community that drew Mary Luciani, the owner of The Pale Blue Dot, to Art Crawl for the past 10 years and inspired her to set up her shop on James Street North. 

Luciani began attending Art Crawl as a self-taught painter to share her pieces with the community. She was excited to connect with strangers and exchange stories with passers-by and other artists. Through these interactions, she felt she was able to form an authentic connection with the local community and the city. Today, she sells sustainable and ethical everyday items such as bamboo toothbrushes, compostable gloss, antiques and vintage clothing at the Pale Blue Dot. Students can also use code MACSTUDENT10 for 10% off at The Pale Blue Dot.

Luciani also started and manages the Instagram account on.jamesnorth which showcases the lovely shops and faces behind the James North community. The account occasionally organizes giveaways for supporters and shoppers as well. 

Given all the love, enthusiasm and pride for Art Crawl, Luciani and other vendors and goers of the fair were delighted to see it come back in August for the first time since its closure in late 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

“I couldn’t even tell you how magical it felt just to see familiar faces on the street and see the community back. It wasn’t revived to what it used to be just yet, but it was such a beautiful start,” Luciani said.

“I couldn’t even tell you how magical it felt just to see familiar faces on the street and see the community back. It wasn’t revived to what it used to be just yet, but it was such a beautiful start."

mary luciani, the owner of Pale blue dot
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The community missed it very much; the crowds were energetic and emotional. People were tapping their toes to the live music, enjoying the physical company of each other and immersing in the nostalgia and regained sense of normalcy during what has been an unpredictable and distressful year and a half.

“As a young artist 10 years ago, standing up on the street, there’s nowhere else that I would have the opportunity to do that . . . to showcase my paintings,” Luciani said.

“As a young artist 10 years ago, standing up on the street, there’s nowhere else that I would have the opportunity to do that . . . to showcase my paintings."

mary luciani, the owner of Pale blue dot

Art Crawl inspires and cultivates the spirit of local businesses and the arts in Hamilton. For those who are living in Hamilton for the first time, it can be a great introduction to the pockets of communities that exist off campus. With the next Art Crawl event coming up soon, students can watch out for details on on.jamesnorth on Instagram and for more giveaways. 


“Having a space where I could just come, show up and present my work . . .and connect with community members, I think it’s so wonderful,” Luciani said.

“Having a space where I could just come, show up and present my work…and connect with community members, I think it’s so wonderful."

mary luciani, the owner of Pale blue dot

Multi-talented artist is learning from and giving back to the Hamilton community

C/O @clairitytarot

Clairandean Humphrey is a jack of all trades, but far from a master of none. The oracle card reader, artist and movement instructor reads tarot cards, draws, paints, makes video art, sings, writes songs, teaches yoga, Pilates and much more.

Throughout their life, Humphrey picked up and refined these different practices. In all their work, Humphrey is guided by the principle of affirming that they’re here.

“[T]here's so many stereotypes and tropes that see past a person's existence. We don't really get to know people because of prejudices and our biases. And so a lot of my work now is exploring and investigating anti-oppression and gender-inclusive language and understanding that it's always changing,” said Humphrey.

“[T]here's so many stereotypes and tropes that see past a person's existence. We don't really get to know people because of prejudices and our biases. And so a lot of my work now is exploring and investigating anti-oppression and gender-inclusive language and understanding that it's always changing,”

Clairandean Humphrey

Humphrey added that it is important for them to stay in conversation with others, adjust to the various nuances and be aware of the ways they are impacting others.

Awareness of this impact is especially important because of the multiple avenues through which Humphrey has interacted with the Hamilton community since moving to the city in 2019.

One of these avenues is through singing and songwriting. They grew up in a musical household and began writing songs in their early 20s. During the summer of 2019, they put together an extended play record, recording in it in a kitchen and an attic. In April 2020, they released the finished project called Moving in the Dark.

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“[The process of making the EP was] very scary and I didn't want to do it. But for some reason, I need to record this EP. It's sitting inside and it wants to get out, so it feels like a restlessness . . . [I recorded it] and then I sat on it. And then 2020 happened . . . I did a mini-concert online when it was big and hot on the internet. And it was just fun, even though I was nervous and felt terrified. It was just fun to express that and to put that in the world. And I feel like that was a part of my healing from going from Toronto to Hamilton and allowing myself to learn here,” said Humphrey.

"It was just fun to express that and to put that in the world. And I feel like that was a part of my healing from going from Toronto to Hamilton and allowing myself to learn here,”

CLAIRANDEAN HUMPHREY

However, music wasn’t the only practice that Humphrey grew in Hamilton. Much of their time has been devoted to their involvement with Pilates, yoga, and mindfulness studio, Goodbodyfeel.

While Humphrey has always been an active person, it was in their 20s that they began practising yoga. After getting out of a toxic relationship, they re-entered a movement practice more seriously. They joined Goodbodyfeel in 2018 and completed training with the studio in late 2019.

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Through Goodbodyfeel, Humphrey was introduced to trauma-informed movement and anti-oppressive wellness spaces. As an instructor with the studio, they teach a class exclusively for queer, trans and nonbinary folks and a Saturday morning class called Mantra + Movement + Mindfulness.

In this class, Humphrey pulls an oracle or tarot card at the beginning and then creates a mantra throughout this class. This class incorporates their role as a tarot card reader.

Humphrey was introduced to tarot through a partner who was also interested in the occult world. While living in Quebec for four years and learning French, they had the time to study the mythology and meanings of the cards. During this time, they also discovered they were a witch through understanding the uses of medicinal plants.

Now, through Clarity Tarot, Humphrey reads tarot for others. As with their movement practice, their tarot readings are trauma-informed, anti-oppressive and gender-inclusive. They are currently offering readings online through Zoom. In the past, they have also done readings at Hamilton store The Witch’s Fix.

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“[T]arot has done a lot for me, but it's kind of hard to put it in all in words in one shot. When you're talking about the intuitive arts, it can sound really like up there. I think what I do is try to make it more practical. It's in your mundane world. It's how you make your tea. It's having a conversation with a friend. There's spiritual moments in that, even just connecting with someone else. I think people think the spiritual is very far away [but] it's right where you're at. You don't have to look far and it's a lot simpler than you think,” explained Humphrey.

"There's spiritual moments in that, even just connecting with someone else. I think people think the spiritual is very far away [but] it's right where you're at. You don't have to look far and it's a lot simpler than you think,”

CLAIRANDEAN HUMPHREY

Currently, Humphrey is working on a number of projects. They are doing a number of trainings to deepen their understanding of trauma-informed movement, teaching movement to youth, anatomy, physiology and merging justice work with yoga.

They are also working on a number of art projects. They are organizing their works so they can begin sharing them with the public. They are also part of an art collective that is trying to get grants to create movement pieces.

As they have in their own life, Humphrey encourages students to go after the things that they want.

“If you are truly passionate about something or you're feeling intrigued by something, don't let anyone stop you. And don't let your doubts stop you. And it's not to say you're not going to have fears or doubts, but don't let it stop you from expressing what you need to express,” Humphrey said.

Hamilton-based artist Bhairavi Jathar shares thoughts on painting, productivity and the pandemic

C/O Bhairavi Jathar

Bhairavi Jathar is a Hamilton-based artist with a passion for painting. Inspired by the impressionists who painted outdoors, Jathar particularly partakes in plein air painting. She has participated in live art shows across Ontario and her art was recently displayed in the Hamilton Artists Inc.’s window activation series.

Jathar grew up in Pune, India and first learned the basics of drawing and painting from her mother, who is also an artist. She went on to study commercial art and advertising and worked for many years as a graphic designer and illustrator.

C/O Bhairavi Jathar

“While [completing my studies], I realized that my passion for painting was still there. So I continued painting outdoors and I was always surrounded by great teachers, artists, friends and colleagues . . . so I also learned from them and that's how my painting career started,” explained Jathar.

"While [completing my studies], I realized that my passion for painting was still there. So I continued painting outdoors and I was always surrounded by great teachers, artists, friends and colleagues . . . so I also learned from them and that's how my painting career started."

Bhairavi Jathar

She also travelled with her husband as part of his job and during these travels, she had the opportunity to study French art. Jathar has always loved painting outside and it was also during these travels she had the chance to try plein air paintings. Later she pursued a master of art to get more insight about Indian and western art.

Jathar immigrated to Canada in 2014 and continued to work as a graphic designer for a few years. Then in 2017, she decided to become a full-time artist. During these years, she began volunteering at an art centre that hosted live painting events.

These events are often paired with an auction, so as the artists are painting in front of their audience, the audience is also bidding on the paintings being created.

C/O Bhairavi Jathar

“These events are very, very interactive because you get to talk to your audience and they can give you feedback because they see you painting and it gives you motivation,” explained Jathar.

"These events are very, very interactive because you get to talk to your audience and they can give you feedback because they see you painting and it gives you motivation."

Bhairavi Jathar

Jathar began participating in these shows at the art centre but went on to participate in others across Ontario. In recent years, she has successfully participated in, juried and curated exhibitions in art galleries in Brantford, Brampton, Hamilton, Mississauga, Paris, St. Catharines and Toronto.

Unfortunately, the pandemic not only shuttered many galleries but also put many of the live events Jathar enjoyed on hold indefinitely. Despite these setbacks, Jathar noted the last year has been her most productive.

Over the last few months, she has been working on a series of paintings depicting important heritage buildings in Hamilton and some of the surrounding towns in Ontario.

“Every city has one building which is prominent there and that city is known by that [building’s] old architecture and so those things are also captured in my paintings . . . every painting is from a different city, in different seasons. So even though it's the same spot, in every season, it looks different,” Jathar explained.

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Jathar hopes her art brings people some joy but more broadly she hopes that whatever the scene may be, people are able to connect to it and see something of themselves in her art.

Jathar hopes her art brings people some joy but more broadly she hopes that whatever the scene may be, people are able to connect to it and see something of themselves in her art.

Moving forward she hopes to do a series of more conceptual art around the themes of immigration and balancing different cultures.

“As an immigrant, how do I feel and how my culture is still here . . . and because my kids are growing up here, I always feel that I need to adjust with some things, which I never faced earlier. I grew up in a different atmosphere and my kids are growing [up] in a different atmosphere, so I always try to balance those things. That’s what I want to show [in this series],” explained Jathar.

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Jathar has also been offering virtual art lessons for children and adults over the last few months and offered some words of encouragement for students.

“I would [tell them] keep doing what they want to do and don't get distracted with what others are doing. You keep doing your work, your art, because sometimes what happens is we see others are doing something different and sometimes we feel that maybe we are the odd one out, but don't think that way. You keep doing whatever you're doing,” Jathar said.

Brittany Aiello discusses how she finds comfort and stress relief through her hand-painted plant pot business

During the stress and isolation of lockdown, people have returned to pastimes such as art, dancing and writing. However, one of the most popular trends is planting. There is something therapeutic about nurturing plants that has convinced many people to rekindle their garden romance during this pandemic.

If you are a plant lover and have been researching local Hamilton businesses to support, you may already be familiar with The Crazy Planter Lady on Instagram. Behind the beautifully painted pots and cute plants is Brittany Aiello.

The artist started the Instagram page back in 2018 to share her extensive plant collection. After successfully debuting her hand-painted plant pots at a 2019 art crawl, she turned her planting and painting hobby into a business.

 

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Aiello fell in love with painting plant pots because planting and art enabled her to unplug and relax. She loves her job as an educational assistant for students with special needs, however, it can be very stressful and painting plant pots is the perfect hobby that combines her passion for both art and gardening.

She also appreciates the community connection she is able to build with other local artists, plant enthusiasts and small business owners.

“[Painting plant pots] is a really good escape for me, physically and mentally. But on top of that, I've gotten to meet lots of cool people and whether it be at shows, customers or just people asking me for advice on how to take care of their plants. I think the community of Hamilton as a whole has a lot of great people that are willing to support local and so I've met awesome other business people like myself and artists,” said Aiello. 

"[Painting plant pots] is a really good escape for me, physically and mentally. But on top of that, I've gotten to meet lots of cool people and whether it be at shows, customers or just people asking me for advice on how to take care of their plants."

The painting technique she uses most involves dish soap and acrylic paint to create unique, abstract patterns that also come in endless colour combinations. The most popular designs are galaxy and metallics.

Her pots can be purchased in a variety of sizes with or without a plant and custom typography can be added as well. Another collection the artist offers are the "tiny planter buddies" ranging from animals to miniature Starbucks cups.

Since uploading her first post on her Instagram page, her page has been flooded with support and love from the community. In fact, it was the same community that convinced her to sell her hand-painted pots. Behind the scenes, her husband who is a graphic designer helps with advertisements and social media posts.

 

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Outside of her social media page, Aiello also participates in art shows. Although her last show was in the summer of 2020, the supporters who come out to see her art motivate her to continue developing her business.

Aiello’s pots are available at Nest gift shop on Locke Street, which is currently closed due to the lockdown. However, her pots are still available for sale using contactless payment and pickup.

To fit the theme of a plant-based store, Aiello’s business is also eco-conscious and sustainable. All the packaging is made of recycled materials and she also offers plant rescues for her customers’ dying plants. Through this service, she is able to support new plant owners and share the values and benefits of planting with the community. 

“I just love having living decor that you can change and it really brings up your mood inside your living space as well,” said Aiello.

“I just love having living decor that you can change and it really brings up your mood inside your living space as well,” said Aiello.

For those who are just starting to care for plants, Aiello shared her tips.

“You really can't go wrong with getting a desert plant like a succulent because it really does only need water once a month and you can forget about it and it looks beautiful. I think people just need to remember, it's okay if you lose a plant because then you learned a lesson and you can get a new plant,” said Aiello.

Being a plant parent can provide solace, distraction or beauty during this time of hurt and uncertainty. Whatever emotions you may have during the pandemic, planting — with the help of folks like Aiello — might be just the outlet you need to reignite a little jubilation.

Fourth-year student Abi Oladesu is beautifying clients through her business Desu Beauty

Abi Oladesu has been doing makeup for most of her life. She started having fun with her mother’s makeup from the age of 10 and decided a few years later to challenge herself to increase her skills. She did someone else’s makeup for the first time when she was about 16.

During her second year at McMaster University, the biochemistry student started thinking about taking makeup more seriously. However, it wasn’t until she was quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic that she decided to take the leap and start her business, Desu Beauty on Oct. 30, 2020.

There are three components to Oladesu’s business. As she has received many requests for makeup tutorials and enjoys teaching, she decided that she would post makeup tutorials on Instagram and offer beginner and intermediate lessons.

The second part of her business involves posting her own makeup looks in order to improve her skills and show clients what she can do. Lastly, she does makeup for clients’ weddings, photoshoots, proms, graduations and other events.

 

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It is important to Oladesu that when she does clients’ makeup, she isn’t turning them into a different person but highlighting the best parts of them. This goal stems in part from her own experience with makeup. When Oladesu was a preteen and early teenager, she used makeup as a way of hiding her face. Now she uses makeup to accentuate her features and seeks to do the same for her clients.

“Obviously nobody wants that for themselves, but I don't think there's anything necessarily bad about [being self-conscious] in the sense that we all feel self-conscious once in a while. We're in a society where the beauty standards are very high and they change all the time, but it's important to remember . . . you're the one that at the end of the day determines your worth to other people,” said Oladesu.

"We're in a society where the beauty standards are very high and they change all the time, but it's important to remember . . . you're the one that at the end of the day determines your worth to other people," said Oladesu.

This mission is embedded in the name of Oladesu’s business. While she originally called it Desu Beauty as a reference to the last four letters of her last name, she realized upon reflection that it had a deeper meaning for her.

“I'm a very large fan of anime and so desu . . . basically means “to be” . . . I am [also] Christian [and] in the Bible, it's like “we are beautifully and wonderfully made” . . . So to be that beautifully and wonderfully creative person, you have to love yourself in every aspect, whether that's with wearing your natural face out and being super proud of it or getting the skills to do your makeup really well so that every time you look in the mirror . . . you’re like, “wow, I feel beautiful, I know I'm beautiful.” . . . I want you to be the best version of yourself or at least to look at yourself and be like "wow, I feel like that beautifully and wonderfully made person,"” explained Oladesu.

Since she started, Oladesu has received positive reception and a lot of support from family and friends. Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic has decreased the number of events for which people would get their makeup done. At the same time, Oladesu credits the pandemic with giving her the time to start her business.

 

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Oladesu also sees online classes as a blessing for her since she started her business. Instead of spending all day on campus and then doing makeup appointments, she can better make her own schedule by doing makeup during the day and watching recorded lectures afterwards. Managing the business alongside her demanding degree and other commitments has also encouraged her to better prioritize her time.

Oladesu looks forward to continuing to grow her following and reach more people through her business. As she will be graduating soon, she is considering how she might integrate her love of makeup into her career.

“I'm definitely a cautious person so . . . right now, I definitely am going to finish my biochemistry degree and I'm going to see if I could get a job with that. But working with makeup has gotten me interested in cosmetics in general so [maybe] I can mix my biochemistry major with cosmetics and then possibly go into formulation or something along those lines,” said Oladesu.

"I definitely am going to finish my biochemistry degree and I'm going to see if I could get a job with that. But working with makeup has gotten me interested in cosmetics in general."

To other students with a skill they are considering turning into a business, Oladesu says to just start. She recalls that she felt the need to have high-quality foundations in every colour before she began her business. However, since she started, all her clients have used colours that she had already had.

“There's nothing wrong with humble beginnings. You don't have to have everything, you don't have to have the best of everything," Oladesu said. "It's better to just start because honestly, I feel like people appreciate watching you grow and watching you improve.”

cw: use of profanity 

McMaster LIVELab houses an endless array of technology on our campus, from active acoustic control to motion capture and electroencephalography. This technology is a necessity, for LIVELab needs it to combine research-based studies with theatrical and musical shows. 

Synaptic Rodeo, a project presented by McMaster LIVELab, seamlessly blends neuroscience, technology and art into a nonlinear show about human consciousness. Synaptic Rodeo is based on the premise that humans often rely on past experiences to inform future predictions. This subconscious activity is constant, we are always trying to hypothesize what will happen next. 

After a two year residency, six diverse interdisciplinary artists have joined forces to put Synaptic Rodeo together and take advantage of all the technology LIVELab has to offer. Julia Aplin (choreographer), Anna Chatterton (playwright/performer), Christopher Stanton (director), John Gzowski (composer), Jim Ruxton (new media) and Lauren Trainor (neuroscientist and professor) have lended their knowledge with the hopes of creating an experience for everyone to enjoy.

We caught up with Stanton, Ruxton and Gzowski for an exclusive Sil Sit Down interview all about Synaptic Rodeo, the interdisciplinary artists involved, and what audiences can expect from this show premiering this Friday Nov. 29 and Saturday Nov. 30. 

How did you get involved with the project?

 

Stanton: I was welcomed onto this train while it was already chugging along, and it did not slow down for them to let me on . . . they’ve been going for about two years and I’ve been with them for just under one year. 

Ruxton: [LIVELab] put out a call for submissions and I have all these interests in the brain, ideas of consciousness and how the brain works, so I spearheaded that proposal to study those things at LIVELab using their technologies. It was a great opportunity I think.

Gzowski: I was involved from the beginning . . . [Ruxton, Aplin, Chatterton and I] did one show before this called “Yellow Wallpaper” based on an existing short story and it was really a lot of fun. It was really a nice collaboration and outside of the straight theatre, dance and music world. After that when we were talking about what to do next, Jim said he would love to work at the LIVELab, it has been sort of a dream of his. So we looked into it and it was an amazing place. We applied to do a residency there and they happily accepted us.

 

How would you describe “Synaptic Rodeo”?

 

Stanton: We play with ideas of identity, we play with ideas of just how slippery our hold on reality is and just notions of reality all together. As [Trainor] mentions in one of her lecture segments, we’re taught to believe our eyes. Seeing is believing and really our experience of the world is shaped by subconscious biases. [With] the way our brain is taught to perceive the world, there’s no way of knowing what reality really is. There’s no core ontological experience, so we’re really playing with the notions of what’s real and what’s not real.

Ruxton: I think it’s a way of taking advantage of a lab and bringing together all the technology that they have available to pull it all together into what may not seem like a cohesive narrative at times, but it’s all tied together by the fact that Trainor, the neuroscientist, does little snippets of talks in between to pull the threads together of what we’re doing and showing. It’s really a blending of all the technologies available at LIVELab and making use of all those to create an interesting, visual, audio synaptic rodeo.

Gzowski: “Synaptic Rodeo” is a journey down the predictive mind. About how the predictive mind works, what happens when you lose it and how our sense of reality is based on predicting where things are gonna go, what’s going to happen next and what we’re gonna see. When those interactions don’t work or when our mind messes with what we expect is going to happen.

 

Can you walk me through the process it takes to create your parts of the show?

 

Ruxton: I’m using a lot of video processing and we’re also using the motion capture system [at LIVELab]. It’s kind of unique to have access to a motion capture system of that size and quality, because artists would never have [access to] that. For example, one piece [of Synaptic Rodeo] uses motion capture to control the lights in the space. [The lights] emanate from [Chatterton’s] head to look like neurons of her brain. [When Aplin] moves around the space, [she is able] to control different lights based on where she is in the space. That’s something that would only be possible with something like the amazing motion capture system in LIVELab. 

[Aplin] has [also] become a master at taking video [during the performance] and converting it into a kaleidoscopic video and changing it in real time. Depending on the objects she brings into the image, it’ll change the image. It’s kind of mesmerizing, it’s a real trip. It appeals to a certain side of your brain to see those things transform. We’re kind of akin to provide people with a psychedelic trip without having to do the acid. 

Gzowski: Most of the music isn’t really written, it’s been improvised to stick with the show which has been a lot of fun because it sort of changes with what we do as the technology changes. We’d just play around and improvise . . . and it’s really just trying to find that balance of meditative, hypnotic, sound and video that really brings you to that sense of your mind where you can lose your predictive mind. 

 

How do you think this is different than any other project in Hamilton?

Stanton: The particular blend of music, dance, text and scientific lecture . . . it’s so funny because the only way I can describe it is all my nerdiest loves all in one place. I’ve never been able to indulge the science nerd in me as equally in one project . . . it’s been incredible to be able to roll them up into one ball and have the generosity of all these folks into one room. They all bring something so different into the process and [Trainor] has been so generous with her knowledge and her time, there’s some surprises that will blow some people’s predictive minds. It’s like the most fucked up jazz band that I’ve ever worked with. It’s great and it’s nothing like I’ve ever worked on before. 

Ruxton: I think one of the things that makes it really unique is our different skills and bringing those together. Often you’ll go see a concert, a video artist, a dancer or play but because we bring all those elements together, it makes it pretty unique. John works all over the country in theatres creating sound design for amazing shows. Julia has been a choreographer for many years and has done dance work in Toronto, Anna has been nominated for the Governor General’s award for playwriting and has done a lot of really amazing work all over the world. I think we all at a certain level of our career, we’re all pretty professional. Bringing together these professionals in this way is pretty unique.

Gzowski: It’s different in that it has so much more involvement in tech . . . I haven’t worked on a show that has all this sort of stuff going on at the same time . . . To develop it slowly over such a collaborative workshop has been really a pleasure. 

 

What message do you hope somebody will walk away with after viewing the show?

 

Stanton: Two things: One is I hope they enjoy the non-linear, non-narrative expressionistic journey. A lot of this is just great to sit back and come on the trip with us. The truth is that I would love for people to be taking some of [Trainor]’s fascinating points and be curious about that. I hope they learn a thing or two about the human experience.

Ruxton: Well a very rich experience coming out of it. I hope it’s a bit of an altered state feeling coming out of the show. Also, leaving with this idea of the potential of what happens when you bring people together. The LIVELab has typically been used for concerts and things like that but to show other artists in the city, the potential of what that space has and perhaps they can make use of that. It’s world class and it’s right in our city and the potential of that is pretty amazing I think. 

It’s an experiential thing that I want them to have and also academically, [Trainor] does talk throughout the show in different areas and I want people to learn about these ideas of the extended mind and extended cognition the idea that our mind is no longer stuck inside our head but is in our phones, our computers, in the internet and we’ve really extended ourselves through technology and I want people to leave with those concepts that she talks about why music is important to us, she talks about rhythm, there’s a lot of things that she talks about in just a short period and I really want that to sync into people too and maybe go away and think about the mind in new ways.

Gzowski: I think it’s not really a message show but it’s an idea of how you really see the world, how your brain interprets it and how much of what you think of the world is based on how your mind works.

 

Synaptic Rodeo will be showing on Nov. 29 at 8 p.m., Nov. 30 at 2 p.m. and at 8 p.m. in the McMaster LIVELab (Psychology Complex 202A)

 

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Photos C/O Courtney Downman

Courtney Downman is a glass artist operating out of the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. Her work will be showcased at The Cotton Factory as part of the upcoming Work In Progress art exhibit. The exhibit will feature unfinished pieces from 13 artists. Downman says that much of her inspiration comes from the process of creation, which works well for an exhibit of partially finished work. 

“A lot of the time I’m inspired through the actual making process, which gives me new ideas as I’m creating,” said Downman. 

Downman’s work predominantly focuses on glass that has been carved down with a saw, meaning that the beginning of the piece looks drastically different from the end result.

“My first thought was to bring a piece that’s 60 per cent finished, because they look so different from when it starts as a complete bubble to where I cut it open and it becomes very jagged and you see the white from the saw lines, and then as I finish the last step it brings it all together. So, I was thinking of putting a piece out that’s just about halfway there to show the start to finish,” said Downman.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2FWNoonRHL/

Glass art is experiencing a rise in popularity at the moment. This is in part thanks to the hit Netflix competition show Blown Away, where glass artists compete to create pieces that match a given theme in a short period of time. Due to the difficulty of working with glass quickly, each competitor was assigned assistants from Sheridan College. Downman was one of the assistants, and she says she’s noticed a positive impact from the show.

“I think overall the community was really happy with the way that it brought exposure; [for] a lot of local studios the show has generated searches for handmade glass. People have been reaching out in local ways, which is kind of neat,” said Downman. “It was really neat as well to work behind the scenes without actually having to compete in the contest.” While glass art has always been popular, having a Netflix show has given it a wider platform than ever before.

The Work In Progress exhibit is being held at The Cotton Factory, a place dedicated to creating a sense of community amongst artists. Downman says that this community is why participating in art exhibits is one of her favourite parts of being an artist.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2AxJIqHdt3/

“We spend so long working quietly, usually alone in our own studio, so it’s rare that we get a chance to show what we do in a way where we also get to socialize with other people that are like-minded. I love meeting the other artists at the shows because I find there’s always common ground to start with. I’ve had a lot of really cool friendships blossom out of doing different shows,” said Downman.

With 13 artists who are all specialized in different art mediums, there is sure to be something that interests you, whether that be glass, leather, paint or something else entirely. Artists will be standing by their work, so if you have any questions about their process, you can ask them right on the spot. If you find art that you love, they will also have completed works available for sale that you can take home with you.

Work In Progress will take place on Sunday Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. at the Cotton Factory (270 Sherman Ave. N.). Admission is free.

 

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Hamilton is increasingly becoming known as a haven for artists. This is demonstrated in the street art that has taken over the walls of the downtown core. Several of these pieces were created during Concrete Canvas, a visual arts festival that took place this past July. Each piece was painted legally and with permission from the city. Take this map along with you and go take in some of the art Hamilton has to offer!

Click a point on the map below to see some of the art!

 

Stop #1: 126 James St. South, “Gateway” by Vivian Rosas & Vesna Asanovic

This vibrant street mural is located on James Street, immediately next to the Hamilton Go Centre (36 Hunter St. E). It depicts different scenes from around the city through beautiful splashes of yellow, purple and orange. Scenes include hiking the Bruce Trail, walking along Art Crawl and eating pizza. It replaced an older, faded piece and is made of aluminum composite panels so that it can last for years to come. 

 

Stop #2: 103 John St. South, Angelo Mosca tribute by @scottanddestroy 

Scott McDonald is the lead curator of Concrete Canvas. His piece commemorates Angelo Mosca, a Canadian Football League player and professional wrestler known as King Kong Mosca or The Mighty Hercules. Mosca was a player for the Hamilton Tiger Cats and is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He is one of only a few players to have played in nine Grey Cup games. The painting is done in black, white and yellow to reflect the Tiger Cats colours, and shows Mosca running down the field.

 

Stop #3: 75-77 Hunter St. East, piece by @burnttoastcreative

This painting was done for Concrete Canvas by Burnt Toast Creative, also known as Canadian illustrator Scott Martin. It’s visible from blocks away with its blue sky and unique comic style. It sits directly opposite from the Angelo Mosca tribute and has an image of a giant hand holding someone aloft. If you're interested in his art style, you can see more of Martin's work on his website.

 

Stop #4: John Street and Jackson Street, parrot by @scottanddestroy 

This painting was also done by Scott McDonald. It features a colourful parrot that brightens up the otherwise grim parking lot and bus stop nearby. It is offset slightly by the Kings Pizza logo located immediately next to the beak. 

 

Stop #5: Main Street and John St. North, piece by @jordan_war  

This painting was done by Jordan Warmington, a tattoo artist at John Street Tattoo (179 John St. S). It was also done as a part of Concrete Canvas. It decorates the construction plywood that has been sitting unadorned for several years now. 

 

Stop #6: 81 King St. East, “Home Grown” by @luvsumone, @javid_jah and @danilotheartist

“Home Grown” was also done as a part of Concrete Canvas. It is located on the back of 81 King St. E, in a small alleyway. It features a house walking forward wearing boots. You can read more about this piece on @luvsumone's Instagram.

 

Stop #7: King Street East and Catherine Street, “Emanating Flash” by Kristofir Dean

This public art installation was created through the combined work of Effort Group, Scholar Properties Ltd. and the ARt Gallery of Hamilton. Dean is a contemporary artist and his work deals primarily in bright colours which can be found on display throughout the country, most notably at the Vancouver Mural in South Granville. You can read more about the piece on the installation itself.

 

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