The City of Hamilton and the Downtown BIA are bringing Barton Village back to its former glory through local art installations. 

Hamilton is well known as a steel town. Back in the industrial days, most steel factories were located around Barton St. and as such it was quite a popular district. However, once factories started closing, many stores also followed and people began moving out of the neighbourhood and it became a street people avoided

Barton St. is currently going through a transition period where various projects and initiatives are changing tides and bringing the street back to what it once was. Among these projects, the City of Hamilton and the Downtown Hamilton BIA team launched an art project between Ferguson Ave. and Sherman Ave. in Barton Village. 

The art project features installations from 15 local artists in vacant storefronts along the street. Artists were selected based on how well they represent the artistic side of Hamilton using the people, places and history of Barton St.  

Currently the project features works from a variety of artists. Kayla Whitney, an artist and muralist who created a piece titled “Alive and Well” to highlight the legacy of Barton St. amidst its rough history. Allison + Cam, an illustration duo who aimed to portray their vision of Barton Street’s bright future through their art installation titled “Ring Out, Barton!”.  

David Trautimas, a multimedia artist who drew a large-scale Aloe Vera plant titled “Occupational Salve” to mirror Barton Street’s history and future as the plant is dependent on periods of rest and successive active growth. Edgardo Moreno, a composer and sound designer who filmed a video about the attempted revitalizations of Barton St. titled “A Fragile Balance.”  

Kyle Stewart, a visual artist highlights the theme of “Anything is possible on Barton” through his work titled “Sunnyside of the Street” which emphasizes the strong community in Barton Village. Gram + Laura, who are independent artists that collaborated to produce an art installation titled “Barton Bright/Barton Night” which aims to convey its quirky and vibrant night life as opposed to a street that should be avoided at night.  

Sunny Singh, an illustrator and cartoonist depicted a hazy memory (the past) or a dream (the future) in his piece “A Place to Play” to provide a sense of community and playfulness. Quinn Rockliff, an interdisciplinary artist who portrayed the unexpected everyday moments of tenderness and care that he encountered in Barton Village through his piece titled “Round Corners.” Chris Perez, an artist who created abstracted images using mundane objects in his mural titled “Everywhere you Enjoy.”  

Jordan Gorle, an artist and blacksmith who honoured Hamilton’s industrial heritage through his piece “steel IS art”, which brings steel back to Barton Village. Julianna Biernacki and Dayna Gedney (Hamilton Craft Studios), an artist duo who created a collaborative tufted rug installation representing Barton Village’s communal spaces changing over time.  

Sonny Bean, an illustrator who took pictures that highlight the past, present and future of Barton Village through his work titled “Intersect” which features a tiger, gardens, ladders that read for the stars and transformation. Andrew O'Connor, a multidisciplinary artist and designed who compiled Barton Street’s evolution from its celebrated industrial past to its hopeful future through his work titled “Our will to build and rebuild.”  

Par Nair, an interdisciplinary artist who wrote letters on silk sarees using hand embroidery to the “mother” in her piece titled “Letters of haunting” to represent the mute history of Barton Village. Anthony Haley, a visual artist who combined the revival and what is yet to come for Barton Street in his art installation titled “None of them knew they were Robots”. 

The team behind the Barton St. revitalization project hopes these pop-up window installations will help share the story of this community and foster a sense that it is a place that values art and culture.  

“We have a nice collection of small, independent businesses and we hope to grow that. We hope that your experience on Barton is much different than any of the other main strips in Hamilton,” said Jessica Myers, the Executive Director of the Barton Village Business Improvement Area

During the revitalization of Barton St., the team also wants to make sure they maintain the neighbourhood’s essence it had back in the day in Hamilton. 

“[Barton Village] has a grittiness that people do enjoy, kind of [like it] hasn't been scrubbed clean just yet . . . people like that original Hamilton vibe that's a bit lost in other neighbourhoods right now . . . and it’s what we want to maintain,” said Myers. 

“[Barton Village] has a grittiness that people do enjoy, kind of [like it] hasn't been scrubbed clean just yet . . . people like that original Hamilton vibe that's a bit lost in other neighbourhoods right now . . . and it’s what we want to maintain."

Jessica Myers, Executive Director of Barton Village Business Improvement Area

Moving forward, the City of Hamilton and Downtown BIA teams hope to attract more investors to continue funding projects aimed at creating a visually appealing streetscape for Barton’s businesses and residents. 

The Quirky AF art fair is a chance to celebrate all things unconventional, quirky and weird this art crawl weekend 

As we head into November, many of us are beginning to think about the holidays and the gift-giving season again. Along with events like Hamilton Day and the BIPOC Market, the Quirky AF art fair on Nov. 11 and 12 hosted by Hamilton Artists Inc. aims to help the community with their shopping and support local businesses and artists this winter. 

Quirky AF art fair was first introduced in 2019 during an Art Crawl weekend on James St. N. The fair was created to showcase unique works by avant-garde makers and artists and to foster space for critical and challenging contemporary art practices addressing regional and national discourses. Attendees at the event able to find whimsical, experimental and overall quirky art, crafts and items.  

“The aim of [Quirky AF art fair] is to bring together crafters and designers from across the region, who challenge expectations and take risks with work that is unconventional, experimental, political or all-around weird and quirky,” said Rachelle Wunderink, interdisciplinary artists and a member of the special events committee at Hamilton Artists Inc., in a email statement to The Silhouette

“The aim of [Quirky AF art fair] is to bring together crafters and designers from across the region, who challenge expectations and take risks with work that is unconventional, experimental, political or all-around weird and quirky,”

Rachelle Wunderink, Interdisciplinary artist and member of the special events committee at Hamilton Artists' Inc.

In 2020, the event was held online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, this November, after taking a break last year, it is finally back in-person and the team is excited to bring folks back into their space. This year, the fair will feature jewelry, prints, ceramics, toys, clothing, accessories and housewares from artisans and makers in Hamilton and the surrounding regions.  

“We are so excited to welcome students and the Hamilton community back into our physical space after [the COVID-19 pandemic]. . .We hope all students will come out to celebrate with us,” said Wunderink. 

Interested attendees can check out the Inc.’s Instagram page to learn more about each participating vendor. If any of the works or items interest you, this holiday season, get creative and gift something unique and bizarre by visiting the Quirky AF art fair on 155 James Street North this Art Crawl weekend. 

C/O Christine de Takacsy

The STORE on James specializes in handmade pieces by artists and makers in Ontario. 

Amid the current supply chain shortages, many are opting to shop local for this holiday season. For shoppers who aren’t sure where to go or what to buy at local vendors and platforms such as Blkownedhamont, Wiiji’iwe Collective and On James North are great places to start. Through these platforms, buyers can find gift guides, discover Indigenous makers and handmade artisan shops like the STORE on James.

The STORE offers a wide selection of handmade items by over 25 artists and makers in Ontario, including ceramic houseware, glasswork, jewelry, fibre art, woodwork, cards, prints and posters. The books sold in the STORE are the only products that are not handmade.  

“We really try to be almost like a mini market fair or one-of-a-kind establishment. Everything is done by local artists and we always have new things coming in. But we have a pretty steady roster of artists who have been here for many years,” said Christine de Takacsy, owner of the STORE.

The shop opened in 2014 on 129 James Street North and is operated by de Takacsy and her husband Bill Swallow who handles the section of used books. 

Working in the art scene and being an artist herself is how de Takacsy found other creatives and makers to join her list of artists. Many of the artists on the list are people she met within the community at different shows and opening galas. There are also artists she has reached out to after seeing their work at various shows and artists who have contacted her first. 

In general, she prioritizes full-time professional artists and curates a wide selection of different styles of works.

“There are so many good artists around, you could have way more artists than you have space, but I tried to have a good selection of different styles so when customers come in, they really have a nice variety,”

Christine de Takacsy

Although the COVID-19 pandemic brought on many challenges for small businesses, de Takacsy was floored by the support from the community. The continuous love from locals, combined with her enthusiasm for promoting fellow artists, sharing her own creations and seeing first-hand the reactions of customers to her artwork, has been her favourite aspects of running the business.

“Artists don’t always get to see how people are reacting to their work if they aren’t actually in the retail side of it. So that [part of running the STORE] really is good,” said de Takacsy.

During the holiday season, the STORE is offering special accessories such as glass, felted and ceramic ornaments, tea cozies, scarves and holiday themed tea towels as well as unique giftable goods. There are also handmade and locally designed holiday cards. 

“We are excited for the holiday season. There are lots of little gifts and decorated things and James Street North is trying to open later than we normally are…We are really trying to get into the Christmas spirit to encourage people to come and help support locals,”

Christine de Takacsy

From Nov. 12 to Dec. 17, all stores on James Street North will operate on extended holiday night hours on Thursdays and Fridays. The STORE will now be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays. 

For shoppers who can’t visit the store in person, the STORE has almost all their products available through their website as well. 

The online shop opened in June of 2020. It was de Takacsy’s first time running an e-shop and although it has been challenging, she is committed to delivering a shopping experience similar to what customers would experience visiting in-person.

“[Opening the online store] was definitely forced by COVID. It made me get it up, do it and get it done. There are still learning burps and it is hard because they are all one-of-a-kind pieces and very time consuming [to create the online listings] but it’s definitely worth it,” said de Takacsy.

De Takacsy is looking forward to the festive months and giveaways the businesses on James North are organizing to share the love of gift giving. 

With so many local businesses accessible both online and in-person this holiday season, instead of rushing to Amazon or other corporate businesses, shop local. There are many hidden talents and artists at vendors like the STORE and other shops in the community shoppers may be surprised to find. These one-of-a-kind items will surely capture and mark a memorable, one-of-a-kind holiday. 

C/O Stephanie Montani

Supercrawl may look a bit different this year, but the important pieces remain the same.

Since it began in 2009, Supercrawl has become an integral part of not only Hamilton’s arts and culture community, but the city’s larger community as well. The festival showcases local talent in a range of areas from music and theatre to visual art and fashion, and also offers space to vendors and food trucks. One of Hamilton’s signature events, the multi-arts festival truly offers something for everyone, bringing together people from across the city and featuring the treasured memories and traditions of many.

“[Supercrawl] started as a small grassroots experiment on James Street North, putting local people together—artists, vendors and businesses—and seeing if we could potentially draw some more people than were at the time coming to the local area. And from there it grew,” explained Tim Potocic, the festival director, in an interview with CFMU. 

For many students, Supercrawl’s mid-September timing lends itself to being the perfect introduction to the Hamilton arts and culture community.

“[T]he timing of Supercrawl has always worked out really nicely with new students . . .  it ends up being an amazing time for new students moving in and we've seen them come to the event. It's like their first weekend in Hamilton and this huge thing is going on and there's a massive circus in the middle of downtown,” said Lisa La Rocca, the festival’s vendor coordinator.

Typically, Supercrawl takes place during the second weekend of September. Planning for each weekend is a year-long affair, with the team starting to think about the next year almost immediately after the festival wraps up. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Potocic, La Rocca and their team to pivot quickly and search for new ways to continue to present and promote local artists—not only for those in the music industry, but also for those in visual arts, fashion and theatre.

We are ones to try to push through anything,” said La Rocca.

With the available funding, they launched several virtual events while keeping a close eye on the latest developments and changes to provincial regulations. They have offered livestream events, including a fashion and drag showcase, talk conferences, theatre and music concerts, and their murals have also continued to be displayed on James Street North. 

"We've been utilizing the options that are available to us and have shifted to livestreams when we couldn't do shows in-person, and when we could do in-person, we're doing socially distanced hybrid performances with a livestream component—it's been challenging with lots of cancellations, rebookings and attempts at execution, but we're still going strong!” explained Potocic in a statement.

When small outdoor gatherings were finally possible in Sept. 2020, Supercrawl launched its Skytop Live Concert Series with a cap of 100 physically distanced attendees. Visitors were provided a face mask and screened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure upon entry to the venue. La Rocca noted all the protocols worked well and the events ran smoothly.

“I’m really proud of how [the Skytop Live Concert Series] was managed and done. I think that people that came felt safe and felt like it was appropriately managed for the situation we were in. The bands felt great to have a performance opportunity in front of an audience,” said La Rocca.

The organizers of Supercrawl have also opened a venue of their own, Bridgeworks, on Caroline and Barton Street, to continue hosting small live concerts. Their latest free live concert series kicked off this year’s Supercrawl and lasted from Aug. 20 to Sept. 26. It ran both in-person, for up to 50 attendees at Bridgeworks, and as a livestream online. The 50 live audience members were chosen through a lottery from a list of those who had signed up to see the show. 

So far, the reception to the Bridgeworks concert series has been filled with excitement and positivity. The artists were also overjoyed to see the live reactions of audience members. To cater to everyone’s comfort levels, Supercrawl will continue to offer opportunities for both on-site and online viewing of the events, public health guidelines permitting.

“We're going to continue also offering live streams, even when we can have more audience, to make sure that everybody who wants to see it, with their different comfort levels, that our programming is available to them. We're going to do that for as long as we can still offer it. And we did see, offering the audience tickets [for our events these past few weeks], some people were more comfortable still watching it at home. And that's totally fine,” said La Rocca.

Part of Supercrawl’s success in maintaining its large presence during the past year can be attributed to its mature and rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From their online events to smaller in-person concerts, none of it would have been possible without timely decision making and attentiveness to public health guidelines. 

In a continuous effort to protect the health and safety of the artists, staff, volunteers and audience members, this year, following its announcement that as of Sept. 1, Supercrawl and Sonic Unyon mandated a proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with Government of Canada approved vaccines or an official documentation of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within 48 hours prior to entry to the event. 

The vaccination mandate came into effect after much deliberation with other arts organizations about how to best approach the coming months as restrictions continue to be lifted in Ontario. They examined other businesses' responses to changing guidelines and worked closely to develop new policies. Shortly after Supercrawl’s vaccine policy update, the Government of Ontario also released its statement on COVID-19 vaccination mandates. 

“There's been a lot of really good examples of the community, the artistic community and music community working together to figure out what's going on to make sure everybody is informed and on the same side,” explained La Rocca.

While there has been a great deal of change in the format of Supercrawl and how the festival operates over the last two years, the most important pieces have remained the same. The festival continues to showcase a range of remarkable local talent, while offering the community a number of opportunities to come together and connect, whether it’s in person or virtually.

Another core piece of the festival, and part of its particular appeal to students in the past, is the opportunities it offers for exploration and discovery and those opportunities are something the festival organizers have also strived to carry forward.

“We really just want everybody to feel like they can be involved and are involved in and can enjoy Supercrawl programming. I think that is the most important thing; we try to find something for everyone. That's in music genres, but also in representing as many different artistic genres as we can . . . we really want everybody to feel like there's something for them to see and something for them to do,” said La Rocca.

Supercrawl has become an important part of the Hamilton community and the student experience over the years and even throughout the pandemic they have continued to offer opportunities for people to come together, explore and enjoy themselves. Moving forward, the festival will continue to showcase local talent and offer these crucial community events in any way they can and in the upcoming months Supercrawl fans still have much to look forward to, including more music series, two new murals and an exciting outdoor event to be revealed in the upcoming weeks.

Multidisciplinary artist speaks about the importance of conversation and our histories

C/O Bhavika Sharma

This article marks the beginning of the Artist Talks series. The pandemic has resulted in the closure of many galleries and limited the opportunities for artists to showcase their work. However, Hamilton artists have been far from idle this past year, continuing to create and exploring new experiences.

Bhavika Sharma is an emerging multidisciplinary artist and is currently the artist in residence at Hamilton Artists Inc. 

They recently completed their undergraduate degree in architecture and visual arts at the University of Toronto. Sharma points to their time as an undergraduate student as a pivotal point for their art practice, as they gained more experience through studio courses and were also able to experiment with different mediums.

“When I was younger, like in high school I did [advanced placement] art and I did a lot of oil painting and stuff. But I feel like as I went to university, I think also it really was a lot of the professors I met who encouraged me to work in these mediums. Learning how to use video editing software and stuff that interested me and incorporating sewing and fabric, it really opened up a lot of opportunities. It was like, “Oh, yeah, this is what art can be. It can be like a whole range of things. And it can be just a drawing or a painting,”” said Sharma.

"Learning how to use video editing software and stuff that interested me and incorporating sewing and fabric, it really opened up a lot of opportunities."

Bhavika Sharma

Regardless of what medium they are working with, whether it be textiles or video installations, there are two key elements at the core of all their work: conversation and space. Sharma hopes their art encourages and holds space for conversation, with particular concerns surrounding the spaces we live in.

“[It’s about] getting people to think about [these spaces] differently or thinking about how we consume these spaces. And maybe we can change our ways of thinking about these places . . . I think just for people to think more about the way we learn about places or interact with the spaces that surround us,” explained Sharma.

C/O Bhavika Sharma

Sharma begins all of their projects by doing thorough and thoughtful research about the history of space they’re exploring in their art. These histories are a crucial component to both key elements of their work. These histories — particularly the non-dominant histories Sharma works to shed light on — are important aspects of the spaces they’re exploring and important topics of conversations.

“I also want people to understand personal narratives deserve a space within these conversations. Shared experiences, non-dominant histories, they are something that we need to actively look for and actively try to find. We shouldn't just take what is there as the [only] history,” added Sharma.

"I also want people to understand personal narratives deserve a space within these conversations. Shared experiences, non-dominant histories, they are something that we need to actively look for and actively try to find. We shouldn't just take what is there as the [only] history."

Bhavika Sharma

In January 2020, Sharma had an installation piece at Christie Pits Park in Toronto, which included soft sofa-like sculptures. Sharma wanted to explore the narratives that converged in the park and after compiling their research about the more traditional historical narratives. Sharma invited community members to join them in conversation about the space.

“I hosted an event and I had people come over and we sat on these soft sculptures. I brought people tea and people just talked and shared. I read my research to start the space, but then I opened it up and we talked. People just talked about like “Oh, I used to play ping pong here with my boyfriend.” Just people saying small things and memories that they have associated with the space and building on to the history of a space,” explained Sharma.

C/O Bhavika Sharma

The pandemic has forced Sharma to rethink their art. Their current work at the Inc. has given them the opportunity to explore new ways to bring their work into the virtual environment.

Currently, Sharma is working on a project surrounding the Grand River, which is close to Hamilton and their hometown of Brantford, focusing on its connection to Indigenous communities and histories.

The pandemic has forced Sharma to rethink their art. Their current work at the Inc. has given them the opportunity to explore new ways to bring their work into the virtual environment.

Looking to the future, Sharma noted that they are still an emerging artist and plan to continue exploring and experimenting with different mediums.

Sharma also offered some encouraging words for students interested in pursuing an art practice of their own.

“I would say just start making, I feel like it's the hardest thing to do. I think that for me, at least, I plan a lot and then it takes me a lot to make it but making can be thinking. You can think about your work while you make it. So just really just starting it and making it and also taking things that you're interested in outside of maybe art and bring that into it. Like if you have a nice interest, incorporate it into your artwork. Why not? People will want to learn about it or want to hear about it. If you like going on Wikipedia wormholes or like research wormholes like me, incorporate it into your art,” said Sharma.

Local artists and cultural workers express their concerns about gentrification and the housing crisis in Hamilton

C/O Hamilton Artists Organizing

The arts and artists have long been associated with the gentrification of inner-city neighbourhoods, the displacement of vulnerable groups and working-class communities. With increasing focus on creativity in urban development, artists and cultural workers have become a vital part of city revitalization projects.

Yet their creativity has become highly valued not so much for their innovation, artistry or vision, but more for its power to attract investors and wealthier residents. This has caused real estate values to rise, residents to be pushed out and poverty conditions to intensify. Hamilton is no exception to this trend of art-stimulated gentrification.

Walking down James Street North, you may have seen the slogan, “Art is the New Steel”, on public art, t-shirts and posters. The emerging arts districts in Hamilton have brought social and economic changes, leading to the recent dramatic shifts in housing costs and migration of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour groups to more marginalized neighbourhoods.

Walking down James Street North, you may have seen the slogan, “Art is the New Steel”, on public art, t-shirts and posters. The emerging arts districts in Hamilton have brought social and economic changes, leading to the recent dramatic shifts in housing costs and migration of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour groups to more marginalized neighbourhoods.

Reports from the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton in 2019 revealed that about 45 per cent of residents spend a disproportionate amount of their income on their rent. Furthermore, between June 2019 and June 2020, the city’s rents experienced the highest spike in the country, increasing by 33.5 per cent.

The rise in unaffordable housing is one of the seven urgent issues highlighted by Hamilton Artists Organizing in a letter to Mayor Fred Eisenberger and the city council. HAO is a loose collective of artists, musicians, writers and cultural workers mobilizing against gentrification in the city.

The rise in unaffordable housing is one of the seven urgent issues highlighted by Hamilton Artists Organizing in a letter to Mayor Fred Eisenberger and the city council. HAO is a loose collective of artists, musicians, writers and cultural workers mobilizing against gentrification in the city.

The group formally formed in 2019 and began drafting the letter prior to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, a larger group of local artists, including current members of HAO, have been assembling and discussing the involvement of the arts in gentrification for some time.

They have engaged in conferences such as Gathering on Art, Gentrification and Economic Development at McMaster and Pressure Points: Gentrification and the Arts in Hamilton at Hamilton Artists Inc. art gallery. Sparked by these conversations, the collective ultimately formed to take direct action and break the cycle of art-powered gentrification.

“The fact is that artwashing and these kinds of vanguard behaviours by artists to move into communities and gentrify them is a historical relationship that needs to be interrupted,” said Derek Jenkins, a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker and member of HAO.

The letter was written as a group, with perspectives and contributions from artists who are new to the issue and by those who have been researching the issue for a long time.

In addition to rental costs, the letter questions and demands the current plan of action with regards to the shortage of adequate social housing; class-based disparities between neighbourhoods; poverty; homelessness and loss of service providers; with references to impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until the Hamilton city council responds and meets these demands, the group and supporters have promised to withhold their services and focus more on highlighting the actions, or the lack of actions, from the city.

Since being published in January of this year, the letter has garnered more than 580 signatures from community artists and cultural workers. There have also been overwhelming inquiries from local artists to join HAO.

HAO believes the purpose of the letter is two-fold: it is aimed at both the city counsellors and artists. Artists are in a unique position in that they are at both ends of the gentrification cycle. They not only help fuel it, but they are often part of the group that experiences displacement due to redevelopment.

It is easy for artists to become ensnared in a vicious cycle of moving to a cheaper area and then being forced out due to their creative activities that raise the economic potential and property cost of the neighbourhood. Take Barton Village as an example.

It’s considered one of the cheaper neighbourhoods in Hamilton; however, it has seen a recent boom of cafés, expensive restaurants and art spaces due to the high saturation of artists in the area who help raise civic interest.

As an artist, it can be challenging to not be complicit with gentrification.

“Many artists are precariously employed and many are experiencing the housing crisis as well. It can become a very difficult problem for artists to weigh the costs of opportunities that may adversely affect their living situations,” explained Jenkins.

“Many artists are precariously employed and many are experiencing the housing crisis as well. It can become a very difficult problem for artists to weigh the costs of opportunities that may adversely affect their living situations,” explained Jenkins.

However, it is often these city and corporate-funded work with less community-minded interests, such as painting a mural in a derelict area, that fuel the cycle.

Members and supporters of HAO hope the letter and their continuous work will help raise more awareness about the power of the arts in gentrification.

“I hope that the artist community can lend our support in ways that we can. As part of our practices, we have all of these skills that we can offer in various contexts. I think it would be really exciting to see how artists can support local organizing,” said Danica Evering, writer, sound artist and member of HAO.

In the coming months, HAO is planning to have general meetings to continue the conversation around gentrification and expand the collective’s network. They encourage student-artists and activists to join.

In the words of Hayden King, an Anishinaabe writer and educator: “Artists must recognize that they're an active player in gentrification and if they are committed to social justice, they should devote their energies to ensuring that people are not being displaced.”

In the words of Hayden King, an Anishinaabe writer and educator: “Artists must recognize that they're an active player in gentrification and if they are committed to social justice, they should devote their energies to ensuring that people are not being displaced.”

It is these words that drive Jenkins, Evering, HAO and the artist community to continue raising their voices against the housing crisis in Hamilton.

New initiative creates space for the mixed race community to connect and share their stories

There is something incredibly valuable about being seen. More than just being in someone’s field of view, being seen involves a recognition of all facets of your identity as well as the acknowledgment that you are not alone. Being seen is something that most people struggle with at some point, but for many individuals of mixed race, this experience of being unseen is due in part to the lack of spaces where they feel they belong.  

This lack of space is something that Sarah Barnhart — a mindful movement teacher at Hamilton’s Goodbodyfeel studio — has been increasingly aware of. As a white-presenting, biracial woman, Barnhart often struggled to feel that she belonged. Growing up in Burlington, she faced many questions about her identity, making her feel like she had to constantly explain herself to others. 

Prior to the pandemic, Goodbodyfeel organized a workshop for the BIPOC community. It was here that Barnhart connected with other mixed folks and began to seriously consider that a local space for the mixed community might be of interest to others. Around this time, she also discovered other mixed community pages on Instagram, which she found to be very supportive. Encouraged by close friends, she created a space for Hamilton’s mixed community to come together and share their stories. The initiative was launched as an Instagram page this past July.

“I've been thinking about it for a long time . . . I thought ‘what is actually stopping me from creating this?’ and the answer was my own fear. And then I just had to step past it,” Barnhart said, smiling warmly as she recalled the moment when she committed to creating her initiative.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDMN3JDDFXe/

While Mixed in Hamilton features beautiful artwork and encouraging words, its main focus is to share the stories and experiences of mixed communities. These stories are presented through a series of posts entitled “Mixed Stories.” For Barnhart, sharing these stories is incredibly important and was something she had hoped from the beginning that Mixed in Hamilton could facilitate so that people could feel seen and have their experiences heard.

“It is incredibly honouring to have people trust [me] and the space enough to send their stories and have them featured so that they have a space for their voice to be heard and for them to be seen as all of who they are in their mixedness, not all of who they are in their separate part . . . or for me, not being seen at all as anything,” Barnhart said.

It’s clear from the comments on her Instagram page that Barnhart wasn’t the only one who noticed the need for a space like this in Hamilton. The comments are overwhelmingly positive, filled with words of support and gratitude. Her followers seem happy to have a place where they can see themselves.

“[I want people to come away] knowing that the middle is enough. Knowing that you're enough, that you're not alone, that you have community and that you are welcome. And yes, just a space for people to be and to just feel held,” explained Barnhart.

“[I want people to come away] knowing that the middle is enough. Knowing that you're enough, that you're not alone, that you have community and that you are welcome. And yes, just a space for people to be and to just feel held,” explained Barnhart.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDi7Or-HzvX/

 

Barnhart also had some kind words for mixed students, inviting them to come check out her page. She wants students to know that they are not alone. 

If you've been sort of floating through your life thinking you're the only person having this experience of mixedness, of not fitting in, of being on the edge of a group, of bridging or floating in two different spaces . . . knowing that you're not alone, that you do belong as you are, as who you are and that who you are as you are is enough — is perfect . . . the space is a reminder of that for folks who may be floating,” Barnhart added.

Taking inspiration from this idea of floating between two spaces, Barnhart is hosting a virtual workshop entitled “The Middle” on Sept. 15, 2020. The workshop is an opportunity for the mixed community to come together and share stories and experiences. The workshop will begin with some guided movement, similar to yoga, led by Barnhart, followed by the opportunity for participants to introduce themselves and share some of their story. The rest of the workshop will be guided by prompts to facilitate sharing.

This is only the beginning for Barnhart and Mixed in Hamilton. She has big plans for her initiative moving forward, including potentially expanding to other social media platforms and running more workshops, including some about parenting mixed children. No matter what direction her initiative takes in the future, Barnhart wants to ensure that the mixed community has the space they need to feel seen and supported.

Photo C/O Motel

By Adrian Salopek, Staff Writer

News of the first COVID-19 related death in Hamilton came just two weeks ago. The outbreak has had devastating effects on communities across Canada, and Hamilton is no exception. Local businesses and members of the Hamilton arts community have suffered economically, as many have had to shut their doors to prevent the spread of the virus. However, in the midst of this stress and uncertainty, community members are coming together through acts of generosity and resourcefulness.

As all non-essential businesses were recently forced to close, most businesses across Hamilton have indefinitely closed their doors. Small businesses like Big B Comics (1045 Upper James St.), a local comic book store, have suffered major losses and so have their entire staff. For many, the COVID-19 outbreak has meant disappearing paychecks or even sudden unemployment. 

“Our staffing needs were cut dramatically in the blink of an eye,” said Dylan Routledge, manager of Big B Comics.

However, businesses are not losing hope. Many businesses, Big B Comics included, have implemented  new methods of serving their customers while taking all precautions to avoid spreading the virus.

“[We had to] be innovative and inventive in our approach to business,” explained Routledge, “We instituted a ‘door pick up’ system, wherein customers can collect their products at the door but aren't allowed to enter the store.” 

Businesses within the food industry have also been stepping up. Motel (359 Barton St. East), a local brunch restaurant, created take-out packages for their customers. These allow customers to still enjoy their food while trying to give them a taste of the experience that they would have had in the restaurant. 

“We created brunch packages that mirror the fun you would have in the restaurant,” said Chris Hewlett, owner of Motel. Hewlett and his team are now offering specials that include two entrées and a side dish. To further push the limits, the brunch restaurant is also including decorative tropical decor, including palm leaves, cocktail beach umbrellas, and a light-up neon sign of your choice. The special and regular menu items can all be picked up curbside to help reduce contact between customers and employees.

Businesses and community members alike are not only being resourceful in this dark time, but are also coming together through acts of generosity. It is often said that in the hardest of times, the best in people is revealed, and the actions of many in Hamilton have lived up to this. Vintage Coffee Roasters (977 King St. East), a local family-run coffee shop, has witnessed this in both their own customers and the wider Hamilton community. 

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“I have been seeing so many posts on social media of [both] our customers and community members reaching out to neighbours and helping out with food purchases or other errands,” explained Lisa Stanton, Vintage Coffee Roasters owner. “Many of our customers were buying beans to be delivered to their friends who may be in quarantine.” 

Some businesses have even attempted to give back to the community by making tangible efforts to help those at the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. A notable example of this is Motel with their generous support for healthcare workers. 

We also decided that at this time we wanted to do business mixed with ways to help our community,” said Hewlett, “We offer call ahead free coffee for healthcare workers. We are also using our suppliers to get produce packs to people so they can purchase eggs, bread and fresh produce.” 

While local businesses have suffered major financial losses, the arts community has also suffered due to the outbreak and closures. Hamilton Artists Inc. (155 James St. North), an art gallery downtown, had to close its doors to the public and spring exhibitions had to be cancelled. This was a blow to not only the gallery and the Hamilton community, but also to local artists. 

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“I want to remind people that nonprofits and charities are struggling too, and that even small donations towards these organizations can go a long way,” stressed Julie Dring, Hamilton Artists Inc. Executive Director. "Many of the artist-run centres and arts organizations in Hamilton support artists by paying Canadian Artists’ Representation rates to artists. Donating to your local artist-run centre is a great way to aid artists who are experiencing lost income during this time.” 

McMaster’s very own Museum of Art has also suffered in this stressful time, having to close its doors and cancel all events. This has not only affected the museum and its staff, but also McMaster students. 

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“One of the most significant cancellations at this time is the annual student studio programme (SUMMA) graduation exhibition,” explained Carol Podedworny, the museum’s director. “[It is] cumulative, following four years of study for the students . . . We engage a guest curator for the project from the Canadian arts community this year, local artist Stylo Starr. It is disappointing that the students will not experience this event.”

Much like their business counterparts, the arts community has had to become resourceful in order to survive the pandemic. 

“I think art can be a balm,” said Podedworny. “I think in the COVID world, art museums through a virtual presence (exhibitions, programs, inter-actives, didactics) can provide answers, reflections and opportunities for wellness and self-care.”

It is saddening to see so many businesses, art services and community members negatively impacted by COVID-19. On a positive note, much good has come from this dark time as Hamiltonians make efforts to support one another. Here’s hoping that we don’t forget the lessons learned and the efforts that people have made to help one another. 

The Cotton Factory used to be a mostly abandoned groups of buildings in Hamilton’s industrial sector, a remnant from a bygone era of manufacturing in the city. That all changed five years ago, when Laura and Robert Zeidler purchased the property on 270 Sherman Avenue North, transforming it into the vibrant centre for the arts that the are today. They’ve refurbished the boarded-up windows and empty rooms, turning the buildings into warm and welcoming community spaces filled with both artists studios and a coworking space.

“A lot of the doors on all of the artists’ studios have glass on them, most of the artists keep their doors open when they’re there so that there’s this really nice feeling of community in the building, which is what we’re really working at,” said Laura. “Another thing we work to develop and maintain the feeling of community in the building is places for collision. So little lounge areas, kitchenettes, all that kind of stuff, so that when they’re heating up their tea they start chit-chatting and finding those synergies to work together.”

The coworking spaces in The Cotton Factory allow people to connect with potential collaborators and build relationships with other artists. The buildings that were once empty are now buzzing with activity. The Zeidlers emphasize the importance of creating a space like this for the arts in the city.

“What we’re trying to do is provide space for creative things to happen. It’s not just artist studios with people going into their studios and doing art. What we’re trying to develop is a community, and that’s why we do [events] like ‘Explore the Cotton Factory’ where people can come and see the community, but also the people within the building can go around and see what’s happening in different peoples’ studios. We’re really trying to help support and show the community that’s in Hamilton and around,” said Zeidler.

Their work isn’t just limited to the buildings interior. The Zeidlers are working to promote the arts throughout the city. They have hosted the Hamilton Art Week Launch Party for the past two years running. They’ve had concerts with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra — one of Canada’s leading professional orchestras. They also hosted the Quilt of Belonging exhibit with Tourism Hamilton — a collaborative art project combining art from Canadians across the county. The Cotton Factory was even a venue for the Hamilton Fringe Festival this past year. Amongst other projects, they are collaborating with the Hamilton Arts Council on an Artist-in-Residence program.

“They’re assisting us with our Artist-in-Residence program . . . there’s a studio that we provide and Hamilton Arts Council helps choose the artists. There are two artists and they’re there for three months on a rotating basis and then once a year we have an artist from Europe come to stay — we actually have an Artist-in-Residence from Estonia right now,” said Zeidler. 

Through this program, The Cotton Factory provides resources for artists that may not otherwise have access to them, giving the creators the opportunity to focus on creating.

The Cotton Factory has created more than just a studio space. They have grown a community for creators and makers to call home. The Cotton Factory is a shining example of artistic expression in the city. They regularly host events for the community, and they provide a space for artists to express themselves freely. They will also be hosting the upcoming Work In Progress Art Exhibit, which is covered in more detail on the next page. If you have any interest in the arts, The Cotton Factory likely has something for you.

 

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Three artists raise questions on memory, perspective and family

By Nisha Gill, Contributor

With the beautiful and bittersweet arrival of autumn comes apple picking adventures, corn maze capers and pumpkin carving contests In preparation for the new year, the next few months are also a time for reflection and remembrance. Featuring the work of artists Alex Murphy, Derek Jenkins and Tyler Matheson, “Minding the Archive” (155 James St. North) captures and encourages these themes of reflection and remembrance.

Through a diverse collection of art forms, including analogue film, photos created through cyanotype processes, layered drawings and installation pieces, “Minding the Archive” offers a more personal touch to the traditional idea of an archive, which is often strictly a historical record-keeping system.

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“Archive seems to be a hot topic right now, but this is a sort of personal take on the archive, an accumulation that’s not really organized but I think that everyone can relate to . . . we all have an intimate, personal take on archive. It’s not something bigger or really, a huge organized collection, an archive of things. It’s really personal,” Matheson explained.

When viewers first enter the exhibition, they are able to view it as a whole, as the works of all three artists interact with each other. Viewers can then move deeper into the exhibition and examine each of the artists’ works more closely. Here, visitors can consider focused questions related to how each artist approached the core themes.

The works themselves draw heavily on the artists’ own lives. Murphy’s art is created through drawing repetitive lines and then erasing them to reveal the full picture. His methodical process and its final product are meant to highlight ideas of loss and presence by raising questions about who is represented in our archives and who is not. These drawings promote seeing things from different perspectives.

“Reconsideration is an important word for me - so just kind of reconsider their space, their perspective and how they look at art, but also how they look at people . . . There’s a lot of people that are represented in the show . . . It’s about showing the importance of people who are everyday people like you or me or families or — I guess just looking at people a little bit differently or revaluing people," said Murphy.

Jenkins’ pieces represent everyday people and brings their experiences to life. Centred around an abandoned wallet, his multimedia piece incorporates photography and film to highlight the importance of the past and its influence on the present and future. The use of film, in particular, gives life to the stories represented in his piece, while also raising questions about memory.

“I’ve been carrying around this wallet, abandoned intact at some point by my grandfather, for over a decade. It’s a confusing object, packed with materials from the late fifties and early sixties. I didn’t know my grandfather well, so I don’t have much to say about him, but these objects carried a charge of memory that I wanted to explore,” said Jenkins.

The artist’s work is reflective of how memories are formed and the way they weave into our perception of the world around us. This perception can be eroded by our memories, even though they can document experiences of not only our life, but those around us.

Matheson has taken a collection of family photographs and transformed them using the same cyanotype processes once used to create photographs for encyclopedias. These photos have become a form of self-portraiture, investigating his own identity and history, but also raising more general questions about family and heteronormativity. The combination of photography and printmaking showcases the multiple ways in which an image can be looked at.

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After taking a contemporary photography course, Matheson began to think about family and the various structures that it can take.

“I really started to think about queer kinship as an alternative to [the] normative family idea. And then I started to think about my own experience, growing up in Northern Ontario, and sort of, dealing with memory, place, geography and my relationships politically and my identity in relationship to growing up in that place and my relationship with my family as well. I started to think about what my family meant to me, considering queer kinship and how queer people create their own family,” said Matheson.

"I started to think about what my family meant to me, considering queer kinship and how queer people create their own family,” said Matheson.

Accompanying these works is a unique installation piece, consisting of an essay written on a large piece of cloth. The essay writing has been inverted so that it can only be read through the accompanying mirror. This piece complements the work of all the artists, furthering the themes of reflection and remembrance as well as the questions of memory, perspective, family and heteronormativity. This installation piece also speaks explicitly to the idea of otherness, that is covertly present in the rest of the gallery, and the struggle that accompanies it.

“Minding the Archive” will be on display at Hamilton Artists Inc. until Friday, Nov. 2.

Not only does the exhibition explore the overarching themes of reflection and remembrance, but it also raises important questions on memory, perspective, family, heteronormativity and otherness.

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