Jessica Yang / Multimedia Assistant

These entrepreneurs are adding a feminine touch to the arts and culture business industry in the city 

Being a successful entrepreneur is already a difficult enough career. However, for aspiring women business owners, there can be many more obstacles and challenges due to the lack of resources and opportunities often arising due to gender inequalities. 

Fortunately, there are many ways to support women and their businesses, starting with being aware of what is available in your community and purchasing their products.  

These four women-owned businesses in Hamilton highlight the steel city’s arts and culture and work towards making the world a better place, one sale at a time. 

studio k2   

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Located in downtown Hamilton on Parkdale Avenue North, studio k2 is an art gallery dedicated to supporting local artists and providing them with a place to showcase their work. They also provide multiple workshops and retreats for artists to work together, receive feedback, improve their work and make new connections.  

studio k2 accepts artists of all levels, from beginners to experts, to work creatively in a collaborative and expressive environment. They even offer team-building exercises, workshops for corporations, art lessons and experiences for the public like paint nights for couples and friends.  

Founded by Karen Klucowicz, a fine art painter with experience in marketing, advertising and interior design, studio k2 has allowed her to realize her vision to grow the art world while supporting fellow artists in a safe and encouraging space. If you are interested in attending a workshop or showcasing your art, this is certainly a gallery to check out! 

East Bay Beads 

East Bay Beads is an online store founded by Nadine Farkas and a group of women to connect people with a love for beading and allow them to collaborate on projects. They sell everything from tote bags and buttons to materials for creating beaded art like beads and tools.  

East Bay Beads’ vision is to create high-quality, sustainable, locally sourced beads for people and promote their art. Their work is an example of craftivism, a form of activism, where environmentalism, solidarity and feminism blend to focus on crafts to create social empowerment, mindfulness, expression and negotiation for people. 

 If you’re looking for a new hobby, beads for jewelry or art or a way to support craftivism and the company’s vision, East Bay Beads’ products are what you need.  

Studio Objective 

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Located in southern Burlington and on the border of Hamilton on Mountain Grove Avenue, Studio Objective is founded by Isabelle Ford-Roy and Cassandra Giansante. The company aims to support women’s equality and safety while also working to improve the environment. Five per cent of their profit goes towards women’s and environmental charities in their initiative, such as Greenpeace Canada and Women for Women International, to help make the world a better place. 

Ford-Roy was previously interested in geology before discovering graphic design in high school. She is now the lead graphic designer, working on the company’s social media and specializing in eco branding, print and packaging. Giansante was a former film school student, dropping out to become the lead web designer and use her passion to rebrand clients’ websites and images. 

As a web design company helping clients rebrand and transform their image, Studio Objective covers everything from brand identity to designing web pages. They even go beyond technology and brand design for packaging, print and photography. If you’re looking to rebrand your company, or just create an online presence with eye-catching and clean designs, this company is what you’re looking for. 

 
Darling Donuts 

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Darling Donuts is a small online baking business selling gourmet donuts with vegan and gluten-free options tailored to individual preferences. The donuts are freshly baked on the weekends and are available in the form of donut towers or with customizable messages or images for any occasion.  

Darling Donuts was founded by Alyssa Lancia after a life-long passion for baking. When she developed a gluten and dairy intolerance in university, Lancia turned her focus to vegan and gluten-free baking treats. Darling Donuts began as a fun way for Lancia to express her passion for baking and it grew into the business it is now. If you’re interested in pre-ordering a tasty treat made exactly the way you like it, Darling Donuts is the bakery for you. 

Women-owned businesses deserve to be recognized for their efforts as well as what they do for their community and women's empowerment in entrepreneurship. These small businesses are a few examples of projects happening around the city for women and the community by women.  

 

C/O Jessica Yang

Students share how their existence within certain identities have rewired their approaches to romance 

With the release of season two of popular HBO teen-romance show Euphoria this January alongside the creeping approach of Valentine's Day, it appears as though romance is on the back of most Marauder’s minds.  

While many eager student romantics have been cruising the depths of Hinge and Tinder, or perhaps even decided to try their luck with the relaunched 2022 Aphrodite Project, there remain many cultural barriers in place for queer and racialized students to jump in on the dating apps craze.  

For many such students, romance, sex and intimacy are not solely categorized by a binary of being in a relationship, but is instead a radical journey of self-discovery and constantly questioning whether their vision and presentation of romantic love are valid.  

If the heteronormative expectations of romance were not enough, marginalized students often feel at a loss for how to navigate the intersections of their identities, which comes with countless cultural complexities surrounding romance which leads to vastly different experiences compared to mainstream portrayals. 

Mymoon Bhuiyan, a third-year material sciences student, is an active member of Engiqueers, the largest queer student-led group within the faculty of engineering. Bhuiyan identifies as a queer activist and draws attention to how queer romance is complicated as they bring forth with them institutional challenges to relationships.  

“As a result of added complexity to queer, gay and trans relationships, we see a lot of mental health crises. However, we also see positive attributes such as reduced rates of violence within queer and trans relationships,” said Bhuiyan.  

Besides having to navigate adulthood, queer students can often feel uncertain about which individuals and spaces are welcoming of their identities in the first place given the presence of less than five 2SLGBTQIA+ spaces on a campus of more than 25,000 students.  

Trans students particularly are disproportionately at risk of facing partner violence for their identities. Being queer while desiring romantic intimacy in the same ways that are accessible for heterosexual couples can therefore quickly become a questioning game of whether a romantic interest is safe to pursue in the first place.  

It is increasingly difficult for queer students to identify other queer students to date and have relationships with, especially as many of the ways queer individuals have traditionally used to identify each other with have been assimilated as part of popular trends.  

“Queer aesthetics and culture are being co-opted, the same way much of Black culture has been normalized and co-opted by other non-Black audiences. They are using our words, they are talking like us, but they forget about us,” explained Bhuiyan. 

The queer community at Mac is far from being heterogeneous, with organizations such as the Queer and Trans Club of Colour acting as an avenue for racialized queer students to form community with one another. However, due to complicated cultural understandings of queerness across different demographics, Bhuiyan expressed much of dating for racialized queer students remains hidden underground on hook up apps.  

“There are little to no outlets for queer folks to experience sex in a manner that does not jeopardize their safety. There is a very big difference between celebrating kink positivity and partaking in dangerous acts with strangers. Queer people don’t feel safe being open to dating in the public eye because in the end there is only a notion of acceptability in our culture. If you are a queer brown couple holding hands, you will still likely get ‘the look’,”

Mymoon Bhuiyan

As a Bengali woman, Anisah Ali, a second-year health and society student and the equity, inclusion and diversity officer for the McMaster Bengali Student Association, uses her lived experiences to characterize the perceptions of love within the Bengali community.  

“There are certainly fewer open conversations about romance, intimacy and sex within Bengali households relative to Western cultures. Such discussions are considered very private and are not necessarily talked about openly unless it is being talked about in the context of marriage,” explained Ali.  

The persisting relevance of marriage within Bengali culture comes as no surprise given the countless multi-day intricate celebrations weaved within traditional Bengali weddings. However, due to this strong emphasis on settling down clashing with more casual approaches adopted by North American dating, Bengalis in the diaspora are usually unable to hold conversations about dating, boyfriends, and girlfriends with parents and other family members. While romantic relationships are slowly becoming a normalized rite of passage among newer generations of Bengalis, such relationships are typically held in secret, and are commonly frowned upon by more conservative older Bengalis.  

It is not uncommon for diasporic children of immigrants to learn about sex, romance, and intimacy from other communities, sources, and the internet as it can be uncomfortable to approach parents or older members of a cultural community. Consequently, young adults from communities such as the Bengali community outsource education about intimacy from outside sources to gain knowledge of it.  

“I simply wish that more Bengalis, especially our parents’ age, would talk amongst each other about romance. Maybe it will manifest into something beautiful for each and every single one of us to be fulfilled by this understanding of love to a greater degree,” hopes Ali.  

Whether it is because of our sexual orientation or culture, our identities shape the communities that we are involved in, and in turn, affect our experiences with intimacy. Though love and romance may seem straightforward, the reality of it is much more complicated than what meets the eye.  

C/O Ainsley Thurgood

Reclaiming female pleasure through conversation and community 

By: Amelia King, contributor 

The word “sex” has seen the peak of its use in the English language within the past few years. Yet, for many, our relationship with this word is one that often evokes feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment among other negative or confusing emotions as we dance around many important topics still considered to be somewhat taboo, including female sexuality and pleasure.  

There is a double standard that exists between men and women with regards to sexual intimacy, influenced by several factors. More recently, many women have begun to push back against these standards, finding community in breaking the stigma against female pleasure. 

Some studies have shown women’s attitudes towards sex tend to be more susceptible to social, cultural and educational influences, adding a layer of complexity to understanding female sexuality. Namely, the widely pronounced double standard that encourages men to seek out sexual partners more often and discourages women from seeking sexual pleasure exists cross-culturally. This pervasive double standard instills more fear, shame and hesitancy into many women about sexual intimacy compared to men.  

From an evolutionary perspective, it was beneficial for males to copulate with multiple partners for the sake of contributing more of their genes to the human population, whereas it was more beneficial for a woman to seek one long-term partner who would stay to help raise their offspring. Today, sex is commonly thought of more as an intimate act than merely a reproductive function. 

Along with our evolutionary history, social challenges may explain why women may be more susceptible to scrutiny and feelings of shame on the basis of their sexual choices, partners and desires, although further research is needed. Both women and men tend to value emotional connection when it comes to sex. However, the role of sex in a relationship can be perceived differently between women and men. In addition, popular media including film and television tends to project an oversimplified and unrealistic portrayal of female pleasure and orgasm rates. 

There is a key knowledge gap that exists as well. Studies have found both men and women struggle to accurately label the female reproductive anatomy, with this knowledge gap being more prominent in men. Moreover, while a complex interplay of physiological and psychological stimuli is responsible for both female and male arousal, various studies and female opinions attribute more weight to psychological factors in determining women’s chances and levels of arousal.  

In addition to this, with a greater average length of time needed for women to reach orgasm relative to men, it is evident women have a different pathway to satisfaction compared to men.  

On a positive note, in recent years, many women have found community in breaking the stigma against female pleasure, namely female self-pleasure. For many years, religion, double standards and social and cultural influences have led women to associate more feelings of guilt and shame with sex and their own pleasure than are observed in men.  

Since the gap in knowledge surrounding female anatomy exists in both men and women, acts of self-pleasure allow women to explore their own bodies with less risks as well as many physical and mental health benefits relative to sex with a partner. While pleasurable intimacy in a relationship is important, learning about our own bodies both intellectually and physically is highly beneficial in determining our own pleasure stimuli and our comfort levels and boundaries surrounding intimacy.  

By encouraging dialogue on sex positivity, a shift towards reclaiming femininity in sexual intimacy has emerged. It has started with breaking the stigma surrounding women discussing their pleasure in the same way men often do. Another key element here has been the increase in support of female-focused pleasure both with a partner and solo, as women increasingly value the importance of receiving equal pleasure.  

While there is a long way to go, this shift has created more space for women to explore and develop a healthy understanding of their own bodies. Female pleasure is not something to be hidden, ashamed of or ignored, but rather something that should be celebrated and prioritized. It’s about time women become enabled to uncover a wealth of health benefits in taking care of their sexual health as they take a radical step towards reclaiming femininity and their own pleasure.  

C/O @mysweetooth_hamilton

McMaster graduates share their love for Asian desserts while sharing their culture with the Hamilton community

Food is a powerful unifier that transcends all cultural or language barriers. Sharing food can open people’s minds to diverse traditions and values while also encouraging empathy and tolerance. Even if you have never travelled to another country, you most likely have had foreign food and learned about its significance before. 

For immigrants, eating traditional cuisine is especially important as it helps them to carry a piece of their culture with them wherever they go. For others like Jia Tian, the co-owner of an East Asian gourmet bakery, MySweeTooth, eating Chinese food and other treats from her childhood serves as a means of coping with homesickness.

Tian moved to Canada from Hong Kong when she was in high school and later studied electrical engineering at McMaster University. At the time, she never imagined she would be opening an Asian fusion bakery in Hamilton with her life-long partner, Peter Sun, who moved to Canada from Shandong province in China in grade 13 before majoring in economics at McMaster. 

After Tian graduated from McMaster, she proceeded to start her graduate studies. However, she began to doubt if electrical engineering was what she truly wanted to do. She knew she wanted to pursue a career she had a passion for, but her passion was in baking — not engineering. 

Moreover, she missed all her favourite treats she had in Beijing and wanted to pursue her dream of running her own shop where she could share her pastries from her culture, from strawberry whipped cream chiffon cakes to mouth-watering cream puffs. As difficult as it was to decide, in 2009, she took a step-back from her studies to enter the food business industry.  

“It was not easy because I needed to tell my parents about my decision — that part was definitely not easy. But I guess once you know what you want to do, you just go full speed on what you want to do and put your whole heart at it,” Tian said. 

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With unfaltering support from her husband Sun, who also re-directed his career path to join her in her goal of running a bakery, Tian began working at various shops including the Williams Fresh Café at the Hamilton Health Sciences building. 

“Peter supported my decision and my dream. He’s very supportive. We ended up doing this together because he wanted to make sure that I get to realize what I had a vision for. So, he worked with me and I couldn’t have done it without him. He really brings a different perspective and [skillset] when it comes to running a shop,” said Tian. 

The couple first opened MySweeTooth online in 2013 and on Jan. 8, 2020, they finally launched their brick-and-mortar location on Main Street West. They chose to stay in Hamilton as Tian had an uncle living here and it was important for her to stay close to family. She also preferred Hamilton’s small-knit community and quieter, slow-paced atmosphere coming from the busy and loud city of Beijing.

Besides recreating her favourite childhood memories and flavours through MySweeTooth, Tian’s other goals for the business included sharing and representing East Asian culture in Hamilton through food. For example, for Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival Day, which is a day when the moon is believed to be the brightest and fullest and families get together to celebrate, they sold mooncakes and shared the cultural significance of the holiday. 

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“We feel that if we can have our shop selling tasty Asian influenced, Asian fusion desserts, there will be more people who can try our desserts and get to know our Asian culture better….I think that once you know a culture a bit better, it eliminates some misunderstanding. People are scared of things they don’t really know and we’re hoping our shop is not just a place that makes desserts that taste really good, but also a place that will showcase our Asian culture,”

Jia Tian

Since MySweeTooth opened, it has received lots of positive attention. Just a quick scroll through the comment section of the bakery’s Instagram page is enough to demonstrate the enthusiasm and love their customers have for their delicious treats. 

Nonetheless, operating their physical location during the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult. In addition to coping and adapting to COVID-19 restrictions, they were confronted by hate from members of the community who were disrespectful towards their COVID-19 store policies. In September, their window was vandalized over their sign asking customers to wear their masks and stay six feet apart inside. Though Tian emphasizes most people have been kind and supportive, she posted the image of the vandalism on the shop’s Instagram page to highlight some of the challenges small businesses and other hospitality services have been facing during the pandemic. 

“For us, of everyone who we’ve met, the vast majority of people are very supportive and understanding. We are happy to see that because we understand the community is also suffering right now. So, we are doing whatever we can to also give back to the community and to remind people that although it is difficult for us, it can be more difficult for some of us than others. There are people who lost their jobs, lost their homes and [are] living on the streets because of COVID-19,” explained Tian.

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Tian and Sun’s response to the hate is another example of their tenacity and their work towards fostering community. Since the beginning, MySweeTooth has always been about repping Asian culture in Hamilton and sharing its traditions. During your time in undergrad, it is perfectly normal to feel confused about your identity or uncertain about your career path. To all international or immigrant students or those who may be struggling to fit in, Tian shares a message about the importance of not losing your heritage and believing in yourself.

“It is important to be proud of your cultural background because that’s what makes us special — that’s what makes us who we are . . . It’s very important, for not just Asian students, [but] for any student to remember and know their heritage and make sure more people know about it. You can do it with anything — you can do music, art, cooking, baking — there are many ways to do it. Even just to tell your friends about something that’s special in your culture is a way to contribute. So that’s what I want to share with the students at Mac: be proud of who you are and do something you really have a passion for,”

Jia Tian

The story of MySweeTooth is one about love, passion and community. Tian and Sun have demonstrated these three ingredients are everything you need to achieve success and happiness.

Engaging and exciting events taking this month for students to explore

C/O @BHMatMac

Black History Month is an opportunity for conversation and to delve into parts of history that are often overlooked by many in Canada. It is also a chance to celebrate Black cultures and communities. The following is a list of events, all occurring virtually, taking place over the course of the next month.

FEB. 7 – FEB. 13

Black History Month Speakers Series —Day One Tues. Feb. 9, 7-8:30 p.m. ESTHosted by Ontario Black History Society, the first event of this series will feature film director and author Cheryl Foggo and author Lawrence Hill. This event is open to everyone in the community. Further information and registration details can be found here.

Black Muslim Jeopardy Night Thurs. Feb. 11, 6–7:30 p.m. EST

Hosted by the Muslim Student Association’s Anti-Black Racism Committee and McMaster’s Muslims for Peace and Justice, this exciting and engaging game night offers Black Muslim students the chance to connect with one another. Please note this event is closed to Black Muslim students. Further event details can be found here.

Relationship Summit Thurs. Feb. 11, 8:30–10 p.m. EST

Nu Omega Zeta, McMaster University’s first Black-focused sorority, hosts their annual Relationship Summit. The theme of this year’s event is “Love or Lust?”. The discussion will explore topics including the realities and complexities of modern love, black love and self-love in today’s society among others.

Please note this event is closed to racialized and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) students. Further details and registration information can be found here.

Noon Hour Concerts: Jackie Washington Day Fri. Feb. 12, 12-1 p.m. EST

Part of HPL’s Noon Hour Concerts series, this event features LTtheMonk, Santiago Rozo-Paz, Cam Watson and Lucas Hibbs in a celebration of multi-award winning Hamilton blues musician Jackie Washington. This event is open to all community members. Further information and registration details can be found here.

FEB. 14 – FEB. 20

The Real Truth: Black History in Islam Wed. Feb. 17, 7-8:00 p.m. EST

Hosted by the Muslim Student Association’s Anti-Racism Team, this event explores the often overlooked history of Black Muslims in Islam and hopes to create opportunities for important conversations. This event is open to everyone in the community. Further information and registration details can be found here.

Guest Speaker: Mario Rigby Thurs. Feb. 18, 1–2:00 p.m. EST

In an event hosted by the Hamilton Public Library and the Black History Month Committee of Hamilton, adventurer and author Mario Rigby shares stories about his travels. The presentation will be followed by a question and answer period. This event is open to everyone in the community. Further details and registration information can be found here.

Black History Month Speakers Series —Day Two Thurs. Feb. 18, 7–8:30 p.m. EST

The second day of the OBHS’ Black History Month Speaker Series. In this event, historians and curators from Black Historic Heritage sites will speak about their respective heritage sites and museums. This event is open to everyone in the community. Further information and registration details can be found here.

FEB. 21 – FEB. 27

Black History Month Speakers Series —Day Three Tues. Feb. 23, 7-8:30 p.m. EST

The third day of the OBHS’ Black History Month speaker series. This event will feature storytellers Sandra Whiting and Kesha Christie. This event is open to everyone in the community. Further information and registration details can be found here.

Sharlene Mollett– Tourism Troubles: Feminist political ecologies of land and body in the making of residential tourism space in Panama Wed. Feb. 24, 4-5:00 p.m. EST

University of Toronto human geography professor Sharlene Mollet’s talk will focus on Afro-Panamanian women’s participation in Bocas’ tourism enclave. For further details and registration information please reach out to ees@mcmaster.ca or narrora@mcmaster.ca.

Author-Led Online Book Club with Jael Richardson Fri. Feb. 26, 1-2:00 p.m. EST

Hosted by HPL, author Jael Richardson leads a discussion about her book Gutter Child. Gutter Child is set in a world where society is divided into the two groups: the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. Part of the Gutter, Elimina Dubois is one of 100 babies taken to be raised in the Mainland in a social experiment led by the Mainland government. This event is open to the community.

Further details and registration information can be found here.

Vie Division blends mainstream and old school hip-hop in online concept videos

Established in 2014, Vie Division is bringing old school hip-hop to a student audience. The semi-professional dance crew, which consists entirely of McMaster University students, hopes to create a community through dance in the Hamilton area.

As ‘vie’ means to strive towards a goal, their name signifies the group’s continuous progression towards their goals, whether they be in terms of personal growth or in dance. 

 

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“We've always strived for helping each other towards goal setting. Early on in our term, we would set goals for each other, both as a person and as a dancer and we always try to work towards that,” said Addi San Juan, a Vie Division director and multimedia student.

Welcoming students from a variety of dance backgrounds, Vie Division focuses on a fusion of hip-hop and contemporary styles. Taking advantage of team members’ unique skill sets, the group has created a style that is uniquely their own.

“What we’re basically trying to do is just create an open community where you can share your ideas through dance. After high school, I was accepted onto Vie Division and I’ve just been growing and seeing and learning from there with my post-secondary community,” said Azia Naguit, a Vie Division director and fourth-year life sciences student.

“What we’re basically trying to do is just create an open community where you can share your ideas through dance."

Typically, the team plans their semester around regional hip-hop and urban dance competitions. Early in the fall semester, they select songs as a group and rehearse choreography until early spring. Working up to performances, they bring in Vie Division alumni to help with their creative process.

Due to COVID, Vie Division has recently shifted their focus from competition to video production and concept videos. The videos showcase Vie Division’s student choreography and experimentation with different styles of dance. In a recent concept video entitled Vie Throws It Back, the group experimented with house, waacking, vogue, dancehall, litefeet and traditional hip-hop techniques.

 

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As the group has adapted to the pandemic they’ve become more skilled with their filmography and video editing. In their most recent video, dancers unable to attend due to COVID protocols were inserted into the video seamlessly through videography by the group’s photographer and videographer Jacob Arcas.

For students looking to participate in dance classes, Vie Division has several free and paid online videos and workshops available. The group recently held their auditions for the winter semester and hope to hold a virtual showcase in the near future.

“We're super accommodating and welcoming to anyone who is interested in pursuing dance and giving them a light to see how it is possible [to balance dance and school] . . . As much as we are a dance team, we're also just a bunch of students trying to survive university, so we're definitely a huge support to each other as students and as people outside of dance,” explained Emma Powell, the Vie Division captain and fourth-year mechanical engineering and management student.

"As much as we are a dance team, we're also just a bunch of students trying to survive university, so we're definitely a huge support to each other as students and as people outside of dance,”

By watching and participating in what Vie Division has to offer, students get to explore dance culture through the ages.

Thomas Brasch’s popup photography installation is making art accessible in these dark days

Art is often something we turn to when things are difficult, something we seek comfort and solace in. Not only is art something bright during the dark days, but it also can tell us stories that help us to imagine brighter days for ourselves. 

These stories become part of our own, giving us new courage and strength to face these trying times. One such story is Thomas Brasch’s popup photography installation at 267 King St. E., which is making art more accessible while also bringing some hope and light to Hamilton.

 

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Brasch graduated from McMaster University with an honours bachelor of arts in french literature and returned to McMaster to complete a master’s of business degree. He went on to become a high school teacher. During Brasch’s time as a teacher, he developed an interest in photography.

After retiring, he travelled extensively and began to explore and experiment further with photography. Brasch primarily takes photos of nature and architecture and then transforms them into these round images, similar to kaleidoscopes or mandalas.

“One curator said [to me] that mandalas are actually memory palaces and your walk through them [helps] you meditate. So again, it's this idea of calming . . . it’s not just the image. In fact, it's never about one image. It's about a whole series of images that actually tell the story,” explained Brasch.

"One curator said [to me] that mandalas are actually memory palaces and your walk through them [helps] you meditate. So again, it's this idea of calming . . . it’s not just the image. In fact, it's never about one image. It's about a whole series of images that actually tell the story."

Stories are important to Brasch and a large part of why he creates art is to share these stories. From a distance, each of his photos may be beautifully abstract but if one takes a closer look they may be able to recognize the original image and see the story built into it.

Recently, Brasch reconnected with one of his McMaster classmates, Maya Premlata Rao. She loved Brasch’s art and the current installation was her idea. The building where his installation currently is belongs to Rao. The installation features unsold pieces from two of Brasch’s previous collections, Out of Darkness and Tapestry.

 

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“I think the whole goal with Maya and I was to share this with people in Hamilton. Yes, initially, there was the allure of getting more exposure and maybe somebody would show an interest or something. [Maya] is one of these people who is into good energy and everything. There was a good energy coming off of this,” said Brasch.

This installation is Brasch’s way of giving something to the community during these trying times, but it has also helped him realize the need to make art more accessible, especially to those who would not be able to visit a gallery, even if we were not in lockdown.

This installation is Brasch’s way of giving something to the community during these trying times, but it has also helped him realize the need to make art more accessible, especially to those who would not be able to visit a gallery, even if we were not in lockdown.

When Brasch was first setting up the exhibition, a passerby stopped to admire the art and asked if Brasch had an artist’s postcard to share. He hadn’t planned on having one and as such didn’t have one to offer to this passerby.

“He said, “Well, I'm a little short of cash and I collect these” and that's when the veil got pulled away from my eyes. I had the big aha moment . . . I thought, “Here I am, I have the opportunity of sharing this art with somebody who actually enjoys it”,” explained Brasch. 

Brasch strongly believes that art is meant to be shared. More than that though, he believes the stories behind art are also meant to be shared, particularly stories of hope. 

 

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“The source image is from a prison, but the prison is the oldest prison in Uruguay. It closed in 1986 [and] it's become an art gallery. So it's that whole idea of something bad coming into something good. It’s a place for people, for creation, [for] freedom of expression. All of this is able to be there,” explained Brasch.

These kinds of stories are something he feels is sorely needed during these times, but more generally he hopes that people will come away from his art feeling a bit lighter and having found what they needed.

“I just want somebody to go and be able to take a look and just feel, even if it's just a little bit, a little bit of a feel-good moment. They may not know the whole story. They may not have checked the website or anything. If it looks like Christmas ornaments to them, that's fine,” said Brasch.

"I just want somebody to go and be able to take a look and just feel, even if it's just a little bit, a little bit of a feel-good moment. They may not know the whole story. They may not have checked the website or anything. If it looks like Christmas ornaments to them, that's fine."

The current installation will be on display until the end of February.

Hamilton photographer demonstrates the importance of exploration through photos

On Jan. 1, 2020, lifestyle and boudoir photographer Iryna Kostichin posted her first photo of Hamilton to her then-new Instagram page, 365 Days Of Hamont. The photo of the residential street was the first step in a project intended to showcase all that Hamilton has to offer.

Although Kostichin was born and raised in Hamilton, she didn’t truly start exploring the city until after she graduated from McMaster University in 2017 with a degree in social psychology. She moved out for the first time and was figuring out what she wanted to do with her life. It was in the period of self-discovery after graduation that she began exploring the city.

 

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During this time, she also returned to photography, a passion of hers from childhood that she had put aside as a viable career choice.  

“A few years ago, I was in a really rough spot. I was graduated and I had a degree and I was in a job that I really didn't like . . . and I was like “I really don't want to do this for the rest of my life. I need to find something where I work for myself and I'm responsible for everything, job-wise”. So I ended up getting a social media coordinator job and then that year I was exploring portrait photography," said Kostichin.

Kostichin wanted to put her social media skills towards a project that showcases her hometown’s beauty and combats its bad reputation, leading to 365 Days of Hamont. To gather the photos for the page, she goes on a few weekly adventure walks, taking pictures of places and objects she passes. Her goal is to show various representations of Hamilton, from the buildings to nature to food.

Kostichin wanted to put her social media skills towards a project that showcases her hometown’s beauty and combats its bad reputation, leading to 365 Days of Hamont.

The project began as a commitment to posting daily in 2020, but over the year, this plan changed as Kostichin found the daily commitment challenging. Now over a year after the project began, Kostichin is a little over halfway through her original 365 days. 

 

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The pandemic also limited how much she was able to explore the city because she doesn’t have a car. It has also been difficult to explore new destinations when lockdowns have closed many places in Hamilton. However, despite these challenges, Kostichin is looking forward to diving back into the project this year.

“So definitely next steps are continuing on this journey and not putting so much pressure on myself to do it every single day . . . I started out thinking I was going to post every day and get all this engagement and get to the end of 365 days, right? But realistically I haven't reached that and exploring Hamilton really isn't only a 365-day project. So I can live a whole lifetime and still not see the whole city, which is exciting I guess. So I'm just excited to continue to carry the torch and help others explore the city,” said Kostichin.

"So I can live a whole lifetime and still not see the whole city, which is exciting I guess. So I'm just excited to continue to carry the torch and help others explore the city."

For students in Hamilton that are looking to explore, Kostichin suggests taking it one neighbourhood at a time. Especially during COVID, she suggests picking a neighbourhood and just walking around it.

As her exploration of the city is tied to her self-exploration, the latter is also very important to Kostichin. Through her boudoir photography business, she is encouraging individuals to explore new parts of themselves. Her own journey from social psychology major to full-time photographer and business owner is proof of the importance of self-discovery.

 

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“I use psychology in my day-to-day life. Even in a social media job, a lot of it is psychology. Then being in a social media job also using photography and really discovering that aspect of myself and bringing it back and now I'm actually going to be like a full-time photographer this year and start my own business. So just because people tell you [that you] can't do it really doesn't mean you can't do it, because here I am with a university degree and I'm making money from something that I taught myself,” said Kostichin

"So just because people tell you [that you] can't do it really doesn't mean you can't do it, because here I am with a university degree and I'm making money from something that I taught myself."

Kostichin’s story shows that with hard work and a little exploration, students might be able to turn their time at McMaster into the life of their dreams.

Transmit to these virtual and physically distanced events during your winter break

As the holidays approach, snow blankets the streets, colourful lights twinkle as they adorn the outline of houses and the smell of Pillsbury’s cookies fills the air. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the provincial government to not allow large social gatherings, the spirit of the holidays lives on.

There are still many virtual and physically distanced events that can help you recover from stressful exams and reconnect with the community. Whether you are in Hamilton or on the other side of the world, there is something for everyone in this list of eight winter events happening in Hamilton.

1. The Holidays, Mental Health & COVID-19

Wondering how to manage all the changes this holiday season? This webinar from the Hamilton branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association is taking place on Dec. 15 at 1:00 p.m. It will take a deeper look at how the COVID-19 has and will impact the 2020 holiday season. The webinar will give concrete strategies to maintain your mental health and stay connected to your loved ones during the holidays.

 

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2. Ushi Mart Winter Holiday Market

Ushi Mart is hosting a physically distanced in-person winter market at The Cotton Factory from Nov. 28 to Dec. 28. A wide variety of local vendors will be selling art, jewelry, housewares, clothing and trinkets. Tickets are $5, and customers will need to book their visit ahead of time as only five visitors can enter per hour. All proceeds from the market will go toward Wesley Urban Ministries, a non-profit organization that offers support to those who are homeless or living in poverty in the Hamilton, Halton and Brantford regions.

 

 

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3. Christmas Store & Tree Farm

Until Dec. 22, you can cut your own or purchase a pre-cut Christmas Tree at Merry Farms on Concession Road. It’s a 176-acre farm also popular for its corn maze and pumpkin patch in the fall. Reservations must be made in advance through their website. They also have a Christmas store on-site where you can find unique items to decorate your house. On Dec. 12 and 13, Merry Farms is offering on-site food service by The Rockton Lions Club.

 

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4. Art Gallery of Hamilton Film Series

If you are on the hunt for a new show or movie to watch, join the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s Online Film Series from the comfort of your home. The series, which is available for a fee, will last throughout December, and you can stream films such as God of the Piano, Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack and Rocks. Check out their website for more information about when the tickets for each film will become available.

 

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5. Supercrawl Livestream Series

Although Supercrawl was cancelled this year due to the pandemic, they are hosting a series of livestreamed performances every weekend until the end of December. The virtual concerts, which are held through Facebook, are free. Upcoming performances include Tim Hicks, The Dirty Nil and Terra Lightfoot.

 

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6. Royal Botanical Garden Express

Hop on the Royal Botanical Garden Express train through Hendrie Park, which is decorated for the season with beautiful holiday lights. Hendrie Park is the largest cultivated garden area at Royal Botanical Gardens with 12 different themed spaces. Tickets can be purchased at the main doors and the rides will remain open until Jan. 3.

 

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7. Goodbody Feel December Workshops

Goodbodyfeel is offering various virtual workshops for self-care, self-love and self-compassion during the holidays. You can learn about restorative postures, how to do a guided self-massage, how to bake seasonal treats, participate in an online dance party and more. Different workshops will be held each week from Dec. 12 until Dec. 31 to help you destress and relax.

 

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8. Holiday with the HPO Brass

There is no better way to put yourself in a festive mood than listening to holiday music. The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Quintet will perform holiday classics and excerpts from Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 18. The performance will be available to watch online until Jan. 18, 2021. This concert is part of the orchestra’s Hamilton Series and tickets are available for $27.

 

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The Hamilton-based project Filipinas of HamONT is using interviews and surveys to find and connect the community

There are not enough spaces in Hamilton where BIPOC feel that they belong. BIPOC in the Steel City often feel disconnected from their heritage, their history and their community.

This is a problem that Anabelle Ragsag and Jessica Vinluan are hoping that folks in Hamilton with Filipino heritage will one day no longer have to face. They are helping to tackle the problem with their community-engaged project, Filipinas of HamONT.

Ragsag is an author and educator with a background in politics who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in 2009. Vinluan is a teacher, the founder of BIPOC youth organization Redefine Twenty and a second-generation Filipina-Canadian who was born and raised in Hamilton.

 

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With their different backgrounds, they have made their project Filipinas of HamONT for all Filipinas in the city of Hamilton, whether they were born and raised in the city, a naturalized citizen, a long-timer, a newcomer or just passing by as is the case for many students.

They have made their project Filipinas of HamONT for all Filipinas in the city of Hamilton, whether they were born and raised in the city, a naturalized citizen, a long-timer, a newcomer or just passing by as is the case for many students.

The pair met in early 2020 at a Reaching for Power workshop, an initiative that teaches BIPOC women and non-binary individuals how to make a positive change in their communities. After the workshop series ended, Ragsag and Vinluan began in June 2020 to think about creating a project for the Filipina community. In fall 2020, they received a microgrant for the project and began sharing it with the larger community in November.

The project initially consisted of a survey designed to map where Filipinas in Hamilton are located. The survey asks for participants’ demographic information including: their highest completed education level; the province in the Philippines that any member of their family is from; if they are working, the industry in which they are employed; and the effect that COVID-19 has had on their livelihood.

 

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The survey results will be shared to show where Filipinas in Hamilton are. As Filipinas began immigrating to Hamilton in the 1960s to build the health sector, Ragsag and Vinluan anticipated that many of the Filipinas that participate in their survey will work in this area. However, they began to find Filipinas outside of this sector when they decided to complement their survey with interviews with Hamilton-based Filipinas.

“[E]specially being born and raised in Hamilton, I didn't really think that I could see Filipinas in different spaces and I think to be able to see that . . . like, “oh, you're not just in the health sector, there's other avenues that maybe I can take if I see myself in them” . . . [The project is] validating that it's not just in the health sector, but like other aspects as well and other spaces that Filipinos are taking up,” said Vinluan.

"[The project is] validating that it's not just in the health sector, but like other aspects as well and other spaces that Filipinos are taking up," said Vinluan.

Ragsag and Vinluan have completed eight of the 10 interviews that they aimed to do. They shared the first interview on Nov. 13, 2020 and will continue to share them until March 2021. The interview series neatly exemplifies the intention behind the project: they want to share stories of leadership, empowerment and living between two cultures.

“I grew up and it was very white-dominated spaces. I think that, as a Filipina, I felt like I didn't belong in a lot of the spaces . . . I felt like I couldn't have these kinds of conversations around dual identity and things that I feel like I had difficulties navigating.  So, when Anabelle brought up the idea of starting Filipinas of HamONT through the YWCA project, I was so excited because I know there's a lot of these kinds of community collectives in Toronto . . . but I also feel like I don't belong because it's Toronto and I'm from Hamilton,” explained Vinluan.

Based on the feedback from some of their interviewees, Ragsag and Vinluan are working towards running online events that will enable them to continue the important conversations they began in the interviews. They are considering running a book club where they would read works by Filipino authors and hosting workshops on the history of the Philippines.

“I saw that a lot of second and multiple generations of those with Filipino roots have this thirst to know more about what it is like. What does it mean if I don't speak Filipino, if I don't speak Tagalog, am I still Filipino? Because of my teaching background . . . I thought that's something that I can do. That is something that I can contribute to the community,” said Ragsag.

“I saw that a lot of second and multiple generations of those with Filipino roots have this thirst to know more about what it is like. What does it mean if I don't speak Filipino, if I don't speak Tagalog, am I still Filipino?" said Ragsag.

However, in starting this project, Ragsag and Vinluan do not intend to take away from the work done by established Filipino organizations in Hamilton. They recognize the importance of churches, cultural gatherings, all-Filipino sports tournaments and student organizations such as the Filipino McMaster Student Association. They aim to work alongside these organizations to connect the Filipina community.

Despite the name, Ragsag and Vinluan are not completely closing the project to woman-identifying individuals. The project is intended to evolve with community needs.

“We see that our being here in Canada is rooted to that history of a feminized migration . . . So I think it started from there but at the same time, the project is an evolving one – it's not set in stone — and we are aware that identities are fluid, as well . . . the role of those who don't identify as male or female have been there in history but they [were] erased by colonization. That is one of the topics that we want to discuss: what is it in our history that was erased? Can we uncover them?” said Ragsag.

Ragsag and Vinluan hope that this project will enable them and other Hamilton-based Filipinas to continue learning more about their history and heritage. By having these conversations with their community and connecting with established organizations, the project will help ensure that every Filipina in Hamilton feels they belong.

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