Photo C/O @vinestmarket

When partners and food and beverage producers Ryan Chelak and Jules Lieff went looking for a production space, they came across a building at 98 Vine Street. While the space was larger than they required for their businesses, they decided to take it. Now they are sharing the extra space with Hamilton makers with their first Vine Street Makers’ Market set to take place on March 30.

The two-storey red-brick building was once the home of Hamilton Pure Dairy, which opened in 1907 to provide healthy, safe and pure milk to the community. It has been home to other businesses over the year and now houses Vibe Kombucha and FitOrganiX.

Chelak is the founder of Vibe Kombucha, a craft brewer of raw, organic kombucha tea. Lieff founded FitOrganiX, a daily meal delivery system that uses local, organic ingredients. They will be using the second floor of the building for production.

The main floor will be open to the community as studio and event space. While Chelak and Lieff are still determining exactly how they will use the space, they know they want it to cater to creatives in Hamilton.

“In talking to a number of artists in the community, in Hamilton, there seems to be a need, particularly where we are downtown, for creative space. All of the workshop, event spaces, they're all pricing a lot of these people out of the market,” Chelak explained.

The desire for space can be seen in how the market sold out of vendor space within a day and a half. By providing space at an accessible price point, Vine Street Market is allowing emerging makers the chance to bring their product to the public.

The markets are currently slated to be monthly, but Chelak said that they may change depending on the demand. Starting in May, they will also host a bimonthly thrifted, vintage market.

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However, the main floor will be more than just market space. At the back of the main floor, there will be collaborative work space for artists to work out of. This would also allow artists to have wall space in order to display their work for clients.

Vibe Kombucha and FitOrganiX will also be selling their products at 98 Vine Street. Chelak and Lieff hope to have a cafe counter where people can buy their products, along with food and beverages from other local producers.

Another important use for the space will be the workshops that makers can host. Having gotten into kombucha by giving workshops, Chelak appreciates the opportunity to share skills with others.

“You know sharing that knowledge is really what community is all about, whether it's making something to eat or drink or making… music or arts. People need outlets like that, maybe now more than ever when everything is fast-paced and we're so immersed in technology and our work… [T]hat time to create it is important,” Chelak said.

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The market will provide an opportunity for Hamiltonians to interact with and buy from local makers. While there is no restriction on where the makers hail from, the market will primarily host local creatives.

Chelak believes that the local creatives are leaders in Hamilton’s resurgence. However, more than helping to grow the city, Hamilton artists are also providing a welcoming and collaborative space for emerging artists to develop.

“Hamilton seems to be, from my perspective…, a city that is collaboration over competition… And I think when you have that mindset where you're looking to promote each other and/or share information or opportunities… then people are more apt to do the same back in return and the adage that when you first give and then you'll receive, it's really what it's all about,” Chelak said.

By creating an environment where artists can work together, Vine Street Market is joining the tradition of collaboration within Hamilton’s artistic community. Having this new space for makers to make and sell their art will allow more individuals with small businesses to flourish in this rapidly changing city. In turn, Vine Street Market will grow as well.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

By: Drew Simpson

The Division of Labour exhibit portrays sustainable ways of creating art while also looking at the difficulties of creating a sustainable art career. Housed in the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre’s main gallery space until April 20 and accompanied by a panel discussion, Division of Labour warns of the scarcity of resources, labour rights and living wages of artists.

Division of Labour also serves as an educational tool to communicate and start discourse around the issues regarding sustainability. The Socio-Economic Status of Artists in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area discussion, which was facilitated by Divisions of Labour curator, Suzanne Carte, and included panelists Sally Lee, Michael Maranda and Angela Orasch, encouraged artists to be vocal and seek action.

“People want to be around artists, but they really don’t. If they were living in the reality that a lot of artists are living in, it would not be favourable. What they want is the pseudo creative lifestyle. They want to be around beautiful things and smart people, but they don’t really want to be assisting with making sure artists are making a living wage and that artists are being supported financially,” explained Carte.

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For emerging artists, this exhibits presents a valuable learning experience as it informs them of community issues. This topic is particularly important since emerging artists are often asked to work for free, often under a pretense that the work will add to their portfolios or lead to exposure. However, Carte argues that asking artists to work for free devalues the work they do.  

“Because you are emerging, and because you’re new to the practice does not mean that any institution, organization or individual business, whatever it might be, can take advantage of you and use it as exposure… it’s not about gaining experience — I can gain experience on the job. I can gain experience while being compensated for what I do,” explained Carte.

While Carte encourages individuals to stand up for themselves, she understands that many artists may not be in a position to be able to reject sparse opportunities. She, alongside the panelists at the discussions, further discussed ways emerging and established artists can fight for their rights.

Lee gave an overview of organizations and advocacy groups that focus on bettering labour and housing situations and are making communities aware of gentrification and the living experiences of artists in Hamilton and Toronto.

Maranda added that lobbying for bigger grants or funding is not enough. The community also needs to be advocating for the improvement of artists’ economic status through establishing a basic or minimum hourly wage, affordable rent and transportation.

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Recently, Maranda was a quantitative researcher for the Waging Culture survey. The survey investigated home ownership in Hamilton compared to Toronto. Maranda concluded that Hamilton artists are less reliant on the private market and contribute more to the public art community.  

The survey also suggested an artist migration from Toronto to Hamilton due to Hamilton’s lower rent and higher artist home ownership. This leads to a domino effect as real estate agents and developers follow the migration and aid gentrification.

Orasch stated that real estate agents and developers have secretly attended similar panel discussions. The panelists speculated they do so to learn how to market housing to artists. However, the overall sentiment was that they crossed into an artist-designated space to further exploit artists.

“Developers are taking advantage of the language that we have been able to construct for ourselves, to be able to be attractive to other artists or other individuals who feel as though they want an “artsy” experience out of life,” explained Carte.

Lee emphasized how all these surveys and discussions need to reach key decision makers. The Division of Labour exhibit and the panelists at the discussion have repeatedly stressed that talk is merely educational, the true goal is action and change.  

 

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