Windshield needed replacement. There was no getting around it – I had to spend three hours walking through industrial lands surrounded by big box stores. This was where nature was left in the parts these worlds had no use to sculpt … yet. This was a place that did not expect pedestrians and surly middle aged men and women in trucks big and small challenged me with glances as they left and arrived to do their dirty and serious business. These men and women are competing to be heroes, and their enemy is people who walk instead of drive. I was hung over from my grad class end of year party. It was sunny and I have no idea where in this city I can buy a hat without a logo on it. These people see this space, our space, as a different world serving a entirely different purpose than I do. They truly live in the present and all the riches it brings and I live in a future that may never actually come to be because I won’t be there.
10 images in accordance with the requirements of Assignment #4, 703.
I have a small, enclosed front porch with it’s own lighting and electrical outlet. It’s almost perfect to maintain a small gallery space so that’s what I have been threatening to do.
So, now I am. The space is still not finished and has a whack of drywall leaning on one side. I’ve been waiting for our cheap and (very slow) renovations to stop but I don’t think they will before I leave Hamilton. Sometimes, you just gotta say “fuck it” and go ahead with a project – this kind of public declaration essentially forces you to carry through with your threat of art. Sometimes it takes me years to demonstrate I was serious (and usually right) about something and the BAG Project Space is such a something.
So, no time like the present. After agonizing for a year about how I am going to work with and work around the long vertical windows on the west, east and north walls I finally came up with a practical, cheap solution that is easy to implement and just as easy to remove and without damage to the space before we sell the house: white fabric over the walls. It sure beats my previous plan to have a series of drywall panels with wooden frames hanging from the ceiling by hinges.
The 6 sheets of drywall leaning against the west wall are not going anywhere but with a white sheet draped over that, it will transform into a respectable plinth. Hey, it’s my project space and I can do whatever I want.
So the first exhibit “slower: advice for the economy” (a projection about the industrial skyscape) opens up next week on Friday the 13th from 6-9pm. Yes, I am aware of the symbolism of both sets of numbers. For local readers, you will also no doubt recognize that my gallery is open during the exact hours of the ArtCrawl. You will also note that I live in a poor, some would say “scary”, area of downtown Hamilton not know for arts and culture. Well, consider this new gallery space as a response to that – I’ve criticized designated areas for arts and culture in a city before. Now I believe independence for an artist is the most desirable goal to achieve – more than funding. No, I don’t believe in the BS that anti-arts advocates spout about not funding the arts. I believe the arts should be so integrated and integral as part of our society that we would have trouble even distinguishing where support ends and begins.
So. I have a humble and independent space for exhibiting a series of exhibits by others and myself. I have some really exciting ideas to materialize in this space, and in many way culminates my work about and in Hamilton over these three years. I have not listed the address because I want to encourage people to explore this community in order to find. I want people to explore this community because that is the way to improve any neighbourhood – go walk through it. Lots of people out walking through a place is a very powerful device. I know many people will probably not bother coming to find it at all, especially if I keep the exhibition hours the same as ArtCrawl and I don’t pander to the usual agencies for promotion. I don’t care if anyone shows up or not – I care about the projects and the documentation. The reason we were able to buy a house here was because of the negative impressions people have of this area – and they don’t come here so the houses were affordable. Why should I now conduct my business on my estate grounds with any different formula?
However, I care if the local community here engages with the projects. I do care about people coming here to engage with the projects too. This space is simply part of this neighbourhood though the act of a pop up art space should be universal.
Contained therein this act and through this upcoming series of projects is my final dialogue with Hamilton.
I am very grateful for the interest in my talk & tour coming up this Saturday that is based on walking through my neighbourhood in Hamilton. I walk a lot and take photos with my iphone, so here is some more flâneur photo work from and around Barton Village.
I’m hoping this overall practice based on Hamilton will lead to a chance to show in this community (or maybe even an opportunity to establish a window gallery). These sorts of cultural events are conspicuously absent here, especially when contrasted with the economic / arts blooming on James Street North and Ottawa Street.
I like the layering of the instagram app filters onto shots of some of the rougher bits around here. It’s a social media activity in an area not know for social activities anymore. I have ideas on art events here though that could help change that … but that’s another post.
[Sept 20 2012 Hamilton, Ont] New media installation projects scenes and sounds onto neighbourhood from another urban village – Parkdale, Toronto. Artist offers free, public talk and guided tour of the work.
Using an internet connected iphone or android mobile device installed with the free app “Aurasma Lite”, certain areas and angles throughout this neighbourhood will activate a work by local resident and artist Christopher Healey. For example, standing on the north-east corner of Wentworth and Barton and facing west is a “trigger image” that will bring up a video overlay of Parkdale from a similar vantage point. The contrast between the two communities can be disorienting.
The work is about the perceptions of this neighbourhood – one of the poorest in Canada. Many strongly associate Barton Village with elevated levels of danger and violence, and consider it an area to be avoided entirely, if possible. By designing a location based interactive experience that encourages walking and careful consideration along Barton Street, the work offers to engage participants in a wider discourse about notions of community and transformation.
Healey states: “This work is not about the people who live in Barton Village – it’s about the people who don’t live here. Projecting expectations on a community is a powerful force, perhaps as powerful as taking a walk through it. My work addresses this by contrasting the shared experience of one neighbourhood, The Village of Parkdale, with the expectations of another area, Barton Village. Hopes, aspirations and critiques are examined through the spaces and architecture of these two areas.”
Join artist Christopher Healey for a talk and guided tour of the project starting at Woodlands Park on Saturday, October 13th, from 1pm to 2pm.
Maps, trigger images, a video demo, download links and more information is available at http://www.projectionsofcommunity.chrishealey.name
More about Aurasma technology can be found via this presentation at TED Talks.
Photos from my iphone 4 on a walk through one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Hamilton, Ontario. This is where I live, and am interested in the notions of abandoned signs, blocked windows and unused doors within communities as formal compositions. These photos are research for my current studio practice, and one can’t help but think about the potential of this area for arts and culture. I think it would transform the area but is that what the current residents would want? I don’t know.
A Major Research Project submitted to the McMaster University Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree Master of Arts in Communication and New Media.
The following is an artistic reflection on a series of photos of my Hamilton neighbourhood that I’ve been publishing on Twitter. It describes why I started taking street photos and why I am taking the street photos I am taking. I am attempting to describe this process with using only 10 photos. Mt twitter handle is @muskoxen (tweets & links are also in the margin of this post).
This was a difficult but a very valuable endeavour. The tight constraint of choosing 10 photos over a scope of over three years was challenging. I found it almost an all-consuming activity to scroll through the 40,000 digital images I’ve accumulated during that time. During this exercise of self-curation, I’ve realized it is only possible to understand my photo work by understanding why it suddenly became such a prolific activity in my life. It’s quite a pathetic story but has a well as you could expect ending. So far.
I was pretty much just a painter and drawer until just over three years ago. At that time I finally found some time and studio space to work and so I did — but, as it turned out, only for a month. Then a condition that would only be accurately identified years later as “Frozen Shoulder” struck my right arm and everything stopped. Except for the debilitating pain.
Of course … I paint and draw, write, get dressed and even piss with my right hand. You don’t think about how many times a day you need to use an arm in certain way. How many times a day you need to reach up above your shoulder? How would you get dressed or even stand in busy bus? Even a touch, a jolt, a sway or simply standing was agony.
Unable to get off of the couch for more than a few minutes at a time, I was very frustrated at my lot. Lying down was the only way to keep manage the pain. No work, no walking and not even my fair share of house chores. However, I could have a laptop resting on top of me, hunting-and-pecking awkwardly with my left hand.
Decided to keep myself busy as possible and proceed with this scheduled studio time. Produce as much work as possible. Keep my sanity through artistic insanity. It worked for me through worse.
I started to scour my hard drive for digital work perhaps I’ve forgotten about. I had done some previous photo based work but not substantially. I found lots of videos and some earlier studio and travel photos I had messed around with and, as with most abandoned work, had always intended to return to. “Well, I guess now was the time.” I thought and started to pull stills from the videos and started to finally create some collage work.
This was very rewarding and liberating. I felt I was appealing to the frustrated painter me by working with digital images as if they were scraps of paint. Through the ease of today’s software I became enthralled with creating many variations of grid work with every digital image I could muster. You can see some of that work here but for the purposes of this post / assignment I want to stick with the street photography that began at this time as well.
I needed more photos. I was invigorated and motivated to get more source material and, at the same time, exercise my brain with composition studies.
I loved walking and exploring, at first around interesting parks and industrial areas then through neighbourhoods and streets. I never really took many photos as I did this but now I was living somewhere inaccessible to most people. I was living in the depressed area of my city most noted for crime, poverty and abandoned storefronts. It’s a place you drive through to get to another part of the city. With the drugs and street prostitution some don’t admit to coming here. To most they simply hear about it, read about and see the smudge of it from the scenic lookout overlooking Hamilton from the escarpment. They don’t come here because they don’t have to. They are afraid of who lives here.
Fair enough but not for the people who do live here. One of the insights I’ve had since arriving in Barton Village is that the problems of the area are not the fault of the people who live here. Rather, they are here because this is the area that many marginalized people and communities can go to because this where they are expected to go to.
You can see this attitude reflected in the blowing garbage and oversized one way roads leading in, through and out of this place. You can see it in the thriving parking lot industry sheltering the hospital, shelter and school employees who don’t live here. You see it at night where the only food available is at the convenience stores. You see it the empty and neglected buildings that absentee owners sit on until it’s worth their while to sell. Some have been waiting for decades. There is no local drugstore or bank where I live but there is a jail and a drive through beer store. Charities, churches and police also thrive here.
So when I decided to start walking as much as I could (I was thinking this may help my mysterious should ailment) everyday I decided to take street photos of my area but not of the people. I was interested in the narrative of the spaces and buildings. Especially when compared with the blandness of the suburbs this area turned out to be a rich visual environment beyond my expectations. Even almost beautiful at times. If I slept soundly, went out first thing in the morning and used my left hand then I could take some photos.
It was very interesting to work with a new medium with my opposite hand. I am convinced it used different parts of my brain to approach and process this act. I started to adopt a “no cropping” rule for myself; I found it is almost always a stronger composition if you get it right when you take the photo. Especially with a mobile device camera it is all about your body position and reflexivity to your subject. I started to prefer squared and defined areas devoid of meaningful community communications – an area of visual cognitive atrophy as induced by the conditions of this place.
Sometimes I made more collages and sometimes I posted these to my blog but otherwise I collected these works on my hard drive and dreamed of painting and drawing very large works.
The other half of the story of my street photo series came about a year later when things got political. I started posting my street photos as a critical reaction to some decisions affecting my community.
At this time, I had gone through unsuccessful diagnosis, prescriptions and physiotherapy until my right shoulder just ended up getting better anyways on its own. It was still kind of delicate. The worst part was not knowing if I could or would aggravate this injury.
I then discovered that the big, beautiful 1932 heritage school building close to my house had suddenly been slated to be torn down. The school board had already been issued a demolition permit. This place was a no-brainer to be renovated and turned into all kinds of community things, and I discovered later there would of been a line-up of developers with more profitable ideas for preserving it.
Poor areas are typically vulnerable to these kind of bad decisions. Similar public school buildings in more affluent wards of the city are still standing and are important hubs for their communities. The one near my house was purposefully neglected for a decade. It’s part of a strategy I learned about since living here called “demolition by neglect”.
A small group of us fought to save it, to at least head of the demolition until developers could present proposals to re-purpose it. That was a bitter couple of months as I learned there really was no hope all along. It was a total sham, a farce. There is a community that cares here, but that group of us were too small and outside of influential circles. Why didn’t more people fight to save it? Perhaps for the same reasons this area also has very low voter turn out.
There is hopelessness and resignation embedded in these decisions. T found more hope for this area when talking the locals, but they tend to be non-participants in these decisions. The decision to demolish this otherwise sound and important example of historic architecture was not a community based one.
This is a very small town with blind spots the size of cities. The biggest argument I encountered for tearing the building down was so there would be plenty of parking. I actually watched a city politician and a school board trustee tell us, at the same meeting, about how difficult working with each other’s bureaucracy is. Thus they had agreed to demolish the building and maybe someday other politicians would build something there. There was and is no funding to replace it with much needed community facilities.
It seemed the plan was a patch of grass beside an empty parking lot. I was told they had not and would not consider using that parking lot for the green space instead. Later, as you’ll read, I found out why, and why they were in such a rush.
We lost. The building was demolished in early 2013.
I felt powerless. Local politics had made roadkill of my sense of civic pride. Though my blog posts, tweets and speeches at meetings had garnered some attention it did not matter. I become background noise as my voice was taken away. Activism has spawned an industry of marketing, propaganda and political lingo and I felt my voice was just currency in some sort of giant babble machine.
So I decided to stop talking. I wanted to reach beyond this wall of my ward and show the world what was happening here. Through posting my pictures of my neighbourhood on my Twitter account I wanted to let anyone anywhere decide what they were seeing.
I followed the demolition of Sanford closely and posted pictures of the process. I posted photos of the empty storefronts. I posted photos of garbage in the parks and sagging houses.
At this time my left arm then succumbed to the same pain that my right arm did. I switched back to using my weakened and slightly atrophied right arm and continued to take as much street photography as I could. I could not renovate my house, I could not work, I could not leave this place. I wanted to and still do, but until then I intended to work with everything I could handle.
I tried my best to be as good as painter with these photos as I could be. I really did enjoy the formal and artistic qualities of doing this. The peeling facade of derelict store sign, or the mesh of brutually assembled plywood boards over a window. Sometimes the way garbage has collected around an open sewer grate. These are beautiful to me now, and they are political. I am no longer held back by my physical ailment or my political powerlessness. I am no longer toiling in artistic obscurity, isolated from the western arts district of Hamilton. These threads of self-empowerment converged through this textual act of taking photos of my neighbourhood and posting them to social media. I have reached up and beyond my ward with these photos and they cannot be demolished or obscured from history. When this place is completely changed, many years from now, people will see this is the way it was.
That was not enough. I decided to represent my community by hash-tagging these photos #panam in preparation for the 2015 Pan-Am Games taking place in this ward.
By addition to the local hash tag #hamont and geo-location info, I have been preparing my tweeted photos for mass scrutiny.
My photos of my neighbourhood are as a real and valid as any other representation of my neighbourhood. I will not self-censor the defining visual characteristics of my landscape.
As these games approach more people will search online for information about this city and the Pan Am Stadium that is being built in my neighbourhood. Many will find my photos and many already have.
You see, this isn’t all sour grapes and hurt feelings. This has made a material and tangible positive difference already. I have heard from a “friend of a friend” that the purpose of the demolition of the school was not even to put in a patch of grass but actually to create a giant parking lot for the Pan-Am games! So that’s why there were in such a rush to tear it down and sell of the pieces…
Since my little group and I put up a such a public fuss, especially with social media efforts such as my neighbourhood street photos and documentation of Sanford School being demolished, they felt there was suddenly too much scrutiny focused on this issue.
It is also an election year. So there is a really nice expanse of grass with a state-of-the-art self-watering system and fences all the way round to try to keep the neighbourhood dogs out. We’ll see.
My left arm is much better now. I am relieved that this nightmare is almost over and the currently the single biggest obstacle to my taking street photos is the cold weather draining the batteries quickly on my iPhone. That and the awfully nice patch of grass makes for boring photos.
I think my relationship now to photography is one of activity, as performance on par with memory and communication. It was not an approach to create an object so much as a record of meaningful work or even a meaningful presence in a certain time and place.
Now I see compositions everywhere I go, but in the uncelebrated parts of our daily realities. I know I am sending missives from an outpost. I am an outcast here, a silent walker some may see stop, raise my iPhone briefly and then quickly walk on. Sometimes people will confront me — who am I? What am I doing here? This area has seen enough exploitation and colonization by speculators, developers and other representatives and I look like just another middle class, middle aged entitled white asshole traipsing through their community. When I explain I live here and I’m an artist and that this is art, there is surprise and then acceptance.
Often I will hear stories about where this area has been, what is going on and what they hope will happen. These are the same narratives as my photos.
I am almost well enough to move from here. We are hoping to have the house on the market by April. The real estate market is heating up here because prices are lower than in Toronto or even in other parts of Hamilton.
I know I’ll probably never come back here.
You can see more of my Barton Village images here. After the jump I’ve added 14 photos that did not “make the cut” for the above post.
It was a cold and windy evening…
This heritage worthy building we fought for is now in mid-demolition and I am not sure how much longer there will be any structure left. It really was suddenly cold and windy, but I felt the urgency to document this last stand of one of the last of the great Barton Village classic buildings.
This is pretty raw footage of me walking around the building. I do make a brief statement at the beginning, but this is for reference for … future use. Hopefully, we’ve made a difference overall in Hamilton for other communities going forward.
Sanford Avenue School was a very special heritage building, built in 1932 during the great depression. One of the gems of a notoriously poor neighbourhood, this is the sort of structure that is attractive for a very wide range of opportunities including a college, a community centre or health facility. Despite well documented flaws in the public consultation process and the demolition / heritage process, the HWDSB, the City of Hamilton and then the Government of Ontario failed the future interests of the Barton Village community and allowed the first 100% steel framed building in Canada to be sold as scrap. No public interest from developers was allowed to be entertained.
For the record, below is a list of trustees who voted to allow Sanford Avenue School to be demolished, and not to allow any alternatives to be presented by private or non-governmental organizational interest. Also included on this list of “Heritage & Community Shame” are the City and Provincial elected officials without whose express support and approval this tragedy could not have happened.
At the time of this posting, there is no secured funding or concrete plans for any development of the site into a park, soccer field or Recreation Complex expansion. The most frustrating part for most of us? There would of been enough room for all of this if they had agreed to re-arrange parking instead of demolishing this beautiful structure that would have served nicely economic tool for revitalization. There is a need for new leadership in Hamilton, and the following elected officials should not trusted with public office again:
Ward 3 Councilor
Hamilton Wentworth District School Board Chair
(Former) Liberal Education Minister
See also http://hamiltonsusualsuspects.blogspot.ca/?m=1 for more photos and discussion
April 12th- May 6th
173 James Street North, Hamilton, Ontario
Opening reception Friday, April 12th 7-9pm
Displaced Landscapes: Uranus of Hamilton| Christopher Healey
Please join me during Art Crawl night on James Street North for my new show of photo based prints based on local skyscapes. These are selected works from my Hamilton series focusing on industrial emissions in the city – but pretends what we are seeing is actually Greek Mythology. Below is part of the exhibit statement: ~ Chris
“According to the poet Alcman, Aether was the father of Ouranos, the god of the sky. While Aether was the personification of the upper air, Ouranos was literally the sky itself, composed of a solid dome of brass.”
“After Cronus was born, Gaia and Uranus decreed no more Titans were to be born. They were followed by the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires or Hundred-Handed Ones, who were both thrown into Tartarus by Uranus. This made Gaia furious. Cronus (“the wily, youngest and most terrible of Gaia’s children”), was convinced by Gaia to castrate his father. He did this, and became the ruler of the Titans with his sister-wife Rhea as his consort, and the other Titans became his court.”
As an industrial city and port, Hamilton has a particular relationship with the sky, earth, fire and water. It’s an elemental dynamic that is always at play, and that makes for a sweeping and majestic landscape. This primal yet manufactured visual is reminiscent of Greek mythology, and prompted me to dissociate elements of what I was seeing, and to re-frame them as scenes from classical stories. The hubris, struggle and morality lessons of creation mythology are an apt commentary of a Hamilton in a state of identity crisis: The titans borne of industry and their older world status are being challenged by a younger, cleverer community. It’s a grand philosophical battle that is reflected in the devastated areas of the urban core and in the physical manifestation of our relationship with the sky.
Formally, since moving to Hamilton late in 2010 my process has been greatly influenced by the built heritage, community relationships / history with industry and the perceptions of Hamilton from both inside the community and outside of it. This series of work, outside of my usual practice of drawing and painting, is my first exploration of digital print based media.
Through digital photography and layering techniques, these prints are a perspective of landscape as environment of cloud, air and emissions. A familiar and often documented fixture in the Hamilton community, as well as many other communities, smoke stacks are universally symbolic of industry, environment and politics.
In this series, I am attempting to focus past these common discourses and formally examine the ephemeral and displaced characteristics emissions of steam / vapour / smoke without it’s architectural source or other visual clutter. It can be argued this moment of shape and process is a valid, important and beautiful part of our visual community landscape as any building or geological feature – especially if we remove it entirely of our own bias and associative meanings of it’s practical function and effects.
Can the shapes and movements of emissions transcend preconceived notions of industry and be accepted as a natural part of our immediate environment?
These careful studies ask this absurd question by de-contextualizing the natural and the manufactured as a process of artificially homogenizing multiple images. The result is series of very soft, subtle fields that are both familiar and strange, encouraging study and contemplation.
173 James Street North
Media Contact: Christopher Healey
I’ve been on the phone and computer waaay too much this week so decided to take a long walk – which turned out to be a very short walk as I found myself back at the Sanford Avenue School site. I ended up spending hours in the area talking with some very interesting people who had very interesting things to say about this heritage building.
When I approached the Sanford building I noticed, lo and behold – the side door was open!!! This would be my big chance to take a peek inside, so we can see what’s what in there.
But alas, I noticed a HWDSB van in front of it with someone inside of it, who was obviously fitting the door with a new lock. I asked if I could take a peek but he said “no” – and then kept a steely eye on me as I took the above picture. I’m sure people suddenly rushing through an open door into an empty building in front of the landlord’s employee has happened before. No seriously, after being in Hamilton for two years I am not surprised by much anymore.
So, on a whim, I decided to pop into Mission Services, kiddy parking lot corner to Sanford Avenue School. There is an 85 year old building there (1927) they renovated back into shape as a community services centre for their clients. Barry, the Director of Community Relations, was kind enough to receive my unannounced visit and discuss Sanford Avenue School. I learned they were originally interested in Sanford because there is actually an underground tunnel from their building to the historic school, as the basement of Sanford is also connect to the Norman “Pinky” Lewis Recreation Centre. They thought it would be great to have a senior’s residence there as the residents would be able to go back and forth without having to go outside during the winter months, but when they inquired about the building’s availability they were told by the HWDSB it was unavailable.
Yep, that’s a central issue here. The school has been unavailable for other options – but that’s not to say Mission Services could take it over as they’ve spent a lot on renovations on the former Mohawk College chair storage facility. But he was happy to give me a tour of their building, both the renovated and yet-to-be-renovated parts of the building as an example of what can be done with these kind of buildings when loved by a community. These pictures are the closest thing we have right now to assess what the inside of Sanford Avenue School looks like – and what it could look it.
(if anyone can get me into Sanford Avenue School so I can take some interior photos, please contact me at muskoxen at g mail d ot com)
The A word: Asbestos. Valid reason to demolish?
I did not think about it, but after chatting with a couple of Rec centre employees it was pointed out to me that the school is “full of asbestos”. They also thought the building was so run down that they were not in favour of saving it. They were very focused on “more green space for the kids”. Also, it was pointed out to me that there used to be a big beautiful track and park until the Cathy Wever School expanded.
These are, on the surface, very good reasons for proceeding with plans to demolish Sanford Avenue School and create parkland, a soccer pitch and expanding the recreation centre without kids having to endure a leaky, broken asbestos filled gymnasium that are essentially underground bunkers. Or is it really that simple? I list my counter-arguments below:
Hey ho, asbestos has got to go: can’t argue for asbestos but two things come to mind: 1) *every building* in our city before a certain date has or had removed asbestos. That is part of our reality here, and is unfair to Sanford to single it out for execution for having the same condition of buildings that we decide to keep – regardless of asbestos needing to be removed. If a developer was going to take it over then cleaning that up would have to be part of the deal. 2) They were using the building as recently as two years ago – with asbestos in it as common knowledge!?!? If this is serious enough of a case for tearing it down, then what the heck where they thinking using it at all? This asbestos bugaboo is a distraction from the real issue here, IMHO.
It’s for the kids – don’t you want to help the kids? I actually hate children. Of course, I am kidding. But political rhetoric and lobbying efforts, which dominates what passes as public discourse these days, is very divisive and “think of the children” has been a trojan horse for a variety of questionable motions and now is a rallying cry for tearing down Sanford Avenue School. The problem is none of the funding for these great new developments for the Wever Hub is a done deal. We are in very real danger of spending money on tearing down a development-friendly heritage building and replacing it with nothing. This is another Hamilton story my partner and I have heard about many times. I suppose it could be worse – Jackson Square II could be erected there.
The other counter to this black & white argument of “kids or heritage” is that incorporating the building into the new park and pitch plans has never, ever been explored. In fact, I think the money would be better used on making a better Pinky Lewis Recreation centre. There is lots of room to expand / move it so you could fit a soccer game or two in there. You know, for the childrens. Don’t you care about the childrens?
A school under siege by a premeditated illusion of not having a choice. The Sanford Avenue School is run down and in disrepair. The boilers are broken inside and the basement leaks. You can easily see broken and open windows and rusting grates on the exterior – and no one is raising a finger to prevent further damage to the structure. If there was a way for a property manager to build consensus that a building was undesirable, this sort of “demolition by neglect” would be the best way to go about it. I say property manager in this case because it is actually a public building – you and I already own it through our taxes – but the HWDSB are the caretakers we’ve entrusted with this responsibility.
It’s perfectly natural to want to get a run down building out of your community landscape. What is not natural is allowing a building to fall into this state of disgrace through what appears to be a deliberate campaign of non-action combined with making the building unavailable for any other party to get involved. This has created an environment where, by looking at the surface of the present and not the past or future, a local politician or school official as well as many local residents can claim “Look, that building is falling apart and no one is interested in taking it over. For the sake of the children, we need to demolish it.”
Unfortunately for them, it’s one hell of a building and is not falling apart because it is very well made and once was loved by the community and the school board. It is in great shape for development, and would be for a very long time I suspect. Do you think a new building would be so well made?
A community association of straw men. I kept hearing about how community groups were consulted and this is what they want. In particular, it was pointed out to me this was the Wever Community Hub – which is responsible for many of the great developments in my area over the last dozen years. The reality is they did not get involved in any direct decision to tear down this heritage building, and partly because they are NOT a community association – they are are service provider. They want more and better facilities and I support this, but they were not “the neighbourhood residents who want this building gone” that I keep being told they are.
Strange. Things are not quite what they seem here and I hope, dear reader, you are coming to the same conclusion at this point. But I’m not done yet – I was very curious as to who exactly is this “local community group” that was consulted (BTW, I must point out that even if there was such a group then the fact the building has not been for sale for over 10 years and therefore no options were presented or opinions solicited during that unreasonably long period renders this fundamentally problematic).
The short answer is there is no real community association group in my area. The only semblance of this is, as I’ve been told, is a informal group that meets infrequently called the “Gibson-Landsdowne Association”. I cannot find any information about them, nor has my public call for contact with these people resulted in any leads. Imagine being a resident here who was not working in such a sustained and public manner as I am trying to find this information.
So, in conclusion and in so far as my perspective and personal opinion on this situation goes: The reasons and consensus for demolishing Sanford School are shadows, paper ghosts, good intentioned efforts that have been co-opted by agendas and forces operating outside of meaningful community concerns. As a resident in Barton Village in ward 3 I have no community association to represent my concerns, as I don’t have a Councillor or trustee who live in the ward and I don’t have a BIA led by someone who lives in my ward either. This is why my area is vulnerable to slum lords and bad decisions – those who make the bed here don’t have to sleep in it.
We were feeling helpless and exasperated at news that the local school board had slipped through a demolition order request to level a heritage building – and this gets processed within 10 days! Apparently the obliteration can begin in January, 2013.
Ward 3’s Wever Hub community meeting called for Tuesday, 6m at Cathy Wever School! Chance to clarify, discuss Sanford Avenue School and show Tim Simmons and Bernie Morelli how the Ward 3 neighbourhood really feels. Please attend!
Please, especially Ward 3 residents, contact Tim Simmons, HWDSB Chair at 905-308-6832 to voice your concerns. Please do it now!
There is no or little chance of fighting it this at this point. But what we can do is document the moment by complaining on a cold, overcast and very windy day as we walk around the school. We can let everyone know, especially future generations, what happened here and who was involved in these decisions. We can present more viable options to demolishing heritage buildings – such as a senior home, artist live-work spaces or even condos. We also talked about related issues such as bicycle infrastructure and the onus of meaningful community consultation on our elected officials.
In Hamilton Ontario where we live many beautiful buildings get torn down and now one of the most historically significant landmarks of built heritage in the city core is to be quickly demolished and replaced with a soccer field with plenty of free parking. Sanford School was opened in 1932 and is the first 100% Canadian steel framed building.
Production Note: Apologies for wind noise in microphone. So cold my iphone kept failing and Jen’s is a lower quality device, so the editing got quick and choppy, with a lot of noise. We felt it was important to be on site to talk about this, and within the limited window for meaningful public discourse on this, we are working with the footage we obtained in these less than ideal conditions. It was also important to us to limit the entire production cycle to one day. Much of what we said was cut because of the wind noise but added back in as captions. Much was also cut because we said some inappropriate things or bickered about the cold.
It is meant to have a sense of humour thoughout, so we hope you found parts of it funny – though it’s mostly just sad.
The building is located at 149 Sanford Avenue North, Hamilton, ON
Here are the links to our sources for our rant and more about Sanford “School-Gate”, our Councilor Bernie Morelli, the HWDSB and the general history and current state of our neighbourhood called Barton Village.
How to reach Bernie
Councillor, Ward 3
Hamilton City Hall | Second Floor, 71 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario L8P 4Y5
Had the pleasure of visiting my new found neighbours, Glenna Jones and Robert Carley, during Robert’s home-based exhibition this weekend.
I should mention their home is structurally ideal for fine arts exhibits and studio work – it used to be a woodworker’s home and business when they purchased it about 9 years ago. There is a glass atrium joining a large workspace and the early 1900’s house and Robert’s production and caliber are up to the task of making the most out of the space.
They are in a very real sense living the Barton Village dream for artists like myself who have move here attracted to Hamilton neighbourhoods with the more affordable houses. They are involved with the community, they want to help raise the quality of living here and they have space to work. I am very glad to discover they live a few houses down from my place, and add yet another layer of awesomeness to the kind of terrific neighbours we have on all sides so far. Robert and Glenna are also, like me, aware with the effects of perception on this neighbourhood, and see the potential that awaits along Barton Street (hence my tongue-in-cheek title of this post).
Below are some pics of the space and Robert and his work. He’s also a poet and this is evident throughout his work, as well as a kind of crisp, musical rhythm in his abstract paintings.
(Bob wanted me to mention he welcomes public visits to his studio, but you need to call ahead. You can find more info here on his latest exhibit invite.
A walk through in photos and audio commentary of Hamilton’s Barton Village, where I live. Looking for art and at derelict storefronts, one realizes there is a lot of potential for this to be an area where galleries / studios could thrive. Amazed that one of the most widely acknowledged poor neighbourhoods of any major Canadian city is only 45 minutes away from downtown Toronto.
For me as an artist living in the area, this slideshow is a record of a time and place to refer back to as the neighbourhood changes.
Commentary by Chris and Jen (dumb critics) as we discuss the state of the area, the local BIA and artists working in the community.