#Hamont Art Crawl explosion: “Fuck your little art festival – I’m from New York, baby!”

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion @ This Ain’t Hollywood

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion played a concert here in Hamilton, Ontario on Friday and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended in all of my life.

I saw these guys at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto and it was good, but not like this – they were giving the S’aint crowd something special that night. It was crazy. They didn’t stop playing at all, they just kept going. So much so the crowd had waves of people seeking some relief on the patio from the heat and sheer volume, and then coming back for more.

So why is this concert review on an art blog? Because this music legend mentioned Hamilton’s monthly “Art Crawl” taking place that same night on James Street North, right beside the concert venue. And he told the Hamilton arts community exactly what they needed to hear.

“I took a little walk through your art festival tonight – is it every Friday?” He rasped into the microphone as the band played in a holding pattern, “Well, I took a walk there around the corner and saw all the art and your stuff for sale – and it’s shitty. Fuck your little art festival, I’m from New York, baby! The center of the fucking art universe!” And then they launched back into music awesomeness.

Oh my god, I laughed and clapped. Not because I think he’s completely right, but mostly because this is rock’n’roll and this “Fuck you and whatever you do” attitude is part of the real deal.

But I also think he is right in that we needed to hear this – this art community needs to know they have a long way to go, and are not there yet. And, perhaps most profoundly at all, we need to recognize that attracting a bunch of suburbanites into the core of Hamilton for one night is not artistic success – it’s simply pandering to people who are too chicken shit to think outside their subdivision boxes otherwise. Art Crawl is like a mediocre themepark where a couple of thousand people may shuffle by some work and judge it in 1.3 seconds based on it’s mass entertainment appeal. Some buy things. Small businesses and other areas benefit.

That’s great, but at the end of the day we are still left with a shitty little art festival for a bunch of local Canadian suburbanites who don’t really give a shit about the arts (as is the way with Canadian culture. Almost the worst in the world this way).

We have long, long way to go to truly impress anybody beyond our borders, much less New York. I don’t think we ever will here as this festival is headed firmly in another direction at this point, as is the glossy brochure version of the festival “Super Crawl” which is really just a bunch of corporate sponsors, bands and average art installations*. We’ve traded that for some sort of bullshit “vibrant” metric that funding agencies like to see written about this kind of stuff.

Nope, this is not the place anymore for serious artists and serious works. Art Crawl is now just background noise for contemporary art as the gentrification cycle is now in full swing and developers are loading their families into the minivan and scouting out the area. Perhaps while enjoying an ice cream and noticing a few paintings that look like the group of seven.

Thanks for speaking the truth, Jon Spencer. It *is* a shitty little art festival in many ways. It needs to keep growing, to spill out of James Street North and for their to be a genuine art scene based on ideas and talent and hard work – not a package to sell like some t-shirt to tourists. It needs wow. It needs to leave no doubt as to it’s high caliber and it needs to be so awesome it doesn’t give a shit if you show up or not. We need to do better. The arts is not a gift shop, and I am concerned that the overwhelmingly dominant “We love art crawl don’t you?” crowd is ensuring the demise of Art Crawl before it ever truly got a chance to be something more…

…We need more art explosions, baby! And all the other kinds of art money won’t buy. That’s why many serious artists moved to Hamilton in the first place.

*I believe any programming by committee will be result in an average selection – the best and the worst submission tend to be eliminated through this process.  Like Toronto’s Nuit Blanche official programming, having an curated art project aspect to Super Crawl and not a completely open arts festival component that is still listed is criticized by some.

The last days of Sanford Avenue School – a raw video walk around

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 

Bernie Morelli

Hamilton Wentworth District School Board Chair

Tim Simmons

HWDSB Trustees:

Bob Barlow

Todd White

Lillian Orban

Wes Hicks

Jessica Brennan

Karen Turkstra

Ray Mulholland

(Former) Liberal Education Minister

Laurel Broten

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friend, fellow heritage activist and Photographer Joanna St. Jacques

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See also http://hamiltonsusualsuspects.blogspot.ca/?m=1 for more photos and discussion

[Podcast #5 / Interview] I talk with HWDSB Trustee Tim Simmons about Sanford Avenue School

This is a phone interview with Hamilton, Ontario’s school board chair and my local Trustee Tim Simmons, who was gracious enough to give his full attention to a blogger wearing a citizen journalist hat. I was impressed with his willingness to confront the issues and to attend the community meeting next week.

Podcast #5 is available here and on iTunes. This episode is 31 min 45s.

I voice concerns and ask Mr.Simmons questions about the decisions and process that has led to the likely imminent demolition of Sanford Avenue School – a beautiful 1932 historic building in my neighbourhood. Apologies for the poor quality of the phone recording – we do the best we can with what we have. There is nothing scandalous here, but lots of revealing insight into the process and even a sense of hope and common ground, I believe.

Buildings like these are an artist live / work loft dream come true, and many other people find this structure equally as appealing for many other uses – including developers who have not had a chance to propose a plan to save the building and incorporate local community goals.

You can find out more about the state of crisis of this structure on my original blog post here.

If you are reading this before Dec 4th, 2012 and you live in Hamilton, particularly Ward 3, then please consider attending the Wever Hub special community meeting that day at 6pm at Cathy Wever School to voice your opinion. It’s important, especially for future generations in the community.

A Diamond in the Rough Hood: Robert Carley

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.



Ten quick tips for posting art PR via web and email

10. Remember to always add the physical address of your event at the bottom of the posted PR even if the address is somewhere else in the site or the template design.

This makes it easy for others to copy and paste the complete info and also the eye tends to look at the bottom for all even details, so this is a great opportunity for location branding.

9. Add social media links to your community presences on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, etc, even if they are just text links. Many people prefer information from you this way instead.

8. Highlight in bold the names of the organization or entity presenting the event and the name(s) of the artist(s).

7. Put a quote in. If you want to make a claim (i.e. this is the best and most original art show ever) then it tends to write and resonate better as a quote from the artist, curator or director. Media and people look for “an expert” or notable in this part – the quote should never be the first or second paragraph. If it is the fourth paragraph then your press release is probably too long.

6. All crucial information (who, what, where, when, why) needs to be in plain old HTML text – not flash or a graphic. There is no arguing this point if you would like any kind of internet search to find you.

5. Use an image you don’t mind being posted and shared on other websites and blogs. Attribution, not copyright, is the new currency for artists in social media. Publish your work in the commons or perish in your walled garden.

4. 500 words is a decent size and optimal for searches and sharing. If you can, make sure the title of your release is in a <h2>header tag, usually size 2,3 or 4 </h2> and *not* bold. Search engines look for the official titles of your event in these tags.

3. If you are sending out an email then make sure you have a web page version as well that links up.  It’s ok if the email is very basic and / or without an image as long as long as it has a link to more info. Also, make sure you have your full website address in the release. It also provides a place to link to for people who want to share your image – this is the essence of social media marketing for arts and culture. It is very surprising how many PR emails I have seen without these links.

2. Add a social bookmarking link or button if you can i.e. addthis or shareit. You want people to be able to list your information on websites like digg and delicious instantly. Plus, it is a another direct path for people to share your info to social media galleries.

1. Purely social media PR works really well for events and over the long-term, but for the art world especially it is important to at least have a modest print presence as well for a show that runs more than a day. For example, of Facebook event guests who confirm attendance you can usually depend on around 20% actually showing up. The event info then tends to get “buried” in the stream of event announcements and attendance drops off considerably.

I welcome any other tips and suggestions for our industry, these were just on the top of my mind this morning  – don’t forget to submit your PR / subscribe to artprwire.com 🙂

The definative list of the different types of galleries

Ever wonder what are the different types of galleries are out there? Are they all the same? What do they want? What can you expect? Why are there more questions so far than answers?

Museums – the artwork in a museum is not for sale. A museum only sells parts of its own building to very rich individuals. To qualify for your art to get into a museum, you usually have to ensure you and your society are long gone and your work has been looted by a far away civilization.

Rental and Sales Galleries – some museums and public galleries will also have a space for work to be rented to corporations. This provides a valuable opportunity to appraise sensitive people’s art while earning minimum wage.

Art Consultants -These individuals act as the middlemen between a stable of artists and art collectors and collections and often rent galleries for their own exhibits. They are direct descendants of fur, spice and opium traders and can be identified by their bright and flamboyant clothing.

Commercial Galleries – They likey your art, they selley your art. They will pay you whatever they think you deserve. Now shut up and smile for the camera.

Nonprofit Galleries – Selling work is not the primary concern… filling out applications for grants and funding is. Nonprofit also means retirement for young artists and curators and hipsters if they can score a job and squat in it … forever…..

Co-op Galleries – If a hundred artists paid a thousand dollars a year to me, I could have a job at a gallery getting them to run the gallery for me … oh, and they could have a show every three years.

Rental Galleries -Bad artist? Got cash? Like Celine Dion? No problem! Rent a space and live the dream. Then get out.

Window Gallery – Free, accessible, low-maintenance 24 hour public gallery spaces behind glass. Added bonus of easily exaggerating the number of people who actually noticed your work in the haze of drudgery that is their lives.

Projection Gallery – A regular and shifting projection of art work out from or into somewhere. Perfected in Toronto by adding corporate sponsorship and calling it “nuit blanche”.