Invited by the Fine Arts Department of the University of Waterloo on February 25th to introduce a group of students to the artist-run network as part of their Professional Development Talks series, I stayed a few days longer to visit centres in Hamilton and London. While still in Kitchener-Waterloo, I met with Gordon Hatt, Director of Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area (CAFKA), organisers of a little known, yet established public art biennial. The latest edition titled It Should Always Be This Way presented installations, interventions, projections and performances by Canadian and International artists. I learned also of the Christie/Cafka artist in residence program and Big Ideas in Art & Culture Lecture Series presented in partnership with Musagetes in Guelph. They also have an excellent TV station with loads of video artist talks.
I then headed to Hamilton to visit Centre3, Factory Media Centre and Hamilton Artists Inc. (The Inc.). The impressive dynamism of these centres, all located on James Street in the heart of Hamilton, has certainly contributed to the municipal government’s ongoing promise to increase funding to the arts. Artists and their activity are transforming Hamilton’s gritty industrial past into an active arts scene, a scene that may even be attracting emerging and senior artists who can no longer afford to live in Toronto? Check out Centre3’s NuDeal program, an alternative, yet formal school re-engagement program designed for high school students, among their numerous activities and printmaking facilities.
The Inc.’s engaged staff and board are busy negotiating the challenges associated with occupying a new building, higher exhibition standards for artists and members, and monthly outreach and fundraising events!
I concluded my tour in London where I attended an opening at the Forest City Gallery, a meaningful pilgrimage as far as collective artist intiatives in Canada go. On that topic, and in case you missed it, I urge you to read Institutions of Regionalism: Artist Collectivism in London, Ontario, 1960–1990, an excellent essay by Christopher Régimbal, published in Fillip magazine.