Written by Stephen Near
In the wake of Hamilton Arts Week, the city’s annual celebration of arts and culture that took place the first week of June, it’s important to consider the vital role played by the culture sector in contributing to the economic prosperity of the greater Hamilton region.
Without a doubt, creative industries have contributed and continue to add to the cultural growth of Ontario. Nowhere, it seems, is this more dramatically seen than in Hamilton. Thanks to an explosion of talent in the arts sector, and a steady influx of artists coming to the city, Hamilton has become a cultural hub. The city, once a centre of the manufacturing and industry, is gaining a reputation across the province as a hotspot for artists of all disciplines looking to expand their craft and find a new audience.
Hamilton Arts Week is an initiative begun by the Hamilton Arts Council four years ago with the express purpose of capitalizing on this reputation. It is rooted in the idea that every arts discipline, from dance to music to theatre to the visual arts, is key to the cultural renaissance now invigorating the city. But what distinguishes Arts Week from similar festivals in region is its focus on the community as well as its inclusion of events from across the region in places like Dundas, Waterdown, Binbrook, and Stoney Creek.
This year’s Arts Week was the biggest since the festival’s inception and drew upon the work of creators from across the city. Featured performances and programming highlighted a wide diversity of artists and involved over 100 partner arts and business organizations. Hamilton Arts Council Executive Director Annette Paiement said it was critical to raise the profile of the arts in the region by actively programming artists from every discipline throughout the week.
“Our main goal was to make people aware that art in Hamilton is everywhere,” says Paiement. “That’s why we encouraged anyone to apply and participate in Arts Week. Arts and culture create the fabric of a community. They are the soul and spirit of a city. Everything we engage with has had an artist participate with its creation – your chair, your car, and your computer. Yet somehow art is minimized. I hope with Arts Week we’ve provided a new lens through which to view art in this city.”
Arts Week was even more of a success this year thanks to the growing population of culture workers moving to the city. From an economic standpoint, this bodes well for communities like Hamilton that benefit from the addition of new festivals and events along with entrepreneurial businesses. Across Ontario, the cultural sector alone contributes more than $19 billion to the province’s overall GDP while employing 252,000 people through direct and indirect job creation.
Reflecting on the engagement of local business and culture partners, Paiement is optimistic about the future of Hamilton Arts Week as a fixture of the city’s cultural profile. “Thanks to the support from the City of Hamilton as well as The Cotton Factory, First Ontario Credit Union, Liuna, and our many media and venue sponsors, we were able to reach a broader audience of Hamiltonians. With the success from this year’s festival, I see bigger and better things for 2019.”
For more information about the Hamilton Arts Council, and Hamilton Arts Week, go to www.hamiltonartscouncil.ca.