Sunday, March 26, 2023

Hamilton Arts Vote 2022: Ward 2 (Downtown)

It’s election season in the City of Hamilton. Nine candidates are vying for the mayoral seat, and a further 81 are vying for 15 City Council seats. It is not unreasonable to expect that the political landscape in Hamilton is about to shift significantly. 

According to the City of Hamilton, Ward 2 is also known as the downtown area, situated in the centre of the City below the Niagara Escarpment. Its borders are the Niagara Escarpment (south), Hamilton Harbour (north), Queen Street (west) and Wellington Street North to the east connecting to Claremount Access.

Ward 2 is considered the City’s downtown and is home to City Hall, Jackson Square, Gore Park, First Ontario Centre, the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, St. Joseph’s Hospital, the Art Gallery of Hamilton and Hamilton Place. It’s Hamilton’s smallest ward and the north section of Ward 2includes the Harbourfront and Pier 4 Parks, as well as the Hamilton Waterfront Trail which links Wards 1 and 2.

In a joint partnership between the Hamilton Arts Council and Beyond James, a nonpartisan candidate survey was sent to these prospective leaders to map out their vision for our city. Just three questions have provided a window into what those running for office in Hamilton would do to invest in creativity. 

The Hamilton Arts Council will utilize survey responses to continue conversations with elected councillors following the election.

Shahan Aaron

Shahan Aaron.

What arts event is a must do for every Hamiltonian? 

The Supercrawl is a must-do for not only every Hamiltonian but also everyone who visits Hamilton. This event is unlike anything in this area where art and artist from all walks of life get to share their passion and creativity. The Supercrawl truly portrays the diversity and inclusion of our society.

What do you see as an opportunity to expand arts and culture in Hamilton? 

Art and culture are beyond just visual. Other senses are also used to observe and appreciate the beauty around us. A while back Touch Tours where the sense of touch can be used to experience the art used to be offered in Hamilton. They no longer offer it and I was very disappointed that I could not experience the art that I really wanted to. I think using all our human senses to experience and appreciate art and culture would be a great opportunity that would allow people to learn and explore new things.

If elected, how will you leverage your position as a City Councillor to advance the arts in Hamilton? 

I would do my best to bring more visibility to the programs run by the Hamilton Art Council and Beyond James. As a person of colour, I would help bring visibility to POC and LGBTQ artists. Art and culture for Hamiltonians are very near and dear to their heart. I also would like to attend some events organized by this organization. I am quite intrigued by them. 

Cameron Kroetsch

Cameron Kroetsch.

What arts event is a must do for every Hamiltonian?  

Hamilton Fringe Festival (HFF). I picked this arts event because I think that it broadly encompasses the arts in our city – music, visual art, performance art, theatre, and improvisation. The programming has, in my experience, been designed to reach a variety of audiences and invite people into new or unusual spaces to experience art and culture. It also has free components, which reduces barriers to participation for many Hamiltonians. I also chose HFF because I think it does a good job of bringing people to the downtown core and because it has connected disability justice and Indigenous sovereignty to its programming in impactful ways.

What do you see as an opportunity to expand arts and culture in Hamilton? 

I think that the City of Hamilton can do a better, and more equitable, job of investing in the arts in our city. I’ve taken the time to listen to emerging and established artists, cultural organizations, theatre directors, and residents about the issues they’re facing. Here are some of the priorities I’ve heard, and that I think are opportunities for improvement.

  • More funding – The City needs to make it easier to provide seed funding to help emerging and existing arts and cultural organizations. The Province and the Federal government often need to see that the municipality is on board before they jump in. That means, in part, reimagining the City Enrichment Fund, and making it more inclusive and equitable. I was a juror, for 2 years, for the City Enrichment Fund. While they’ve made some improvements to the process, they need to go much further. Equity means recognizing those who have been traditionally underrepresented and doing more to break down barriers for and with them. 
  • Follow through – In the past, the City has commissioned huge studies, done research, and committed to plans. The problem is that there’s no dedicated staff responsible for follow through, checking back, and ensuring that the plan is followed. Benchmarks need to be followed closely. In some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent by the City to commission studies, where key solutions have been provided, but those studies have quickly become outdated because they are not implemented in a timely manner. 
  • Engagement – It’s important to show up to events in order to understand how they offer uplift and impact to communities, but it’s just as important to meet with the folks behind the scenes to understand their experiences and pressure points. I’m committed to deep engagement when it comes to how the cultural sector impacts downtown communities. That means making sure that I go beyond showing up at events and make time to connect with those who are on the ground doing this work. 

I think, if prioritized, more funding, follow through, and increased access will all provide opportunities to expand arts and culture in Hamilton. The City must do everything it can to support the community as a partner and to reduce barriers. 

If elected, how will you leverage your position as a City Councillor to advance the arts in Hamilton? 

I think it’s important for members of City Council to connect with both artists and arts and cultural organizations. I will be prioritizing that engagement. I will follow through on that engagement, at the Council table, by ensuring that there is adequate reporting and assessment of the work that the City is doing to support arts and culture. As a City, we have to make space for challenging critical conversations about how we can do better. In part, that means debriefing with artists and organizations after events to ensure that future partnerships are better.

  • Increased access – There needs to be an easy way for the public, and members of Council, to get a hold of reporting, studies, and other documents that have already been produced, review those documents, find key takeaways, and action them. Centralization is key to access. At present, even if a sitting member of Council wants to find out more, or follow up on something, it involves tracking down an individual member of staff who has “ownership of the file”. Vacations, departures, and new hires often disrupt the ability to follow up effectively. 
  • Assessment – The City isn’t doing enough to audit itself before, during, and after its successes and failures. Consistently debriefing after, planning beforehand, and engaging during events and programs can help the City to improve how it supports the cultural sector. An event doesn’t start and end with the approval of a SEAT application. As someone who has been involved in producing cultural events, I’ve rarely heard from the City after all the boxes are ticked. As things change, culturally, so too must these processes. 

I’m committed to meeting with folks in the arts and cultural sector who feel their voices are not being heard or they have had experiences that they think it is important for me to highlight to my colleagues on Council. 

I’m also dedicated to learning more from the community about the challenges they’re experiencing. Part of being a leader, for me, is about willingly taking on new learning, listening, and helping to problem solve. I look forward to getting to work on this right away if I’m elected to represent Ward 2 on City Council.

Campaign website

Robin McKee

Robin McKee.

What arts event is a must do for every Hamiltonian? 

Every Hamiltonian and tourist must experience the monthly Art Crawl on James Street North. The next day I host a historical Art Crawl in the Hamilton cemetery for FREE. This tour connects today’s artists with yesterday’s. Another must Art Crawl.

What do you see as an opportunity to expand arts and culture in Hamilton? 

I expanded the arts into the cemetery. I believe the cemetery is an open-air art gallery. more thinking outside the traditional box that artists have a natural way of thinking, would expand the arts in Hamilton. More murals will eliminate the graffiti “artists” who are not artists but vandals. Real artists beautify our neighbourhoods and not make them a “hood”. I will wage a war on graffiti. If bylaw decides it is graffiti it will be removed.

If elected, how will you leverage your position as a City Councillor to advance the arts in Hamilton? 

Leverage is a strong word. I will cooperate with the other councillors to always promote arts and culture in Hamilton, with galleries, festivals, and street fests. I am a photographer and I am visually impaired! I would advocate for other disabled people to find their inner artist and express themselves.

Raquel Rakovac

Raquel Rakovac.

What arts event is a must do for every Hamiltonian? 

Supercrawl and Fringe Festival.

What do you see as an opportunity to expand arts and culture in Hamilton? 

Improve awareness and access to arts and cultural activity and resources, i.e., artistic practices, cultural spaces, and cultural industries.

Revisit and reimagine Ferguson station into a more inviting hosting space for artistic events, collaborating with local artists, business owners, BIA and the community to build on this vision.

Growing awareness and strategizing Pier 8 artistic events. Let’s work with our community/ arts community/ cultural sector to identify what events will attract public participation. This is an excellent opportunity to work with our indigenous community to host events that celebrate and honour traditions and help engage and educate our community.

Continue to animate the city’s public spaces. Implementing pedestrian plazas can inexpensively transform under-used spaces into community assets. This initiative helps to promote artist mural work while beautifying our city and fostering neighbourhood interaction. In addition, this can encourage more diversity of cultural artist events showcased in the heart of neighbourhood communities.

Grow awareness through public spaces of the cultural artist work of Indigenous people.

Support efforts by organizations that deliver programs, services and space that align with Truth & Reconciliation Calls to Action (TRC)

If elected, how will you leverage your position as a City Councillor to advance the arts in Hamilton? 


Be an active member in experiencing our arts events, promoting and creating public awareness for events happening throughout the ward.

Advocate for city hall hosting music, theatre and artistic and cultural events, we have a unique outdoor space available at city hall that can serve as an art vendor to promote local artists and shows and create a strong community and leadership relationship.

Zoning for the arts is essential; we must work with community business art leaders to help mitigate the harmful impact of zoning regulations that impact our arts community negatively.

Campaign website

No Response Received

Jason Farr

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