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.
In a joint partnership between the Hamilton Arts Council and Beyond James, a nonpartisan candidate survey was sent for prospective leaders to map out their vision for our city. Just five 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 officials following the election.
What arts event is a must-do for every Hamiltonian?
Any. Too many Hamiltonians are completely unaware of the rich and diverse arts scene in all areas of our City. ANY event, or any exposure to any genre in any part of Hamilton will provide an entry point into an endless journey of discovery, imagination, enlightenment, inspiration, and appreciation. And for those already in the know…get out of your comfort zone and attend something new.
How will you leverage your position as Mayor to advance the arts in Hamilton?
There are examples of Mayors taking leadership when it comes to the arts. My experience is that leadership on the arts comes from values and commitment. As a city councillor I worked with the arts community and pushed for the arts to be included as a cluster in our city’s economic development strategy. I bird-dogged the public art requirement as a percentage of value of infrastructure projects. This provided me the chance to sit on a jury which is an experience I will never forget. I learned so much from the artists that I served on that jury with. Bottom line, you have to believe, as I do, that the arts are the soul of a city (and I’ve always said Hamilton is a City with a soul). Show up. Participate. Celebrate. Promote. Support. Take responsibility to make things happen.
As Mayor, how would you advocate for investment in Hamilton arts and culture community during the City budget process?
Pay attention and look for opportunity, engage with the community, ensure artists are not priced out of our City. We need to identify and maximize every opportunity to build investment and support for the arts into all parts (and departments) of budget deliberations. But its not just about being reactive, its about being proactive. Edenborough’s Music is Audible program is an example. Creating a forum where music stakeholders engaged with several city departments to give a voice to the sector and create policy that met everyone’s objectives.
How will you ensure working artists are able to continue building Hamilton’s culture?
The reality is that without pro-active policies we will continue to see artists create the vibrant neighborhoods that then become unaffordable to the very people that created them. I was interested to see what London (England) has been doing in their creation of Creative Enterprise Zones (CEZs) in planning processes. I think this concept is worth exploring in Hamilton and if elected Mayor I will do exactly that. We already have special Community Improvement Plan (CIPs) areas that receive various incentives, exploring CEZs is a next step. Cultural Infrastructure Plans and Open source mapping to connect people to what’s happening in the City are other great ideas that are worth looking at.
In the last few years, artists have lost a number of venues to showcase their work, including Artword Artbar, This Ain’t Hollywood, The Pearl Company and more. What role do you see the City of Hamilton having in fostering and expanding the number of accessible arts venues?
These losses have been a blow, no doubt. Our city continues to grow and transform. Much of the spark for this comes from the inspiration and determination of Hamilton artists. Transformation led to dislocation. Artists priced out of the very neighbourhoods they animated. The City of Toronto has created some property tax breaks aimed at reducing the pressure for owners of venues being housing arts and culture activities to sell as markets (and taxes) increase. These are worth looking at. Also see responses to #4 and #5. We should be Integrating arts and culture as a “given” into the fabric of what we do as a City.