Monday, December 4, 2023

Hamilton Arts Vote 2022: Mayoral Candidate Solomon Ikhuiwu

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? 

The annual Supercrawl which runs each year in September is a must do for all Hamiltonians. It features the best of Hamilton’s art talent. From celebrated artists to those who are up and coming as well as indie musicians, Hamilton’s Supercrawl draws an audience from all over the world. It is a great opportunity for artists to share their work and really shine. 

Galleries open along James Street and the surrounding area. There is a diverse range of art mediums to pursue. From pottery to screen printing, to poetry and fine art paintings, viewers get a vast spread of innovative talent to take in. 

Attending Supercrawl is a must do for every Hamiltonian because it brings Hamiltonians together. It does this by effectively displaying the diversity amongst artists in the city and gives each person in attendance a taste of the beauty of the city. Furthermore, it gives artists an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of people from all over the world. It is a great way to expand your reach as an artist. Finally, Supercrawl is every Hamiltonian’s chance to gain a sense of pride in their city that they might not otherwise have if they had not been exposed to the creativity and ambition that makes this city unique. In short, Supercrawl is a way for every Hamiltonian to familiarize themselves with the voice of the city. 

In addition to the Supercrawl, it would be nice if we had other opportunities for local talent. 

How will you leverage your position as Mayor to advance the arts in Hamilton?

The Hamilton Arts Council is a great organization for artists to establish a rapport with so that they may build connections throughout the city, maintain a close-knit arts community, and establish themselves as creatives.

One of the problems I’ve learned is that there has been very limited funding provided to the arts council through which artists cancel access grants. For artists, it is imperative to have access to various sources of funding, especially from within the city. Local funding helps support art initiatives that are geared toward the betterment of the city in terms of developing its cultural framework. Without the resources, the arts suffer greatly. While there is plenty of opportunity for success as an artist, financial strain prevents artists from realizing their full potential.

As mayor, I will work with federal, provincial, and municipal governing bodies to secure more funding from the government by promoting Hamilton as one of the strongest arts hubs in Canada. Since artists are generally expected to create while living in lack, or entertain others while living in financial strain, I will advocate for artists by ensuring the city gets access to funding to create more gallery spaces that can be used affordably by artists to exhibit their work. 

Furthermore, I will also use my platform to strengthen connections Canada-wide and globally with other galleries so that artists from Hamilton can grow their audience and have opportunities to share their work beyond the city of Hamilton.  I believe implementing more paid artist exchange programs will allow artists from this city to really flourish and build their portfolios. It is known that when a city is rich in the arts, it thrives. I want Hamilton to be that thriving artistic hub. 

Finally, I will work to invest in artists by providing more government-funded programs where artists can access business talent by collaborating with marketing and sales reps. Today, the starving artist stereotype can be put to rest with the right supports and information in place to help artists succeed.  

As Mayor, how would you advocate for investment in Hamilton arts and culture community during the city budget process?

During the city budget process, I will advocate for investment in Hamilton arts and culture community by demonstrating the ways in which the arts community has invested in its city. Artists throughout Hamilton have been creating work that has helped to put Hamilton on the map. Artists are not merely people who paint pictures and make pretty sounds with instruments. Artists are the heartbeat and life of the city. Hamilton has seen an art Renaissance comparable to other prosperous cities in the world Paris, France. Hamilton has seen a rebirth of the passion and love for art. Thus, Hamilton artists have done the groundwork to garner the respect and recognition that artists receive in other parts of the world. 

Hamilton has seen a steady growth in the number of artists residing in the city. In 2016, there were 2,205 artists living in Hamilton – a 31% increase from 1,680 in 2006. Most are musicians or singers. The past decade in Hamilton has also seen a 23% increase in the number of people working in cultural occupations, to 8,975 in 2016. I will have a team create a video that highlights the relevance of Hamilton to the arts world globally and presents Hamilton as a true arts hub and a safe city for artists to live, explore and create. 

Many artists have expressed that the narrative about the revitalization of the city through the arts is one that is not entirely true. I recognize that as artists, this narrative doesn’t take into consideration the many artists who are unable to find housing and make a living wage. As Mayor, I will secure more funding for affordable housing spaces to be created that are designed primarily to house artists. I have heard of artist spaces like this being created in other cities. Investing in housing for artists will take priority during the city budget process. 

How will you ensure working artists are able to continue building Hamilton’s culture?

Providing more teaching opportunities for artists is one key to ensuring artists can continue working toward building Hamilton’s culture. There are many people both young and old who interested in learning art. As Mayor, I will help to create more art schools where artists will be given the opportunity to teach their skill as well as exhibit their work. There will be new spaces for artists to hone their craft as well as work and be paid to pass down their information and insight. These schools will also teach proper business acumen to artists. I will also connect artists with students who are willing to volunteer their time and talent to help artists in social media marketing and administration. The alliance between business talent and creative talent is another key to ensuring that artists can continue working toward building Hamilton’s culture. In doing so, I believe this will create a legacy of generational success for artists in the city. 

In the last few years, artists have lost several 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?

The City of Hamilton will play a role in fostering and expanding the number of accessible arts venues by creating city-wide access passes to arts venues that residents of Hamilton can purchase to the smaller local arts venues. Right now, the city currently does not have arts passes that would allow residents of Hamilton to gain access to the larger venues. By creating arts venue passes that a resident could purchase annually that would allow them to gain entry to both small and large arts venues, this would allow money to be funneled back into the venues so that artists can be invested in to showcase their work. 

There would be affordable passes created for students and low-income residents that would be granted upon verification of that status. 

For tourists, a regular priced arts pass that would gain them entry into 5-10 arts spaces both small and large, would draw more tourists to the city and boost revenue so that arts venues can remain sustainable and accessible to artists looking to showcase their work as well as those looking to view the work. 

The City of Hamilton will partner with the Hamilton Arts Council, Hamilton Community Foundation, and tourism Hamilton to develop this arts pass program that I believe will vastly improve the current situation of closing art venues. 

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