This past weekend Hamilton played host to Concrete Canvas Festival, an amazing grassroots street art festival that celebrates the role of art and collaboration in creating vibrant communities for all citizens. All over the downtown area and beyond, artists created massive street murals on walls in need of some love. As soon as we heard about the festival, we started a making a mental list of all the blank walls in Barton Village where we'd love to see brand new art pieces, and we're so glad that the organizers reached out so that we could connect them with some of these great locations.
Started in 1995, Concrete Canvas is a multi-day visual arts festival with full support from the City of Hamilton where local and internationally acclaimed artists alike gather in Hamilton over one weekend to paint murals live across the city. Not only is it an opportunity for artists to come together, connect, and collaborate, but it's also an effort elevate the visual landscape of the city while simultaneously inspiring a new generation of artists. Concrete Canvas is a one-of-a-kind self-guided event series that brings the Hamilton community together to celebrate art, music, culture, and diversity, not just over one weekend but also beyond, as all the new art pieces become part of the communities they exist in.
We talked to Leon Robinson, the founder of Concrete Canvas, about what the festival has brought to the city. He and lead curator Scott McDonald both grew up in Hamilton and have seen firsthand the value that art can bring to every community. We spoke about the stigma attached to certain areas of Hamilton, something that Concrete Canvas Festival tries to push back against, elevating street art to show the beauty and vibrancy it can bring to communities of all kinds. "Every community is deserving of art, happiness, and a peaceful place to exist," says Robinson, and this is the message that Concrete Canvas strives to bring to the city at large.
To download a map of the festival and check out all the featured murals, head over to Concrete Canvas's website, or check out the slideshow below to see some of the incredible murals up around Barton Village and elsewhere in the city!
Emily O'Brien is a woman on a mission, and the delicious popcorn recipes she dreams up as owner of Cons & Kernels are just a small part of that mission. When Emily was arrested on a drug-trafficking charge after becoming involved in an unhealthy and predatory relationship, her life took a huge turn. Imprisoned as a first-time offender in a federal facility, she knew that she could choose to make the best of the situation, and so she set out to turn her life around. Having always been interested in health and fitness, Emily was nervous about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet in prison. She soon noticed that women would use the ingredients available to purchase with their allotted food budgets to create popcorn recipes, and an idea was born. When she was released, she would start a popcorn company. Not only would she create delicious, healthy recipes inspired by her time behind bars, but she would also use her business as a platform to educate others about her experience, and about how easily life can take a wrong turn.
Well aware of the stigma that having a criminal record brings, Emily decided that rather than moving forward by trying to forget the past, she would embrace her experience and use her energy to fight stereotypes. With flavours like Jailhouse Cheese, and a fingerprint sticker sealing every bag, Emily isn't afraid to poke fun at herself, and this lighthearted, humorous approach pushes back against the stigma attached to being an ex-con. Her goal as she grows the company is to provide reintegration opportunities for others who've been through the system, and to spark meaningful conversations about the justice system and life after imprisonment. You can read more about Emily's experiences as an inmate and an entrepreneur on her blog, and you can pick up a bag of her so-good-it's-criminal popcorn at Business Out of the Box (414 Barton Street E), Stir it Up Cafe (312 Barton Street E), The Hop Urban Market (24 King Street W, Dundas), or order online. We're so excited to see Cons & Kernels thriving, and we can't wait to see what Emily does next!
We've been so delighted to see all the news coverage the Business Out of the Box pop-up has been getting recently. CHCH News covered the project's launch, the Spectator recently ran an article about the shop and two of its vendors, and this month's Herald (the Gibson-Landsdale neighbourhood community paper) features a piece on Business Out of the Box and other woman entrepreneurs who've recently set up shop in Barton Village. Here at The Barton Villager, we're continuing our series of vendor spotlights, helping you get to know the people behind this great project.
We recently sat down for a chat with Tanya, the creative force behind Lit Candle Co. You've probably come across Lit's amazing scented candles in your local shopping adventures: Tanya has more than 20 stores across Canada carrying her products, including The Barton General, at Barton and James, and The Handmade House in Dundas.
As a Barton Village resident, Tanya says she's so excited that this pilot project is happening here in her own neighbourhood. She's called Barton Village home for about a year now, and like so many of our residents, she points to the strong sense of community she feels here in Barton Village, and the sense of transformation occurring as more locals open businesses and work on creative endeavours here.
Lit Candle Co. began as a personal project for Tanya in September 2017. Dealing with illness, she found herself unable to work a regular job and started brainstorming creative ways to bring in income. She began making candles with organic soy wax, hand-poured and with locally sourced ingredients. She initially thought it would be a hobby, but within a week, she'd made her first sale. Spurred on by this early success, she devoted her energy to the business, and by Christmas of that year, Lit Candle Co. was fully operational.