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.
Like every year, we loved following along on social media and seeing everyone's photos of all the fun they had at Barton Village Festival. This year we were particularly blown away by the incredible pictures that local photographer Dee Kassa posted on Instagram. They so beautifully capture the spirit of Barton Village Festival, so we reached out to ask if we could repost them, and he generously emailed us his original image files. We love how Dee's images focus on the small moments of community that are the building blocks of Barton Villages Festival -- and of a safe, fun, and livable neighbourhood! Check out the pics below, and see more of Dee's photography on Instagram or Shutterstock.
Originally part of an old-growth forest called Land's Bush (after Robert Land), Woodlands Park, on Barton between Wentworth and Sanford, was at one time one of Hamilton's most important cultural hubs. Known as "The People's Park," Woodlands was the site of labour organizing, including a 10,000-strong march to Stelco at the height of the workers' strike in 1946.
The 1946 strike was a major event in the nascent labour movement that grew alongside the postwar economy. Hamilton's economy and working conditions changed a great deal over the course of World War Two, with industry booming to keep up with the efforts overseas. After returning from war, many workers were no longer willing to put up with the working conditions they'd accepted before. The fight for democracy overseas strengthened citizens' sense of democracy at home, and the labour movement coalesced into a series of strikes throughout 1946. In July, steelworkers union members walked off their jobs at Stelco, demanding higher wages and a 40-hour work week. In solidarity with the steelworkers, employees at Westinghouse, Firestone, and the Spectator also walked off the job and joined the picket lines. By mid-summer, 20 percent of the city's workforce was on strike, culminating in the massive labour march beginning in Woodlands Park.
Hamilton artist Murray Thomson, who was a production worker at the Westinghouse factory and also organized an artists' union, led the march dressed in a masked effigy of Conservative politician Nora Francis Henderson while other protestors marched in effigies of abour opponents like Stelco president Hugh "Old Ironjaw" Hilton.
The Playhouse Cinema were great supporters of the workers' cause, serving up food to the strikers, arranging entertainment for them, and generally helping to keep morale high.
The workers triumphed in 1946, but the momentum didn't last. In an effort to disperse the crowds who formed a movement together at Woodlands Park, the city first cut down almost all of the beautiful old-growth trees that filled the park, gutting the space into a bare field to make it less hospitable to gatherings. Nonetheless, the labour movement had made great strides that summer, ultimately forcing the federal and provincial governments to pass more meaningful labour legislation that would help protect workers' rights for decades to come.
If you've been following our social media channels, you'll know that we just can't stop talking about the wonderful Business Out of the Box project and all the talented local makers whose work can be found there. So: we're kicking off a series of blog posts profiling some of these incredibly skilled artists and crafters. First up? Bone and Rust jewellery, made by local artist Corey Odrach.
Corey’s beautiful handmade jewellery takes inspiration from the natural world and its cycles as well as from Hamilton’s industrial heritage. Their works combine scavenged materials such a bones and rocks with recycled leather and textiles and industrial metals like copper and steel, resulting in a hard-edged beauty that celebrates decay as a transformative state. Corey’s DIY ethos comes through in their approach to crafting their handmade pieces, which blend raw natural materials with beautiful hand-shaped organic forms.
After growing up in Mississauga and living in Toronto for a time, Corey moved to Hamilton a year ago and decided to call Barton Village their home. Corey says that they’re so thankful to have landed in the neighbourhood right when so much incredible grassroots change is happening, and they’re excited to be a part of it with Business Out of the Box.
Stop by Business Out of the Box to check out Corey's pieces, visit their Etsy shop or follow them on Instagram!
There's so much happening in Barton Village this summer, and one of the most exciting things is the Business Out of the Box project! Have you had a chance to turn out this retired shipping container turned retail space yet? It's a sight to behold even when closed thanks to the gorgeous exterior mural by Kayla Whitney at KOE Design, and its doors open up to reveal an equally beautiful selection of handmade goods by local makers.
Business Out of the Box began as a collaborative effort between YWCA Hamilton, McMaster University's Office of Community Engagement, and the City of Hamilton, with funding from the Trillium Foundation. Along the way, they brought on additional community partners to help shape the vision: LeafBox Concepts provided the shipping container and supervised the building process, and St. Matthew's House provided a location for the project. With support from the YWCA, thirteen local women -- makers and entrepreneurs in various stages of developing their own businesses -- came together to the form the Women's Entrepreneur Collective and collaboratively manage the space. The shop is stocked with handmade goodies from jewellery to stationery to essential oils to gourmet popcorn, and members of the collective take turns staffing it each day.
We'll be profiling some of the makers featured at Business Out of the Box throughout the summer, so stay tuned!
On Saturday, June 1, Barton Village Festival celebrated its fifth year, and we can't believe how much this little festival has grown! This year's fest drew the biggest crowd yet, in a shorter time than ever since sadly we were forced to shut down early due to thunderstorms. We were gutted to have to cancel the headlining performance from Hamilton critical darlings Ellevator on the main stage, but we're so happy that we'll get another chance to catch them at Supercrawl this year!
Although the weather didn't quite hold out, most of the day was absolutely gorgeous, with sunny skies and not-too-hot temps, perfect for the Community Cup soccer tournament in Woodlands Park brought to you by our awesome community partners Empowerment Squared.
Parks were the theme of the day: in addition to the all-day activities at Woodlands, our friends at Green Street Challenge and Green Venture gave us beautiful pop-up green spaces to gather, play, and rest on Barton Street. We also had a mobile skate park and an on-street basketball court -- just a few of the community interventions we hosted as a hub for 100 in 1 Day, an international day of action celebrating active citizenship, community, and sustainability.
This year we had more vendors than ever (over 80!), a mix of local makers and independent businesses, community service providers, green initiatives, amazing food trucks, and more. But our favourite part of the festival was how many of our BIA members got involved. We felt the love from the very start, with Rumor's Safety handing out gloves to workers laying sod for the pop-up park, Diamantino's staff helping vendors set up their tents, and Helping Hands handing out coffee and cookies. Stores and restaurants hosted outdoor barbecues, pop-up patios, performers, artists, vendors, activities, and more! Duarte's smartly made more homemade burgers for their on-street barbecue this year after selling out last year, O Cantinho served up their famous chicken, Fragoso hosted a barbecue, and newcomers Tasco Da Chico roasted a whole pig!
We loved the pop-up shops and performances at Hello Baked, Lotus and the Bee, Stir It Up, Sage and Sapling, and Emerald Coffee; the perfect patios at Crumbled and Mosaic; the karaoke booth that new tattoo shop Smokey Bandits set up for their grand opening; Suru Studio leading free on-street yoga; the fill-a-food-truck drive at St. Matthew's House; sidewalk sales at St. Vincent De Paul Value Store, Rumor's, Canadian Variety, InterTech Electronics, DL Salon and more. And most of all we loved to see Barton businesses lending a hand, collaborating with each other and other local creatives to bring so much love and community to the festival!
We had three stages of music and activities all day, with free fitness classes and workshops, incredible performances from Earth Wind & Choir, Hammer City Samba, Jacob Moon, Mimi O'Bonsawin, The Beelays, Shanika Maria and more, and a stilt walker parade from the amazingly talented Hamilton Aerial Group!
We're so thankful to all of the sponsors, community partners, volunteers, BIA members, and festival-goers who make Barton Village Festival such a great event. We're already gearing up for next year's festival, so stay tuned (and drop us a line if you want to get involved!)
Lately we've been thinking about ways to celebrate the storied history of Barton Village, so we were absolutely delighted when our friends at Surprise! Hamilton came to us with an amazing idea for a collaborative project to help shine a light on the contributions that Hamilton -- and specifically the Barton Village area -- made to our country during both World Wars. The Barton Village Remembers project is an interactive installation that will combine craft and history, with wreaths of crocheted poppies and forget-me-nots marking significant places of historical interest and placards telling the stories of Barton Village's wartime history. We're so excited to unveil the project on November 1 during our Barton First Friday festivities with a tour of the sites that comprise the installation, which will remain up throughout November.
Members of Surprise! Hamilton have been hard at work crocheting flowers, and they'd love your help! They'll be set up with supplies at The River Trading Co. from 4 PM on for the next three Barton First Fridays -- come out and join the craft jam and lend a hand! If you're unable to join in person, you can also help by crocheting poppies or forget-me-nots on your own time! Christina of Surprise! Hamilton has provided links to the patterns they've been using:
The poppy pattern can be found on Marie Koeck's blog, and the forget-me-not pattern can be found on Ravelry.
We here at Barton Village are working on the research side of things, and we'd love your help there too! If you have family stories or historical resources to share, or if you'd like to join our archival research team as we dig into our neighbourhood's history, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form on our website to get in touch.
Stay tuned for updates as this exciting project comes together!
We're so excited to welcome our newest Barton Village business to the neighbourhood! Retro Rat Vintage just opened its doors at 561 Barton Street East (formerly the House of Penney), and it is chock full of gems from the 1950s through the 1990s.
Retro Rat Vintage owner Rachelle Lake poses with sweet store mascot Mochi and a gorgeous selection of vintage dresses
A recent transplant to Hamilton, owner Rachelle Lake is a vintage industry veteran, and her picking skills have yielded an incredibly curated selection of vintage clothes and treasures (we're especially in love with the gorgeous, colourful dresses and amazing selection of vintage tees!). When the owner of the store she was managing decided to close the business, she decided that it was finally time to do her own thing...and we're so glad she did!
Retro Rat Vintage is celebrating its Grand Opening this Saturday, June 15, from 11 AM to 7 PM. Come out and welcome Rachelle and her sweet pup Mochi to Barton Village, and get all set up with some new summer looks!