When Hamilton first started getting some buzz over a decade ago, it could all be traced to the art scene on James Street North.
Monthly art crawls are held on the 2nd Friday of every month where the galleries, studios, restaurants, and shops of James St North open their doors to the public to check out visual art, live music, and performance. In the warmer months, you’ll also find vendors of all kinds set up outside on the side walks.
Once a year, a mega-event called Supercrawl is held – transforming James St N and surrounding streets and Parks into a massive celebration of Indie Music and art. This concert series has been headlined by acts like The Arkells, Broken Social Scene, Junior Boys, Basia Bulat, and Sam Roberts Band.
But art isn’t just a once-a-month affair. Make sure to check out the galleries sprinkled across the City like Hamilton Artists Inc, Gooderham Gallery & Fine Art Studio, Centre3, and Earls Court. Likewise, the Art Gallery of Hamilton is a destination unto itself with a nationally important collection of over 9500 amazing pieces like the Keith Haring Outdoor Green Sculptures (one of my favourites). Finally, you can also visit some artists studios in person and fill your home with local art. My personal favourite is Julia Veenstra – I am lucky enough to have one of her large scale giclee prints in my dining room. Swoon!
Music lovers will also appreciate Hamilton’s long history of musical excellence ranging from the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra to 1980s punk-riot band Teenage Head. Some names you might recognize from Hamilton? Teenage Head, Jeremy Fisher, The Arkells, Whitehorse, The Dinner Belles, The Vaudevillian, Ginger St. James, Stan Rogers, The Dirty Nil, Terra Lightfoot, Oh Susanna, Tom Wilson, Daniel Lanois, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, Ash & Bloom, and Junior Boys to name just a few. Live music can be experienced at large venues like FirstOntario Centre & Concert Hall or at more intimate venues like The Casbah and Mills Hardware. Some recent exciting news in Hamilton’s music scene is the opening of the New Vision Music Hall in the 1858 Centenary Church. This project is a collaboration between New Vision United Church and Cobalt Connects and brings a much-needed mid-sized venue to the city.
Mark Furukawa aka Dr. Disc is a local legend – not just for stocking so much great local and hard to find music, but for being actively supportive of local talent. You will often find live performances on the rooftop of his record shop at the corner of Wilson & James Streets. And you may just luck out with a glimpse of him DJ’ing around town!
And let’s not forget about theatre! Hamilton has several venues to see local theatre. The biggest one is Theatre Aquarius, which boasts a 700 seat proscenium. There are also smaller theatres to enjoy like The Staircase and The Players’ Guild of Hamilton, a 140-year-old community theatre guild (the oldest in Canada). Plus, don’t forget to check out annual events like the Fringe Festival and HamilTEN Festival.