While our Gallery doors remain temporarily closed, our exhibitions continue to be a source for exciting arts engagement from the comfort of our homes. Opened in November, Building Cultural Legacies has provided a unique exhibition space for interested visitors to engage with Hamilton’s arts history through archival materials, collection works, short films, and a gallery-wide scavenger hunt. As well, the space provides an engrossing environment for visitors to interact directly with the digital storytelling platform at the heart of Building Cultural Legacies – the BCL website.
Through the website, art enthusiasts can access countless stories of Hamilton’s arts history from 1950 to 2000. Relaying the history of the project, BCL Content Curator Alexis Moline had the following to say:
Building Cultural Legacies (BCL) has been long in the making, since 1984 to be exact. As the visual art world in Hamilton continued to branch with new growth at an increasing speed, Hamilton Artists Inc. co-founder Bryce Kanabra and friends felt the push to begin comprehensively collecting the stories of the near-past that had played out on the same landscape that they currently worked. In a 2018 interview with BCL, Kanbara reflected that “it occurred to my generation at that time that there was a history of artists and art-making in Hamilton that we knew nothing about”.
Kanbara and his peers’ curiosity drove the Hamilton Artists Inc. to apply for and win a Canada Council grant to begin the process of researching and connecting with the artists that precipitated the project, “we began contacting artists, visiting their homes, finding out that their whole lives had been centred around art. As soon as we stepped into the doorway, we could see that there were paintings lining the walls, lining the floors and they had scrapbooks full of information that were really valuable to us.”
From these efforts, Climbing the Cold White Peaks: A Survey of Artists In and From Hamilton 1910-1950 was born. The project culminated in an exhibition held at the Art Gallery of Hamilton and a book written by Stuart MacCuaig in 1986. Widely celebrated by both artists and the wider Hamilton community, Kanbara notes the power of learning about your roots, “It gave us a historical context to what we were doing”.
Today, over 30 years later, BCL is the spiritual successor of the Climbing the Cold White Peaks project. The Hamilton Arts Council has picked up where they left off, with generous support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. BCL focuses on the years 1950-2000, with an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton along with the unveiling of the digital platform in December 2019. Expanding on the essence of its ancestor project, BCL presents not only a survey of Hamiltonian artists and art institutions, but their personal anecdotes and perspectives, featuring community contributions from diverse writers, researchers and archives.
To read the many incredible stories that make up the BCL project, head to the website at buildingculturallegacies.ca. Or, click any of the links below to enjoy some of our favourite articles here at the AGH:
Donna Ibing – Featuring an oral history video with Ibing herself discussing her career as “feminist, shit-disturber, printmaker, painter, consciousness-raiser, and all around badass.”
Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts – Contributed by artist/educators Harold Sikkema and Victoria Long, this article explores the historical importance of a century-old Hamilton institution.
We encourage you to check out the website yourself and learn more about this city’s incredible arts history! The Building Cultural Legacies exhibition, while currently behind closed doors, remains up on Gallery walls until May 18, 2020!