The not to be missed exhibition Ingrid Mayrhofer: After All That Was Solid Melts Into Air is on view at the Art Gallery of Hamilton until May 23, 2022. In this solo exhibition of recent works, Hamilton-based artist Ingrid Mayrhofer explores the image of a changing city. Video collages and digital photomontages document the altered streetscape during the process of demolition along King Street East in preparation for the City’s planned Light Rail Transit (LRT).
On April 21st, the AGH hosted a Town Hall, “Putting the Art in the LRT” that presented a panel of artists, activists, and community voices, many of whom have been involved in the discussion around the city’s LRT project over the last 14 years. The aim of the event was to move past the binary debate—should the city have an LRT or no—to focus more on the crucial nuance between an LRT project that is done to a community, versus a project that is done in collaboration with a community. Furthermore, how can public art and placemaking amplify this nuance.
The event was designed to extend some of the concerns informing Ingrid Mayrhofer’s current exhibition After All That Was Solid Melts Into Air, which uses imagery from many of the clapboarded buildings purchased by Metrolinx in advance of the LRT project, and which speaks to some of the housing and economic impacts already felt by this project. Ingrid spoke to this issue at the event, through her decades of work as a community activist; and made important connections to the earlier infrastructure projects such as the Red Hill Valley expressway (via a film clip by Peter Karuna).
Joining Ingrid at the Town Hall was filmmaker and event moderator Dakota Lanktree, Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann, Koubra Haggar, Lead Organizer at the Hamilton Community Benefits Network, and dub poet and activist Klyde Broox. Through their presentations and the discussion that followed, emerged a sense that the LRT has an amazing potential to (as councillor Nann phrased it) “be more than a shiny transit line, but deliver the transformation that Hamilton deserves”, offering an accessible and environmental transit piece to the city.
However, this potential relies on a collective of voices holding Metrolinx and the City to account to ensure a range of best practices, including a land strategy that assures affordable housing and prevents displacement, a commitment to create useful and accessible public and pedestrian space, and ways to use public art to gather and sustain community interest.
“Art is not a mirror to reflect society, but a hammer to shape it.”– Nrinder Nann
The true success of the Town Hall lay in the strong desire expressed by many of the participants to follow up with future events, particularly a meeting that could connect with communities such as Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto, who have seen LRT projects go through in recent years, and who might speak to both the victories and challenges that occurred, and what lessons might be valuable to city residents in the coming months and years.
The AGH hopes to host such a meeting this fall.
A very special thank you to our Town Hall panel of artists and community voices for sharing their treasured insight.
Header Image: Installation view of Ingrid Mayrhofer: After All That Was Solid Melts Into Air, 2022. Art Gallery of Hamilton. Photo by Robert McNair.