More than one hundred thousand people were expected to flood the James Street North area of Hamilton last weekend for the sixth annual arts SuperCrawl, celebrating art/music/dance/culture in the core of the city.
Attendance has been rising on a hockey stick curve from the 3000 who attended in 2009 to the 100K who attended last year. I am now doing a leaping high five to organizer Tim Potocic and the SuperCrawl team for throwing a helluva an awesome event and showing us what’s possible. If you build it, they will come.
I’ve been chatting with the folks in Kitchener’s Arts and Culture department to explore ways to extend our cultural ecosystem here in Kitchener (or Waterloo, or Waterloo Region… hey, maybe that’s our problem). We were originally slated to rent a bus for a SuperCrawl roadtrip, but that fell through for some reason, so I just headed to The Hammer on my own last Friday afternoon. Boy, am I ever glad I did. I met the friendliest people, saw great work, and was delightfully immersed in a community that shows up.
Special thanks to Jacqueline Norton and René Reid of the City of Hamilton for being such awesome ambassadors for the city and the event. They enthusiastically showed me around, answered my questions, and made me feel right at home.
I brought back some thoughts on developing culture in WR as well as an incomprehensible number of photos. Click through for both…
My only experience with Hamilton is positive. Back in 2009, when I was working on kwartzlab, James Arlen and the posse from Hamilton’s THINK|HAUS makerspace hosted (excuse the slow load, pics here) the first annual gathering of neighbouring makerspaces, SoOnCon. We had an awesome time with makers that were all about getting shit done.
Driving down to Hamilton on Friday I realized it’s less than an hour away from KW. While the SuperCrawl is an annual event, there are monthly art crawls in Hamilton on second Fridays. Artists and galleries try to schedule their receptions and show openings to coincide with those dates to bring out crowds interested in hitting multiple shows in a night. Sounds like a good reason to load up the van with people in KW and head back to Hamilton.
I got in the city around 2pm, hoping to see the show setting up. I was not disappointed. It was a very interesting transformation in a very short amount of time.
Me: “Hey cable wrangler, how you doin’?”
Him: “I’m tired!”
Hang loose, indeed.
And food trucks as far as the eye could see. When you have this many food trucks, there really are no lineups, so people actually buy food at the food trucks, and then more food trucks want to join your event, rinse and repeat. Take note! I got a wicked smokey pulled pork sandwich.
Urban intensification? Gentrification? This will be interesting to watch. Can the cool of James St N be maintained with condos (apparently) poised to spring up like mushrooms?
The only problem with this many food trucks is that it took me a half hour to walk past them all and decide.
Does the fast-fencing colour match the event brand or vice versa?
The big music stage at the bottom of James N. I’ll confess right now: this post does not even scratch the surface of all the music happening at SuperCrawl. That’s a reason to return next year.
Now where is 28 James St N?
Carrie Kozlowski from The City of Kitchener Arts department connected me with Jacqueline Norton from The City of Hamilton. So I stopped into the Hamilton Visitor Centre at James N and King William to say hello. Jacqueline gave me a great tour through the new revamped Centre. Looks great. On-location radio show in progress.
Love this piece by Lester Coloma on plywood.
As I understood it, Hamilton is making a bid to host the 2015 Juno Awards.
This plane from Mohawk College looked good against the brick.
Street art getting installed on the street.
In a vacant lot I found evidence of artistic endeavour…
and the tools of the trade.
My plan was just to wander up and down James St N as the show emerged. As I snapped this photo a friendly volunteer named René Reid noticed my camera and said “Hey, do you want to get a great overview shot from the sixth floor of the Visitor Centre?” Me: “Hell ya!”
So, up we go, through Security, and I shot this from the top floor of this city building. Thanks René!
The Lister Block building was rescued from abandon and rehabilitated into a beautiful working space. They were able to repair/restore much of the old wood, fixtures, and plasterwork. Happily, a photographer captured the pre-reno condition.
Second floor mosaics.
Some Juno-award-winning musicians were on hand to kick off Hamilton’s bid for the Juno’s under the banner…
TURN IT ON…
including Hamilton-born Rita Chiarelli, dubbed the “The Goddess of Canadian Blues”.
I learned that a lot of great music has come out of Hamilton.
There were some other famous folks there, and a real hubbub, but I was more interested in…
Tim Potocic, chief of SuperCrawl. We didn’t get a chance to meet, but I certainly saw (and photographed) him everywhere on James North through the day. I would be very interested to have a beer with Tim.
“YOU CAN DO ANYTHING IN HAMILTON” I love that.
Back out on the street: meta! This skater with the expensive-looking rig was shooting as much as me, but video.
I believe this is the artist himself, Dean Drever, beside his piece Bear Hunt.
Few passed by on James St without stopping for a closer look. This uber orange totally confused my camera sensor.
As I sat on a rock wall drinking a pop, I noticed this other Lester Coloma piece and the ironic juxtaposition of the condo advertising. Will cool street art still be here when it turns into a $20M condo?
This was the photographic challenge of the month. My auto-focus was freaking out.
This piece was the second reason I came to the show. The first was…
This piece by Natalie Hunter in the…
AGH Design Annex.
I’m particularly intrigued by Natalie’s prints…
on transparent film. These fragments of images/memories and the layering really made an impression on me. Haunting and beautiful. Showing up early, I got to see it all alone.
The Cocoon by collective kírkē (Ariel Bader-Shamai and Petra Matar) was wrapped in textiles through the night, creating a… cocoon. The cool esthetic and concept aside, I was very interested in the design and fabrication of this piece.
Not many at this point, but just wait.
Tons of small galleries on James.
I love the bones of this neighbourhood.
I couldn’t stop photographing Sean Martindale (above) as he constructed his piece Open long into the evening. With help.
Marco D’Andrea’s piece…
Sound Ceiling reminds me of a piece I just saw at the Vancouver Art Gallery back in July.
Curious: are these low tents intended to channel the crowds to either side of the street? Smart.
More on this a bit later.
Jon Johnson told me to hit…
The Mulberry Street Café. Good advice.
There are so many of these great walls around Hamilton. See the bones of bygone decades. Yeah I know it’s probably an ad for cigarettes, but love the weathering.
Look now, before it’s gone.
Positive attitude is all.
Tim. And driver.
This benign gang was interesting. By the armoury.
It really felt like everyone, all the merchants and crawlers were totally into it. I love this enthusiasm.
The crowds started to roll in around 6pm.
I frickin’ *love* this. Love! Cars over there. Bikes over here. Are we getting this along with the ION light rail? Please?
Sound check on one stage…
and pizza for the crew still setting up the main stage.
Lots of skaters. Skater-friendly event.
There’s my smokey bbq sandwich maker, right over there.
I missed the fire show later in the evening because I was shooting Fluxible very early the next morning in Kitchener so I couldn’t stick around as long as I wanted to. Was cool to see this rehearsal.
More came downtown.
and more. All shapes, sizes, ages, mobility. Tons of people.
Some local artists were stationed in parking lot, away from James North, by the York Parkade that backs on to Vine Street. One of the artists was calling out to people on James to come a half block down Vine to see the locals.
we see the problem: the police and EMT command post, along with orange barriers was discouraging crawlers from venturing down Vine. Now here’s where it got interesting. I saw organizer Tim Potocic roll up on James, walk down Vine…
chat with Toque Guy…
about this issue…
and then Tim went and talked to police/EMT, sorting out the beef dynamically. Within a half hour, the roadblocks and vans were pulled back a block on Vine, leading later to…
this near real-time solution. Respect and bravo to all involved!
Meanwhile, the skaters…
skated on, and…
more of everybody kept showing up.
I saw this dude in the man-lift earlier in the afternoon scaling paint off this sign. I couldn’t help but think “of all the days to refinish this sign”, and briefly wondered if this was maybe a performance piece in the crawl.
I *love* this spirit in Hamilton. I’m not going to apologize for overuse of “love” in this post.
In addition to photographing the crawl, the eight hours I spent wandering up and down James North gave me a lot of time to think about why we don’t have SuperCrawl-like awesome participation in Waterloo Region. So I started to walk slower, door to door, shooting a little bit of a Google street-view to aid my memory. A couple of elements were obvious deltas with WR: #1 The density is very high for the galleries, shops, bakeries, music stores, hair dressers, shoe repair, you-get-the-idea. Walk out the door of a pop-up gallery and 12 feet away you’re in the next shop. And it’s like that all along the street. #2 Every single shop was open. At night.
Above, youth art studio.
Not sure if this was actually a fur store, but there were a helluva lot of people streaming through those funky plywood doors.
Ideas on how to make Hamilton better. Or things you love about Hamilton. Positivity.
Help for those that need a hand.
Hold the phone! What’s this? An artist run centre? It’s like our Globe Studio, but plunked right down on King Street.
Hamilton Artists Inc is celebrating 40 years in 2015.
I spoke with the very friendly Stefan Hancherow, Interim Administrative Directive of Inc. I had a bunch of questions on the monthly crawls in Hamilton and he had lots of answers and encouragement. Also agreed to field questions from his experience at Inc. What a champ!
This awesome piece, Foundation, by Diane Daniels was so cool. My regular readers know I have a tool fetish, and love when the tools of making are themselves embedded into the made thing. They are intrinsically beautiful in their capacity to make and esthetically beautiful in the precision of their finish.
Diane’s work is right up my alley.
Love the concepts as well as the fabrication.
Matthew Walker was showing at Inc.
His piece, Niagara, was the size of a Volkswagen. Wish I had a pop can or something for scale.
Night Waves, also by Matthew Walker, as is…
Extinction Event. This one in particular had a great artist’s statement.
One of the cross streets was open, and with a little help from Hamilton Police, the car and foot traffic kept flowing with no obvious problems.
Love these trees arching over the street.
Wish I had my polecam to get a higher vantage point to show how far back the crowd stretched. I should carry a step-stool for just such eventualities.
This fellow got my money with his (opera) singing. Way to put it out there, dude.
More streetscape: clothing!
Checking the progress on Sean Martindale’s installation. Seeing this string run back and forth was hypnotic. Like watching a hard drive defrag screen, but better.
Aaand, more of Sean’s work.
See? I’m not the only one diggin’ it.
Seemed to be a fair bit of living space above ground level.
Fabric shop and workspace!
Makeover happening right in the front window.
Am I on Queen Street West in Toronto? No! James Street North in Hamilton!
centre print shop and studio. They were pulling screens right out on the street.
Next time, I promise!
The weather was perfect.
Meta! Man, there were so many cameras.
Back up by the armoury again.
And by this time of night, there was a huge lineup for the Mulberry Street Café. Glad I got in there when I did. Definitely will go back.
And as I was taking this how-high-can-my-arms-reach shot, I heard…
a porch party concert…
just two doors down Mulberry Street…
cranking out some givin’-it-all-they-got Doors covers.
As they were packing up, I got the sense that we must be approaching peak attendance for the night.
My moving-though-the-crowd attempt with the 14-24mm lens.
Oh, this was cool. Art down this alley. It was absolutely jammed and the gatekeeper in the jaunty cap on the right was merrily shouting for people to stick to the right as they entered. People were actually queuing up to go into this alley. Wicked!
Fun fact: I love to photograph independent variety stores at night. Love that glow.
Not sure if this was a pop-up…
permanent, but who cares!
There was interesting stuff to see inside, and…
work by Cailey Massey. She did the candy-coloured explosion paintings above. I think she’s the one in the green jacket.
Bakery. At night! Is art good for business? Apparently it’s good for the bakery business because Ola was packed.
Whoa! Remember that Makers’ Market sign from earlier? Well, this…
is it! In the front courtyard of Christ Church Cathedral.
Serious props to artist Julie Marquis out on the street…
rocking her print sale guerrilla style!
Is art good for business? I saw money. And then I saw… Gavin Fitzpatrick from KW! And Sarah Fitzpatrick with Tracy Suerich and her husband Doug. I said “we gotta have this in KW!” And somebody said well we have Open Streets and it just hasn’t been going long enough to be this big yet. I think it’s a different thing. SuperCrawl is 6 years old. Open Streets is what, 2 years old? In another four years, are we going to draw tens of thousands of people down/uptown with Open Streets? In it’s first year, SuperCrawl drew 3000. Maybe we got that with Night\Shift or Summer Lights, but I think both of those were in Kitchener only. Now I’m wondering what numbers BluesFest draws to downtown Kitchener. Looks like I’ve got some research to do.
If you know me, you’ll know I’m not terribly spiritual, but the church is not likely to really fall down if I walk through the doors, right? There must be at least a few other heathens in the horde besides me.
This was terrific. The congregation members at the door were welcoming everyone. There was art hung at each side of the nave. There was singing. Just great.
What a beautiful space.
Market still jamming.
Buttons for sale.
More DW-streetview. Banquet hall and vintage stuff.
And crazy-loud music at the top end…
of the street.
I really felt like some pretty kick-ass detail-oriented folks had figured out a lot of things to make this massive event go smoothly. It had the same kind of delightful flow that the Fluxible event would have the very next day for me. Clear signage. Helpful/Obvious/Informed volunteers. Cheap parking ($3 event rate if you came after 4pm. I paid $9 because I came earlier, but I’m paying $11/day just to park in Kitchener so this seemed like a deal).
The only constructive feedback I can offer is:
* I couldn’t find out where Natalie Hunter’s work would be until Jacqueline emailed me an invite
* I didn’t know where to park or what roads would be closed until Jacqueline sent that too, along with driving directions
Pretty minor stuff in comparison to the overwhelming awesomeness.
Got the sticker I wanted. Thank you.
Were these tents a rain contingency? Yeah, I know I keep asking about them, the they were dialed down to about 4 feet off the ground, so curious.
Back past the church again. Time to start heading for home. Early morning shoot on Saturday.
There were more media centres than I could shake a stick at (and I don’t often use that phrase from my Grandma).
Late night snacks.
I can’t get there from here.
Is art good for business? I see people buying stuff at 9:30 at night.
I mentioned to someone today that Hamilton has separated bike lanes, and they said “Well, they’re new!” and I said “Yeah, but they’ve got them and we don’t.”
By 9:30pm, the party showed no signs of slowing down. I left with two things on my mind: #1 Returning to Hamilton soon, and #2 Helping Waterloo Region figure out how to close the gap, with no excuses, to get lots of this stuff going in our own community.
I’ll say what I always say: this stuff does not happen by magic. People have a vision. They organize and lobby and plan. And then they execute and show up. Good on ya, Hamilton. Congratulations Tim Potocic, the SuperCrawl team, and the whole dang city on an awesome event. Consider me your community cheerleader at large.