Hamilton Creative Catalyst Project
Hamilton is undergoing a remarkable transition, as the local economy expands from traditional manufacturing to more knowledge-based and creative industries. Between 1991 and 2006, arts and creative jobs grew at a greater pace than the rest the local labour force, making them a key part of the new Hamilton economy.
As this trend progresses, it will help redefine the City’s place on the national stage. To expedite this shift, the Imperial Cotton Centre for the Arts (ICCA) launched the Hamilton Creative Catalyst Project (HCCP) and attracted the City of Hamilton as a partner.
What is a Creative Catalyst?
There are examples across Canada and around the world of cities that have embraced their unique culture(s) as a way to attract tourists, create jobs and enjoy a higher quality of life. Hamilton has the basic materials to join their ranks. There is an abundance of creative people living in the City. There are underused buildings and character neighbourhoods in close proximity to the downtown and a promising collection of creative spaces and uses. The City of Hamilton seeks to harness the potential of the creative sector to boost Hamilton’s economy and transform the urban landscape.
A creative catalyst would occupy a large, iconic building (or buildings in a precinct) downtown with an educational or cultural institution as an anchor. This facility could also house a contemporary multi-purpose performance/rehearsal space, offices, studios, retail and hospitality uses. Tenants could include established or new businesses defined as creative industries (e.g. music creation, promotion, distribution, film production) or any business that would benefit from co-locating with creative people and businesses, and new enterprises (e.g. graphic design, news media, computer programming). The building and the programming within it would be designed to encourage interaction amongst the tenants, with the street and the surrounding community.
The role of creative industries was initially recognized by the City of Hamilton through the 2005 Economic Development Strategy with the identification of ‘Film and Culture’ industries as a unique emerging cluster in the city. The creation of this cluster was an important first step in recognizing the economic impact that creative industries play in the Hamilton economy. Within the 2009 Economic Development Strategy (Draft), the Creative Catalyst project is a key deliverable of the Creative Industries Cluster.
The Hamilton Creative Catalyst Project was born out of an Imperial Cotton Centre for the Arts (ICCA) strategic planning session focused on Hamilton’s creative industry's future goals. The ICCA had determined that there was a need for a better understanding of the role of the creative sector in Hamilton and the needs of its members if Hamilton’s creative industries are to play a leading role on a national and international scale.
In response to this need for additional research about the contributions the creative sector makes to Hamilton’s economy, the ICCA, in partnership with the Community Centre for Media Arts (CCMA), and the Centre for Community Study (CCS) came together to work on the Hamilton Creative City Initiative (HCCI). The HCCI project focused on allying existing research from Canada and abroad with the process of surveying the creative sector in Hamilton to garner a better understanding of its scale, gaps in the sector, and how it fits into the overall picture of Hamilton’s economy and community.
The first phase of the HCCI project identified industry strengths, weaknesses and needs. During the second phase, ICCA worked on its own organizational planning, deciding to focus on cultural infrastructure. With investment from Messrs. Mark Chamberlain and Bill Young, the ICCA pursued the needs assessment for infrastructure. The results demonstrated the need and desire to have an organization to pull a project together.
To build on this momentum, in August of 2008, the ICCA approached the City of Hamilton with a concept to develop a creative catalyst in Hamilton. Subsequently, N. Barry Lyon Consultants Limited and Consulting Matrix were retained by the City of Hamilton in November of 2008 (approved by City Council November 26, 2008) to complete a feasibility study for the development of a Creative Catalyst in Hamilton.
On January 19, 2010, the consulting team, ICCA, and City Staff presented the results of The Hamilton Creative Catalyst Project Feasibility Study to the Economic Development and Planning Committee and City Council approved the report on January 27, 2010.
Hamilton as a Creative Magnet
The growth of Hamilton’s creative cluster has been a noticeable trend over the past few years. Beyond local press coverage, it has caught the eye of the regional and national press a number of times and has garnered strong support in the community. The Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, Toronto Life, CBC Radio, among others, have focused new interest on the growing arts and culture scene in Hamilton:
Artists drawn down QEW, Toronto Star, February 05, 2009.
Steeltown Revisited, Toronto Life, September 18, 2008.
The Secret’s Out: Why the cool kids are moving to Hamilton, National Post, November 12, 2008.
Novel tours create buzz in Steeltown, Toronto Star, June 21, 2007.
Hamming It Up, National Post, August 30, 2006.
Go west, young artist, The Globe and Mail, January 7, 2006.
An incredible mobilization of the local creative industries can be seen, particularly in the City’s downtown core and there is a significant migration of the Toronto-based arts community to Hamilton. Activities of organizations and entrepreneurs such as the Pearl Company (the Art Bus), the Factory Hamilton Media Arts Centre, Hamilton Artists’ Inc., Arts Hamilton, Fenian Films, The Print Studio, Red Canoe, Factor(e), Kite String, 2Gen.Net, Community Centre for Media Arts, Wishart, Sonic Unyon Recording Company, Grant Avenue Studio, Imagination Plus and many others in and around the downtown, are indicators of this growing trend.
In addition, events like the James Street North Art Crawl, Supercrawl, the AGH World Film Festival, the Hamilton 24-hour Film Festival, Hamilton’s Literary Festival gritLIT, and the Hamilton Music Awards contribute to the new creative scene in Hamilton.