In Hamilton, actual property is the brand new artwork

This column is an opinion piece by Gavin Stephens, host of the Uncolonized podcast and comic. It is a part of a particular CBC Hamilton election venture that includes voices from the neighborhood. Discover all our election protection right here.

I inform jokes for a dwelling. Like, I’m going on stage and inform jokes. It is a bizarre factor to put in writing on a bank card software, however that is what I do. And so they do it everywhere in the world.

I used to be nominated for a Juno award this 12 months for my album, Coma All Inclusive, and I’ve to attribute a part of the identify to the truth that I reside within the metropolis of Hamilton. It is a spot I discover as an artist the place you take away the advertising and enterprise facets of engaged on a venture and simply work on the venture. Hamilton retains you sincere.

Once I moved right here in 2012, landlords had been completely happy to fill their properties. The homeowners would see a married couple and journey over themselves to give you a seat. The lease was low cost and the wine flowed like butter. I imply, it is pure hyperbole, however I moved from an costly metropolis to a comparatively cheaper metropolis so I might give attention to making my artwork.

I used to be going to reside the life I dreamed of as a comic doing comedy and not using a day job. In Canada? Unheard. Certain, I used to be 30, however it all added up. My associate had a superb job, we had been touring and doing bit elements on TV. I had DISPOSABLE INCOME!

I got here to Hamilton throughout the entire “Artwork is the New Metal” period. Branding embraced by many sectors within the metropolis described Hamilton as the brand new hip place for younger artists and entrepreneurs to place down roots. It was an try to maneuver away from the commercial, blue-collar picture that had been the spine of the Metal Metropolis eternally.

I believed it meant a deeper change than slogans. For sure, I used to be very naive.

Ten years later, rents have skyrocketed and the price of dwelling has skyrocketed. “Artwork is the brand new metal” turned “Actual property is the brand new artwork.” That is what individuals spend money on, not inventive outcomes.

In the course of the pandemic and even earlier than it, housing costs and rental prices rose throughout Canada and, not coincidentally, homeless encampments expanded. “Renovictions”, one thing I heard occur with my pals in Toronto, began occurring extra typically right here. Beloved venues like This Ain’t Hollywood, Hamilton’s premier rock membership, have been offered to property builders seeking to flip the highest flooring into luxurious “flats”.

Accessible to all, together with working and inventive individuals

Within the ebook kill a metropolis by PE Moskowitz, the creator factors out that “gentrification, at its deepest stage, is admittedly about reorienting the aim of cities from being areas that present for the poor and center lessons to being areas that generate capital for the wealthy.”

Cities, of their quest to “rejuvenate” downtown cores, will herald artists to draw cash. Artists assist create a voice for communities, a canvas to specific the many individuals who reside there. It is simple to see why individuals wish to reside in areas the place artists are likely to congregate.

Nevertheless, as soon as the cash is available in, accessibility goes down, displacing not solely the artists, however the individuals who reside and work within the space within the course of.

The Raven is a mural in Hamilton. As Gavin Stephens writes, artwork is vital to this metropolis, and this metropolis is vital to artwork. (Cara Nickerson/CBC)

I understand as an artist that I’m part of all of this. I moved from Toronto on the promise of low cost housing, one thing many Torontonians have completed and proceed to do, driving up costs within the course of. I used to be naive to suppose that attracting younger creatives to the town was the tip objective and never one of many stepping stones to gentrification.

Now, a lot older and wiser, I perceive that “artwork is the brand new metal” is only a stepping stone in the direction of condominium growth. I additionally perceive {that a} metropolis like Hamilton is constructed on the concept that as a neighborhood we have to maintain the much less lucky amongst us. That artwork, reasonably priced housing and enough jobs can and may coexist.

After we take into consideration housing, particularly throughout an election, we appear to give attention to the affordability of residence shopping for or the pursuits of latest homeowners. Whereas I will not argue that it’s not vital, a precedence for this 12 months’s election ought to be reasonably priced housing normally.

The power to not solely work, but additionally to have high quality of life is vital. As an artist, I see lots of my contemporaries being pushed to the margins, having to maneuver to smaller and smaller cities.

Final 12 months, I had the respect of internet hosting the Hamilton Arts Awards. I had the privilege of interviewing a various cross part of the artists that make up this metropolis. One factor I took away was how a lot this metropolis impressed them to create and the way a lot of this metropolis was of their work.

Artwork is vital to this metropolis, and this metropolis is vital to artwork. I hope all of us right here have time to do not forget that.

For extra of CBC Hamilton’s municipal election protection:

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