James Street North Art Crawl

The James Street North Art Crawl has become somewhat of a regular event on the Tour’s social calendar. Seeing as this was my first art crawl since coming back from Tanzania, I was excited to take a stroll along James Street North and pop into familiar shops and explore new ones, having heard from Kristin of some new spots opening up along the street. What I love about the Art Crawl is that it’s a totally different experience each time you go. There are so many hidden gems along James Street that really come to life during Art Crawl.

It was a cold winter evening and Kristin and I found ourselves walking at a brisk pace, popping in and out of buildings and finding relief in the warmth in between each stop. Despite the freezing cold (and mighty wind!), we conquered the elements (go Team A&K!) and managed to hit up quite a few spots along James Street North. Here are the highlights:

Girls! Girls! Girls! Art Show by Cheyenne Federiconi and Julia Vandenbeukel

Kristin and I met up at Sonic Unyon for our first stop of Art Crawl, the Girls! Girls! Girls! Art Show by Cheyenne Federiconi and Julia Vandenbeukel. Cheyenne and Julia had excitedly emailed us ahead of time to let us know about the show and both Kristin and I were looking forward to checking it out. We were the first ones to arrive and the girls were just setting up, but we took a quick walk around to get a taste of their artwork. This artsy duo describe their pieces as “ranging from pop culture starlets, pin up girls, to fiendish women” and this was evident in all of their artwork. One painting which caught my eye was once of iconic Marilyn Monroe which reminded me of the film My Week With Marilyn which Kristin and I had seen as part of the Ancaster Film Fest. The girls made great use of the space, displaying their artwork not only along the walls, but on canvases, tables and ledges. We also spotted some ducks, Barbie dolls and the like which added a nice touch. We revisited their show later on in the evening and things were in full spring. The pink and black theme was perfect; girly with a punk edge. They had a wide array of food set up and Kristin and I couldn’t help but try some cupcakes! In keeping with the pink and black theme, the cupcakes were chocolate with white icing and vanilla with pink icing. They were delish and we both felt pretty classy!

Blackbird Studios

From there, we made our way over to Blackbird Studios for their grand opening. From the moment we walked in, we knew we were in for a treat. The two of us sipped our champagne and took it all in. This boutique has all sorts of different prints, so many of which caught our eye! From nautical stripes to puffy dresses, polka dots and animal prints, Kristin and I oohed and aahed over dresses and tops, discussing possible themes for the Tour. Animal print night, anyone?? You could spend hours perusing the racks and trying on clothes. Blackbird also have cute tote bags and pillows with fun prints, like owls and peacock feathers (Kristin and I looked at each other and said “PEACOCK!” in unison. Same wavelength, I tell you) which instantly caught our eye. Described as having “fabric designs that are often inspired by the dark and romantic,” Blackbird have created a unique combination of styles from girly yet edgy, to a bit of goth and rock and roll, with a romantic flair, all rolled together to create a diverse clothing collection. Blackbird Studios is also a proud sponsor of the Ladybird Animal Sanctuary. I’m sure they must be gearing up for prom season and their dresses are sure to be a hit! So for anyone who’s on the hunt for a little something special to add to their wardrobe, this is the place to go.

From there, we headed on over to Mulberry Street Coffeehouse, a fave spot of ours. We’d heard that our friend Johnny from Canadian Winter would be DJing that evening so we dropped by to say hi! While we missed his set, it sounds like he ripped it up on the decks in true Canadian Winter style. After a quick chat, we checked out the latest art show by Andy DeCola, featuring contemporary pieces done with acrylic on wood. I’m no art critic, but I loved the paintings. They were abstract, with bright colours and different shapes and lines mixed together. There was even a pair of paintings called “Jack and Diane”! In case some of you aren’t aware, the initials of our first names spell out JACK so we get pretty excited any time we spot Jack along the Tour.

Melissa Mostacci’s work at Grey Room Studio

John Steinberg’s work at Grey Room Studio

From there, we made our way our way to Hotel Hamilton to visit The Grey Room Studio who had recently moved to a new space in the Hotel. There was some fantastic art by Melissa Mostacci on display, most notably her tree paintings. You can tell the care put into carefully handcrafting these pieces, featuring trees with brightly coloured leaves, a fun splash of colour that really brings them to life. We also saw some photographs by John Steinberg featuring landscapes, people and even animals like giraffes (which instantly made me think of Tanzania) and elephants (which Carly would have LOVED). Overlooking James Street North, the ladies at Grey Room have a perfect view of the city which I am sure brings inspiration to their work. Things took an interesting turn when Kristin and I found ourselves playing a few rounds of Jenga! With both a true Jenga set and a smaller, knockoff Jenga set up, the group of us decided to put both together after a few rounds to create Extreme Jenga. Trust me when I say that got pretty intense, it was a nail biting experience!

There was so much to check out in Hotel Hamilton and we found ourselves drawn to the sound of music, ending up at Spark Society‘s jam session. Kristin and I stood in the hallway, curiously peering into the room, watching a group of people jamming away on instruments like the banjo, guitar, tambourine, drums and even a clarinet. This was totally up our alley. While we didn’t get in there to jam, I’d imagined it would be fun to do with the group of us. After all, we’ve imagined ourselves to be a percussion band and rockstars. Next time!

Another highlight of Art Crawl was spotting CBC Hamilton‘s new office! Carly and Kristin are avid listeners of CBC Radio 3 and Jian Ghomeshi’s radio show Q and I myself tune in every now and then, so we were excited to learn that CBC would be launching a digital-only station in Hamilton. Said to be unlike anything else CBC has done before, it will be interesting see to the kind of work they plan to do in the city. I’m sure it will offer a unique and innovate approach to all things digital and spark conversation in the community about all things Hamilton. There has already been a lot of conversation about the new station on Twitter and Facebook, so it is certainly generating a great deal of excitement.


From there, we popped into Needlework, one of the cutest spots I’ve ever been in. Both Kristin and I had heard about them and were eager to drop by. Opened in February, Needlework is a new boutique fabric store and sewing room which not only sells a range of fabric and sewing supplies, including needles, thread, patterns and fabrics, but also offers sewing lessons where people can get their sew on. Owners Liz Spencer and Kate Hunter have done a great job with the space. From the moment you walk in, you’re hit with a burst of sunshine and colour. Kristin and I had fun perusing through sewing handbooks and checking out the wide array of coloured threads. I got excited when I spotted rolls of fabric along the back walls, taking me back to Tanzania yet again. As I looked through the fabrics, I was reminded of my visits to local fabric shops in Arushatown with my friend Nicole and the times we spent perusing through fabric after fabric, all ranging in colour and print. I actually have some leftover fabric from Tanzania and would love to drop by and make something, like a tote bag! Liz and Kate are most definitely enthusiastic about all things sewing, as evidenced in their website. So whether you’ve never sewed before, or are looking to get creative, drop by Needlework and see what it’s all about.

All in all, it was yet another eventful Art Crawl. The James Street North area has definitely become a hub of the city, both during the day and night and I’m looking forward to see what more is to come.

xoxo Avi

Kristin Archer is the creator of I Heart Hamilton (www.ihearthamilton.ca), where she has blogged about experiences around her hometown since 2011, growing a social media presence along the way. Encouraging locals to “be a tourist in your own city,” she promotes arts and culture across her various social media platforms, blog, and weekly radio show on 93.3 CFMU.

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