James Street North Art Crawl

We haven’t been to an Art Crawl yet in the colder weather, so I was curious to find out what it would be like. This was also a solo mission for me and I rather enjoyed moseying around on my own in search of some new places.

First up, I beelined for The Grey Room Studio. I’ve been in touch with Melissa Mostacci, one of the owners, over Twitter since the beginning of our Tour and I was happy to finally visit the studio to make it an official stop. Melissa runs The Grey Room along with fellow artists Jesse Parenteau and Lizzie Gosse. They work out of the space, display their art there, and feature other artists as well. Fairly new to James North, Melissa and Jesse, who met at Mohawk, first joined in the Art Crawl back in February, with Lizzie joining in this month. The goal at Grey Room is to make art and galleries more accessible to everyone; they will also give other upcoming artists a chance to display their work.

The Grey Room is a welcoming space, and, true to its name, the walls are a cool grey colour that compliment any artwork. It’s a refreshing shade, rather than the stark white walls of many other galleries. For this November installment of Art Crawl, they accented the space with a hint of Christmas – there was a little tree with sparkly silver and blue ornaments and some soothing white candles. While it was only a week or so after Halloween, there was also plenty of candy to go around!

Melissa Mostacci’s work at The Grey Room Studio

This month’s Art Crawl displayed some of Melissa’s intricately detailed ink artwork as well as Lizzie’s installation entitled “It’s Your City”. The abstract art project was put together during local events in various cities such as Culture Days and Open Streets Hamilton. Blank canvases were set up and participants took part by throwing paint upon them. Lizzie then drew over top of the results and put the canvases together as one landscape. For this exhibit, she took them apart and framed them separately. The display was an explosion of colour to behold and also tactile – those who viewed the art were encouraged to touch it. The interactive nature of the art, from the way it was created to how you view it, all contributed to making you feel a part of the art.

The other display in Grey Room was the photography of John Steinberg. Also a local artist, John’s work features mainly Hamilton cityscapes, with some nature shots included as well. He effectively captures the gritty nature of Hamilton’s industrial landscapes and also highlights some classic City landmarks. John has a unique perspective of the City, having lived in abroad in China to teach and later returning to Hamilton. Samples of his work can be found on his official website.

Lizzie Gosse’s “It’s Your City” at The Grey Room Studio

Plunging back into the crisp evening wind, I took a stroll with another location in mind that I’ve wanted to check out. Hawk & Sparrow is a new boutique to the street which has been open for about two months. The shop, which sells a variety of vintage, used, and new clothing and accessories, was another Twitter find for me and I was excited to see it. Everything I laid my eyes on was super cute and reasonably priced. I got to meet and chat with the owner, Sarah Moyal, who recognized James North as an up-and-coming area in the City and a suitable place for her to set up shop. Sarah describes Hawk & Sparrow as carrying a mixture of high and low-end pieces. There was a great assortment of items and the shop was bustling with people coming in and out. I definitely want to go back to get my shop on!

From there I popped into Mulberry Street Coffeehouse to warm up and to view the art they had on display. This month’s Art Crawl featured work by Hamilton-based photographer Luca Salvatore. Luca’s exhibit, entitled “Ghost Town,” is described as “a photographic essay” and depicts cityscapes and architecture in the City and represents, as he puts it, “how Hamilton appears through my recollection”. The photographs are extremely vivid with their rich colours and they draw attention to the many impressive structures in Hamilton. You can view the photos from the exhibit, along with more of Luca’s eclectic portfolio, on his official website.

Hawk & Sparrow

My last stop of the night was to the Vasco de Gama club, with its newly restored statue of the Roman Lady of Justice as a striking feature on the outside of the building. I wandered up to the exhibits taking place on the upper levels before heading down to the basement to watch my first ever Battle of the Brushes. The concept is simple – artists stand in a circle with blank canvases set up in front of each. They have 30 minutes to create a painting, while the spectators walk around them to watch the process. When the time is up, the viewers vote for which painting they like the best. A winner is crowned, and then all of the paintings are put up for sale through a silent auction. It was really interesting to see the paintings take shape – every time you made a circle around the room, so much had been added, altering the painting significantly from when you saw it just minutes before. All of the artists maintained their composure and focus while painting – I don’t know if I would be able to work under that kind of time crunch while people were watching. You could feel the energy in the room as the painters steadily worked away with concentration. It was difficult to choose a favourite – all of the finished products were so different that it just came down to a matter of personal taste.

And there you have it – another James Street North Art Crawl for the books. Even as the chillier weather creeps in, that shouldn’t stop anyone from getting out there to explore!

– Kristin

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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