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In Hamilton, actual property is the brand new artwork

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

I inform jokes for a residing. Like, I am going on stage and inform jokes. It is a bizarre factor to jot down down on a bank card utility, however it’s what I do. And I do it world wide.

I used to be nominated for a Juno award this 12 months for my album, All Inclusive coma, and I’ve to credit score a part of the identify to the truth that I dwell within the metropolis of Hamilton. It is a spot I discover as an artist the place you strip away the advertising and marketing 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 have been simply pleased to fill their properties. Landlords would see a married couple and journey over themselves to provide you a spot. The lease was low-cost and the wine flowed like butter. I imply, that is pure hyperbole, however I did transfer from an costly metropolis to a comparatively cheaper metropolis so I may focus on doing my artwork.

I used to be going to dwell the life I dreamed of as a comic who did comedy with no day job. In Canada? Remarkable. Certain, I used to be in my mid-30s, however it was all coming collectively. My companion had a very good job, I used to be touring and doing minor roles on tv. We had DISPOSABLE INCOME!

I got here to Hamilton throughout the entire “Artwork is the brand new metal” period. The branding embraced by many sectors within the metropolis depicted Hamilton because the hip new place for younger artists and entrepreneurs to put down roots. It was an try to maneuver away from the blue-collar, industrial picture that was the spine of Metal Metropolis since ceaselessly.

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

Ten years later, rents have skyrocketed and the price of residing has skyrocketed. “Artwork is the brand new Metal” has develop into “Actual property is the brand new artwork.” That is what individuals are investing in, not inventive outputs.

Throughout the pandemic, and even earlier than it, housing costs and rental prices rose throughout Canada, and, by no coincidence, homeless encampments expanded. “Renovitions,” one thing I heard taking place to buddies of mine again in Toronto, started taking place extra usually right here. Beloved spots like This Ain’t Hollywood, the Hamilton rock membership staple, have been bought to actual property builders who need to flip the highest flooring into excessive finish “residences.”

Inexpensive for all, together with working and artistic individuals

Within the guide The right way to Kill a Metropolis, by PE Moskowitz, the writer factors out that “gentrification, at its deepest stage, is admittedly about reorienting the aim of cities away from being areas that present for the poor and center courses and towards being areas that generate capital for the wealthy.”

Cities, of their try and “rejuvenate” downtown cores, will herald artists so as to appeal to the cash. Artists assist create a voice for communities, a canvas to specific the many individuals that dwell there. It is simple to see why individuals need to dwell in areas the place artists are inclined to congregate.

Nonetheless, as soon as the cash comes, affordability goes, displacing not solely the artists, however the individuals who dwell 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 notice as an artist I am very a lot part of all of this. I moved from Toronto with the promise of low-cost housing, one thing many Torontonians have performed 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 top aim, and never one of many stepping stones in the direction of gentrification.

Now, a lot older and clever, I perceive that “artwork is the brand new metal,” is only a stepping stone in the direction of rental growth. I additionally perceive {that a} metropolis like Hamilton is constructed upon the concept as a neighborhood we have to care for the least lucky amongst us. That artwork, inexpensive housing and correct jobs can and will co-exist.

After we take into consideration housing, particularly throughout elections, we appear to concentrate on the affordability of shopping for properties or the pursuits of recent householders. Whereas I will not argue that is not vital, a precedence for this 12 months’s election ought to be inexpensive housing throughout the board.

The power to not simply work however to have high quality of life is vital. As an artist, I see lots of my contemporaries being pushed to the fringes, having to relocate to smaller and smaller cities.

Final 12 months, I had the glory of internet hosting the Hamilton Arts Awards. I had the privilege of interviewing a various part of artists, who 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 take time to keep in mind that.

For extra of CBC Hamilton’s municipal election protection:

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