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Socio-Economic Status of Artists in the GTHA

March 9 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

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Part of the exhibition Division of Labour, this roundtable series ties the two exhibition sites and cities together by addressing gentrification and the “creative flight” from Toronto to the Hamilton corridor. Hamiltonians have been openly taking aim at the issues of cultural resettlement in the face of their changing city by acknowledging the poor/working class/creative class urban mash-up that exists in the GTHA. The discussion at WAHC explores ideas around what an increased artist labour force means to the infrastructure, economy, and ecology of Hamilton, as well as the relationships between the existing art community and incoming artists. The panelists — Michael Maranda, Angela Orasch, and Sally Lee — provide an overview of the issues affecting the city’s mix of long-standing art community members, art-growth sympathizers, new-wave and first-wave artist implants, civic leaders, and youth organizers.

Sally Lee gets the conversation rolling by providing an overview of some organizations, groups, and collectives currently working on different fronts to improve the socio-economic status of artists. She describes the actions, activities, and initiatives taking place in organizations such as CARFAC Ontario, the Artists and Income Precarity Collective Impact Working Group (led by Work In Culture), and Arts Pond (research around artists and gentrification). She also touches on the work of larger advocacy groups such as Ontarians for the Arts and the Canadian Arts Coalition, and the importance of individual artists making their voices heard alongside organizations and institutions. Lee’s important work in arts advocacy helps build solidarity systems for artists so that they can know and feel their worth within the larger societal context and band together to effect change.

Michael Maranda presents a preliminary analysis on questions of home ownership and studio location for artists located in the GTHA versus the rest of Ontario as a way of indirectly gauging the effect of gentrification on artists’ lives. He discusses the implications of Toronto’s affordability crisis for artists and the potential direction of Hamilton through an analysis data provided in his research-advocacy survey, which focuses on the socio-economic status of Canadian artists. Waging Culture was published by the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) in Toronto. In 2019, Maranda will compile the results of the final survey, drawing to a close a project spanning 10 years of investigation.

Angela Orasch will speak about the Gathering on Art, Gentrification, and Economic Development (GAGED), a public forum project that seeks to bring together various community voices in Hamilton to discuss issues related to the topics of gentrification, economic development, and the arts. These conversations, and the information brought forward, will become part of a working group devoted to knowledge creation on the topics. The group’s first event in October 2018 included a series of long-table discussions, working groups, and speakers. Orasch reports on action items that came out of the conference and will open the floor to further discussions. These conversations are being compiled and communicated to city hall, various community stakeholders, and McMaster University.


About the panelists:

Sally Lee has almost 30 years of experience working at not-for-profit arts organizations representing a variety of disciplines and ranging from community-based artist-run organizations to large institutions. Most recently, she served as executive director of CARFAC Ontario, from 2015 to 2018. She has held management and leadership positions at the Toronto International Film Festival, Soulpepper Theatre Company, and the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, where she also served as executive director. Lee has also worked or volunteered at the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto, the Images Festival, the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, Artists for Peace and Justice Canada, the Samara Centre for Democracy, Pan Am Path, Border/Lines Magazine, and the Women’s Press. She is a Fellow of the 2006 Toronto Arts Council Cultural Leaders Lab and currently sits on the board of Wavelength Music, the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, the Visual Arts and Media Arts Committee of the Toronto Arts Council, the Advocacy Network of the Toronto Arts Foundation, the Advisory Board of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, and the Nominating Committee of Access Copyright. An active member of Toronto’s independent music community since the early 1990s, Sally currently plays bass and sings in the band Long Branch.

Michael Maranda is assistant curator at the AGYU. For the past 30 years, he has been engaged with the visual arts sector in Canada as an artist, organizer, administrator, curator, editor, advocate, publisher, critic, and, more recently, a quantitative researcher. His Waging Culture survey has set the mark for advocacy-based quantitative research in the sector and is recognized as the go-to source for socio-economic information on Canadian visual artists. Maranda runs the publishing activities of the AGYU and is a prolific commenter on social media. He studied at the University of Ottawa (political science), Concordia University (photography), and the University of Rochester (visual and cultural studies). His work has shown internationally, primarily in artists’ book-related venues.

Angela Orasch is a PhD candidate in the Political Science program at McMaster University and the director of GAGED. She has published work in the field of Canadian social policy and intergovernmental relations. Currently, her research is situated within the field of urban/municipal policy and governance, examining the political economy of cities in North America. She recently developed and taught a fourth-year undergraduate course on Canadian cities, neoliberal urbanism, and technological governance. She also contributed to Evergreen’s mid-sized cities research collaborative, where her research examined governance models of Canadian smart city initiatives.

Division of Labour runs from January 30-April 20, and is curated by Suzanne Carte.


WAHC acknowledges the Canada Council for the Arts for its support of the Main Gallery exhibition program, and the Ontario Arts Council for its support of Division of Labour.

For more information, contact Hitoko Okada, Interim Program Coordinator at hitoko@wahc-museum.ca or (905) 522-3003 ex. 29

51 Stuart Street, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8L 1B5       905.522.3003       Public Hours: Wed to SAT > 10am—4pm