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Hamilton Arts Week kicks off June 5

Now celebrating 10 years, the weeklong arts festival by the Hamilton Arts Council will feature 13 signature events and a specialized presentation stream dedicated to Indigenous themes, artists and audiences.

The Hamilton Arts Council officially celebrates a decade of its annual Hamilton Arts Week celebration in 2024, a multidisciplinary arts festival of localized programming throughout the city, taking place this year from June 5-14.

Alongside celebrating 10 years, the HAC has organized 13 signature events across the city for HAW, the majority with free admission, and a specialized presentation stream dedicated to Indigenous themes, artists and audiences.

“At its core, Hamilton Arts Week is meant to strengthen artistic and cultural appreciation throughout the GTHA and Six Nations of the Grand River,” said Megan Divecha, programs and community engagement coordinator for the HAC. “It’s also presented on behalf of the City of Hamilton, and this year we received funding from Canada Council for the Arts and the Department of Canadian Heritage. So being that it’s held on behalf of the City, we kick off with the City of Hamilton Arts Awards on June 5. This is meant to celebrate award nominees and connect people in the community to really fantastic contributors to the arts scene.”

The Hamilton Arts Council is a small but mighty team who begin their planning far in advance, Divecha told HAMILTON CITY Magazine, working on Hamilton Arts Week programming starting in December. 

“Hamilton Arts Week is so special and important to the city, really because it allows community members, arts lovers, and arts organizations to connect with one another,” said Divecha. “These presentation streams allow us to welcome critical dialogue about the arts, it also allows us to welcome skills development and knowledge sharing ... As well as highlighting Indigenous themes, artists and audiences, and showcasing the importance of that rich cultural heritage.”

The HAC team prioritized accessibility and variety for 2024’s festival, featuring a range of community-led arts events including musical performances, art demonstrations, workshops, celebrations, video screenings and more, where the majority of signature events have free admission.

“The thing I personally love about the Hamilton arts community is the support,” said Divecha. “It’s really such a joy to be able to interact with each one of these signature events, to hear why these events were presented to HAC in the first place, why they actually applied, because the motivation and messaging behind their events is a huge passion for them. So I just know that each event is going to be one to remember.”

One Hamilton Arts Week event will feature Sultans of String alongside Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk, Marc Meriläinen (who performs as Nadjiwan), Shannon Thunderbird, and a multimedia extravaganza featuring Northern Cree, Duke Redbird, Inuit singers and more. This Indigenous-led collaborative performance called 'Walking Through Fire' will be held on June 9 at the Westdale Theatre.

Sultans of String will be part of the Walking Through Fire Indigenous-led collaborative performance happening June 9 at The Westdale.

“Everytime we get to perform with these tremendous Indigenous artists, it’s an honour and a joy,” said Chris McKhool of Sultans of String. “I really look forward to the musical comradery on stage, being able to create a sound which is really different from what we could create ourselves, and also (communicating) an important message that we want to share with the audience.”

Nadjiwan, a Toronto-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, says 'Walking Through Fire' is about promoting Indigenous music. 

“So that’s been the other great thing about this project, that we’re playing a lot of regions and cities, even venues where they maybe haven’t had the chance to present a lot of Indigenous music. Hopefully we can help facilitate that change, then hopefully once the audiences hear these great songs they’ll want to bring in these artists themselves," said Nadjiwan.

Both Nadjiwan and McKhool hope that their performance on June 9 inspires concert-goers to explore more local Indigenous art.

“One of the best things that can happen is if an audience member picks up a CD from an Indigenous artist, or maybe goes home and is inspired to learn more about the history of residential schools and Indigenous thought in this country,” said McKhool. “Maybe pick up a book, go see an art exhibit or go see a film, hopefully it creates an impetus for someone to start learning or keep learning about Indigenous issues here.”

Find the entire Hamilton Arts Week schedule and learn more about each event at the HAC website.

You can also check out Sultans of String and 'Walking Through Fire' videos here, here and here.