Pressure Points: Gentrification and the Arts in Hamilton

- / The Inc.

A light pink and forest green banner graphic, with serif font that says “Pressure Points” in capital letters. There is a subtitle that says: “Gentrification & The Arts in Hamilton.”

Pressure Points: Gentrification and the Arts in Hamilton

Pressure Points was a two-day program which took place at the Hamilton Artists Inc. from April 12-13, 2019. This free initiative explored how gentrification has been unfolding in Hamilton, and reflected on the role the arts community’s has played in that process. Through performances, talks, discussions, and youth-led initiatives, Pressure Points examined the systemic roots of urban injustices and economic disparity, and aimed to forge points of solidarity between affected populations and their allies. The event launched during Friday April 12's Art Crawl. Visitors were invited to take printed material from the Zine and Reading Corner, participate in the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre's art activity called Recipe Cards, view a performance by Red Betty Theatre and Hamilton Aerial Group titled The Hanging, and attend exhibition tours of Winter GardenWhat we know to be true, and Same corner, same juys, same line of work led by Inc. staff. A full day of programming took place on Saturday April 13th. The day started with two panel discussions: SESSION 1: The Nuts and Bolts, SESSION 2: Stakes and Strategies, and finished with a creative reflection activity: SESSION 3: Collective Power. Throughout the day meals were served and childcare was provided. The detailed event schedule can be referenced here: Pressure Points Program Scroll down to view photo and video documentation of this event.


Danielle Boissoneau was invited to be the Pressure Points writer-in-residence to develop a suite of creative writing in response to the event. Boissoneau's texts will become available digitally shortly, so check back soon! Danielle Boissoneau (pronounced buzz-no) is Anishnaabe kwe (pronounced aw-nish-naw-bay kway) from the shorelines of the Great Lakes. She is a mother, a writer, a seedkeeper and a changemaker. Danielle has recently returned from an Indigenous Storytellers writing residency at Banff Centre for the Arts in Treaty Seven territory.

The Hanging

A photo of the Inc.’s courtyard at dusk, framed by the silhouette of the Notre Dame House in the background. There are strings of warm, spherical lights attached to the brick walls on either side of the courtyard. There are 20 or so people seated on fold-out chairs, watching a performance. The performers are dressed in black robes.

Five performers dressed in black standing in a row in the courtyard. From left to right there is: a person in a black robe holding a briefcase, a person holding one end of a wooden rod with three rope nooses hanging from it, a person standing above with stilts and long striped pants, a hooded figure holding the other end of the rod, and a person with silver hair and a beard. The hooded figure holding the wooden rod, which has three burlap bags hanging from it. The figure looks as if it is offering them to you. Each bag has a label on it: one says “community,” one says, “family,” and the last says “health.” The “community” bag is hanging slightly lower than the others.

One of the performers, who appears to be a white woman with dark, straight hair that is pulled back. She looks like she has a smug grin on her face. In the background, there are some people standing who appear to be in the audience. The performer with silver hair and a beard, who appears to be a white man, with his arms raised, as if addressing the audience. He stands in front of the other performers, and several audience members stand just in front of him.

Urban low-income communities are being usurped and oppressed, we, the people, being readied for serfdom by the corporations--- our new imperial masters.

During Art Crawl on Friday April 12, Red Betty Theatre presented four performances of The Hanging in the Inc.’s ArcelorMittal Dofasco Courtyard. The Hanging is an immersive and interactive short spectacle based on verbatim text collected from the Hamilton Rent Strike interviews and recordings at Landlord Tenant Board hearings in Hamilton, riddled with flights of fancy by playwright Radha Menon. Directed by Tony Sciara, this performance was developed with Lori le Mare and the Hamilton Aerial Group, supported by Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network. Click here to learn more about The Hanging.

Video Documentation

SESSION 1: The Nuts and Bolts A brief overview of how gentrification is unfolding in Hamilton for new and long-time residents. This session will highlight the mechanisms that allow gentrification to take place, the role of the arts in that process, and the ongoing consequences for various communities. Speakers: Shawn Selway and Sarah Wakefield Facilitated by Kojo Easy Damptey

SESSION 2: Stakes and Strategies How have individuals and local groups responded to gentrification? This session will introduce possible solutions, as well as a range of creative actions and strategies that could be used to resist both the root causes of gentrification, and its harmful effects. Speakers: Danielle Boissoneau, C.A. Borstad Klassen, Stephanie Cox, Danica Evering, and Erika Morton Facilitated by Tara Bursey

Zine and Reading Corner: 

A brightly lit photo of two people seated behind the Zine and Reading corner, which was placed right behind the Inc.’s front door. One person is Julie Dring, a white woman with mid-length wavy hair and winged eyeliner. She is reaching over an assortment of zines and other printed materials on the table in front of her. The following resources were produced in conjunction with Pressure Points and available for PDF download.

  • Gentrification Glossary: A collaborative, community-sourced resource to understanding the theories and effects of gentrification. Developed by Hamilton Artists Inc. and GAGED Hamilton: Gentrification Glossary
  • Survival Guide to Gentrification: A new zine created by youth at ReCreate Outreach Art Studio through a workshop with Sylvia Nickerson, with support from Hamilton Artists Inc: Survival Guide to Gentrification
  • Recipe Cards:A Participatory Art Project by the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre Youth Council. Participants were prompted to record their own recipes for a community, for disaster, and for gentrification: Recipe Cards

Limited copies of the following zines were also available during the event:

  • The Art of Gentrification: A zine by artist Simon Orpana.
  • Feeling Tense?: A zine by artist Sylvia Nickerson, produced by CA$INO Press and Centre[3] for Print and Media Arts.

Kids Activity

A miniature city constructed in the middle of the James Galley. Part of the city sits on top of a fold-out table and on a long, horizontal white plinth. The other half of the city is on the ground, extending towards a lake that is made out of billowing blue tissue paper. There is a ramp made of cardboard that connects the two parts of the city. The city is made of: a Roma Pizza box, cylinders of paper with cotton balls spilling out the top, a drawing of a rainbow and colourful little houses. A photo taken from the top of the miniature city. A person in a striped shirt is standing beyond the tissue paper lake. They are smiling with their hands clasped against their chest. There is another adult sitting on the floor with two children.Another photo that shows the city and its surroundings from the top of the table. In the foreground, there is a child with short brown hair who appears to be white. We see this child from behind, as if they are also looking at the city below them. Child-care art activities were led by Annie Webber. The children constructed a small version of Hamilton,called Tiny Town, which consisted of their idealized vision for a community which included a glitter factory, the abolishment of the police force, and a shared hand-tool co-op which residents could borrow from before they went to work.

Many thanks to our funders and programming partners: An Image of the various logos of Pressure Points’ funding and programming partners: Gaged Hamilton, Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, Re-Create Outreach Art Studio, Factory Media Centre, Red Betty Theatre, Hamilton Aerial Group, Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network, Centre[3] for artistic + social practice, Canada Council for the Arts, The City of Hamilton, Ontario Arts Council and Incite Foundation for the Arts.