Art & Social Strata
March 23-25, 2018 | Hamilton, Ontario

Art & Social Strata About News Program Register Contact

Full program now online!

Image credit: Nov 8, 2016, Elise Boudreau Graham, 35mm colour snapshot


Through a conference and artist projects in spring 2018, Art & Social Strata will address the formal, political and ethical dimensions of socially and politically-engaged art practices. Motivated by increasingly precarious working conditions, rising levels of student debt, and profound systemic inequality, the program seeks to critically reflect on the relation between social stratification and contemporary cultural production.

The Workers Arts & Heritage Centre will serve as the primary venue, with artist projects, a video screening, and a series of panels featuring both local and visiting artists. The conference will run from March 23-25, 2018.

We are interested in reflecting on this social stratification through an intersectional lens, with the horizontal principles of Art & Social Strata extending beyond the content to the coordination of the conference itself. This involves an emphasis on non-hierarchical engagements, as well as artist projects that challenge or disrupt the artist / audience divide.

Founded and initiated by Teresa Carlesimo, the Art & Social Strata Collective is comprised of Carlesimo and Michael DiRisio, two artists and arts workers who share an interest in considering the relationship between socio-economic issues and contemporary cultural production.

We seek to consider the role of the arts in addressing social stratification, where critical inquiry and creative practices can contribute to our understanding of contemporary society and prefigure more horizontal forms of organizing.

The weekend-long conference will bridge the arts community in Hamilton and the broader community through diverse, interdisciplinary exchanges, which will be furthered by the artist projects. We seek to explore ways of working together in a horizontal, respectful, and mutually-beneficial way.

This activity is important for addressing and deconstructing the harsh inequality that exists under our current social order, while exploring more collective and communal forms of learning, living and practicing in the arts. We seek to consider the role of the arts in addressing social stratification, and value both practice-based and research-based forms of analysis and understanding.



Registration is now open!

To register please click here.

Registration is not required in advance.

An overview of the programming can be seen in our previous news post below, and the full conference and artist-project schedule can be found here.


Call for Tattered/Torn Garments!

Please bring your tattered, torn and worn garments (or other soft objects) to the Art & Social Strata Conference at the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre between 1pm and 5pm on Saturday, March 24 or noon and 4pm on Sunday, March 25 for mending in Thea Jones' performance I will save the world by mending.

Artist Statement:

I will save the world by mending is a life-long performance started in 2013. In this performance I offer a service, to darn, hem and mend the tattered, torn and worn garments (or soft objects) of others. This is my attempt to save the world.
—Thea Jones


Artists and Presenters Announced!

We are pleased to announce that the Art & Social Strata conference will feature presentations by David Bobier, Megan Gnanasihamany & emily macdonald, Danica Evering, and Friends and Neighbours Gallery, among others, addressing themes including care, access, gentrification, and anti-capitalist practices.

Artist projects will feature work by Abedar Kamgari, Thea Jones, and Sean Procyk, and we are pleased to present a walking tour led by the Hamilton Perambulatory Unit, as well as a screening featuring videos by Oliver Husain, Kika Thorne, Amanda Low, Fallon Simard, Nahed Mansour and Kandis Friesen.


Conference + Artist Projects

We are pleased to release our schedule for the conference and artist projects taking place during the weekend of March 23-25, 2018. The conference presentations and most artist projects take place at the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre, but Saturday, March 24 includes a screening at Factory Media Centre (5-6pm), followed by Hamilton Artists Inc.'s annual fundraiser (7pm-late)!

Click on the events in the schedule below for more information.

Friday, March 23, 2018
Workers Arts & Heritage Centre

20x20 Taboos in Art

In an effort to identify the types of issues that are often invisible within contemporary arts discourse, the NEW Committee proposes an exploration of taboo and art, particularly as it relates to marginalized, differently-abled, queer and BIPOC artists. For instance, is religion a taboo subject in art? Self-Censorship? Money, marriage, or menstruation? We have invited 6 Hamilton artists to present 20 slides for 20 seconds each, in a Pecha-Kucha-style event, followed by lively discussion and mingling, with snacks! Because what’s more fun than breaking taboos?


Mark Furukawa is owner of Dr. Disc, the music store; vinyl-only DJ; chair of the Hamilton Music Advisory Team; and self-proclaimed Hamilton ambassador and adopted son.

Jessie Goyette is an artist, comedian, fat activist, and community development worker in Hamilton, Ontario.

Dina Hamed is a Canadian-Egyptian emerging artist concerned with contemporary conceptualizations of Muslim identities.

Stylo Starr is a visual alchemist.

Ken LeFebour is a proud Hamiltonian who, in 2003, opened what is now known as Nellie James Gourmet Food To Go, named after his maternal grandmother, and based on local suppliers and seasonal produce.

Mother Tareka is a Syrian Palestinian, HipHop Funk Jazz, immigrant as fuck artist, here to mess with your worldview!

The NEW Committee is an initiative of the Hamilton Artists Inc. that operates through an irreverant lens of decolonization and intersectionality, to advocate for equity and inclusivity within our creative communities. Our task is to question and challenge the current institutional structures and hierarchies while proposing and envisioning alternative possibilities. We will work actively to increase the representation of marginalized groups in the arts through community engagement, greater exhibition and performance opportunities, and mentorship. The NEW Committee consists of artists, curators, and educators living and working in Hamilton: Donna Akrey, Keira Boult, Dina Hamed, Abedar Kamgari, Carmela Laganse, Sally McKay, Taien Ng-Chan, and Alana Traficante.

Saturday, March 24, 2018
Workers Arts & Heritage Centre

This public walk and talk takes the area around the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (WAHC), particularly the newly built West Harbour GO Station, and analyzes the social strata that affects this particular place and space. Strata-Walk (WAHC Version) aims to provide participants with strata-mapping skills in order to highlight the different layers of place that make up Hamilton’s fast-changing downtown core. We will begin with an overview of our stratigraphic mapping methodologies, paying attention to such elements as circulation, architecture, history, class and gentrification, to then see how these are manifested within the built environment. We will then ask participants to contribute their knowledge and skills in mapping these different strata in the area around the WAHC, and conclude with sharing our maps and findings. The proposed walk and talk should take between 1.5 and 2 hours.

The artist-research collective Hamilton Perambulatory Unit (HPU) was founded in 2014 as an ongoing collaboration with like-minded individuals to explore, experiment, and engage with historical and contemporary ideas around perambulation. Their performative and relational events are creative propositions towards understanding the city and the self in relation to place. Their methodologies have included stratigraphic cartography, locative media experimentation, sensory synesthesia poetry-writing, and found material sculpture-making. HPU has given walks in Montreal, Toronto, Windsor, Buffalo NY, Sydney Australia, London England, Memphis TN and their home base of Hamilton Ontario. This current iteration of the HPU is Donna Akrey and Taien Ng-Chan, both artists and educators who incorporate perambulation and urban life into their respective practices.

For more info:

As an immigrant, I am engaged in a continuous yet gradual process of building community support structures for myself. In order to establish myself in Canada, I have to create networks and acclimatize to constant change. Adapting to a new land is a difficult reality to navigate. How do traditions and routines evolve through contact with a new culture? How do people connect with each other despite a lack of common ground in history or language? Growing up, my deepest and most memorable interactions occurred with food around the sofreh. The Farsi term sofreh refers to the spread around which family and friends gather to eat— typically a clean plastic sheet set upon the floor on which dishes are arranged. Reimagined here as a participatory performance, sofreh examines the cultural cross-pollination that occurs with diet following an act of migration. By employing food as a decolonial methodology, I create a hybrid cultural space for community convergence and meaningful connection.

Abedar Kamgari is an artist, independent curator, and arts administrator based in Hamilton and Toronto. Her research is rooted in unpacking the complexities of immigrant experience in relation to the ongoing legacy of colonialism in the West. Often working site-specifically with video and performance, she unpacks diasporic identity using her body, language and food.

Danica Evering:

The Coordinator is a semi-fictional piece of a larger project, IMPOSTERING: Complicating Power in Social Practice, informed by my experience as a program coordinator at an active charitable socially engaged arts organization. Drawn from old work journals, it wryly revisits sticky moments negotiating power relations and shifting insider/outsider boundaries in institutions and communities in ways potentially controlling as well as controlled. Socially engaged art can be an imposter practice, reaching out into communities, institutions, and other disciplines. This act of crossing into is not currently always done thoughtfully in a way that addresses power (particularly funding) and position. As a result, as artists and arts organizations we sometimes do work we are inexperienced to handle, labour for projects misaligns with available resources, and thinking gets co-opted by boosterist social innovation frameworks. This project navigates difficulties and possibilities for impostering—operating self-reflexively while working intentionally within hierarchies and contexts to pursue complexity.

Danica Evering was born in Cobourg and lives in Hamilton. Through writing, sound composition, and curation, her work thinks through difficulty and belonging, reaching out intentionally, and complicating narratives. She holds an MA in Media Studies from Concordia University and works as the Education Officer at Humber Galleries. Her poetry and performance were included in Althea Thauberger’s experimental video work L’arbre est dans ses feuilles as part of In Search of Expo 67 at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and her experimental text on artist Cheryl Sim’s YMX will appear alongside Matt Soar’s creative photo works in the upcoming issue of Public #57: Archive/Anarchive/Counter-Archive. She is a part of the editorial team of Publication Studio Guelph, a sibling studio of an international publishing network that attends to the social lives of books, and a board member of Kazoo!, a new music and art festival and year-round music series. 

Friends & Neighbours Gallery:

Coordinators Elise Boudreau Graham, Barbara Scheed, and Lee Roth will be presenting on their project Friends & Neighbours Gallery (Montréal, QC).  We will be discussing the difficulties we’ve encountered as a nascent space started by practicing artists with little to no funding support.  We are interested in a dialogue between panel and audience about sustainable growth as a DIY space that can avoid burnout while remaining both politically and creatively challenging. Other topics we would like to cover include compensated versus volunteer labour, working as a collective, accessibility in all forms, and the logistics of running an art space in Canada.  We are looking forward to learning from the experiences of other Art & Social Strata attendees whose diverse knowledge can support the continued growth and improvement of Friends & Neighbours.

Friends & Neighbours Gallery is an artist-run space situated in a third floor apartment in Montréal (traditional Kanien’kehá:ka territory).  The space is coordinated in a nonhierarchical and collective  framework by artists Elise Boudreau Graham, Barbara Scheed, and Lee Roth.   Friends & Neighbours aims to connect and initiate dialogues with its surrounding community. We are dedicated to providing an alternative exhibition space for artists who identify as, or ally with, BIPOC, LGBTQ2+, genderqueer, non-binary and/or cis women.

Kiera Boult (moderator):

Kiera Boult is an interdisciplinary artist and administrator with a BFA in Criticism and Curatorial Practice from OCAD University. Boult’s practices are playfully reliant on camp, comedy, and approachability. By using the trope of the therapy booth, she posits the artist as facilitator; opening conversations surrounding race politics, class, intersectional feminism and relational aesthetics, all the while skeptically addressing issues that surround the role and/or identity of the artist and the institution.

More information coming soon.

VibraFusionLab is an innovative lab, creative research and performance space that supports accessibility in arts practice and facilitates the multi-sensory and tactile arts. VibraFusionLab facilitates and promotes the creation of new accessible art forms, focuses on inclusive technologies that have the potential of expanding art-making practices and investigates new experiences of sensory accessibility for artists and audiences of all abilities.

VibraFusionLab: Bridging Practices In Accessibility, Art and Communication will be a PowerPoint presentation exploring inclusionary methodologies, accessible technologies and means of providing creative opportunities for the Deaf and Disability Arts communities. It will also provide an overview of the touring exhibition also entitled VibraFusionLab: Bridging Practices In Accessibility, Art and Communication and will show documentation of other projects by artists from Canada, US, Holland and UK hosted by VibraFusionLab.

As a HOH media artist David Bobier’s creative practice is researching and developing vibrotactile technology as a creative medium. This led to his establishment of VibraFusionLab (VFL) in London, Ontario in 2014, a creative multi-media, multi-sensory centre providing inclusive technologies for supporting accessibility in the arts. VibraFusionLab has gained a reputation as a leader in the Deaf and Disability Arts movement in Canada and abroad.

He is Founder and Co-chair of Inclusive Arts London: Bridging Forward, dedicated to developing opportunities for Deaf and Disabled artists and artists experiencing isolation to engage in artistic practice and cultural enrichment. He also on the Board of Media Arts Network Ontario and was Founder and Past Chair of London Ontario Media Arts Association (LOMAA).

Bobier has served in advisory roles in developing Deaf and Disability Arts Equity programs for both Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) and the Ontario Arts Council and was recently an invited presenter at the Global Disability Summit in London, UK. His work has been recognized with funding from Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, New Brunswick Arts Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Ontario Centres of Excellence, Grand NCE and British Council Canada. Bobier is also involved in ongoing research of the Deaf and Disability Arts movement in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Factory Media Centre

a five year sunset features videos exploring and challenging conventional indicators of value, authority and political economy. The term 'five year sunset' is used in international trade negotiations to indicate built-in expiration dates to trade deals, though it struck us as both oddly poetic and dark, potentially invoking the broader financial and social crises that recur in colonial / capitalist economies approximately every five years.

Videos in this screening will include Oliver Husain's Model Economy (2017), Thea Jone's Glamour & War (2013), Amanda Low's I don't paint anymore (2016), Fallon Simard's Carbon Tax (2017), Nahed Mansour and Kandis Friesen's Tape #158b: Document 2B (2011), and Kika Thorne's Work (1999).

Hamilton Artists Inc.

More information coming soon.

Sunday, March 25, 2018
Workers Arts & Heritage Centre

SPA retreat or Social Practice Anonymous is a satirical performance that uses the format of 12 step recovery programs, infomercials, and academic pedagogy, to create a support group as conference-style lecture for recovering neoliberal artists. Artists caught at the intersection of multiple societal margins see their work politicized by necessity; grant applications, project proposals, and requests for funding ask us to perform our positionalities within oppressive systems. Neutrality is a privilege afforded to voices already in power. How can we become the successful, sexy, super stars of capitalist dreamland when the system demands we commercialize every idea, every aspect of identity in service of its hierarchies? Working with self-deprecation as a defence mechanism, reflection, criticality, humility, and satire, SPA is an examining of these concepts, implicating ourselves with brutally honest consideration for our own positioning within artistic structures.

Megan Gnanasihamany and emily macdonald are artists, writers, and curators living in Montreal, Quebec. Formerly of Edmonton, Alberta, their previous projects together have been curatorial experiments in building accessible art spaces for discussion, creation, and community. Their shared interests in collaboration as critical medium, open access platforms for education, and anti-capitalist arts organizing continues to drive their creative relationship. emily is a Bachelor of Fine Arts student in Sculpture at Concordia University who researches art as feminist praxis to examine the opioid crisis, precarious labour, recovery communities, trauma, and the commodification of queer bodies. Megan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts of the University of Alberta, and their work in video, performance, and sculpture explores art’s capacity to initiate dialogue about the ways we seek out, build, and collaborate on new methods of guidance and care to ferry us through an uncertain and ongoing future.

Moderator: Mehar Hamid, WAHC Youth Council

Confirmed Panelist: Meaghan Ross (Hamilton Fight for 15)

Youth Artist Panelists: JoJo Harley, Elijah Nolet, Tess Visser

Organized and Conceived by Kristina Durka, Dina Hamed, Mehar Hamid, JoJo Harley and Claire Norman

In 2017, the Ontario legislature passed Bill 148—the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act—which contains labour reforms such as an increase in the minimum wage to $15 by 2019, as well as new regulations around equal pay for equal work, paid vacation and emergency leave, and more.

This panel, which will feature an activist, an academic and an entrepreneur from the local community, will unpack the effects of these new reforms. A parallel panel of youth artists will create screen printed posters that respond to the dialogue generated during the panel talk.

Sean Procyk, Julia Prudhomme, Corie Waugh, and Anthony Easton will discuss their artist projects presented within the Art & Social Strata programming, considered within the broader context of their practice. This will be a chance to learn more about their projects, including Procyk's untreated, a mobile structure that conference participants will help assemble throughout the weekend; Waugh and Prudhomme's Space Box, a collaborative zine depicting an imaginary tale of the MEGA ART CENTRE; and Easton's newsprint multiple exploring how social strata is determined in Hamilton by the presence of the mountain.

Each artist's bio and more about their artist projects can be found below.


I will save the world by mending is a life-long performance that offers a service, people bring me their tattered, torn and worn garments (or soft objects) and I will darn, hem and mend them. This is my attempt to save the world. I will save the world by mending is my attempt to mend gaps in acceptance and tolerance, to mend frayed and tired class systems, to mend my own feelings of helplessness. This performance is also a service, a task, a labour that I offer for free, which forces the visitor or the “customer” to question whether they want to take advantage of this free labour. I will save the world by mending not only saves loved items, puts visitors in a precarious place to accept a free labour, but also reinforces a culture of care in hand-crafted or hand-repaired objects. We must discuss inequalities and then we must take action, lay groundwork and lead by example. I will save the world by mending is a bold statement of global salvation with a miniature action as each repair is literally threads wide.

Thea Jones is an interdisciplinary artist. She received her BFA from Concordia University, where she worked at Hexagram Institute for Research/Creation in Media Arts and Technologies. Here, Jones assisted in the development of immersive and interactive exhibition techniques using textiles and projection. She completed her MFA at York University where her thesis work focused on repetition in language, video and textiles as a way to re-imagine, re-invent or erase memory. Jones has exhibited at PlugIn (Winnipeg MB), Cambridge Galleries (Cambridge ON), InterAccess (Toronto ON), Anna Leonowns Gallery (Halifax NS) and at the Amnua Nanjing Biennial (Nanjing China). Jones is the Program Manager of an equity program called the Everyone Rides Initiative at Hamilton Bike Share (Hamilton ON).

For the conference Sean Procyk will enact a barn raising at a location to-be-determined. The performance invites conference guests to collaboratively rearrange the pieces of a broken colonial structure with the hope of rebuilding something that will better serve the community. Through the act of assembling and raising an reclaimed timber frame structure, conference participants will experience the impetus of collective action.

Sean Procyk is an artist, architect and designer of natural playgrounds. He builds site-responsive sculptures and architectural environments that engage with the aural, visual and tactile senses of the viewer. His works respond to their regional context with an particular focus on the economies that exist between landscape, community and ecology. His approach to making draws upon the practices of bricolage, DIY learning and ad hoc building. His works have been exhibited at Hamilton Artists Inc. (Hamilton), Latitude 53 (Edmonton), Stride Contemporary Art Gallery (Calgary), Elemental Festival (Kagawong), Convergence Conference on Art and Technology (Banff) and Nuit Blanche (Toronto). He holds a degree in Fine Arts from McMaster University, a Bachelor of Architecture from Carleton University and a Master’s of Fine Arts from OCAD University.

Space Box, a collaborative zine from Waugh and Prudhomme, is an imaginary tale of the MEGA ART CENTRE, in which the reader is the antihero. The pair examines the physical space Canadian arts organizations occupy in communities, and the exchanges that take place within. Utilizing photography and collage, this document attempts to construct an ideal arts space by merging real, imagined, and personal landscapes.

Corie Waugh and Julia Prudhomme met the summer of 2012 in British Columbia, keeping in touch across land, ocean, and glitches they have developed a fierce relationship in the real and the virtual. Both have recently moved east to make new homes in Hamilton and Montreal. Always on the move, yet perennially in touch. While it has taken them six years to make an official collaboration *to be distributed at the Arts and Social Strata Conference, they wish you adieu for they have retired from public life and will only be visited on the couch.

I am interested in the strata portion of the Art & Social Strata conference, and how strictly social strata is determined in Hamilton by the presence of the mountain. The questions of gentrification and capital, identity, and geography depends on the escarpment. To make this problem of social history a formal aesthetic problem, I want to make a set of ephemeral gestures. The gesture I propose for Art & Social Strata is a set of newsprint posters, of the trip up and down the Jolley Cut. The poster will be split in two, with the top half of the poster depicting the drive up the cut, and the bottom half of the poster depicting the drive down the cut. It will be shot by a professional videographer.

The newsprint is intended to be cheap, small, and immediately distributable. I continue to be interested in the ongoing problems of photography. I am interested in the democratic, the journalistic, the idea that photography can answer a number of questions that are not resolved in the stale art/craft dialectic. I am also interested in how geography is depicted, and the differences between digital and analog forms, or between video and still culture. This project attempts to work through these problems on a very local scale.

Anthony Easton is a writer, and artist from Edmonton. They have shown visual work in New York, Chicago, Hamilton and Toronto, and is in the collection of the library of the National Gallery of Canada. They have written for Macleans, Pitchfork, Spin, The Atlantic, The Walrus, and a number of other publications.


Teresa Carlesimo
Michael DiRisio



The Workers Arts & Heritage Centre, our primary venue, is fully wheelchair and stroller accessible. Please note that while children are welcome, Art & Social Strata is unfortunately unable to provide childcare. Contact us if you have questions or to request information in a format that is more accessible, and we will be glad to accommodate any requests.


We would like to thank the Ontario Arts Council for their generous support. We are also very grateful to the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre, Hamilton Artists Inc. and Factory Media Centre for their support.

Ontario arts council