Narrating the

creative landscape.

Explore and discover artworks, artists and stories from the Hamilton community, 1950-2000.

Providing a space for artists, educators, researchers, students, and everyone in between to easily access Hamilton’s rich visual arts history.

Image: E. Robert Ross. “View of Hamilton, Cootes Paradise”. 1991. Acrylic. 6.5 x 9 ft. Dean’s Office, McMaster Medical School, Hamilton.


Building Cultural
Legacies Hamilton

Issues of Art-i-fact, the Hamilton Arts Council's newsletter. 1970s.

The Story

The arts have been a significant force in the shaping of Hamilton. Its current vibrancy owes much to the efforts of those who came before us, and yet this history is at risk of being lost or forgotten as individuals who lived and worked through these decades age and pass on.

The Building Cultural Legacies digital storytelling project aims to build knowledge, spark creativity and deepen connection by engaging residents from diverse communities and generations in the sharing of stories about the history of visual arts in Hamilton between 1950 and 2000.

Building Cultural Legacies provides a space for today’s generation of artists and residents to value the significant contributions made by their predecessors, and sets the stage for Hamilton’s continued cultural growth.

The History

Building Cultural Legacies is a spiritual successor of the Climbing the Cold White Peaks project, began in 1986 by the Hamilton Artists Inc. featuring an exhibition that was held at the Art Gallery of Hamilton and a book written by Stuart MacCuaig.

“The Climbing the Cold White Peaks project was kind of a precursor of Building Cultural Legacies. It occurred to my generation at that time that there was a history of artists and art making in Hamilton that we knew nothing about and a number of the artists from the previous generation were still around but we were very vaguely aware of them. We probably were familiar with some of their works in the collection at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, but we didn’t know the individuals at all. That curiosity plus the fact that I think we all realized that it would be important to make a connection with those artists precipitated this project, so we applied for a Canada Council grant, got it and began contacting artists, visiting their homes, finding out that their whole lives had been centred around art. As soon as we stepped into the doorway, we could see that there were paintings lining the walls, lining the floors and they had scrapbooks full of information that were really valuable to us. It gave us a historical context or what we were doing.”
              – Bryce Kanbara, 2018

An advertisement for 'Climbing the Cold White Peaks', presented by the Hamilton Artists Inc., 1986.

The Team

Building Cultural Legacies has been generously supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Presented by the Hamilton Arts Council in partnership with the Hamilton Public Library and the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

Further support provided by Centre 3, City of Hamilton, Hamilton Artists Inc., Hamilton Arts & Letters, Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts, McMaster Museum of Art, Workers Arts & Heritage Centre and You Me Gallery.

Click here for an archive of Building Cultural Legacies events and public programming.

Project Director Christopher McLeod

Content Curator Alexis Moline

BCL has created a Community Toolkit that lays out steps to build a legacy project within your city. To view and download our Community Toolkit, please click here.

Building Cultural Legacies operates out of Hamilton and is situated upon the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas. This land is covered by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, which was an agreement between the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabek to share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. We further acknowledge that this land is covered by the Between the Lakes Purchase, 1792, between the Crown and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

Today, the city of Hamilton is home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island (North America) and we recognize that we must do more to learn about the rich history of this land so that we can better understand our roles as residents, neighbours, partners and caretakers.

George Wallace. "Hamilton in Summer". 1972. Etching. National Gallery of Ireland.
P. Mansaram. "After a Winter Storm in Hamilton". c.1985. Acrylic enhanced giclee print on canvas. Gift of the artist. Courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum, ©ROM.
V. Jane Gordon. "Self-Portrait at the Art Gallery of Hamilton" from "Women-Centred Triptych", left panel. 1992. Acrylic. 3 x 4 ft. Courtesy of the artist.