Hamilton is a city of newcomers and immigrants. A city that thrives and lives thanks to its newcomers and immigrants. Last week, the “Thriving Together,” art exhibit launched at Hamilton City Hall, celebrating the art and experience of newcomers, and particularly newcomer children.
The exhibit springs from McMaster Assistant Professor Amanda Sim’s research on the effects of refugee resettlement on newcomer mental health and well-being, and the coping strategies families use in these times. What Dr. Sim found was that cost of living, separation from loved ones, and language barriers, and barriers to employment were recurring stressors, with children often struggling with feelings of isolation due to language barriers. Her study shows the importance of support for newcomers, including more community-based programming tying newcomers into their communities.
This is where the exhibition came in. Through a partnership with Centre for Artistic + Social Practice, art workshops were hosted for some of the children who participated in the research. They were given a map of Hamilton as their canvas and then used different types of artistic media, whichever they wanted to use, to make their own piece of art. Not only did this help share the results of Dr. Sim’s research in a creative, community-oriented way, but it also gave newcomer children a way to be active participants in the research, how it is conveyed, and in the community in general.
I was at the opening of the exhibition last Wednesday, the 24th of May, and can attest to the sheer creativity of the exhibition. With each design layered over each map of Hamilton you could see an expression of the experience of being a newcomer in Hamilton. But more than that, you could see how these children were making Hamilton their own place – you could see their Hamilton. I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone reading this go and see the exhibition and look at Hamilton as you perhaps never have before.
The exhibition will stay at the 2nd Floor of Hamilton City Hall until June 7th, and is open everyday from 8:30AM to 4:30PM. If you want to learn more about the exhibition, what went into organizing it, and the research that it sprung out of, you can listen to my interview with Dr. Amanda Sim on MorningFile right here.