hamilton art galleries

The top 10 art galleries in Hamilton

The top art galleries in Hamilton speak to a city in the midst of a cultural renaissance. There are more galleries tucked into this relatively small urban centre than you'll find anywhere else in the country. While not all galleries stand the test of time (it was sad to see Manta close), the fact that so many have opened in a short span of time highlights the demand in the city for arts programming.

Part of the vibrancy of the arts scene can be chalked up to the bi-monthly art crawls, which brings masses of people out to the James St. North District. Less heavily invested in big commercial sales as Toronto's galleries, the art spaces here are open and inviting with a palpable sense of community.

Here are my picks for the top art galleries in Hamilton.

Art Gallery of Hamilton
Hamilton's primary public art gallery (open since 1914) might fly under the radar compared to institutions in Toronto, but this is a serious art centre with impressive holdings and consistently exciting programming. The recent Cezanne still life exhibition is but one example of the marquee shows featured here. The upcoming Robert Burley exhibit also exemplifies the quality of work displayed here.

Hamilton Artists Inc.
An artist-run centre since 1979, Hamilton Artists Inc. is one of the anchors of the James St. North art scene. Specializing in the work of local and Canadian artists, this is space that showcases both mid-career and established artists. A renovated outdoor courtyard should only increase the popularity of the gallery this summer.

McMaster Museum of Art
Fans of Canadian art will find a visit to McMaster worthwhile. The gallery is home to a permanent collection of over 6,000 works that trace a long artistic tradition, while regular programming ranges from exhibitions featuring the work of Canadian icons like Tom Thomson and Lawren Harris to photographers like Alexander Rodchenko to the rising stars of the contemporary Canadian art scene.

Centre 3
Started as the Print Studio in 2004, the original goal was to provide printmaking services to local artists. As the Hamilton art scene blossomed, so too did the space, becoming a digital arts hub in addition to a traditional printmaking facility. Education is a major part of Centre 3's mandate, with a range of courses and workshops on offer alongside the exhibition programming.

Earls Court Gallery
One of Hamilton's most established commercial galleries, Earls Court opened back in 1973. It now occupies a sprawling space on Ottawa St. North. While framing services are still offered at the gallery, the exhibition calendar is robust, featuring lots of landscape work from Canadian artists.

b contemporary
Part of the thriving James St. North scene, b contemporary shows mid-career artists, many of whom have a connection to the Hamilton arts community. The mix of work displayed here is diverse, ranging from painting to sculpture to photography. The gallery also offers framing services.

Gallery 4
Located in the Central Library, this gallery is actually one of the oldest to call the James St. North district home. It's an arts space that shows to work of emerging local artists in a public setting with a steady flow of traffic. Occasionally more established artists will show experimental work here as well.

Nathaniel Hughson Gallery
One of Hamilton's more serious art galleries, if such a designation can be given without taking away credit from others on this list, Nathaniel Hughson shows mid-career and established artists working in a broad array of media, but who show a penchant for experimentation and a desire to challenge convention.

Art Gallery of Hamilton Design Annex
A separate space from the main gallery, the Design Annex is located in the bustling James St. North district and features an experimental exhibition and performance space as well as a retail location meant to capitalize on the foot traffic in the area. This is where you'll find up and coming artists (both local and otherwise) who aren't quite established enough to show at the big gallery but whose work still demands attention.

Carnegie Gallery
Located in Dundas just outside of Hamilton, the Carnegie Gallery takes its name from the beautiful former library it calls home. The focus is more on arts and crafts than other galleries on this list, but it's a highly engaged arts space with juried exhibitions on a monthly basis, and a well-stocked shop featuring the original work of local artists.

What did I miss? Add your suggestions in the comments.

Writing by Veronika Mann. Photo of Centre 3 by Jesse Milns.

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