C/O Franca Marazia
Art in the Workplace promotes Hamilton’s arts and culture by sharing the works of local, emerging creatives
Art can be found in the most unexpected places. You can find it organically in nature, scribbled along abandoned alleyways and streets, or even nestled inside the McMaster Innovation Park. The MIP is a research and innovation facility located near campus and displayed on the first two floors of the Atrium@MIP is the Art in the Workplace gallery. Founded in 2009, the gallery is a not-for-profit organization creating opportunities for local artists to showcase their talents to the Hamilton community.
Although the MIP is a technology and business-focused space for start-up companies and research labs, it has served as an unconventional and unique operating base for Art in the Workplace since the gallery’s establishment. Currently running its 32nd exhibit, the gallery hosts three exhibitions a year, each featuring around 200 pieces of art from over one hundred local artists.
Planning for each exhibition begins with a call for entry which is open to any artist. The submissions are then juried by a committee, comprised of members of the gallery, before they are presented both online and in the physical space at the MIP.
As a not-for-profit organization, Art in the Workplace transfers all sales from the exhibitions directly to the artists. In 2020, the gallery celebrated a milestone of having raised $100,400 through 301 pieces sold since its inception 11 years ago. It was also the year it displayed its 6,000th art piece.
“All the art sales go to the artists which I think is something unique to us and really special,” said Emily Benedict, president of Art in the Workplace.
Benedict has been with the gallery since 2013 and began volunteering as the president of the group in 2019.
“People don’t just get to view the work, but they get to support the artist too,” she said.
Despite having met many goals last year, the gallery was still significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic along with the rest of the Hamilton art scene. The 32nd exhibit was originally planned to kick off in April 2020 with a large opening event which typically attracts a few hundred attendees. However, due to the large scale of the event and safety concerns in the face of the pandemic, it was postponed. Instead, all the art was posted for viewing on their virtual gallery through its website. Pieces were also shared on the gallery’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
“People have really enjoyed seeing everything come online to the website, Facebook and Instagram. Many artists also really appreciate when their pieces get shared,” said Benedict.
For many emerging artists, the opening gala is especially important and momentous as it is the first time their work gets displayed to the public. For all the artists part of the exhibition, it is a memorable night and a chance to connect with other artists, friends and family.
“I always like the opening because it is a good chance to get to see everyone, from artists you see every couple months to just seeing people’s happiness on being able to show their pieces to family and friends . . . It’s getting to see that and getting to be part of that which I really like,” said Benedict.
Fortunately, with many COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, the Atrium@MIP has now reopened to visitors on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Planning and preparation for the opening ceremony of the 32nd exhibit is under way as well, with the date tentatively set for Nov. 25, 2021. If all goes as planned, after the event, the gallery is hoping to return to its normal operations of three exhibitions per year.
“[The opening event for the 32nd exhibit] is something that we’ve been talking about, the whole 18 months, as a group because we thought we could maybe do it, but everything has been kind of shuffled . . . When we are able to do it, we want to be able to do it right and safely,” Benedict said.
The gallery has received positive support from the community and contributing artists during the lockdown and since its comeback. Many artists who had been part of the Art in the Workplace exhibitions for years also returned, along with volunteers, family and friends.
Art in the Workplace has a long history of collaborating with other groups in the community. In fact, through one of its collaboration projects is how Benedict first joined the team. She was a student in the Art History program at McMaster University and as part of her fourth-year seminar on the history of collecting, she researched and displayed Hamilton’s art collection at the gallery. Through this opportunity, she was able to gain hands-on museum and gallery experience which further cultivated her interest in this career field.
Aside from the main exhibitions, the gallery is known for their “mini-exhibits” featuring the works by high school students and community group members. The mini-exhibits are curated by students, their teachers and gallery volunteers. The gallery’s regular collaborators include Westdale Secondary School, Glendale High School arts program, St. John Henry Newman Catholic Secondary School, Compass Collective and Lynwood Charlton Centre.
For any students interested in learning about the inner workings of a gallery, Art in the Workplace is always looking for volunteers and Benedict encourages students to come check out the current exhibition at the Atrium@MIP. Volunteers can assist with pickup and drop off evenings, hang art pieces and prepare for opening galas.
“I always had a lot of fun with [volunteering at Art in the Workplace] and I thought it was a really great experience. So, if there were students that were wondering about how [an art gallery] works or would enjoy [volunteering], I think it’s a great opportunity,” Benedict said.
From small artists to students and office workers, Art in the Workplace aims to bring art to all corners of the community. In the future, the gallery is considering integrating more virtual components to their space to help deliver art to a broader audience and continue supporting local artists and creatives.