Edgar’s posters have become the symbol of the No! Downtown Hamilton Casino group, a collection of activists, businesses owners and Hamiltonians that is extensively involved in raising awareness about the casino. Graham Crawford, owner of the Hamilton HIStory + HERitage storefront museum on James North, is a prominent member of the No! Downtown Casino group and has made a different poster opposing the casino every day for nearly the last two months.
“I’m almost embarrassed to say to people how little time it takes to make the posters,” said Crawford modestly. “I can’t draw, so the posters become my editorial cartoons because you don’t have to have much skill to make a poster.”
Crawford’s posters, which he shares through his Facebook page, make it clear that the result of the casino debate is something he cares deeply about. But the posters have convinced a lot of other people to care as well.
“My first ‘the new Hamilton’ poster focused on Supercrawl,” said Crawford, “and even I am social media savvy enough to know that when you get 236 shares in one day about something local that doesn’t involve cats it’s a big deal. The reach of the poster was probably tens of thousands. I’ve never had anything shared that much, ever.”
Everything that has changed James North over the last few years – the galleries, art crawl, Supercrawl – has done so slowly, deliberately and empathetically. Downtown Hamilton has showed us is that there’s a way for development to be good for everyone. Countless arts programs like Roots 2Leaf, the Urban Arts Initiative and Hamilton Artists for Social Change are dedicated to addressing poverty in many forms. What makes Crawford’s Supercrawl poster so affecting to so many people is that it puts into stark contrast Hamilton’s recent downtown development and the type of development that a casino represents – fast, less engaged with the rest of the city and harmful to at least some.
“A casino is completely inward facing by design, not by accident,” said Crawford. “Once they get you in there they don’t want you to leave. It’s why there are no windows. It’s why there are no clocks.”
Certainly PJ Mercanti, one of the main people involved in the proposed casino, is not evil. I’m sure he doesn’t see the city as just a source of income. It’s just that his vision and Crawford’s vision for the future of Hamilton are fundamentally different. One will probably never agree with the other, no matter how much debate. But even if a resolution will never be reached, at least there are people who care enough the city to see that it’s worth arguing about.