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Making a mill a home The Cotton Factory creates a space for the arts in Hamilton

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The Cotton Factory used to be a mostly abandoned groups of buildings in Hamilton’s industrial sector, a remnant from a bygone era of manufacturing in the city. That all changed five years ago, when Laura and Robert Zeidler purchased the property on 270 Sherman Avenue North, transforming it into the vibrant centre for the arts that the are today. They’ve refurbished the boarded-up windows and empty rooms, turning the buildings into warm and welcoming community spaces filled with both artists studios and a coworking space.

“A lot of the doors on all of the artists’ studios have glass on them, most of the artists keep their doors open when they’re there so that there’s this really nice feeling of community in the building, which is what we’re really working at,” said Laura. “Another thing we work to develop and maintain the feeling of community in the building is places for collision. So little lounge areas, kitchenettes, all that kind of stuff, so that when they’re heating up their tea they start chit-chatting and finding those synergies to work together.”

The coworking spaces in The Cotton Factory allow people to connect with potential collaborators and build relationships with other artists. The buildings that were once empty are now buzzing with activity. The Zeidlers emphasize the importance of creating a space like this for the arts in the city.

“What we’re trying to do is provide space for creative things to happen. It’s not just artist studios with people going into their studios and doing art. What we’re trying to develop is a community, and that’s why we do [events] like ‘Explore the Cotton Factory’ where people can come and see the community, but also the people within the building can go around and see what’s happening in different peoples’ studios. We’re really trying to help support and show the community that’s in Hamilton and around,” said Zeidler.

Their work isn’t just limited to the buildings interior. The Zeidlers are working to promote the arts throughout the city. They have hosted the Hamilton Art Week Launch Party for the past two years running. They’ve had concerts with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra — one of Canada’s leading professional orchestras. They also hosted the Quilt of Belonging exhibit with Tourism Hamilton — a collaborative art project combining art from Canadians across the county. The Cotton Factory was even a venue for the Hamilton Fringe Festival this past year. Amongst other projects, they are collaborating with the Hamilton Arts Council on an Artist-in-Residence program.

“They’re assisting us with our Artist-in-Residence program . . . there’s a studio that we provide and Hamilton Arts Council helps choose the artists. There are two artists and they’re there for three months on a rotating basis and then once a year we have an artist from Europe come to stay — we actually have an Artist-in-Residence from Estonia right now,” said Zeidler. 

Through this program, The Cotton Factory provides resources for artists that may not otherwise have access to them, giving the creators the opportunity to focus on creating.

The Cotton Factory has created more than just a studio space. They have grown a community for creators and makers to call home. The Cotton Factory is a shining example of artistic expression in the city. They regularly host events for the community, and they provide a space for artists to express themselves freely. They will also be hosting the upcoming Work In Progress Art Exhibit, which is covered in more detail on the next page. If you have any interest in the arts, The Cotton Factory likely has something for you.

 

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Author: Lauren O'Donnell

Lauren is in her fourth and final year of English and Cultural Studies. She is a big fan of sustainable fashion, body positivity, and 80s pop music. In her spare time, Lauren can be found hanging out with her cat, Lyric.