The performing arts predate the founding of the City of Hamilton, with the beginnings of the Garrick Players in the 1840s. As North America’s oldest community theatre company, the Garricks Players (now know as the Players Guild) launched a tradition of productions presented for and by the community in Hamilton. Today this tradition continues with many active community theatre groups presenting seasons that attract ten of thousands of viewers annually in all corners of our community including Ancaster, Waterdown, Dundas, and central Hamilton.
The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra has been an important and integral part of the community for over a century, tracing its roots back to the 1880s when the first orchestral ensemble was formed in Hamilton. In 1949, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra was founded as a professional ensemble, and has played an important role in shaping the cultural landscape of the City of Hamilton and the surrounding region.
This integration of the performing arts into the early fabric of the community has resulted in a vibrant and wide-spread private arts educational system that brings the exploration of the performing arts into the lives of thousands of Hamiltonians every year. Hamilton boasts more than 50 private dance schools, theatre education ranging from youth to post-secondary programs and has consistently turned out talented performers moving on to internationally renowned institutions, most notably Karen Kain of the National Ballet of Canada. This connection to education has also created fertile ground for numerous performing arts groups and events such as the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble and McMaster Summer Drama Festival.
From a professional perspective, the local industry has been led by Theatre Aquarius and Opera Hamilton, and has recently been joined by HCA Dance Theatre, Artword Theatre, Hammertheatre, Zarcada Theatre, and the local chapter of the successful Fringe Festival franchise. Theatre Aquarius is one of only a dozen class “A” theatres in Ontario, performers to more than 120,000 patrons each year and works with some of the countries finest artists. HCA Dance Theatre’s production of ‘Displacement’ was named one of the top 10 productions of 2009 by NOW Magazine, and Artword and Hammertheatre represent the recent influx of Toronto-based talent making the move to Hamilton.
Hamilton as a Creative Magnet
The growth of Hamilton’s creative cluster has been a noticeable trend over the past few years. Beyond local press coverage, it has caught the eye of the regional and national press a number of times and has garnered strong support in the community. The Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, Toronto Life, CBC Radio, among others, have focused new interest on the growing arts and culture scene in Hamilton: