Exhibition & Programs

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (WAHC)
January 30–April 20, 2019
Opening reception: Friday, February 8, 2019, 7–9 pm
Artist Material Fund: April 10–20, during gallery hours

Curated by Suzanne Carte

Basil AlZeri (Toronto/Guelph), ro Barragán (Buenos Aires), Ghost of a Dream (Brooklyn), Rodrigo HGz (Glasgow), and Alejandro Tamayo (Hamilton).

Division of Labour is an exhibition set across two institutions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA): one in Hamilton and one in Burlington. The exhibition brings artists into dialogue on the subjects of class, race, and labour as they relate to cultural waste. Barter economy systems, critical discourse about community action around consumption, and circuits of solidarity exchange are more present than ever in the daily working lives of artists and cultural producers. The exhibition and ancillary programming help educate visitors about the scarcity of resources, labour rights, and the lack of living wages in the arts. Through the work of artists who utilize recycled material in their work, the exhibition illustrates the power and potential of reused material for artistic production.

We are living in a time of increasing economic uncertainty, wage gaps, and class divides. Division of Labour uses this moment to consider the true cost of artists’ labour and economic parity through their recovery of and access to excess material. The featured artists question who gets paid as well as how, and how much, they are paid. They also examine where artists’ production materials come from, and by whose hands they are made, manufactured, or fashioned.

Division of Labour is not a simple display of objects constructed from trash—its work supports the building of new networks of resources and methods for the sustainability of artists’ work. It goes beyond giving artists free material and providing decent artist fees—it opens up dialogue about the systemic issues inherent in class dynamics, underemployment, and labour exploitation that plague our cultural industry.

The first edition, held at the Workers Art and Heritage Centre in Hamilton, features the work of Basil AlZeri, ro Barragán, Ghost of a Dream (a collaborative project between Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom), Rodrigo HGz, and Alejandro Tamayo. The follow-up exhibition will build upon the conversations that arise from this exhibition and programming series, and is set to open at the Art Gallery of Burlington in 2019/20.

Welcome to the first edition.


Socio-economic Status of Artists in the GTHA
Saturday, March 9, 2019, 1:00–3:00 pm
This roundtable series ties the two exhibition sites and cities together by addressing gentrification and the “creative flight” from Toronto to the Hamilton corridor. Hamiltonians have been openly taking aim at the issues of cultural resettlement in the face of their changing city by acknowledging the poor/working class/creative class urban mash-up that exists in the GTHA. The discussion at WAHC explores ideas around what an increased artist labour force means to the infrastructure, economy, and ecology of Hamilton, as well as the relationships between the existing art community and incoming artists. The panellists—Michael Maranda, Angela Orasch, and Sally Lee—provide an overview of the issues affecting the city’s mix of long-standing art community members, art-growth sympathizers, new-wave and first-wave artist implants, civic leaders, and youth organizers.

Repair Café
Saturday, March 30, 2019, 1:00–4:00 pm
Bring your broken electronics, holey sweaters, and wobbly chairs to the Repair Café. Not only do you get to have a new(ish) appliance fixed, a wearable item patched, or a vintage item restored, but you also get to learn how to do it yourself as you work side by side with the repair volunteer to complete the task. Repair Café is a Toronto-based grassroots, volunteer-run organization that holds monthly gatherings where “fixers” help visitors learn how to repair items for free. It aims to build a more sustainable society and counter the “throw-away” mindset, and to place value on people who have repair skills and organizations that collaborate and innovate for the common good. The Repair Café is looking to expand beyond Toronto and establish new supports so that it can bring its model of the sharing economy to more communities in the province.

Artist Material Fund
April 10–20, 2019, during gallery hours
The most important element of Division of Labour is putting talk into action. The mission of the exhibition is to work toward a zero-waste outcome. As part of this, the Artist Material Fund will open right after Division of Labourcloses. Materials collected from the artists’ construction and from surrounding cultural institutions will be given away to artists and individuals in the community, rather than finding their way into the local landfill. People will have the ability to take away any and all material from the installation as well as other items, including equipment and fabrications slated for disposal from other cultural institutions in the area.

The Artist Material Fund approaches recycling and trash collection as an artistic endeavour. Its mission is to relocate material and diminish waste that is produced from the art industry while providing resources to artists to produce work in a financially viable way in cities that are becoming increasingly hostile to individuals in lower-income brackets. The program seeks to actively cultivate an environment that supports and promotes the sharing of underused goods to exploit their full potential value. It also acts as a redistribution centre so that artists can “shop” for items they need to complete projects and build more efficient studios.

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (WAHC)
51 Stuart Street
Hamilton ON M8L 1B5
Public Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 10:00am- 4:00pm