Supercrawl: "God's Art Gallery on the Street"

Rebekka Gondosch | Reporter

Hamilton’s Supercrawl certainly lives up to its title as being a local street festival of impressive proportions. Even the rain could not dampen the spirits of enthusiasts crawling along James Street North in support of local artists, musicians, business owners, and community members alike. When I first moved to Hamilton last year, Supercrawl served as my 'initiation' into the city’s culture. I was given a taste — pun intended, on account of the numerous food trucks of the supportive and stimulating environment that is often underestimated by those living outside of the city’s parameters. Hamilton is abundant with creativity, collaboration, and a collective enthusiasm which manifests itself perhaps most apparently in the annual Supercrawl.

 It was during my first Supercrawl that I stumbled upon, coincidentally in the very heart of James Street, the impressive structure that is Christ Church Cathedral: Anglican Church and office to the Diocese of Niagara. At the time it was both strange and spectacular to me that such a typically traditional space was so open to embrace the vibrancy of an event like Supercrawl. It was this integration of cultural life that led me to attend services at Christ Church, and to investigate its role in Hamilton’s festivities during my second Supercrawl venture this month.

As I walked through Bishopsgate garden, the numerous vendors courageously crammed, come wind and rain, into the church’s courtyard. I focused on making the long trek to the back of the church. During these community events the church allows visitors to explore as far as behind the altar: an opportunity I enjoy taking full advantage of. It was in this moment of gazing up at the impressive architecture of the space, notebook and pen in hand, that I felt a momentary opposition within myself. The magnitude of church tradition colliding with my contemporary role as a reporter craving candid insight into the life and truth of this place seemed temporarily incongruent.

It was then that I was greeted by a member of the congregation, John Watts, who ruptured any fear of formality I was momentarily harbouring. I asked Watts the question that had been stirring in my brain for the last year: how did Christ Church Cathedral become such an integral and inviting part of one of Hamilton’s most applauded events? My initial hypothesis was that the church merged with the goings-on of the festival. A somewhat stereotypical 'the church had to keep up with the times' point of view. Not so in the case of Christ Church. Watts informed me that it was this church that began the spark of Art Crawls which would ignite the flame of its super-sized annual crawl.

For those who are unaware, Hamilton is also host to monthly Art Crawls: smaller scale, more frequent versions of Supercrawl. Christ Church was at the forefront of this artistic movement, opening up Bishopsgate to local vendors as a means of encouraging their talents and providing a space amidst what was then a much more desolate streetscape. The event became known as “Maker’s Market” and prompted the community of James Street to align with the inviting presence of Christ Church’s street space. Thus, Art Crawls began in the spirit of this awakened sense of vitality. Rather than the superimposed assumption I initially had of the church’s involvement, the process was, in Watts' words, more “evolutionary,” beginning with the church’s encouragement of growth and celebrating of culture. It is somewhat poetical to consider the church as the foundation of this artistic movement: the Art Crawls being built upon God’s ground in a spirit of generosity and spontaneity.

As Watts emphasized to me, Christ Church’s focus during the crawls is on debunking myths surrounding what the church really is. Opening its doors to the public is an ideal means of achieving this intent; there is a transparency, a literal openness to witness and experience the numerous opportunities the church has to offer. It is important to remember that such an invitation extends beyond cathedral walls. Supercrawl attests to the positive impact shared when church and culture are harmoniously intertwined and spill forth into the city streets.

Watts concluded our discussion by enthusiastically referring to Supercrawl as, “God’s art gallery on the street.” Indeed, I would encourage us this year to see the abundant gifts of God’s gallery in all places and spaces.

Look for the next Maker’s Market at Christ Church Cathedral during Art Crawl on October 9th between 7-10pm.