Art is something that we all learn about in school and use to make our homes, businesses and public spaces more beautiful or thought provoking. Culture is what separates us, as a society, showing that we value things that can educate and entertain us. Culture can be fashion, food, literature and music.

Thomas Kelly’s work “Fight in the Museum”.

Being in the midst of art and culture can boost our own creativity, it can awaken our imagination. We can see how other groups and individuals think and what is important to them. We can be encouraged to be a little artistic and cultured ourselves. But most of all, arts and culture can be fun. It should be enjoyable to see, hear, feel and taste new things and observe a different outlook.

We can all enjoy a play, a song or a terrific photograph. We like films, books, singers and city murals. But do we value arts and culture enough to support it? When we say support, we mean attend, pay for a ticket, encourage a student, share an event post and collect something. Will we support arts and culture in Hamilton?

It’s fun to go on Facebook to relive the memory of a fine old restaurant, movie house or music club. But we wanted to examine what we have now, what we love, the arts that are vibrant now and active, the things that are working well. We also wanted to look at what is lacking, to look at what needs some work.

With Hamilton leadership and artists, we want to envision where we are going. What would we like to see? What would we love to support here in the near future?

The arts are an economic force, a driver, a motivator, an employer. More than $40 million is spent on arts and culture in Mercer County each year. There are also 1,300 arts and culture jobs in the county, too. Is Hamilton getting its share? Is Hamilton doing all it can? Can Hamilton do more?

When thinking about the Hamilton Post having an Arts and Culture issue, one of the thoughts I had was maybe Hamilton does not value arts and culture. Maybe Hamilton just likes to go out for an early dinner then go home and watch television. Maybe while putting this issue together, we will find very little support for the arts. This is totally fine. But it would be just as much a story as the alternative.

It certainly would make things clearer. There are no art galleries in Hamilton, but surely there are homes with fine art on the wall. We have artists who live and work in Hamilton, but they must show and sell their work elsewhere. We have plenty of jazz musicians in Hamilton, but few venues and performances. We have live comedy a few times a year in restaurant banquet halls. We visit Kelsey Theater at Mercer County Community College and see musicals and concerts. The world class Grounds For Sculpture is here, but is it Hamiltonians who are visiting and supporting it?

So, we wished to see what Hamilton has to offer. After digging in a little bit, I must say we have some good bones. We just need to fan the flames and promote what we have, spend some effort and energy to improve what is lacking. The last component is vision, deciding where we want to go.

This is just the start of the conversation. Of course, we want to get emails that say, “What about poetry?” or “Why didn’t you write about culinary arts?” or “Why not showcase the writers? Where are the filmmakers?” That would be awesome. That would be a great reaction to this issue—that there’s more than what fits in this newspaper, and our readers are asking for more. That would show excitement and vibrancy. That would show Hamilton values arts and culture.

And that would be terrific.

Thomas Kelly is a Hamilton-based artist and member of the Hamilton Arts Council. His work can be found at thomaskellyart.com.