The Hard Way in Welland

The Hard Way in Welland

Everyone is ready for something new in Welland and The Hard Way hopes to deliver that in the heart of Welland's downtown. Halfway between the canal and railway it is literally where the people from rails and water would meet.

Experimenting on Humans

While the Black Lantern Experience (BLX) started as an exhibition experience that gave individual artists an opportunity to show off and have fun many have become stakeholders in the community. This new connection has prompted many of the artists to move from painting with acrylic on canvas to painting with ideas in human minds. This remarkably different approach to creativity has a physical manifestation at 43 Hellems Avenue in Welland, Ontario.

Inspired by the collection of stories found in The Hard Way on Purpose the principal benefactor Kevin Santone has a vision for what people could accomplish in Welland if given the opportunity. The hypothesis is that the community will go from the brick-by-brick approach to something bigger.

Developing an Organic Community

There isn't a committee or government that can create organic and real change without the people being truly invested in it. Governments can't support your initial investment. They are accountable to all the taxpayers and creating an advantage for the most progressive or developmentally minded is outside of their permitted mandate.

The Hard Way isn't limited. It is an unencumbered and united entity that holds no control over the creativity of its participants, it only holds control over the space and time allotted to the group. Volunteer driven and running on a tight budget the number of benefactors has grown beyond Kevin Santone to include artists, businesses, consumers, families, and the BLX. This is a new community made in the Canadian way which combines other communities in a cultural mosaic.

Creating Value in Downtown Welland

Welland has been in a state of limbo pending the spark of life that was promised to return after the construction of the new City Hall nearly a decade ago. That life has a name, that name is VALUE. Value in terms of money or things has failed to create the change, while the value in experiences and learning has been the only real growth in Welland.

Institutional experiences found at Welland's Brock University or Niagara College campus are a great way to develop a core skill. The down side to academia is that you leave as quickly as you enter and without a community that actually values experiences those graduates will remain unsatisfied in life. What can you do?

Get involved. Give a little. Do art, have fun, be cool. Party hard. Try something new. Introduce yourself to new people and their experiences. Immerse yourself in inspiration. Rinse and repeat.

Social Media in Niagara

Social media is often seen by those that haven't adopted it as being the useless noise of the world manifested and organized into a series of commodities with no collection to reality. This is proving to be farther from the truth as more professionals begin using it in the workplace and in their personal lives.

Choosing Your Network

In Niagara the social media options span popular and niche networks thanks to the overlap between international organizations and top tourist destinations.

Most of the well connected "superhubs" connect between groups on Twitter. Families and event oriented groups come together on Facebook. Crafters, models, and animal enthusiasts share their best quotes and photos on Instagram. Models connect again on Pinterest with aesthetitians and interior decorators. It's a lot to absorb.

There are always individuals that jump between networks, it isn't a major issue. It gets discouraging to see talent fail to connect because they limit themselves to the wrong network. Branch out and try something new.

Engage your creativity and start posting.

International Niagara

Photo by Jacob Enos

Local residents of Niagara are often shocked and surprised when I make statements like "Chemical Brothers and Kongos will be playing in Niagara this summer", because to them the US side of the Niagara River does not count. Here's the reality: They're wrong. Niagara has a larger sphere of influence than people realize when we co-operate internationally.

Buying local in Buffalo

I've often been in mini-debates with people about supporting local business, especially when a Hamilton or Toronto business is somehow perceived to be more local than a Buffalo business. Optimally there would be a bit of everything right in Welland or Niagara Falls - that's not realistic though since each city has different strengths.

I'd shop in Port Colborne, Wainfleet, Niagara Falls, Welland or Buffalo and call it local because we cannot achieve economic prosperity alone.

Local History in Lewiston

Sure, the United States lost the War of 1812 and failed to seize British territory in North America after the turn of the nineteenth century - Niagara shares a military history. Later the industrial revolution would have a technological revolution with the international development of grid electricity.

All of this history and one fact keeps on popping up - we succeed more together than apart. Niagara could be its own autonomous region if it weren't for the fact that much of Ontario and New England rely on our contributions and security as a hub for economic activity.

What BLX Wool Spinning can teach you about art

BLX Wool Spinning - Black Lantern Experience

Ever since photographers and pyromaniacs with the Black Lantern Experience started their wool spinning series it has been an amazing way to open a dialogue about art that isn't framed by frames and acrylic. There are always new people tuning in and loving the photography. There is also a darker side to this, the people that are turning off are growing in number.

The people turning away report that they are tired of wool spinning or that the novelty has worn off. It is offensive when people act as though this particular art form was only a novelty, for temporary use only. These people immediately identify themselves as being unappreciative and uncreative since they only focus on the core functions and not the passion of each project.

Never the Same - Advancing Your Craft

When photographer Lee Kindy initially proposed the idea it was a test to see if he could replicate the long exposure wool spinning photography he had seen from others. As his work progressed he improved his technique by trying different patterns, locations, and some potentially dangerous situations. This wasn't purely to entertain the unpaying art tourists, it was advancing the craft.

Advancing the craft has also brought in topics like history, geography, and nature into the art. The wool spin and the camera are the catalysts of thought, and each viewer will add their own knowledge to the interpretation of Lee Kindy's art.

Always the Same - Teaching Others is Fulfilling

Some details are the same. As other artists, models, and art enthusiasts join in the craft is made anew. Building on spinning techniques like the helicopter, portal, random, and "light the photographer on fire" is a part of the art education.

Take for example #PCTour13 (Video below) which featured a historical location, glow stick nun-chucks, and multiple new artists. The video itself doesn't capture the experience of freezing your hands off to create a better photo, the immediate improvement in technique, and more. It takes a calculated and reproducible experience to bring new artists into the craft.

That is why we should be frustrated with tourists seeking a novelty rather than working on their art.

Welland Riding Provincial MPP Candidates 2014

Frank Campion, Cindy Forster, Donna Cridland, Benoit Mercier

The 2014 provincial election is going to be a pretty interesting mix of concerns both local and global. This means that the whole of Ontario cannot be as easily painted by any single issue. Welland has seen the worst of two recessions during my lifetime without fully embracing the periods of growth that follow. Welland has missed both the Tech boom and the housing boom, passing over widespread fibre optic service and numerous condominium projects that would have made home ownership more attainable for local residents.

Welland remains. The community is poised to excel in the new economy with a leaner population that is focused on human needs and ambition. One of these candidates will guide that period.

Cindy Forster - New Democratic Party

Regardless of peoples opinions of her term as Mayor of Welland the incumbent candidate has a clear advantage. She is in sync with her party and the party message resonates with local concerns about LHINs, hospital services, GO Rail service, and building job opportunities in south Niagara

Three Positives:
1) Incumbent Candidate, no need to buy new drapes.
2) Former hospital employee with experience and insights about the service needs for a growing community.
3) Very visible in the community and approachable beyond the issues.

Connect via Twitter:
Campaign Site: Cindy Forster for Welland MPP
Click Here to request a sign

Frank Campion - Conservative Party

Frank Campion may not see eye to eye on every issue with Tim Hudak, one thing is for sure though that a Tim Hudak and Frank Campion combo in Toronto would help to undo all of the bad blood from the Mike Harris era that focused on northern development while the 406 remained incomplete for two decades.

Three Positives:
1) Believes in building a new Welland.
2) Works with locals regardless of political affiliation.
3) Is honest, even when honesty gets him into trouble.

Connect via Twitter:
Campaign Site: Frank Campion for Welland
Click Here to request a sign

Donna Cridland - Green Party

I'll admit that most of the riding doesn't know Donna Cridland. I know Donna Cridland from some of my work to improve Welland, and her resume runs very long with organizations dedicated to making a better world.

Three Positives:
1) Knowledgeable about the environmental and social issues in Niagara
2) Visible in multiple communities in Welland, Wainfleet, and Port Colborne
3) True passion for the outdoors, from the Fishing Capital of Canada

Connect via Twitter:
Campaign Site: Donna Cridland for Welland MPP
Click Here to request a sign

Benoit Mercier - Liberal Party

Finally had a chance to meet Benoit Mercier at the Welland Market along with his young campaign team. It is a clean slate for the candidate in Niagara since he has distanced himself from Toronto issues and wants to focus on Niagara.

The only candidate that I wouldn't count as a friend or acquaintance, probably because he is non-existent in public life around Welland. Tim Hudak seems more involved in Welland than Mr. Mercier, although that may be because the 406 is one of the best transportation routes to the Lake Erie shoreline.

Three Positives:
1) Wants to shift the focus from Toronto to Niagara.
2) Born and raised in Welland.
3) Likely bilingual.

Connect via Twitter:
Campaign site: Pending
Click Here to request a sign

Andrea Murik - Ontario Libertarian Party

Since Andrea Murik was overlooked when this article was originally put together I let her put together her bio and positives together.

In her words: We believe in limited government, free markets, protecting property rights, and voluntary interactions within communities between individuals and groups. Health care and jobs are a concern across the province. Shortening wait times, allowing patients more choices in healthcare and providing cheaper, more user friendly services must be accessible to all Ontarians.

Three Positives:
1) Lower taxes means more money in your pocket
2) Smaller government means more efficiency and accountability
3) Reduce government monopolies to create greater competition and innovation in the marketplace

Connect via Twitter:
Campaign site:
Sign Link Unavailable

Best of luck to the candidates - Donna Cridland, Andrea Murik, Frank Campion, Benoit Mercier, and Cindy Forster. I hope that there is a compassionate campaign that focuses on the future of Welland in Ontario provincial politics. Education, healthcare, economic development, and more will move us forward.

Niagara Food and Wine Expo 2014

The Niagara Food and Wine Expo 2014 was awesome, a well executed event with great vendors, demonstrations, and music. Even with all of the excitement due to a security issue at the Gaming Convention of Niagara next door I'd recommend this event to anyone looking to sample our global culinary culture in Niagara.


Compared to some the Wineries of Niagara on the Lake events this was a little light on the number of wineries, and the gaps were gladly filled in with breweries and distilleries. Wine, Beer, and Vodka are made everywhere around the world and the Niagara Food and Wine Expo is a great way for local consumers and restaurateurs to discover superior local producers. This alone makes the event worthwhile - add on the celebratory nature of the event and you can get a lot for your money. It was the norm for vendors to waive fees for samples and really demonstrate their product, and it paid off as people were actually buying more than in years past.

The expo was concerned with ice sculptures when Niagara's real strength is in breaking the ice between producers and consumers.

Food and Feasting

Among there amazing vendors there were some of my local favourites. From Welland the Above and Beyond Cupcakes team brought macarons, cafe beverages, and their signature cupcakes. From downtown Niagara Falls the Paris Crepes Cafe was making an assortment of breakfast and dessert crepes. Local distributor Lococo's brought their A-game with sausage, peameal bacon, and steak on a bun... Unless you're in the know about "The Terminator", a combination of all three meats on the same bun.

It was a delicious adventure. Hope to see you there next year.


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