Coffee, Art and the woman behind it.

By Emily Kertcher

In one of the oldest buildings in Hamilton, a new cafe and art space comes to life by the name of REDCHURCH.

Recently moved to Hamilton, Graziella Panessa had a vision for the old Victoria Hall. In the mixture of missed matched buildings the one with the delicate white facade captured the eye of Panessa, and her fiancé.

Graziella Panessa saw the potential for the old building sitting nuzzled in Gore Park. With her passion for not only coffee but also the art world, Panessa has transformed this space into REDCHURCH. A cafe and art gallery duo.

“We wanted to breathe a little bit of life into the downtown core. We saw that there was an opportunity and saw the vision. Alongside the Royal Connaught and other developments, we thought that this building was perfect for it,” says Panessa.

Panessa spent her 20’s in London learning from the best in the art world. Working under Louisa Guiness, she learned the ins and outs of running an art gallery and exhibition curating. She had the opportunity to work with top contemporary artists from Anish Kapoor to Jeff Koons. She’s handled amazing pieces like Picasso, and has worked the major art fairs all around the world.

With London having a huge coffee scene, Panessa gained her interest in coffee. She attended one of the most esteemed coffee schools in London where she trained as a barista. With her well rounded knowledge of the art world and now coffee, moving to Hamilton Panessa knew she wanted to open something that incorporated both worlds.

“When I moved here I knew I wanted something that incorporated coffee and art and [I wanted to] create a really nice environment for people. Especially since Hamilton is an art focused community. I thought it would be nice to expose the community to something that is different and not offered in a lot of cafes,” says Panessa.

And that is exactly what she has brought to REDCHURCH. An environment that is constantly changing, and exciting. The perfect place for Hamiltonians to be inspired by creativity. Panessa has excellently executed this with her organization of spaces to make it aesthetically pleasing.

Walking into REDCHURCH you are immediately drawn in by the vibrant blue walls. The environment is spacious, yet cozy and the wooden tables provide the perfect place to enjoy a conversation with friends, read a book or get some work done. The building is narrow which sends you on a journey to discover what’s hidden in the back. Illuminated by a trendy neon sign you are welcomed into the art gallery.

“I wanted the art gallery to be a surprise for people when they came in. This exciting kind of treasure in the back, and something for someone to discover on their day to day routine,” Panessa explains.

For the inaugural exhibition that opened on May 12th, Panessa brought to life the works of Thomas Allen’s (@rebuildhamilton) Brick + Glass. A work of photographs that celebrate the architecture of Hamilton.
As a newbie to Hamilton it was important for Panessa to look for someone that was not only local but also involved in the city.
“He’s one of the few in the city that take unedited photos and has unique vantage points that are amazing. I thought it was a good opportunity to show case his talent and celebrate him because he does a lot for the city”.

Panessa has been blown away with the sense of community in Hamilton.

“If you’re going to start a business, Hamilton is definitely the right place to do it. People have really embraced it, and I am really excited to grow with the community as well,” Says Panessa.

In the exhibitions moving forward Panessa hopes to have a wide range of contemporary art and artists. Anything ranging from sculptures, paintings, wearable art, furniture and textiles. Her goal is also to be able to celebrate people locally through contemporary and historical art.

An art space that can cater to all different crowds.

“The opportunity here is just so obvious. Coming from London, we wanted to move somewhere that was completely different. Hamilton is on the verge of something amazing and I wanted to be a part of it. It’s one of those unique cities that is so passionate about art and music. There are so few Canadian cities these days that you can set up a business and have it work. Hamilton has such a unique crowd that this concept actually works here. People get it, and like it, and enjoy it.”

REDCHURCH’s next exhibition is “Sons of the Stage”. A work of photographs by U.K. photographer James Fry, that focuses on a behind the stage look of British pop bands. The exhibition will start September 5th.

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