#Exnovation – Collective Identity Call for Artists

Innovation has been a major characteristic of Waterloo Region and how things get made here. In a process of innovation, a team creates change within a product, process, item, or service. This has marked every industry of the region, creating a spirit of inventiveness, and an ever changing and diverse economic backbone. An exnovative process is a little different. In an exnovative process, a person from outside of the team creates changes.

In this show, we will be asking artists to enter into unusual collaborations that could take different exnovative shapes. An artist can:

  • begin a project on their own, but with finding a partner with whom they can hand off the project for this person to finish.
  • collaborate with an artist with whom they have never worked with before.
  • two artists from different disciplines working in tandem to create a new work.
  • pertaining to a theme of interrupted process.

The work can take any form, any shape, but the spirit of collaboration and interrupted process is thoroughly encouraged in the ideas presented. Individual artists will not be turned down for solo projects conducted in a spirit of exnovation but consideration around projects that show interrupted or collaborative process will be given higher priority.

Artists from Waterloo Region, or who have lived in Waterloo Region, as well as artists living in the counties touching the region at its borders are encouraged to submit ideas for consideration in this show which will take place in January 2017 at THEMUSEUM.

Compensation will be made to artists based on fundraised amounts. We work hard to draw sponsors and donors to the show so that we can pay artists.

To apply to this show, please include the following:

  • Your CV and the CV of the artist you are collaborating with
  • A description of the project (500 words or less)
  • A description of how exnovation will be used in your project
  • Supportive documentation will be accepted if included in the package (not more than 5 files)

All files must be submitted with your name and the title of the file as the save name (ei: yourname_filetitled.pdf). We will only accept text (.pdf, .txt, .doc), image (.jpg, .png), video (.mpeg, .mov, .mp4), and sound files (.mp3, .wav) as the formats indicated. We will accept applications until the 7th of October 2016 at 5pm.

Media submitted outside of the package will not be considered in the application (websites).

Email all submissions to terre@mycontention.com

Ableism in practicing art – how to create a healthier practice

There’s a cliche that tells us to set off as we intend to carry on. As a woman with a disability and lately, some pretty dire health issues, I thought that in creating art, I would have a pretty good perspective on how to build an instance with a collective where our disabilities and health would be something that isn’t negated. This isn’t just important to me as a person whose disabilities and health requires some consideration, but also important as a person who cares about the people I work with.

Under the pressure of creation, we can fall into ableist patterns – we find ourselves in a place where the consideration is on the deadline, the creation, and not on the creators in the project. The health and abilities of everyone can be a priority, but must be considered in advance.

Here’s some things I learned. I’m sharing for others who wish to consider their own ableism in the function of art building. This is from my own point of view – that of an aspie artistic director of a feminist, diverse, mixed gender, age, race, discipline collective. I do think these can translate to any collaborative practice. This is by no means exhaustive, but for the health and ability of a group of strong creators working together:

  1. PREPAREConsider ability and health at the outset, long before you start working. When you get into the middle of a creation, things move so fast under the tension of deadlines and the aspect of losing yourself in the zone that health can become problematic without even noticing. Do this in your team-building if you can – in those meetings where you are facilitating relationships.
  2. Keep water in the room in which you are creating. If you are working with a collective, keep a jug of fresh water in the space – for yourself, whichever container floats your boat. Keep cups/glasses, wash them daily. Foster a policy of respect around water and the pause to rehydrate. This bleeds out into the routine of water getting, and the deliberate short breaks that the mind needs in intense intervals. Respect that the call for a break for a drink may be a way for someone who needs a moment for their body or mind to ask for a pause while they stay in the energy of the room or activity without outing themselves or asking for sympathy. Also, a water break may just be a water break. Either way…
  3. Country-805222---Water-Pitcher-3-Pint-White-BG-High-ResMaintain a healthy, caffeine free alternative tasty beverage that your collective can agree on – whether this is juice, tisane, lemon or lime water – you get to be creative and inclusive… And maybe also fun : ever try warm pineapple and passion juice? Also keep caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, mate) to keep personal budgets intact. But really, consider that not everyone can or should have these and at the same time, they are a bonding piece between people. If you can, a wee fridge may be your best friend.
  4. Arrange ahead of time potluck and brown bag lunches for your collective – make it fun by planning daily menus and themes. Consider dietary restrictions and allergies – be open and honest about the ingredients in the food. It’s wonderful to carry on the energy of a new creation over lunch, but having that lunch not be cheese covered nachos, fries, or other restaurant foods are better for your body, and better on your wallet.
  5. Build timelines with lots of testing time front loaded if you can. For some, renting of equipment can only happen on a tight schedule. If this is the case, test the equipment as soon as it’s delivered. Remember that the tech people in your show are a part of your creation. Also, this could take some serious pressure off of the last minute. Able bodies and minds find the last minute pressures hard. Disabled bodies and minds are taxed beyond coping when the details wrapped in stress overwhelm the final ability to push.
  6. list.2Make lists and order them according to priority and time. These will help to allow the flexibility in a timeline, and can also breakdown something like “Tech Setup”, “Strike” into granular, and orderly parts. These lists can and should be built with the consultation of the people involved, and then they can be built into being a checklist for the larger, complicated tasks. I know this one seems so elementary and project manager 101 – but when things get tight, being able to hand these off to a stage manager makes their life easier, and it keeps you, the collective, and the creation in a headspace where complicated process is in simple black and white.
  7. If someone discloses a health requirement to you, take it seriously. Ask them what you can do to accommodate them and then work your hardest to do so. Try to have this conversation before you get into heavy creation and deliberately build accommodations into your process. If done right, maybe you stand a chance to make the whole process not focus on what limits people, but allows every strength to shine within a disabled context.
  8. bf1Some people will not want to disclose to a whole group but will tell the director – make sure you understand the privacy concerns around what they live. Some people are happy to share much of what they live. Many want to be able to work in a context where things just work for them enough so that they can contribute in the meaningful way that they were asked to be in your project – maybe this means that you do research, and ask them to help you understand. Remember, the one who lives a disability is an expert in their own lives, treat them as such. Remember to listen, and truly pay attention. Disabilities can sometimes impede the ability to communicate needs but with even small effort, modifications, accommodations can be made to make a process more disability-friendly.
  9. Never, ever assume you know someone’s needs. Someone may require a ramp for a mobility device, but do you know if the bars in the “accessible” washroom are placed in the right location for your fellow artist to be able to help themselves? Are they needing/wanting additional assistance and how can you provide it? There is nothing wrong with asking an entire group of creatives if they would be willing to have a conversation about what they require in a space or creation. Leaving open several options for how people would like to communicate is critical – from email to open forum, it should entirely up to the person disclosing on how they want to go about this.
  10. Scarcity is an unfortunate part of art making. From unheated, dusty, and sometimes unhealthy spaces, to lack of time, we all have to push too hard. Remembering that even the most able and well person is more likely to succumb to illness or injury when they are stressed and tired is a most basic and simple consideration.
  11. SpoonsBecome familiar with Spoon Theory.  Use it if you need it, and advocate for the understanding of spoons.
  12. Take the time to find accessible space that is suitable to the needs of everyone. It’s so much easier if you find a building or space that is good, but have the ability to work with the owner to create even better access.
  13. Keep a roster of who you have worked with, and who is above the board for building accommodation. Share this list widely.  Tell other companies and artists about good places and good people for access. Do you part in creating a culture of better space.

A bonus ten to consider:

  1. Zero imposition on yourself and others when not directly at work in studio. Having firm hours with little-to-no homework beyond work hours allows the mind and body to rest easier. People will still come up with ideas over washing dishes, but having the off times as brain wandering, other life task times will add strength to everything. It also allows for better nighttime sleep which benefits everyone and everything.
  2. Using meditation techniques and visualisation as a group to deliberately leave the work behind may be an amazing way to separate off time from creation time.
  3. Deliberate mental health breaks. There is nothing like pizza on a night of stress – everyone has to stop and eat, even if they don’t eat.
  4. Open continuous communication on the wellbeing of everyone in the creation for the entire creation. Foster acceptance, and trust. Kindness, sincerity go a long way.
  5. Treat health emergencies with sincere concern. The lives of the creators you work with is more important than the creation.
  6. If you are directing a creation, keep a notebook near you at all times while in creation. Unload everything into the notebook. Separate ideas for the creation, from personal, from operational elements. Take an hour before you start in the morning (or an hour in the evening, whatever floats your creative boat) to code these things and determine if the are important enough to consider.
  7. Make sure every aspect of a project has an owner. I mean this. Those lists I was talking about? Make sure that the items that make the cut are assigned to someone.
  8. For goodness sake, if anyone has a health emergency, delay the outcome. We squeeze by so often. I would hate for anyone I know and love, or any creative person who is loved by anyone, including themselves, to have any of the worst things happen because they prioritised a creation over a life. A call to a granting officer, or a co-presenter can often go a long way to building understanding around delays.
  9. More of a clarification to the last point: Your definition of a health emergency may not match someone else’s. Someone with arthritis or fibromyalgia may not be able to function on a day. A person with depression may require a month off.
  10. Take all of these seriously and for heaven’s sake, do continue to work with people with disabilities. Our unique experience adds so much to a creation. We have a different way of working that requires us to push our own limits daily in the ways we can, never mind the limits of a creation. Not only will the projects be stronger and more meaningful, but everyone who works with a person with a disability will find themselves in a place of diversity and strength by adding and respecting our voices.

Please, do comment on this. My considerations are not comprehensive, and I am learning on my feet. I would love to know what you do to consider health in these heavy and stressful times!


Text from my talk Monday 14th of December to City Council

Here’s the text from the talk that I couldn’t give in its fullness due to finding out a change in funding to the CEI. It is still pertinent. The CEI should not use another pinch of money to close its doors.

Presenters from the arts community included Janice Lee, Martin de Groot, Robert Linsley, Duncan Finnegan, and Gordon Hatt.

City of Kitchener Council

Thank you councilors for allowing me and my colleagues to come and speak to you on a matter that is near and dear to us as a functional, organised, and very active sector in this city.

I want to start by expressing my respect for both Roger Farwell, and Debbie Currie as two hard working, well intentioned, and great people in the city. They have tried hard to build something meaningful, and it wasn’t without successes, but at this point, the successes are over, and belabouring the closure of this organisation with the building out of two unwanted initiatives is only directing money away from where it most necessary: back into the arts.

Thanks to the CEI’s own work we realised that the arts sector is short by up to 5 million in funding based on 50 arts organizations – not just the 5 pillars.

Thanks to the municipalities for recognising the need and moving money to the arts.

The dollar per capita amount was critical, but it didn’t help the entire sector. In going strictly to the pillars, the real needs of those who animate the city: the creators and innovators were left to starve. In the past years, dozens of artists have moved away from this community, and we have seen next to no growth in new organisations that create art.

As a sector, the makers of culture, the makers of art are more than ever critically underfunded, and underresourced. And the CEI’s current priorities do not address any of the critical priorities or needs facing our sector. The new priorities are entirely duplications of other services (as they have said themselves), or are not repairable (in the sake of Grand Social) in the budget and timeline indicated.

So, what do we need?

In the formation of the CEI, We were promised access to private sector and increased funding through capacity around this access – Many arts organisations had private sector funding prior to the CEI that was diverted to the CEI through their closer business connections.

Most of the money given to the CEI did not see its way to the small to medium arts organizations. Some organizations saw support, but the ability to build new, and grow became completely absent. The lack of transparency, and the determination of who was funded and why became a point of contention. There was the “hot dog cart” fund, but of $750k, this represented only $53k. Access to private sector is critical. This is a dire need for any organisation to assemble a good financial portfolio to build sustainability.

We desperately need space. My colleague Majdi spoke to this matter so eloquently just last week. I must, however, add that every single practice in the arts from film, to the individual visual artist, to the musician looking for a jam hall is desperate for infrastructure to build, to practice, to create. Artists are not culture industries, artists are not content creators, their work often lies in a different business model that cannot sustain the increasingly high costs of space in Kitchener.

Money could be used to create a space building initiative, like ArtScape in Toronto – a very successful model of public and private funding to create permanent and meaningful infrastructure.

Lastly, we need more funding into sustainability and innovation. The Arts Fund and similar ventures are best suited to making decisions about the arts. We have experimented with good intentions over the past five years without artists active in decision making around things that concern them most. And it shows.

We see successful models of peer-based decision-making in funding in other cities, at the provincial level, and at the national level. We need support around innovation. We need to be able to identify good practices and get money to them to increase the capacity of their practices. We need to give talent an incentive to stay here, and create a vibrant arts scene. We need to build increased sustainability around the organisations that mentor, and create opportunities for other artists – such as Neruda, Inter-Arts Matrix, MT Space, and hopefully, one day, my own.

When it comes to these other two initiatives, do we give money to build another org that duplicates place-making like CAFKA, only to hand it off? Who takes on that initiative when it is half built? Are they required to follow a model that they haven’t built? And the website, as a tech professional who has a 20 year history in web, and online communication, I can attest that 15k and 1 year isn’t going to help Grand Social.

Communitech is an excellent model. The reason why it worked is that it was built by tech for tech. It was built by the people who understood the business of making a productive sector from the inside out. They maintained a status as tech association until they realised that investing in innovation in startups could be a benefit to the entire sector.

They built a culture of practice and have made Kitchener one of the most desirable places to start a tech business. But only they could do this themselves. Traditional business does not face the challenges of tech. The same goes for the arts. The CEI is not an arts organization, nor has it ever been. It is a business organization imposed on the arts.

With the shuttering of the CEI at the end of this year, I urge you to hold this last pocket of funding instead of pouring so much money into unnecessary, unwanted, and dysfunctional final projects. We, as artists, have been organising around building a new council that will be purpose driven to help the arts where they need it most. It has a clear mission, a clear function, and has been built on two years of community consultation across the disciplines in the arts – there is no need to spend another dime in hiring external consultation. I urge you to take a sober second look and put this money where it will make an enormous difference instantly for an entire sector – back into the arts.


Call for submissions – Blues themed show downtown Kitchener

Call for Submissions

Call open from Tuesday June 23 – Tuesday July 7, 2015

The Blues has been a foundational music of Kitchener’s culture. Kitchener has developed it’s own unique Blues community and distinct sound. Our downtown music studios have been the fertile learning ground for talent and skills to be passed through generations of outstanding Blues musicians. 

From its grassroots start, to its main-stage presence, the Blues continues to live and breathe in our city’s post-industrial pulse.

In this pop up show and sale, BarnRaising Associates are seeking submissions from artists who represent some part of the Blues through their work. This can be reflected in the culture, the music, the sensation, the lyrics, the instruments, the personalities, the beat, the Dust Bowl, or the pulse of this gritty genre. The Blues is the key. We are seeking original work from professional artist on canvas, in photos, wall hanging or in small sculptural pieces for display and sale. There will be 25% commission on all sold works. 

The show will have a fundraising component in which funds raised will be donated to the Button Factory Arts Centre in Uptown Waterloo.

This show will be installed from August 5th to August 16th during the Blues Festival in downtown Kitchener. Please apply with a proposal, and your c.v. or bio at: barnraisingassociates@gmail.com

BarnRaising call for art show and sale PDF


Open call for submissions – Waterloo Region show – EXTENDED


OPEN CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – Extended to the 20th of JULY

Collective Identity is a new open collective of professional artists in Waterloo Region established for the purpose of mounting a show of original professional arts with a regional focus. The hope of Collective Identity is to revive a regional annual, or biannual to build solidarity and celebrate our talented and committed community.

From Wednesday September 17th – Sunday October 4th, 2015, artists will take over a premiere downtown space for a show named Fast Forward Waterloo Region. This loosely themed show is focused on the future: the future of us as a creative community. We, the creative community, are the lifeblood of the culture of this region. Some of the themes that are being worked on are:

  • Transit and transportation
  • Urbanity and landscape
  • Food, food security
  • Culture and multiculture

Whether you build something that fits into these ideas, or your work reflects a concept outside of these, we call on you to submit a proposal.

We are looking for submissions from professional artists who live currently within the boundaries of Waterloo Region. In this we are looking for work that lives on the wall, off the wall, performance, pop-up theatre, music, sound and noise installation, makers, inter-arts, digital arts, film… we want to hear what you want to build.

As a professional artist-run collective, we recognize that our peers in the arts need to make a living. We will be running fundraisers and finding sponsorships to build compensation packages for your submissions. There is no fee for submission. Submissions will be accepted until July 20th, 2015 July 11th, 2015. (Call extended due to popular request)

Proposals and either a one-page bio, or CV no longer than two pages can be submitted to: terre@mycontention.com 

Big Music Fest is NOT Coachella and the comparison is daft. Kitchener culture fail.

So city a councillor tries to liken the transplanting of the frequently homeless Big Music Fest to Coachella. Coachella booked musicians based on artistry instead of radio popularity. And it wasn’t just music. Coachella focused absolutely on innovation.There were installation artists, performance artists, and so many other amazing things sprung out of this.

(I don’t have permission to post any Coachella photos, but here’s a link to Coachella Art – Kitchener does not have even close to what it takes to make this happen. It can barely support its own contemporary arts festivals and organisations)

It is now the largest grossing music festival in the USA. Some say it’s corporate beyond belief. Criticisms abound.

But the point is, Coachella was built from the ground up and focused heavily on the interesting, the different, the weird, so long as it was artistically sound. It was built with the inclusion of several forms of art, making not just a music fest, but a culture of creativity surrounding a desire to build something new.

The Big Music Fest is a transplant. It’s imposed on a neighbourhood. It’s lining up acts that have nothing to do with each other than they could be booked, no ethos, no commonality other than they attract us who are on the edge of grey hair. It isn’t making a community around art or creativity. The comparison is completely stupid. Pulling old rockers out of their mausoleums to grace outdoor stages is not innovative. It isn’t fresh. It happens in every major Canadian city at outdoor venues.

It isn’t that Coachella is some precious, true to form always authentic music fest. But the way it was grown was through a curation beyond… OMG WIN! Rod Stewart! It was aimed at being anti-popular, even earning the monicker Anti-Woodstock after the Woodstock 99 crapulence (which is more what the Big Music Fest looks like).

If there was money to do this, it should have been placed in a way to build something new. Something interesting. Yes, attract big names (even Rod Stewart) but the nonsense of getting art-in-a-can, microwave for 3 minutes and serve can never, ever hold a candle to true excellence, true artistry, and real, actual culture. Kitchener, you will never learn.

Much like how you will never be Silicon Valley (North or otherwise), you will never be Coachella (North). And why do you find it so appealing to copycat other good ideas? Why do you need to find someone else to follow around like a cloud of gnats on a hiking trail? You want culture? Start supporting your own. You sure aren’t going to get it in a drop-in music fest. You will just get… drop-ins.

When will you realise that our city is already great? But that anyone who has talent has to high tail it out of here as if the ground is made of artist hating lava and their shoes are on fire?

Protect peer assessments – protect the arts. Speak up for the Arts Fund now.

This was sent to us today by a colleague – Isabella Stefanescu. I stand absolutely behind the Arts Fund, and behind a peer reviewed jury. Please read, and consider writing a letter today.
The Region of Waterloo Arts Fund has been a game changer in the local arts community: it is the only local funding source that awards grants not only to arts organizations but also directly to artists. Since it started awarding grants in the fall of 2003, the Arts Fund has supported  470 artistic projects.
In 2014 the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund began implementation of a new peer jury assessment process for the evaluation of the grant applications.
It has been a process that has presented challenges. 
The Arts Fund will be evaluating the jury process at their board meeting on Thursday, January 15, at 4:00 pm. I encourage you to write a letter to the Arts Fund board expressing your support for the work of the board and for the peer jury process. Essentially the letter would show support for the principles under which the Arts Fund has been run from the beginning, such as:
  • making art happen in the Region of Waterloo
  • artistic merit & innovation paramount
  • arm’s length
  • clarity, simplicity, transparency of the application and evaluation process
  • peer review
  • minimal operating expenses
and for additional principles such as:
  • appropriate remuneration for artistic work
  • no direct, indirect or perceived conflict of interest in evaluating the applications

The letter should especially emphasize support for the new assessment process in which applications are evaluated by a different jury of peers for each granting session, a process that brings the Arts Fund closer to the Canadian standard way of making grants to artists and arts organizations.


Your letter could also include an offer to support the Arts Fund board of directors’ work in any way we can and they see fit: make yourselves available for consultation, deliberation and advice; help with recruitment for board and peer assessment pool; outreach in your respective circles and geographic communities.

 Personally I would like the board to consider paying an honorarium to the people who are asked to participate in the jury process (this would bring the Arts Fund in line with the way things are done at the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts).
Your letter should be addressed to:
Region of Waterloo Arts Fund Board of Directors
Attn: Stevie Natolochny
Council & Administrative Services
c/o Regional Clerk’s Office
Regional Administration Building, 2nd Floor
150 Frederick Street, Kitchener, ON
N2G 4J3
You can email the letter to snatolochny@regionofwaterloo.ca
I have attached a letter template that you can use – please feel free to change it to make it personal.
Please spread the word: The Region of Waterloo Arts Fund is very important for all artists who are based in the Region, and it needs our support. Please forward this note to anybody you think might be able to help.

Theatre and tech – a must see, must attend presentation by Carey Dodge

I don’t usually place a press release on my blog, but this is a really great event that fits into the fabric of our city like few others. As a part of the Tech + Text events from Pat the Dog, technical director Carey Dodge from Boca Del Lupo is in a residency here in Waterloo Region.

Dodge is going to be working here in a residency, and also will be presenting at the Felt Lab in St. Jacob’s on the 17th at a lunch and learn – there will be a registration, and I will post it here, and on twitter when that comes about. Art and tech lovers: Don’t miss out on this event.


From Pat the Dog:

Pat the Dog Theatre Creation’s Text + Tech Visiting Artist Residency begins today as Carey Dodge, Technical Director for award-winning Vancouver-based Boca del Lupo visits REAP at the Felt Lab through to October 19.

Text + Tech is the only project of its kind in Canada. Both creators of theatre and technology are brought together at the point of creation with the intent to improve and deepen the integration of technology into the fabric of text in Canadian theatre creation. The Visiting Artist Residency grants a national theatre artist the opportunity to visit Pat the Dog Theatre Creation for an extended period. This project is in partnership with REAP (Research Entrepreneurs Accelerating Prosperity). Coming out of the Canadian Centre of Arts and Technology at the University of Waterloo, the REAP initiative supports student, faculty, and professional projects that foster the intersection of Arts and Technology through its ‘digital sandbox for serious play’. Housed in the Felt Lab in St. Jacob’s, REAP focuses particularly on interactive display environments and applications.

Pat the Dog Theatre Creation is thrilled to host Carey Dodge of Boca del Lupo to Waterloo Region. Boca del Lupo is one of Vancouver’s most innovative and dynamic theatre companies, specializing in experimental theatrical productions and spectacular outdoor presentations. They are widely known for their free, outdoor, all-ages, roving spectaculars. These large-scale productions have drawn thousands of audience members high into the rainforest canopy of Stanley Park, deep into the forgotten regions that lie under Vancouver’s monolithic city bridges and out onto the rain-slicked streets of Gastown. The company has received numerous awards including Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards for Outstanding Design, Outstanding Production, Significant Artistic Achievement, Outstanding Performance, along with the Critic’s Choice Award for Innovation and the Alcan Performing Arts Award. Carey is a multidisciplinary artist and technologist who works in sonic arts, interactivity, installations, sound design, projections systems and performance. He specializes in developing novel sound design systems for performance and installation work. These systems often include custom-made software, algorithmic composition, live processing, surround sound environments and interactivity.

During his visit high-tech equipment such as MicroTiles, responsive technology by GestureTek, Augmented Reality applications, and 3D projection mapping will be implemented and explored.

The Text + Tech Visiting Residency is funded by The Ontario Arts Council and the City of Waterloo.

First Builders. A Self Guided Hike Honouring 10,000 Years of Settlement -Photoblog #BuildWR


The entrance to the First Builders hike along the Grand River at the Cambridge RARE Charitable Research Reserve is on Blair Rd. The place is easy to spot with a gorgeous old barn – the RARE Slit Barn marks the beginning of a spectacular walking journey. If approaching from Cambridge – it is after the Springbank Farm (a must visit in its own right), and on the right side of the road. If approaching from Kitchener, you pass Blair Village and Langdon Hall before you arrive at this barn. It’s on the left. Stop at the house – you will find trail maps, and they are necessary. I only had my smartphone, but I do recommend bringing a proper camera to the site. It’s worth the weight of carrying it.

14831813855_4d47611ce8_kThe trail is easy to spot: it is currently gated by an installation created as a part of CAFKA. IMITATE forces the even short walker (I am 5’1″) to duck beneath the woven wood as one enters the trailhead. Once past the gate, you will be immediately flooded with the scent of wild bergamot, wild tarragon, flowers and grasses. Despite the sounds of the nearby road, the effect is profound and instant. This is a meadow. Full or birds, bees, insects and wildlife, RARE transports us instantly out of the hustle of cars and into an ancient landscape.

Osprey Tower

The first gem on the hike is an Osprey Tower. Long before we entered into range to see the bird, we heard her. The image isn’t great, but she stayed stationed there calling to her mate throughout the several minutes it took to traverse the meadow


Did you realise that this used to be Tundra? Of course we knew our landscape was carved by glaciers, but here’s a real reminder.


The next site describes the floodplain. The signage is clear, and nicely descriptive.

Dense trail

The trail becomes dense and the plants are well grown into the space. It would not be foolish to prepare for ticks whilst walking here.

Joe Pye Weed

There are huge stands of Joe Pye Weed, and several other butterfly and bee beneficial plants. We did also spot some Giant Hogweed, so unless you know your plants well, stay on the trail.

mystery plant

An oddity… what is this? Between two gardeners (one who is also a horticulturalist) we could not identify this plant tangling over the Joe Pye Weed. Any ideas?

The Grand River

The views of the Grand River are spectacular. Bring binoculars and a camera. In a few minutes we spotted several species of birds.

A good stretch

Just before leaving the banks of the Grand, have a stretch and a rest. The trail moves into the woods, and along bluffs. Wear good footwear – lots of rocks and roots. Mosquito repellant would go a long way to increasing enjoyment of the walk as well.

Boreal Landscapes

The next sign describes the shifting climate. The Tundra gave way to the Boreal.

Cedar grove

The undergrowth give way in a cedar grove that stretches. The trees cling to the bluffs and the area is scented deeply with cedar and wild geranium.

A darker place

This is a darker place in the woods. One could imagine a good spot for a Tim Burton gothic horror.

Early human arrival.

Ah! Settlement. Early human arrival. The landscape breathes new life.


Another special place. This tree stood in the centre of a circle in a grove of maples. No undergrowth. Tarry here a while. A beautiful spot to have a snack and take in some water.

Rocks roots and cliffs

Rocks, roots, and cliffs. It is easy to forget that this is in Cambridge. The earth jetties out in limestone cliff formations, and moss settles on everything. Whilst wandering here, be very careful of poison ivy encroaching. It’s not on the trail, but under no circumstances should the trail be left, especially if you are unsure on how to identify this plant. The three-leaf plants you can see here? Not poison ivy.

Deciduous forest and cliffs

Deciduous forest and cliffs. This is a northern reach of the Carolinian forest on a landscape that looks more like the Bruce Trail. A very unique spot.

Award winning international architect Alison Brooks to lecture at PI – #BuildWR

Living in Waterloo Region does present gems… very soon, we will be introduced to one of the most important architects in the world. Alison Brooks is lecturing at the PI on July 30th from 7:30 – 10:00 for free – as a part of Building Waterloo Region.

Brooks finished her studies in architecture at the University of Waterloo in 1988 when she soon after moved to the UK to work with Ron Arad. She became a partner in Ron Arad Associates. Brooks established her own practice in London UK in 1996. Showing spectacular design and innovation, she has won several awards.

Being fond of architecture, but not the most educated about the names of the people who create spaces that matter, I had to look into her more. Among the several exquisitely designed spaces I found this:

Alison Brooks - Tribeca

Alison Brooks – Tribeca: from http://www.alisonbrooksarchitects.com/

There is such a challenge in taking on the old, and building around it. The older structures must be respected, and shown in all their beauty. Complicated window casings, interesting roofline, and even flourishing details that matched the aesthetic sensibilities of the time. Brooks takes on an incredible challenge in creating new buildings in a modern aesthetic.

There is the challenge of respecting a pre-existing space with all the voices and histories, but also adding a new voice. Much like any language, the visual language is tricky – relying deeply on metaphors, impressions and cues. It would be so easy to create buildings that ignore their surroundings. The countless cinder-block rectangles in every city speak to this laziness in design. This grouping in Tribeca, however, maybe be in an updated, even avant-garde language, but the voice of the new buildings speak in a common tongue. The older building in the centre is sharply accentuated by buildings of a similar feel. The flourish doesn’t exist in the modern buildings, but their roofline draw attention to the old, showcasing it. The older building is turned into the equivalent of a gemstone in a stunningly tasteful surround – where nothing is garish but all working in harmony.

Beyond building design, Brooks has designed density housing. Using design to focus on healthy lives in dense spaces, Brooks’s spaces receive accolades for being spaces in which grass-roots communities thrive. The neighbourhoods encourage pedestrian movement an interaction between neighbours. The streets are often used for street socials. These are safe, lived-in, and practical spaces designed around the needs of community.

Waterloo Region could use a dose of her design.