Photoblog – Downton Abbey to That Seventies Show: Fashion, architecture and design collide #BuildWR

Street Style

The Waterloo Region Museum (with partners Fashion History Museum) is currently exhibiting Street Style –  focusing on fashion and architecture in the Region of Waterloo. The exhibit is on of the many shows presented as a part of Building Waterloo Region – a festival focusing on architecture and design excellence.

The floor opens with a show film, morphing a dancing from decade to decade, changing the music, fashion and architecture behind them. The style of dance is also made to match the decade of design.

Following is a lineup of mannequins dressed in costume from La Belle Epoque to The Trench.

Compositionally, the exhibit is exquisite, featuring clothing design juxtaposed with architectural design. In spaces that would normally serve as negative space, the gallery wall images of Waterloo Region buildings echo the structure in the costumes themselves. The result is uncanny: a concert of geometries and flourishes orchestrated in symphonic harmony. Even if you are uninterested in women’s fashion or architecture throughout the decades, this exhibit presents some tantalizing eye-candy for the lover of design.

Fabric swatchesThe opposite wall of the exhibit has a timeline, contextualizing women’s fashion, architecture, art movements, world events – drawing parallels between radical changes and design itself. Someone the later leading the former. Also for the tactile types, there are mounted swatches of fabric for the express purpose of touching.

Now wait for it: There are also shoes.

The image below are presented in an order – first are general images of the costumes, second are images of juxtapositions that I found particularly interesting. Finally… there are shoes.

Details down to the complex undergarments

Details down to the complex undergarments

La Belle Epoque etais belle

La Belle Epoque etais belle

Regal coats and bustles

Regal coats and bustles

Trains and geometrics

Trains and geometrics

Glamorous gowns, and hats.  Elaborate design.

Glamorous gowns, and hats. Elaborate design.

Details down to gloves, umbrellas, hats and shoes.

Details down to gloves, umbrellas, hats and shoes.

A last breath of bombastic Edwardian matched with downtown fronts

A breath of bombastic Edwardian matched with downtown fronts

Downtown ladies. Laces, velvets, frills.

Downtown ladies. Laces, velvets, frills.

The Late Edwardian lady - simplicity with stunning detail.

The Late Edwardian lady – simplicity with stunning detail.

Decades of transition. Late Edwardian, First World War to 20s Swinging.

Decades of transition. Late Edwardian, First World War to 20s Swinging. In a few decades, hemlines went up. Emphasis on gender goes down.

Simple 30s Depression to the Second World War working woman.

Simple 30s Depression to the Second World War working woman. I need to re-photograph this one… Apologies for the poor quality. It may be my favourite transition.

Wartime simplicity. Austerity and heavy geometries.

Wartime simplicity. Austerity and heavy geometries.

Forties and Fifties formalities and frivolities.

Forties and Fifties formalities and frivolities.

Clean lines, sharp design.

Clean lines, sharp design.

Lovely late Fifties and Sweet Sixties colours and lengths.

Lovely late Fifties and Sweet Sixties colours and lengths.

60s minidress polyester crimplene and heavy geometrics.

60s minidress polyester crimplene and heavy geometrics.

Patchwork peasant Seventies.

Patchwork peasant Seventies.

The Trench. And a slick silk.

The Trench. And a slick silk.

The following are photographed considering the negative space with the costumed mannequins. 

IMG_20140619_154515 IMG_20140619_154527 IMG_20140619_154609 IMG_20140619_154617 IMG_20140619_154631 IMG_20140619_154659 IMG_20140619_154719 IMG_20140619_154727 IMG_20140619_154743 IMG_20140619_154758 IMG_20140619_154808 IMG_20140619_154821 IMG_20140619_154834 IMG_20140619_154851 IMG_20140619_154933 IMG_20140619_154942


And finally… Shoes.

IMG_20140619_154207 IMG_20140619_154040 IMG_20140619_154220 IMG_20140619_154235 IMG_20140619_154307 IMG_20140619_154326 IMG_20140619_154335 IMG_20140619_154312 IMG_20140619_154244 IMG_20140619_154227 IMG_20140619_154156


Those of you who made it this far deserve a final treat. Detail from the Late Edwardian lace bodice and the back of the lace Edwardian coat. These is are exquisite pieces.

Late Edwardian Bodice -Lace Detail

Late Edwardian Bodice -Lace Detail


Building excellence. Building Waterloo Region.

If you follow me on Twitter, you will notice that I have been raving lately about a new festival this year.

Waterloo Region has a demonstrated excellence in architecture. With several award-winning buildings, to a strong history of reuse and settlement, this Region tends to be more of a gem than how it’s generally perceived. Building Waterloo Region hopes to change this and cast a spotlight on architecture and design excellence through a series of events.

The calendar is ambitious. From walking tours, to a grand list of participating venues, you can engage in the festival for the entire summer. Certainly I have some highlights:

  • First builders is a walking tour that will wind us through the 10,000 years of settlement in Waterloo Region. It culminates with three sites that all have displays about different building styles in the Region focusing on the Longhouse, the traditional settler building, and modern eco-sustainable techniques.
  • Ex Industria is a particular tear at the heartstrings. If you go up to the top floor of Kitchener City Hall – into the cafe, you can see up to a dozen factories in the city centre. Ex Industria is an exhibit that focuses on the industrial development of Waterloo Region using maps, drawings, models and digital reconstructions. This one will be at Design at Riverside/Ideas Exchange.
  • No Small Plans: Award winning buildings in Waterloo Region 1982-2014 will take a look at award-winning buildings in Waterloo Region. The site says it best: “Waterloo Region is home to more major award-winning buildings than any other municipality in Canada save the three largest metropolitan centres: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. This concentration of design excellence is one of the hallmarks of the Region and is increasingly important in maintaining its position as an attractive community with an active culture, a lively urban environment and an excellent quality of life.”

The best things is that you can walk into just about every museum or cultural space in the Region and they will have some offering. The festival will also be bringing speakers and lectures including renown architect, Alison Brooks.

Their calendar features events throughout the summer, including ones for the kids. Even if you don’t try to make it to this festival, you are likely to stumble upon it somewhere. However, I do emphatically recommend getting to their Gaukel Street hub: A Christie Digital projection will feature a special exhibit on the virtual plane – and from what I hear, it will be exceptional.

More than music and sound, Open Ears is a full calendar of art

My favourite festivals are soon to start. We are right around the corner from CAFKA and Open Ears.

I will be running photos and reviews about the art of CAFKA as I stumble upon it in my journeys through downtown.

Open Ears is a less simple event to describe before seeing. When I try to talk about it, I like to describe it as a full orchestra of intrigue presented in a calendar of events related by brilliant curation.

Sound is all around us. From the droning of in-building HVAC and fans, to outdoor constancy of cars, wildlife, winds, we are constantly tuning out by being constantly tuned in.

From June 5 – 15 we will be asked to open our ears and tune back in. The full calendar will include a trio of new Canadian operas. Think of it… when was the last time you heard a new opera.

Another highlight is a presentation of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit. This play was written by Iranian author Nassim Soleimonpour. Up until recently, he had never seen the play that he had written. This play is presented in a novel format: The readers of the play are not given the script until they are ready to go on stage. There they see it for the first time as they read it live. The nature of this transcends the disconnect of a playwright who for years was never able to see his creation. The echo of the unrehearsed voice mirroring the voice of the censored writer… a truly revolutionary piece of theatre.

Open Ears will be presenting it read by Majdi Bou Matar – multi-talented artistic director of the MT Space, Nora YoungCBC tech culture personality, Mike Farwell – radio host, Kitchener Rangers announcer and local philanthropist, and Grace Lynn Kungactor from the cult film Hypercube, and starred in Being Erica and InSecurity.

I will leave you with a final highlight. What is sure to be a pleasing presentation is by artist Shary Boyle. This outstanding artist was featured at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Boyle will be bringing new work to Open Ears, but here’s a taste of a previous work.

Open your mind at Open Ears

Tim Grier and I caught up with Gregory Oh – the artistic director from Open Ears. We had a wee chat with him about the upcoming festival.  Here’s a bit of a video. As for the written content of this blog post, I do think Oh describes the experience of the festival best in his own words.

“I think we walk around on any given day and we’re not even aware of the sounds we hear. We hear sounds of construction and cars and we learn to tune things out …we learn to almost stop listening, because there’s so much happening in the world, and if you try to listen to everything you become oversaturated.

“But the danger there is that you close off your world to some very beautiful things, like church bells, or the sound of nature… I gotta say I love the sound of traffic and of people bustling around and of random conversations in the street.

“I think Open Ears is about always keeping yourself open to new experiences, always learning, always creating and …the world is an amazing place and you can just find things if you’ll just open up your ears….”

Cultures clash between mother and son in comedy Brimful of Asha

Brimful of Asha

Image from

Brimful of Asha by Why Not Theatre comes recommended by several sources – with high ratings from national and international critics. Within the first minutes of curtain it’s easy to see why.

We are welcomed into the Studio at Centre in the Square by friendly ushers who inform us that we should make sure we are ready to sit for 80 minutes without an intermission – those who leave will not be able to re-enter the theatre. This becomes important. In this production, not a single line, quip, or anecdote is extraneous, and the production itself is deeply immersive. They all weave together in a tapestry to create a big-picture story about an Indian son and his mother.

Asha (the mother) was born in India. She moved to Canada to be with her husband in the context of an arranged marriage. (Important – In Jainism, parents arrange marriages based on data about the individuals and their families… but the marriage does not happen unless both of the people to marry agree.) Her two sons are born in Canada, and the story unfolds to show not only how cultures cross with differences between Canadian and Indian expectations around marriage, but also how the characters are also prone to generational expectations in rapidly changing times.

Asha is not an actor (she tells us), but her son – theatre creator Ravi most definitely is. As he tells a story, he welcomes his mother to contribute her angle on the circumstance of marriage, and when she and Ravi’s father attempted to arrange a marriage for Ravi. Asha is not shy. Throughout the storytelling, she interjects and clarifies details according to her perspective and reckoning.

The set is minimal. An iridescent curtain of lush Indian fabric drapes the back drop, a digital display which serves the purpose of display of information hangs mid-way down the curtain. And finally, a table decorated with a cloth, set with tea and samosas complete the set. Upon entering, you are greeted by Ravi and Asha, offered a homemade samosa, and then welcomed to sit. This simple act has the effect of transporting the audience away from a theatre, and into Asha’s kitchen.

As the story is told, the display takes the form of a laptop: Showing bio-data for match-making of potential marriage partners, Facebook profiles, videos and photomontage of the family. The effect is clever and suits the immersive quality of the show. The fourth wall is non-existent.

Brimful of Asha is co-presented by the MT Space – a local theatre company that focuses on multiculturalism. One of most interesting aspects of this piece is how plural identities collide within a single Indian-Canadian family. Both characters find themselves clashing with their own identities as much as with each other. When it isn’t geographical, religious, traditional culture related, it’s generational.

The layers of depth beneath the light-hearted comedy left this audience member thinking deeply about the implications of assimilation, identity, progress, the things we have gained, and what we have lost – and how much we are willing to compromise.

The show runs at Centre in the Square until Saturday the 3rd of May, 2014.

Things you cannot buy at a big box store. Public art needs YOU!

CAFKA It Should Always Be This Way

I came here years ago as a software developer – then I left. I came back years later after living in legendary great communities: Toronto -Annex, Guelph, and Elora. So what brought a person deeply interested in innovation, technology and the arts back to this region?

The tech has been here for a long time. The institutionalisation of tech is a result of having the culmination of intelligences that build these things. Research In Motion (now Black Berry) was one piece of the puzzle. Add to it several interesting acquisitions by international tech firms and then we saw Microsoft, Oracle, Agfa and others… and then OpenText and more recently, Google and then other home-grown businesses and we became this.

I came back during a quiet time in tech development. And the thing that harnessed my imagination enough to move back was CAFKA Haptic in 2007.

I remember wandering through the city, knowing I needed a change and knowing that I could move anywhere in Ontario. The stunning public art – the stumbled upon feeling of discovering a great secret that was in plain sight had me excited with the possibility of what could be experienced here, which led me to the excitement of what could be built here.

CAFKA embraces that special essence of the city – that from scratch, barn raising, and marvel creating sense of innovation. The practice of enticing people into thought is the first step into enticing them into action – what will you build?

In this sense, this display of excellent public art was a game changer for a downtown recovering from economic downturns. People who would not normally come downtown had to motivate themselves into this space to see this work. You cannot buy a CAFKA experience at a big box, mall type suburb. You have to stand up and be counted. You have to take action.

Lord Kitchener

…to support public art. Lord Kitchener knows!

I suppose the real encouragement for me is seeing businesses recognise the importance of this event. CAFKA is in the middle of its Indiegogo fundraising campaign right now. I can spot several places of business that I will now consider supporting more, because they support such a wonderful community through public art. These businesses are game-changers. They recognise the importance of a downtown and the beautiful measures taken by a small organisation to to make it better.

I also see thought leaders, tech leaders, academics, young professionals all leading a charge to support art in Waterloo Region. I would love to see more. I mean, if we ever had a chance to show our commitment to greatness, here it is.

Waterloo Region, It Should Always Be This Way

Brandon Vickerd satelliteIn 2009, I stumbled upon a satellite that had tumbled out of the sky, tracing a dirt patch across the grass in the middle of Victoria Park. What conspired to have this man-made celestial body land in the middle Kitchener of all places? And more importantly, how come no news source was warning people about this object? Where were the RCMP or the FBI or whatever government body in charge of marshalling such instances? The situation seemed perfectly and completely out of control through the calmness surrounding what should be a big event. Turns out that the satellite was an installed sculpture by Brandon Vickerd called Satellite. No panic necessary.

CAFKA transforms the city into a landscape where art happens. Or… where one happens upon art. From a perfect replica of a shopping cart calmly floating about in Victoria Park lake (what shopping cart floats?) to ephemeral projected graffiti on the side of Kitchener City Hall, the streets, alleys, parks, public buildings shift away from the mundanity of everyday and turn into a journey through the unusual in our own backyard.

This year, CAFKA’s theme is “It Should Always Be This Way”. This theme absolutely endorses this artist run festival in its position as a beloved cultural event that has profoundly affected the community. The calibre of the art, the surreal presentation in the element of surprise in seeing a usual landscape made unusual, and the innovative offerings that encourage the mind to meander provides great escape, even if only over a lunch break from work.

This year, CAFKA is joining forces with Open Ears and a new festival of architecture called Building Waterloo Region. The three are joining forces to create a culmination of activity through May and June. This collaboration is pushing new boundaries in the unification of exhibit-based events combined with the performative nature of sound and music.

Open Ears has collaborated in the past with CAFKA with installation based sound events. The building of musical and sound experience through the drawing of talent from all over the world marries perfectly with the installations placed by CAFKA. In the period of a few days, Open Ears will open our minds and palates within the possibilities of sound. The sense of hearing – the one that alerts us to danger, coos us into love affairs, and provides soundtrack to our lives is profoundly transformed in a space of exploration and experimentation. Sound is one of the few senses that can never be turned off. Even when we try to remove sound, it can still be felt through the vibrations it creates. Open Ears plays in this space by building moments in which we can indulge in being present, alert, and in tune with this most captive, and taken for granted sense.

Building Waterloo Region is a naturally positioned festival celebrating development and innovation in the ever evolving liveable cities that are part of the Region. This festival will be located at several institutions and in surprising locations throughout the Region. More details will be released soon, and I can’t wait to explore the schedule being presented by this new endeavour in culture.

You can support CAFKA this in its pursuit of bringing excellent art to the Region of Waterloo in an Indiegogo campaign.

Waterloo Region Arts Reboot

After years of candid small group conversations divided by discipline about similar issues in the arts in Waterloo Region, an event is coming to head to discuss the particular challenges for artists and small arts organisations.

Boehmer Box art throwdown

Waterloo Region Arts Reboot

Who should come:

  • Are you an artist currently practising in Waterloo Region?
  • Are you a member of a small arts organisation in Waterloo Region?
  • Have you been a member of a collective or ad-hoc arts group in Waterloo Region?
  • Do you play music, make films, photograph, perform, act, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, or attempt any art in a semi-professional to professional capacity in Waterloo Region as an individual artist?
  • Have you ever applied for an arts grant or creative development grant in Waterloo Region?
  • Have you earned an income from a small arts practice in Waterloo Region?

This conversation is not aimed at larger arts organisations, museums or facilities. Nor is it aimed at caring arts loving culture workers, “creative business” folks or anyone else who is not currently facing the realities of making art on the ground level in Waterloo Region. This conversation is very specifically to organise and communicate challenges as a broader artist voice. It’s about community building amongst us; it’s about building strategy for going forward.

Not an individual artist or small arts organisation? What you can do to help:

  • Share this event with artists who fit the description
  • Share the event over social media
  • Come and volunteer at the event: help mediate and/or record the conversations, or help to host the event (food, drink, meet and greet etc.)

What is the desired outcome of this event?

  • To collect general data that represents diversity of practice in Waterloo Region concerning the art.
  • To organise structures in community to better support each other within and across disciplines.
  • To paint a picture of the reality of innovative practitioners in art in Waterloo Region.
  • To build solidarity across disciplines in the art.

Really, it’s about being honest and pushing past barriers… or at least making a gosh darned good attempt to do so. We are planning to build a report with our findings from this event, and plan future strategy building sessions. Join us!

10 Reasons to Live in Waterloo Region – The Art Junkie Perspective

I will admit it: I am addicted to creative culture. In light of the recent postings about Waterloo Region being cultural wastelands, I have been compelled to write about my home, and why I refuse to leave. (I have a previous post on why I moved here in the first place – “Why I moved here, why I stayed. Art matters in Waterloo Region“).

Boehmer Box art throwdown

1. Major Contemporary Arts Festivals

If you want to talk about “what’s in the water” in Waterloo, you have to look at the undeniable bent towards novelty. Kitchener supports major artist-run festivals in all major disciplines of the arts that have radically changed the cultural landscape of the Region.

  • CAFKA provides an international platform for art in public spaces. There is a rogue element – the surprise and unexpected sense of a landscape that has been tampered with by the avant-garde.
  • Open Ears broadens the space between our ears by bringing music and sound from the world over. Sit, listen and be changed.
  • IMPACT challenges the notions of performance. Whether its theatre that moves, or abstraction that begs questions, this contemporary theatre festival challenges the status quo.
  • Kultrun is a new festival that brings world music to our doorstep. The remarkable diversity of the region is highlighted through the music of the people who have come from around the world to make this region their home.

2. Kitchener Festival City

There’s a festival every weekend of the summer. Several of these represent diversity. We have a literature and storytelling festival (Latitudes), tri-Pride, Multicultural Festival, a festival that celebrates handmade, earth friendly things (Blooming Earth), a craft beer and rib festival, the new Night\Shift (a late fall art party), The Kitchener Blues Fest… If it’s a weekend in the city, and you are bored, it’s your fault.

3. Two major university and over 100 research centres

The depth of knowledge in this community can make your head spin. Meeting an expert is a common instance in this Region that is home to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. Through these, we have a Centre for International Governance and one of the top physics think tanks (PI) in the world. The prevalence of the later being so important and widespread that it trickles out to build community knowledge around a philosophical practice in quantum theory among the average citizen. From public lectures, the provision of live music from the prestigious Laurier music department, to the School of Architecture in Cambridge we rub shoulders with the best of the best of the thinking world just by living here and getting out of the house.

4. Major downtown parks

If you need an afternoon, or even a lunch hour of convalescence, why not wander down to Victoria Park, Waterloo Park, or the beautiful Grand River parks in Cambridge. With the several cafes in all of these cities, why not grab an expertly made cappuccino and fall in love with the beauty of these landscapes.

5. Food

Every city has a farmer’s market offering glorious produce, meats and cheese. Every city has well honed food culture and excellent restaurants. There is also a plethora of world food to explore in the form of small grocers (Thinking Mi Tienda Latina across from the Kitchener bus terminal and New City on King as two fine examples) and restaurants. Wander into one let your palate be amazed. From food journalism to food blogs, you can also be educated in what’s happening in Waterloo Region food. Check out Rare Republic or the Food in Waterloo Region Facebook group.

6. Cultural diversity

Waterloo Region, and especially Kitchener is the top secondary immigration location in Canada. That means people move to Canada, but choose here as their home. With programmes that help immigrants and new Canadians to settle, to arts and culture practices that embrace diversity, there is no wonder why this is a fact. You can walk down King St in Kitchener and not hear English spoken. This region provides possibility in work and cultural integration for many. We do have our growing pains, but this is something that makes living here truly great. 

7. Down at the pub, jiving in the cafe

Whether you want to silently be around others, or want to strike up a conversation, walk down to one of the many pubs that serve amazing craft beer. If it’s too early, or you don’t care to tipple, try the cafe culture in the city. This ties into food a bit, but think of the broader social aspect. Head into the Jane Bond (the only screen-free pub) to witness conversations about physics from the theorists who hang out there, drag yourself into Matter of Taste or Pyrus to smell java and art, hop to Imbibe to be on the bleeding edge of what’s happening downtown. We have award-winning baristas, and a great beerish taste served with philosophy and thought.

8. Small enough to be a town, grown large enough to be a city.

It’s the best of both worlds. If you live in one of the more vibrant communities in the city, you must leave an extra 10 minutes in your pedestrian commute to take in the things happening around you. Whether these are the people in your neighbourhood who have something to say, or some new rogue artist creating critical disturbance, or just to pause at something you need to look at sideways for a moment. The ever-changing high turnover presents newness, while the stayed long-term and rooted keeps a grounded feel. I used to joke: It took me 30 minutes to walk 5 minutes from my home to my favourite cafe.

9. Collaboration

If you come here as an artist, entrepreneur, or any other type that needs to learn the ropes, look no further than your competition. The spirit of collaboration is undeniable. Back to the previous point: It takes a village to raise a child. In this sense, if your creative passion is your child, you will have a village from the moment you look past your nose. The effort to build practices in Waterloo Region is great, and you can expect that yours will have all the help it needs right here in this community.

10. Unbreakable spirits and unquenchable desires to make things better

We have a vibrant activist community keeping us on our toes. We have a community of artists who choose, despite all hardships, to stay. We have an enormous amount of people who work hard every day to improve the daily existence in Waterloo Region. Like any other city, we are not without our problems. And in tough economies, large cities feel the weight of the population who call them home. The biggest difference here is that from city councils to the average person on the street, there are so many who work hard to make Waterloo Region more livable. Just go outside. You really don’t need to look to hard. And if you don’t see it, take your blinders off.

2,441 people respond to a survey in Kitchener. What does this actually mean?

The percentage of people who cared enough to respond to the survey who were strongly opposed to the statues project in the park is higher than the percentage that voted in any Canadian government ever. That record is 54.9% that won the Liberals the election in 1940. The voter turnout that placed Zehr in office in 2010 was 27.41% – and you can bet that not all of them voted for him (although he did quite well). Regional Chair Ken Seiling received 70,354 votes in 2010 with a population of around 553,000. That means 12.7% of the Region voted for Seiling – the number representing the entire population and not the voting public. The voting public of Waterloo Region is 355,857 – putting the number to roughly 19% – but according to voter turnout of 108,095 – Seiling was supported by 65% of people who turned up to vote – whopping good support, and significantly more than 19%.

Bad_MathThis is the game The Record is playing with the percentage they claim in the survey representation of the population of Kitchener. 2,441 people filled out the survey. 29,939 voted for Mayor Zehr at 79.17% of the popular vote. Roughly 20% of the people who voted for Zehr filled out the survey – making the survey numbers much more significant than the scant description in The Record.

Another way to look at it:

Total respondents to the survey about the statues 2,441 – Councillor Frank Etherington slid in with 1,689 votes in 2010 – 1,920 respondents opposed the statues – Councillor Etherington on a motion to stop the project: “I would suggest we’ve got 1,920 good reasons to support this motion.” 231 additional people against the statues than the amount of people who placed the Councillor who represents the entire park ward – elected in a well advertised election.

A full 79% of respondents were categorically against the statues project. 79% of people who cared enough to respond and who are represented by the officials that we elected – those hijacking counsellors. The Record editors – your trivialisation of the significance of this survey is an insult to the overwhelming voice of those who cared enough to respond. And on any measure, 2,441 is not a trivial amount of people. Imagine if even 20% of the 2,441 decided to show up to a council in session – that would be 488 eligible voters. Does council chamber even have capacity for that number? (**Note to The Record: If you want to use tricky math, don’t do it in a city full of people who love numbers and are armed with Google. It just makes you look bad, especially when you provided me with some of the data. Maybe next time you should consider that when you try to do your own analysis. But.. thanks?)