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.
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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.

NOTE:

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

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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

Tundra

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.

Floodplain

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.

Grove

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.

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. 

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And finally… Shoes.

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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

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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 http://theatrewhynot.org/brimful/

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.