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“).
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.
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.
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.