Weird Canada building culture–KWAG Drawathon

WeirdCanada Drawathon at KWAG 014-

Weird Canada, along with some help from KWAG, Equitable Life, and Wellington Brewery put together exactly the type of event that I’ve been soapboxing as an awesome and most effective way to extend the cultural ecosystem. This second annual Drawathon on Saturday ran from noon until midnight, spanned age demographics from young to old(er), and actively encouraged participation in creation (rhyme!).

Here’s my niece Alex who I serendipitously discovered at this event mid-afternoon. She heard about this through a teacher at KCI, which as we know has a really strong arts program. Anam Latif wrote this up in The Record. I found out about it because organizer Marie LeBlanc Flanagan reached out after stopping by my makebright booth at Communitech during the MaRS Studio Y visit a couple weeks back.

There seems to be substantial agreement that a rich cultural fabric is good for life in general, and is the most critical limiting factor on the growth of our Region with respect to talent attraction. How to actually work on said fabric has led to a lot of head-scratching, expensive studies, administrative overhead, and nervous sideways looks when we try to figure who will fund this development. It’s simple: let’s do 200 events that look like this. Not only drawathons, and Open Jams + artist-of-the-week, and heavy metal breakfasts, and DIYDAYs, but more more more! BluesFest, JazzFest, Kultrun, Oktoberfest are all great, but they are short-duration, big, and expensive. An excellent complement to these big anchors are small, low-overhead, inexpensive, unique, funky, risky, experimental gigs. It’s so simple.

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Hub Haps #007-Alexis Ohanian in the Communitech house


reddit founder, Y Combinator partner, and now podcaster, Alexis Ohanian dropped in for Techtoberfest at Communitech yesterday along with his film crew, all the way from Brooklyn. This is the third Techtoberfest he has hit here, so he must be seeing something he likes. Check out his new thing: NYRD Radio.

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1shot #197-King and Queen


KFD on the job last night.

At King and Queen, this is Kitchener.


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Hub Haps #006-orange you glad for these bikes?


Y’all know I love bikes. Happily, this week saw the installation of a new Community Access Bikeshare station out in front of my favourite haunt, the Communitech Hub. Another instance of the great stuff coming out of The Working Centre and a concrete step supporting alternatives to the car. Catherine Thompson wrote it up in The Record.

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DIYDAY2-awesome returns Nov 1


Hey WR, my friend Marc Lecompte, an unsung pillar of the local creative ecosystem is putting on a second edition of his awesome gathering of makers last year: it’s DIYDAY2, coming Saturday, November 1st at Chainsaw. Noon to 5pm. You really gotta go to this to understand the vibe.

I hear a lot of talk about “place-making” and the importance of a diverse cultural fabric in our region’s economic prosperity. Well, gentle readers, this is where the rubber hits the road. Marc and 30 makers, musicians, and characters of all kind are putting it out there Nov 1. No focus sessions, no consultations, no giant plan, all GSD. Come out and drop a couple sawbucks on a content creator.

This is Waterloo.


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Heads-up for the Premier

Premier Wynne scrum 2014-10-10-134

Heads-up for the Premier” was the quintessentially Canadian phrase I heard from the hallway right before Premier Kathleen Wynne walked into the scrum set up at CIGI on Friday. I was shooting the CityAge conference and just tagged along to the scrum after the Premier addressed conference attendees. Regular readers know I am fascinated by the meta level of media capture, leading me to frequently shoot photographers shooting something else. This scrum was no exception.

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World Press Photography exhibit in TO for 1 more week

World Press Photography Show 2014 - Toronto 028

Before leaving Toronto on Monday, I hit the World Press Photography exhibit at Brookfield Place on Bay Street. The show blew my hair back. If you have doubts about whether still photos can move people, see this show. It is on until Tuesday, October 21. Open 9am-9pm every day.

Sure, you can browse the winners on the web, but it’s a whole different experience to be in front of the five-foot-wide prints in all the sunlight streaming down. Got me right in the gut.

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1shot #196-gleaming rivers on Front Street

Toronto weekend 078

In Toronto, walking back to the hotel from Union Station, I found nearly the entire intersection at Front and York Streets dug up and covered with poly. The night light made it look like water. Like gleaming rivers of plastic. The next morning the road was open and freshly paved as if it had all been a dream.


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Hub Haps #005-music+beer+fun is good for business

Hub Unplugged Oct 2014-368

I hit the monthly Hub Unplugged event last night at Communitech. Live music, drinks, lots of connections. For all the talk in the community at large of the necessity of creating a fun place that attracts and retains the talent necessary to instantiate a supercluster, this little shindig is a concrete and recurring example of getting shit done. I’m going to talk more in the next few weeks about moving from recognition to talk to action on so-called “place-making”, so for now just look at the totally unnecessary number of photos that follow.

Oh, and if the white balance looks whacked in these photos, that’s because it is. The Hub offers awesome camaraderie as well as three(!) temperatures of light: big windows for daylight, some ginormous sodium lights, and more aesthetic compact fluorescents.  For this shoot, I wasn’t interested in blasting people with strobes, so I did the best I could.


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MaRS Studio Y visits Communitech

Studio Y at The Tannery 070

My very good friend Cathy Brothers, CEO of Capacity Canada, connected me with an opportunity to participate in a speed-dating meetup today. The dates were with a great bunch of social change agents from the MaRS Studio Y Cohort 2. These bright young(er) minds visited from Toronto, touring Communitech and finding out what all the hubbub is about in Waterloo Region. By the time we wrapped up mid-afternoon, I heard more than one participant say they would consider moving to WR. When that comes up, I smile and think we’re doing the right things and we’re effectively communicating what we’re about as a community.

Studio Y is a government-funded 8-month fellowship that provides support for leadership learning. Now when Cathy Brothers calls, my only question is “How can I help?” After I read the participant bios, I was doubly-glad to contribute. We had some short talks from a few local groups followed by 5-minute rounds of participants moving between stations, including my coffee-fueled, speed-talkin’ makebright table.

The TL;DR on this one: the future looks very bright.

Before I turn you loose on the marginally unreasonable number of photos, let me specifically call out Leanne O’Donnell of Social Venture Partners Waterloo Region who organized a good deal of this afternoon and was my primary contact. If all event logistics included the clear, complete, and timely communication plus the on-site delivery of promised setup that Leanne provided, well then a happier world it would be. Merci beaucoup!

On to the pics…

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