“I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person” insisted my Mom when I asked if I could write a piece on her knitting for social good. I’m persistent and she relented last week after I described how this might encourage other people to do what they love for a cause.
Before the term “maker” achieved its newfound meaning and popularity there was my Mom, Pat White, making things. She made excellent Halloween costumes. She made curtains and clothes. She knotted jute into macramé things. She knitted for the church bazaar. She did it all before YouTube and before you could order your supplies online. All this while running a household, starting a nursery school, and working all sorts of nursing jobs. She imprinted me with a model of working in the world and I grew up thinking this is what everyone did.
These hands are never idle. Mom’s latest project are these (hold your snickers) Twiddlemuffs for people living with Alzheimer’s. People with dementia are often restless and like to have something to keep their hands busy. Mom would know this from first-hand experience: she cared for her mum, my Gram, for seven years through Alzheimer’s.
Posted in making
Tagged knitting, Mom
A ran into my friend Tom Nagy a couple weeks back at the Jane’s Walk of public art in DTK. I know Tom from around The Jazz Room, around CAFKA, around Little Libraries KW, and the many other places our orbits intersect. I asked if Tom was gigging any time soon and he mentioned a new trio he was in called Trilencia with Juneyt and Don McDougall. They played their first gig together at The Boathouse in DTK last Sunday, so I took my entire crew down to see them.
The first thing you gotta know about Tom Nagy is he is a helluva nice guy. We both came out of BlackBerry where I knew his name only from email threads. It wasn’t until I started hanging around The Jazz Room that I put a face to the name. Here’s a younger version of Tom playing with Jason White.
Click through for a moderately unreasonable number of photos…
In the public square.
At King and Willis Way, this is Waterloo.
At sunset last night, rising from the chaos, for a moment 144 Park glowed.
At King and Allen, this is Waterloo.
The Governor General of Canada returned to UW campus yesterday to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Accelerator Centre. If memory serves, he was affectionately known as “DJ” among some students when he served as UW President from 1999 to 2010, though perhaps not in his company. He was greeted with what can only be characterized as love, complete with hugs, handshakes and backslaps.
My connection to all this seems tenuous when I type it. Aside from living two kilometres from campus for the past 20 years, I am forever quoting something I heard attributed to David Johnston about leadership: “Take all the blame; give away all the credit.” I try to practise this in my travels, shining a light on the lesser-known contributors in our community. I’ve not got a perfect record, but you gotta have goals. The funny thing is I don’t remember how I came by this credo. A little searching suggests that the Governor General probably didn’t invent this approach. But what I heard yesterday when he addressed the crowd was a man, standing on a research campus named after him, who completely and in some detail gave all credit to others. Credit for the inception and first ten years of the Accelerator Centre. Credit for the continued innovation and recognition of The University of Waterloo, now known around the world. Credit to the community in which all this has been possible.
A friend at the event, noting my rare sporting of a tie and dress shoes, said she didn’t figure me for this sort of gig with all the suits. I told her this short story and about the obligation I felt to be present, to listen, to clap and to welcome David Johnston who has made a massively positive impact on Waterloo Region. Respect!
Before I changed back into my more familiar t-shirt and jeans, I took an excessive number of photos. Click through for more…
Josh Bean (left) recently joined Waterloo’s Arts & Culture team. I met him through Jonathan Massimi, and considering they are both social activators coming out of Brantford, perhaps we should look to our southern neighbour and ask if they have any more they can send us.
Part of Josh’s job is to program the public square and we’ve been bouncing ideas off each other on how to most effectively engage the community in our respective gigs. I think the three basic ingredients are trust, a well-developed sense of humour and being a real and accessible person at street level. To the latter point, last week Josh sent me a Facebook link to this guy Thomas who is doing a date-while-you-wait at NYC subway stops. Josh started doing something along the same lines in Waterloo Public Square today to promote the upcoming Day of Play series and really just to engage people face to face. One of the first to play was the Queen of Zine, Ms. Ellie Anglin (above), who thought she didn’t have time to play, but changed her mind when I gave up my seat at the table. You’re wondering who won: no groaning when I say we’re all winners.
Especially delightful are the trophies and medals you can win playing against the “World’s Okayest Gamer”. Josh admitted to me when I got back in the game “I probably should have looked up some strategies for this game before coming out here.”
Click through for a mere 4 more pics…
I jumped on a walking tour of public art in downtown Kitchener on Saturday. I’m new, so I read: “Jane’s Walk is a movement of free, citizen-led walking tours inspired by Jane Jacobs. The walks get people to tell stories about their communities, explore their cities, and connect with neighbours.” It was Juanita Metzger who put me on to this and I’m so glad she did.
My friends (above) Stephen Lavigne and Michelle Purchase were at the wheel. They are both wickedly talented artists and both directors with CAFKA. They came well-equipped to talk about our community’s more permanent art like this piece “Aporia” above by artist Ed Zelenak. And happily they interleaved that discussion with a preview of the various installations of art that are coming for CAFKA.16, a top-notch biennial of art here in WR that you really must know about. CAFKA traces its roots back twenty years to 1996 and has been bringing some of the most thought-provoking visual art to the area for what is now a month-long string of exhibits, parties and tours. The work is typically *big*. It’s often edgy. It occasionally rouses rabble (thank goodness). And it is impermanent, so you gotta get out to see it while you can.
The TL;DR: it all kicks off May 28, go see one of the dozens of installations. CAFKA is really amping up the general public engagement on this iteration with ticketed/PWYC walk/cycle tours of exhibits as well as pub and coffee crawls to get around to see the art with a whole gang.
Interlude: if you dig my community-building work through these stories, please support it with your pocket change through Patreon. You can start/stop any time and set a monthly cap on your donation. This is how I buy gear and groceries so I can keep doing this work. Ok, back to the story.
Art at its best stretches our headspace. It challenges our biases and preconceived notions. It poses more questions than it answers. That’s the inherent good. It can also serve as a catalyst for street-level community building: it’s a reason to get together. I’m interested in both these aspects in equal measure. The theme of CAFKA.16 is “What we do together that we can’t do alone”. Seems like a good fit for me.
Posted in art, CAFKA
Tagged public art
The email in early April offered an “invite for you and a guest to our Media Exclusive launch and tour happening on May 1st.” Brew Donkey brew-tour + beer delivery service is apparently coming to WR in June. Owner/operator Brad Campeau (above, pouring) was looking to promote his Ottawa-based business by engaging some “proficient bloggers and taste makers” in this neck of the woods.
I often decline invites to unpaid business-related gigs, but in this case there were three factors that changed my mind: #1 Craft beer. It’s great. I’m not an informed connoisseur like my pal Jon Johnson (read his beer columns in TCE), but after 20 years of drinking mass beer I was thirsty for a change. #2 Brewing involves a lot of makerly engineering/chemistry/science which is fascinating. #3 Brewers are universally interesting characters. Oh, and one more: #4 Craft beer is a great social catalyst, a reason for us to get off our sofas and find each other. I formed that hypothesis when Block 3 opened and then confirmed it when I did a photo shoot at Innocente a couple years ago. So I said yes.
Interlude: if you dig these stories please consider kicking me a buck or two on Patreon. Or hire me. Or buy photos. This is how I buy groceries.
My wife Lisa tilts more toward white wine than beer. That combined with the 7-hour tour commitment led to my brohemus, Dave White becoming my +1. Lisa kindly dropped us off at…
The public square is the heart of any city. It’s the IRL gathering place. I have long loved Kitchener’s square, connected as it is to City Hall: the building for the people. I’m getting to like and know better Cambridge’s public square in front of City Hall on Dickson Street, bounded by beautiful heritage buildings. And then there’s the public square in my city: Waterloo. It’s a block from City Hall and fronts a shopping mall. It’s a bit small and still awaits the water feature deferred in 2009 after cost overruns. But it’s ours! Only 7 years ago it was a parking lot and now we have something better.
I camp here frequently, camera ready, and slow-watch life unfold. I’ve photographed amazing jugglers here and skaters of both kinds. I’ve also made unreasonably loud animal noises in the square. I’m not a big fan of the big fests, preferring to come around just any old day. It’s interesting to watch the emergent behaviour within the square, the unstructured play.
As I sit and watch, I think about how I can contribute to make this better. And my thoughts range from the pragmatic to the aspirational. I don’t want to burn energy complaining, but rather focus on what could be. To that end, yesterday I walked a couple blocks up from Distillery Labs to the square with my bag lunch and just observed for an hour. In that time, I met and shot Will (above, thanks dude). My friend and Record photog David Bebee passed by on assignment and we had a brief chat.
Last week, Sarah bought a drawing done by my brother, David G. White. High five for purchasing original local art! In doing so, Sarah is supporting the work, and more broadly the creative fabric of the community. You’ll forgive me if that sounds grandiose, but this is a key component of sustainability in what I know to be a community rich with many strong art practices generating a lot of great work.
Way back in 2011, I started volunteering a bit with Jacqui Murphy’s Art Allies effort. One of the valuable takeaways from that experience was an unabashed approach to actually selling the art. It’s a part of the domain that my brother comprehensively and vigorously eschews. That’s more common among practicing artists than you’d think. No amount of my cajoling makes him feel any easier about showing his work or talking about it. My left-brain reckons that if you sell a piece then you can buy more materials and carve out time to do more work and ideally it becomes self-sustaining. But that’s an easy position to take when it’s not your work out there for public opinion.
Some of the external hurdles to selling art are possibly non-obvious to the uninitiated. Traditional galleries typically take a 50% cut of art sales. Galleries sometimes require geographic exclusivity in representing an artist and then you’re relying on them to advocate for you and get you paid. Finding a gallery that fits with your work and who actually wants you can be a challenge, too.
Something I learned volunteering with Cathy Farwell on the BOX Art Show & Sale is that you build can your own mechanism for putting art in front of people. In that creative guerrilla spirit, one sunny Sunday back in November last year, we hung Dave’s work in Distillery Labs with some much appreciated help from our friend Josh Hillis.