Art$Pay: where artists + [biz|tech|community] meet

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I’ve been helping Cathy Farwell on a project called Art$Pay. The idea is to connect artists with paying work and to connect the community with great local artists.
The TL;DR: we’re all meeting up at Descendants brewery tonight at 7pm. Yer invited (and disregard the “sold-out” on eventbrite, tell ‘em I sent you).

A big part of starting anything new is getting the word out. To that end, Cathy enlisted help creating a video and assembled artists, curators, property developers, community activators and… me to introduce Art$Pay and kick off the experiment. I hung around the studio during the shoot and did some shooting of my own. Oh hey, if you’re looking for more info, the web site launches tonight and you’ll find it here: and on facebook and twitter and instagram

My friend Pamela Rojas (above) is about the nicest person you’ll ever meet and she’s a helluva great artist, working out of her digs at Globe Studios (you’re going to their open house Fri/Sat, right?) You might have seen her giant community mural projects around WR. The latest one was painted on a business at University Ave and Regina.

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Got a bunch of pics for you on the other side, but ya know, the best way to find out about this is to just show up tonight. Descendants is on Victoria near Lancaster in Kitchener. If you haven’t been, well now you’ve got another reason to get out tonight because Leigh and Robin run a great joint and they completely get community.

More pics…

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Nader: it takes less than 1% of the people to make change

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I drove to Brantford last night on a solo trip to hear consumer advocate legend Ralph Nader speak about corporate corruption. Shout out to Laurier for making that happen and making it freely available to the community.

The TL;DR: it takes less than 1% of the people, getting organized, to make significant positive change that may initially seem impossible.

Nader noted that in all of his endeavours, from improving automotive safety to fighting for safer workplaces, all of these were achieved with a relative handful of people who exercised concentration, imagination and curiosity. It was an encouraging call to action. Quoting Cicero, he noted that “Freedom is participation in power.”

I particularly liked Nader’s range between the philosophical and practical. He observed that we have become an increasingly distracted society. But he suggested it was changeable.  “Many people have a hobby, and I’m told they spend about 500 hours and $500 every year on that hobby. Now what if some of those people took up the hobby of preserving democracy?” Nader asked, eliciting chuckles from the audience. With diligent organization, he said, those people might pay attention to what’s happening in their community and country and then formulate their own platform. Then that group could invite their elected government representative to hear that platform and take it forward.

Nader also ranged between the troubling and the humorous. He described the high levels of sophistication employed by trans-national corporations to increase profit and eliminate accountability. I thought I was pretty well-versed in that domain, but I learned of some practices that I’ll need to read up on. In the I-don’t-think-he’s-joking department: Nader suggested that any well-heeled philanthropists in the audience could substantially help the United States by sending busloads of Canadians to tour the US and impart Canadian values. In fact, he wrote a book titled “Canada Firsts”, which details among other things our universal healthcare system. Myself, a proud Canadian, I think I’ll keep staving off any post-US-election smugness by carefully studying the history of my own country.

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Earlier in the week, I met for coffee with my good friend Jack Jackowetz, a Brantford local, and he promised my first-time visit to this venue, the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, would impress me. He was correct. Thanks to Jack and Anne for saving me a seat. I also need to thank my friend Gord for connecting me with one of the free tickets, necessitated by my procrastination in seeking out the U-Desk at Laurier’s Waterloo campus.

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After the talk…

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Mr Nader was signing books…

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and posing for fan photos.

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I wandered out into the night…

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leaving the long line of signature seekers, and heading toward home, my head crackling with ideas.

On Dalhousie Street, this is Brantford.


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My happy 7-hour weekend wandering: Night\Shift

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My friend Eric Rumble runs Night\Shift, which for the uninitiated is a (now) multi-day installation/expression/performance of art/music/food/theatre. That went off Saturday night in downtown Kitchener. Between feet-on-the-street at 7pm and my delightfully exhausted collapse back into the car at 2am, I had a lot of interesting experiences quite unlike anything else that happens here. And even more important were the many serendipitous meetings and chats with the characters of WR. So the TL;DR here is simply: thanks a lot, Rumble & Co.

I lugged my gear around with me the whole night because, ya know: photography-as-community-building-tool. And maybe if I show you something, you’ll go next year. Or sponsor. Or high-five Rumble on King Street.

Interlude: if you dig my community-building work through these stories, please support it with your pocket change. Shout out to my new patrons Glenn Wurster and Donna Litt, who get what I’m doing. And heartfelt thanks to all my patrons: while we are small in number (19 out of 500000), we are big on vision. On with the story!

Above, in the Kitchener City Hall rotunda, was Dylan Reibling’s installation 24 Hour Dolly. (There’s Dylan, top left, in plaid) I spent more than 2 hours hovering on the fringes of this piece, just fascinated. Such a simple construct. I didn’t really get it until I saw it in action. You could just hop up on the plinth and the circling camera operator would film you in a most delightfully cinematic way with an enviable rig. There was this resonance with my own approach, reflecting back to the community images of everyday folks, so genuine. This is us.

Click through for not-the-most-outrageous-number of pics I’ve ever posted…

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Waldo found: the man beneath the tuque

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Last Friday after an early-evening coffee, Brohemus and I wandered into the public square uptown as we’ve been known to do. Here we found my friend and City of Waterloo’s Festival and Events Specialist, Mr. Josh Bean. Josh programs the square and regular readers may remember him inviting passers-by to play board games back in the spring.

To follow along with this costumed character of civic engagement you should check out the Create Waterloo fb page, which seems to offer the most current info.

Josh cooked up this Waldo costume to *live* the job for his/our pre-Halloween Scare in the Square event, highlighting the first of three things I really like about him: a well-developed sense of humour

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1-hour film challenge: making filmmakers

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Last Saturday I got down to the Apollo Cinema to catch the screening of nine short films made by filmmakers in one short hour. My friend Duncan Finnigan (left) put out the call in October, inviting anyone to come up with an idea and start the clock when they push “Record” on their camera. Of course where you find Duncan, you often find fellow filmmaker Lyndon Horsfall (right), and vice versa. I like their think-it-up-and-do-it approach to community engagement.

The TL;DR: this is a good thing, encouraging people to try out their filmmaking chops. The next round of films screen at the end of January, so you can submit your own. Their effort could use a little sponsorship, so if you like the work, support the work.

Speaking of sponsors, this jam was helped along by the Grand River Film Festival, Centre in the Square and the venerable Ed Video out of Guelph.

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No surprise to you DTKers: the films were up on the big screen at Apollo Cinema.

Got a completely reasonable number of pics on the other side for ya…

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1shot #264-Centre stage


With only a single floor lamp on stage and an empty house, I thought of every Fellini movie I’ve ever seen. Thanks to Adam Qualter and Debbie Currie for a peek on stage at Centre In The Square.

At Queen and Otto, this is Kitchener.


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Inside The Working Centre: toward understanding

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Sometimes I take very few photos so that I can listen better. And sometimes I need to ponder at some length what I have heard and experienced. This story emerges from a confluence of those conditions.

Here’s the preface: There is a lot of enthusiasm in WR for our growing prosperity, particularly in the tech domain. Arguably, that corner of our ecosystem paid for a good deal of the house in which I live and for that I am grateful. Regular readers know I’m very much a tech native and this post takes nothing away from that whole engine of economic development, nor from the joys of making/hacking/exploring within that delightful playground. In my travels over the past seven years, deeper into corners of this community, I’ve made three observations and one hypothesis. O#1: The need here is far greater than I imagined. O#2: A lot of people exist well outside the tech sector. O#3: I don’ t know jack about real need. H#1: For us to be whole, we must rise together as a community. So I set out to further educate myself and sort out how I might help make things better.

In mid-July, I spent four days with folks from The Working Centre for the first iteration of their Summer Institute. If you’re not familiar with The Working Centre, they are a 33-year old organization rooted in downtown Kitchener providing services, job skills/connections, affordable housing and more to our in-need community members. They are, in my experience, the most effective street-level player in this domain, bar none. They also share many aspects of my own personal ethos around the maker movement including self-determination, supporting skill-development and creatively applying minimal resources for a common good.

The Summer Institute consisted of a series of discussions and site visits through which I gained a more comprehensive understanding of what The Working Centre is and why it does what it does. The where’s and how’s were interesting, but best of all for me was the who. Sessions and tours were led by Stephanie Mancini, Rebecca Mancini and Joe Mancini as well as Heather Montgomery. Full-timers Kayli, Nathan, Leanne and Connie spent most of the time with us. Martin joined in on the weekend. The class consisted of local people as well as some from other cities/provinces.

I became increasingly aware of The Working Centre over the past several years through several of their places/projects. The Queen Street Commons Café, shown above in an after-hours moment of rare quiet, is one of those places I frequent for great food, coffee, meetings and events.

Like all TWC (apologies for the acronym) places and programs, the Café serves a variety of purposes, none of which is maximizing profit. Ideally it sustains itself financially so that it can serve the social mission of the organization. It is a community gathering point where you can get warm, cool or dry depending on your needs. It is steered by Kayli and Amy and other full-time staff along with the help of many volunteers. For some volunteers it may be their first job, a place to learn employable skills. It may be a place to practise English if you’re new to the community. It is definitely a place to belong. The Café hosts movie nights on Fridays and sells handmade goods and fair-trade coffee. A plant-based menu is cooked up in Maurita’s Kitchen (another TWC instance) across the street and shuttled by foot to the Café all year long. Meal prices are set low to welcome all, regardless of income. While you wait for your coffee, you are as likely to see tech worker as you are to see someone carrying all their worldly possessions in a backpack. I’ve seen property developers, artists, activists, city staff and some of my favourite photographers there.

The simplest TL;DR is: go buy a coffee there and see what’s cookin’. The second thing you should know is that there is a lot more to The Working Centre than meets the eye. In four days, I felt like we had just scratched the surface. But start with the coffee.

Click through for a few more thoughts and a very modest number of photos…

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Robert Langen Art Gallery opens with Egoyan and Rokeby

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Two weeks ago, the Robert Langen Art Gallery opened the first show within its new home at the Laurier Library. The capacity crowd enjoyed a performance/installation by the duo of Eve Egoyan and David Rokeby. I particularly liked that it was a cross-disciplinary mashup of visuals+music+tech.

I took a few photos, but before we get to that I’ll remind you one last time (ok, maybe a couple more times) about my photo exhibit in the Laurier Library with Stefan Rose and Stephen Orlando. Reception is tomorrow night, Thu/Oct20/7pm/free-no-pay. Join us. And be sure to check out this piece in the Gallery after you catch our photography.

Click through for a quasi-reasonable number of photos and light reading…

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Artist Steve Lavigne on tape

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My friend, artist Steve Lavigne is giving a talk on Wednesday night (Oct 19, 7pmf) at Open Sesame. I took a few shots at the opening reception for his In Finite Spaces exhibit last week. You can register here for the talk, which is a totally decent thing to do so the nice people at OS can anticipate how many chairs they’ll need.

This piece, Partial Cubic Unit, is made from tape. Yes, tape. Mad skills. You should go ask Steve questions about all this. I did.

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Steve, jacket and all.

Click through for a few more pics, but most importantly get out and hear his talk about his work. Oh, and then you can head two blocks across King to The Berlin where Ellie Anglin and Co are hosting a show upstairs they’re calling ART BLOC.

Now more…

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A thank you that reaffirmed my work

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Every once in a while, I get a thank you, so heartfelt that it stops me in my tracks and makes me remember why I started makebright back in 2010: to contribute something positive to the community, to have made a constructive difference through what I’ve done.

This is UW student Sameen Waseem. I included her in a story back in February when I visited Prof. Andy Trivett’s ME101 class while they tackled low-fi prototyping. At the end of the summer, I received this comment on makebright from Sameen:

“I am a Mechanical Engineering student at Waterloo University. You wrote a little about me in one of your articles and its been on my list all summer to thank you for using such kind words about me. It meant so much to me and the excitement of sharing it with my friends and my family was truly such a heart warming experience. I cannot explain how much of a difference it made, I actually had more motivation then ever to work hard towards my goals. I exceeded my expectations even if they weren’t the best in the eyes of others. So I would like to say thank you and that your work makes so much of a difference, maybe more than you realize.”

Here’s an excerpt from that Feb 2016 post:

This hand is made by Sameen and her group. Andy introduced Sameen as the maker who sorted out all 3D printing in WATiMake on a co-op workterm. She figured out all the optimal procedures and settings and documented the whole thing (though she laments that “nobody reads the documentation”). I asked what the big takeaway was from that experience and she said: use the laser cutter whenever possible. She said one of the best uses of the 3D printers was to make custom superhero cookie cutters.

I talked to her quite a bit about her experience as a woman in the predominantly male class. This is top of mind for me as my daughter Arden has her sights on UW Engineering in two years. Sameen said it’s important to just believe in yourself and what you want to do, even if your friends are doubtful of your choice of studying engineering. She added it was doubly hard as a woman from Pakistan to go into engineering, but she had a lot of encouragement from her dad. Yay dads! Sameen is hoping to land a co-op job at Formlabs (who make that awesome SLA printer we saw earlier in this post). I hope the folks there are paying attention because Sameen is a maker’s maker.


It feels a little self-serving to post this, like I’m going thank-you fishin’. But that’s not it. I’m not given to whinging on social media, but some days this community investment work is unfun and I smirk at myself and say, “Self, you signed up for this.” This day is not one of those days. It is, rather, a great day. Sameen, you’re very welcome. All the best in your studies and career.


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