Art + awareness–toward safe affordable housing


I’m thinking about three things for the whole community: accessible mental health care, food security and safe, affordable housing. I’m woefully under-informed in all of these domains, but I’m a pretty good listener. I hit the Outsider Art Show on Sunday afternoon at Kitchener City Hall to learn something and take in some art by artists who have experienced homelessness.

If you need a TL;DR:
1. Support oneROOF helping youth
2. Check out Homeless in Waterloo stories


Here’s Michaela Panchaud, Director of Homeless In Waterloo. Along with her crew, she hosted this show of art. The $4 cover went to oneROOF and any proceeds from the art auction go entirely back to the artist. HiW is not incorporated, but rather an around-the-kitchen-table type of organization: just my style. I saw their stories emerge last year on Facebook, engaging homeless people to tell a fragment of their story. Those stories personalized their plight and made think more about the broader problem. It’s immaterial that this isn’t a novel approach. What matters is that they are *doing* it.

Continue reading

Posted in community | Tagged | Comments Off on Art + awareness–toward safe affordable housing

On a personal note: people helping people


“It’s just people helping people”, he said, and I rolled my teenage eyes. We had moved an altogether-too-big-for-the-truck horse-drawn sleigh to a friend’s flower shop in Sarnia to serve as a Christmas display. I was along for the job as muscle and shifted impatiently as the shop owner tried to pay my Pop for the assistance or at least send him home with an armload of flowers, which he refused. These impossible (or at least improbable) missions were his favourite, cheerfully done for thanks alone.

Continue reading

Posted in personal | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sustaining community jams

Goudies Lane - 2017-06-01 058_900px
Eric Rumble, Night\Shift founder and festival director

On Sunday afternoon, I read the farewell for Downtown Kitchener cultural mashup event: Night\Shift. My friend, Eric Rumble, N\S founder and festival director, offered a familiar explanation, one with which I can sympathize. Sustaining community events on a volunteer basis is a metric tonne of work, that on a longer timeline is difficult to reconcile with day jobs, family commitments, personal projects and occasionally getting a day to just chill.

Before sharing a few thoughts of my own on this, I’ll give you a TL;DR:

1. Big thanks to Eric and crew for 5(!) years of hard work and new experiences.
2. If you like the work: support the work. On-now/upcoming events/efforts: Irish Real Life Festival, Maker Expo, CAFKA18Art$Pay, Summer Lights Festival and a whole lot more. Every jam I’ve ever worked on here in WR has needed: you to participate, you to promote, you to help organize and you to help fund. If you like the work: support the work.

NightShift light bike photo booth 087NightShift light bike photo booth 085NightShift light bike photo booth 097

Night\Shift 2013 – “Show Us Yer Bike Face” installation by Darin White and Joe Martz 

The news about Night\Shift comes close on the heels of the end (or uncertain future) of Cambridge Arts Fest, Cambridge International Street Art Fest and FLASH Photography Show. Over the past 9 years that I’ve been paying attention, I’ve seen our cultural fortunes rise and fall like a sine wave. It gets me pondering what changes might make it easier for us to start, grow and sustain cultural events as a community…

Continue reading

Posted in community | Tagged | 3 Comments

I remember



Back row, centre: George Foster, my grandfather. A pivotal figure in my life.

I remember every day.

Continue reading

Posted in personal | Tagged , , | Comments Off on I remember

The best art changes us


On Monday, I wandered through the cold, slick autumn night to hear artist Don Miller talk. The CAFKA Rewind series of talks at WPL, piquing your curiosity between biennials, brings back CAFKA alumni to talk about their work and in Don’s case that 2014 work caused a substantial hullabaloo in town.

His quarter-acre-sized installation called Saturn and Cronus involved a takeover of two condemned houses bordering on Victoria Park and painting them (and everything) either black or white. That piece really blew my hair back when I visited the site during its creation. And therein is the TL;DR: the best art changes us. I was a slightly different person walking away from that site than I was walking into it. It was the biggest expression of art I had seen in Waterloo Region. Still is, I reckon. This big, audacious work, executed to the extreme of painting the grass, shrubs, trees, roof and discarded lawn furniture torqued my brain. “How is this possible?” I wondered as I stood between the black and white. I thought about artistic interpretations and obvious technical hurdles. I thought about the will required to see this endeavour through the small but vocal opposition and the municipal bureaucracy. And I thought about the collaboration required to figure this out. This stark illustration of the difference between an idea and a done thing.

It is this search for the best art that gets my feet on the street, dropping my nets time and again to catch and release so much and then, with luck, to find the transformational stuff. For me, this is that. And so I was delighted that Don came back to town to talk about this piece, no longer under the gun of a deadline and with the benefit of time for reflecting.

I’ve got a quasi-reasonable number of photos old and new on this if you read on, but first to Don: thanks and respect. And to all the tireless workers within the CAFKA family: thank you for the hundreds of hours you put in to bring us big work to experience and for maintaining a course that takes us out of the ordinary.

Continue reading

Posted in art | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Toronto Maker Festival 2017 coming this weekend!

Maker Festival 2016 - Day 1 085

Hey WR, the very excellent Toronto Maker Festival is coming this weekend to the other end of the Waterloo Region/Toronto *maker* corridor. You should go. 9-5Sat/10-5Sun, free-no-pay, tons of hands-on making at the fantabulous Toronto Reference Library on Yonge north of Bloor.

Here are an unreasonable number of photos from last year’s event to give you a flavour of what you’ll experience and encourage you to leave your sofa and go east this weekend. A leaping high five and thank you to my meta-making pals Jen, Ceda, Eric and their crew who organize the Festival.

Above, one of my fave installations was this bike-powered pottery wheel. Many clay pots made and many muscles toned.

Click through for more…

Continue reading

Posted in event, the make-o-sphere | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Toronto Maker Festival 2017 coming this weekend!

Community experiments in DTK

Goudies Lane - 2017-06-01 029

If you know me at all, you know I love experiments. Especially social experiments.

Brohemus and I dropped by Goudies Lane in DTK on Thursday for what was billed as “First Thursday at Goudies Lane People-only Pocket”. The general idea is to limit traffic to the pedestrian kind entering the lane off Queen Street, put out some tables and chairs, get some music and painting going and see what happens. Well, the TL;DR is a lot of people passed through or hung out in the lane, chatting and eating. Together. So *that’s* a data point. And it jives with my experience that we learn way more about community building by *trying* approaches rather than *talking* about approaches. So hats off to the doers, the social innovators, the risk takers who must defend the spend on this gig. In fact, there was a lot of surveying and focus-grouping and input-getting that got us to here, but I just want to show the doing. Here’s the story from Catherine Thompson leading up to this event. Watch for the next one, first Thursday of July. In the lane.

More interesting than bistro tables or food vendors is painting on walls with spray cans, and that is what I first saw. I rarely forget a face I’ve photographed…

Goudies Lane - 2017-06-01 007

and even partially hidden behind a respirator, I can tell this is Whos One. I first photographed him in the Laurier Library where he was exhibiting his work in 2015. Then last summer, I caught him painting riverside at the Cambridge International Street Art Fest. He’s part of The Firm, and you can follow their work on Instagram and Facebook. Hire them here.

Goudies Lane - 2017-06-01 066

Perfect evening for casual chats.

Continue reading

Posted in event | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Community experiments in DTK

Grand Porch Party 2017–coming June 11 to Uptown West

Grand Porch Party 2016 047

If you’re new and don’t know about The Grand Porch Party, get this in your calendar right now: Sunday, June 11, 2017 2pm-5pm in Uptown Waterloo West (more specifically: here). It’s porches + live music. It’s free-no-pay, hipster-friendly, dog-friendly, wheelchair-friendly, kid-friendly, teenager-friendly, well you get the idea. If you can, buy merch from the players. I’ve been loving this super-chill neighbourhood jam for five years now.

I dug up a few pics from *last* year so I could show you what awaits.

Here’s Rufus and Sam. Unfortunately-placed water bottles aside, these guys are the top shot for this piece because, man, they can *sing* and play. Serious talent. And here’s the hard part for you: when you find someone you really like, you’re going to be torn between sticking with them through their whole set or moving up the block to hear other artists. That three hours goes by quickly.

Grand Porch Party 2016 052


Grand Porch Party 2016 060

I see Colin. Hey, click through for a completely reasonable 8 additional pics from last year, but most importantly, get yourself to the Grand Porch Party on June 11 and bring your friends. Big shout out to the organizers, volunteers, sponsors, porch providers and musicians who make it happen.


Continue reading

Posted in music | Tagged , | Comments Off on Grand Porch Party 2017–coming June 11 to Uptown West

Another Tri-City Stopgap art popup starts today

Tricity Stopgap 2017 - setup 141

What: 40 artists showing work in the back of ZM Cycle and Fitness
When: today+ Tue-Sat (see facebook for hours, I will be tending the show Wed 3:30-6pm)
Party: May 27, 2017, 7pm
Where: 131 Strange Street, Kitchener (map link)
Really where: go all the way down the right side of the building all the way to the back
Park: some parking in the **back** lot at 131, some street parking on Waverly or Cherry
Bike: Iron Horse Trail, then east on Gage, cut through school yard to Strange
Transit: #7 gets you to Park and Dominion, #31 gets you to Park+Glasgow, 23 min walk from Charles Terminal/DTK
Who: organized by Tri-City Stopgap artist collective (Mike Ambedian, Nadine Badran, Sheila McMath)
Cost: free-no-pay

Here’s Mike hanging work on Saturday.

Interlude: if you dig my community-building work through these stories, please consider supporting it with your pocket change. My awesome patrons help me pay for the gear, software and services I need to get this work in front of you. Shout to new patron Tom Nagy! Ok, on with the story!


Tricity Stopgap 2017 - setup 035

I stopped in a bit earlier in the week on Thursday to see how things were going. Totally different venue this time, same great people making it happen.

The TL;DR: come to the party on Saturday night, 7pm. It will be fun.

The Tri-City Stopgap first did a popup show back in 2014. It was terrific. Great mix of artists and work, which I gather is sort of the point. Same deal this time. This crew attracts talent across a broad range of experience. Same deal this time. It feels like a show by artists for artists. Mike, Nadine and Sheila are just the nicest bunch of people you’ll meet. Super-chill. For me, it felt like a perfect opportunity to try out some non-representational work out of recent experiments in the studio.

Speaking recently with Mike, he noted that finding a venue and especially one owned by someone who understands the idea of a pop-up is challenging. In this case, the match up of art with cycling under one roof for a week seems like a good fit toward making the world a better place. Mike asked me if I could imagine this as an artist-run space and I told him I would always answer yes to that question, wherever we stand. If you’ve got space and would like to support a popup show, come to the party and meet the crew and see firsthand what it looks like. Then connect with

Click through for a few more pics…

Continue reading

Posted in art | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Another Tri-City Stopgap art popup starts today

Open Jam at The Jazz Room

The Jazz Room - Open Jam - 2017-04-29 051

Andriy Tikhonov (left) along with Steve Montgomery, a director with the Grand River Jazz Society and sound engineer Jeremy Bernard tried a social/musical experiment on Saturday: they hosted an open jam for jazz and blues players at The Jazz Room in uptown Waterloo. And, TL;DR: it was terrific, another one is likely, you should go.

I caught wind of this via Jason White, my jazz-playin’ brother from another mother, in a Facebook post on Wednesday. And with scant details, I showed up and shot some pics, because as we always say here: if you like the work, support the work.

Speaking of support: if you dig my community-building work through these stories, please consider supporting it with your pocket change. My awesome patrons help me pay for the gear, software and services I need to get this work in front of you. Shout out with deep thanks to James, Ben, Michelle, Donna, Glenn, Chris, Vince, Ursula, Rob, Matt, Eric, Agnes, Jon, John, John, Jeremy, Karen, Cam, Daryl and Brent.  If your name’s not on the list, high five somebody’s whose is: they sponsored this piece. Ok, on with the story!

The Jazz Room - Open Jam - 2017-04-29 020

I’ve intersected orbits periodically with The Jazz Room since it’s birth back in 2011 when I first met Stephen Preece (Pres. of the board of directors). Such was my enthusiasm for this great new thing, that I wrote several community-investment pieces including the building of this stage and the refurbishing of this piano, both shown above.

There’s violinist Erik whom I met on King Street a year ago. Click through for a substantially unreasonable number of pics…

Continue reading

Posted in jazz, music | Tagged , | 2 Comments