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.
Meta. We started the tour at the old courthouse on Frederick Street. Happy to see Tom and meet Andrea on the way from the car. It’s pretty easy to meet new people at these things. I met Ted who was familiar with some of my work for NUMUS. Trent and Juanita were there, as was Lauren. And I met Sarah who is working with CAFKA. Good to see Jude, always (read her RLB).
“Aporia”, installed in 1978, raised a lot of strong feelings. I think apathy is the only enemy when it comes to art *or* community. Interesting to learn that my old prof from the University of Guelph, Walter Bachinski, was short-listed as a potential artist for this site. My best lesson from him in the late 80’s was that real artists just get to work and don’t wait around for inspiration.
I’m seriously interested to see the upcoming CAFKA.16 installation “Machine Drawings” by Tristan Perich. It will be at Open Sesame on King Street. I’ve seen lots of drawing machines in my makerly travels, but I’m curious to see the effect of some of the random inputs to this one. Perich is also showing “1-Bit Symphony” which is a microcontroller-based audio generator mounted in a CD jewel case.
Michelle Purchase, print maker extraordinaire. She works out of Globe Studios and you’ll know her prints by the amazing treehouses-in-impossible-landscapes. Big thanks for all the work researching and putting this tour together.
Couldn’t resist including this shot. Felt like a reversed “American Gothic”.
Stephen Lavigne’s a very nice guy…
and a great artist in his own right. I first saw his working hanging at WalterFedy in 2013.
We headed over to the KWAG sculpture garden and checked out “Manitou” by Andreas Drenters and then an untitled piece by Alan Reynolds.
Further down Queen Street, Stephen showed us a photo of the CAFKA.16 piece “Akousmaflore” by Scenocosme. It will be installed at City Hall and consists of plants that generate music influenced by touch.
The KPL is home to a fantastic piece called…
“FLUX” by Deborah Moss and Edward Lam. This permanent piece in the KPL atrium is breath taking, and I rarely use that term. There are 20,000 screened polycarbonate sheets suspended in a cloud. What I didn’t know until this tour is that Edward died unexpectedly in 2013 before this work was completely installed. His wife Deborah saw it finished.
We found “Relocation and Transformation of Memory” by Allan MacKay at the corner of King and Benton. I’ve walked by this a hundred times since its 2009 installation and only understood it when Michelle explained that it’s an anamorphic image of how the corner looked in 2008. When you look at the reflection in the pillar the image appears undistorted.
Atop this parking garage for CAFKA.16, you’ll soon find “Untitled White Van” by the MAW Collective. While their surveillance van is non-functioning, it tackles similar questions that I took on with my PoleCam and subsequent DISCONNECT installation with Tony back in 2012.
The permanent sculpture here, “Pedestrian” by Ted Fullerton is one of my faves. It features these larger than life figures at street level and then up the side and on the roof of the parking structure behind. It’s a great reflection of all the DTK foot-travellers and the irony of pedestrians mounted to a car park is not lost on me. Michelle said this particular figure may need to move to accommodate road construction on Benton.
This is the Conrad Performing Arts Centre. I went here once in 2011 for an arts and culture rally. It’s right beside THEMUSEUM. What I learned only recently in one of my King Street slow wanders is that this bronze ribbon “Between The Acts” on the front of the building was done by artist Jane Buyers. I photographed her in that same year when she was curating BOX11.
The rain started a bit heavier then, so we went inside…
to see “Thalia’s Curtain” by Carol Bradley.
On my shortlist of CAFKA.16 jams to hit will be Mary Ma’s “Wind Water Wave”, which involves projections on 50-foot piece of fabric blown by fans.
Thanks again to Michelle and Steve for leading the Jane’s Walk of public art. Remember May 28 is the start for CAFKA.16, so leave yer sofa and find the others.
At King and Queen, this is Kitchener.