Monthly arts crawl–tomorrow in Hamilton

SuperCrawl - Sep 2014 - Hamilton 410

Where does the time go and why am I not getting to the ever-awesome Hamilton more frequently? It’s been two years since I hit the gigantic TH&B United show up at The Cotton Factory on Sherman. And two and a half years since my mind was blown by SuperCrawl. Well friends, tomorrow Fri Apr 14 is the regular 2nd Friday monthly arts crawl in the Hammer and I’m going. Going solo. Not exactly sure where I’m going because the monthly crawl is delightfully organic by nature. Perfect. Hamiltonians, if you see a big guy with a camera wandering James North, say hello and know that I have traveled through the Hamilton-Waterloo Region *arts* corridor (HamWRAC) to see you.

Due to my storytellin’ force of habit, I often do some homework before fieldtrips and this is no exception. I scoured the web for stuff about the monthly crawl, in search of a list of places I should hit. I did find some anecdotal blog posts, old reddit threads, some tweets and a piece in the Spec. The most fascinating find was a film of in-depth interviews called Hearts: A Film About Hamilton’s Art Crawl. This 2015 piece directed by  J. Cody Lanktree and produced by Zena Hagerty clocks in a 90 minutes and offers a really layered look at this arts-ecosystem-of-the-people (my term) that felt really honest. I watched it twice and took notes.

The 2005 origins of the crawl are a bit hazy because there’s really no written history on this loose agreement to stay open a bit later and target art shows/performances/sales to this night. I’m always trying to learn something on field trips and distill out what might be applied in Waterloo Region. The film digs in on some familiar and complicated topics in the domain:
* the importance of gallery owners owning their own building
* involvement/non-involvement from the City
* strong opinions on what value/costs a BIA brings
* gentrification
* re-imagined history of an event once it has had success
* importance of perception of a place
* working collectively to draw crowds
* organizing/not-organizing the crawl
* co-opting of the event by out-of-towners and non-art-related vendors
* even the sweet spot price-wise for selling work during the crawl ($50)

How about this: watch this film today and then hit The Hammer tomorrow. I park in the garage at 32 York Blvd and just wander up James Street. If you hit water, turn around.

Also: who’s up for First Friday WR? (with a nod to Sarnia, Ontario that already runs First Fridays)

Leave yer sofa, find the others.


Posted in fieldtrip | Tagged , | Comments Off on Monthly arts crawl–tomorrow in Hamilton

Get yer mug on–WPW pottery sale April 21-23

UTW 2017-03-23 092b

This is my kitchen cupboard. Aside from a few mugs painted by our live-in artists, it is filled with locally-thrown goodness from the Waterloo Potters Workshop.

If you’re new here, the WPW fired up (ahem) 49 years ago and has called the old Eby farmhouse in Waterloo Park home for almost as long. Keeping the lights on and the kilns hot is in large part accomplished through a spring and fall pottery sale, the former of which is happening April 21-23 at the Rec Complex. Put that in your calendar right now. Details on the spring sale here.

If you buy a mug every year, I can say two things with certainty: you’ll have a cool collection of unique mugs, and you’ll have supported a bunch of talented potters who are also some of the nicest people you’re likely to meet. Oh, and one more thing: you’ll sustain this organization that is the gateway for new potters to take up the craft.

Important note: while I drink from all these mugs, I was not involved in the very artful selection of said mugs. Lisa does that. I did carry the box of pottery during at least one sale.


Posted in event | Tagged , | Comments Off on Get yer mug on–WPW pottery sale April 21-23

1shot #265-market cowboy

SJFM_2017-04-01 002

When the buskin’ is done. Haven’t had a 1shot here in a while, so here’s Nicky Lee packing up last Saturday at SJFM. The sun warmed up the picnic tables and this fella’s work ethic emptied my pocket of change. This is us.


Posted in photography | Tagged , , | Comments Off on 1shot #265-market cowboy

On a personal note…


“If you see the train yard security, tuck the ladders up in closer to the tracks and sit tight.”

So said my Pop back in ‘82 as I helped him re-tag tank cars in the Sarnia yard. By day, he was a salesman of fuels for a Calgary-based company. One of the hassles for suppliers, shipping fuel by rail, was that the tank cars frequently need to be re-labeled as they changed hands. The official approach to that work involved a time-consuming shunting around the yard, then into the approved dock for repainting, and then shunting back out to the yard. Costly and slow.

Photo: Duncan M. White

Somewhere along the line, my Dad, ever the enterprising hustler, reckoned this could all go faster/cheaper if somebody just dragged some ladders, paint and stencils into the yard and got to it. And this being really a 2-person job, I was one of the other somebodies of a small cast of family and friends, who got roped in to help. This is not the authorized approach.

Click through for a very small bit more…

Continue reading

Posted in personal | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Photogs passing it on

Imagine A Show - 2017 010

Passing what on? Why, the love of photography and the encouragement that fuels the pursuit of the image for the youth of Waterloo Region. My friends, three great photogs, taking their marks for a photo and chuckling when I told them I wanted very serious faces: (L-R) Anestis Papoutsis, Jason Panda and Lori Crewe. This crew supported the fifth and final year of Imagine a Show, a collection of youth photography, which opened last night in KPL’s “hallway of art” on the lower level.

I’m always on the lookout for WR people doing good work and gunning it so damned hard they don’t have time for self-promotion. I’m particularly enthusiastic about projects that are unique, that without the vision, sweat and legwork of the few, would not happen for us. This is that.

Jason and Anestis hit my radar back in 2013 when happenstance put me at a KCI student art show called After Hours, that they, as teachers, had cooked up for the students and community. It was one of those semi-rare and delightful jams that compel me to find out who is doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes. Nothing you enjoy here happens by magic. Since then of course I’ve intersected orbits with this dynamic duo at Maker Expo and all manner of other gigs in the art-o-sphere.

Lori, I met in 2014 at her Mindsounds exhibit in Kitchener City Hall. It was a terrific portrait series inspired by people living with mental illness. Her creative visual concepts and tight execution had me thinking about that work for a long time afterward.

All three of these photogs have poured themselves into the bottomless cup of volunteer endeavour, in a domain I love, in a capacity-building… uh, capacity. So this is a leaping high five to them. Well done, merci beaucoup.

Imagine A Show - 2017 001

Click through for a seriously modest number of photos, including my faves from this show…

Continue reading

Posted in photography | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Photogs passing it on

My blue period in DTK–Blue Dot 2017

Blue Dot 2017 163

Last Friday I went to church… the church of techno, art and social experience. I finally made it to my first Blue Dot party, which just happened to be in the former Zion Presbyterian Church on Weber at Ontario in DTK. This overnight jam was put together with a tremendous amount of vision and work by my friends Ian Newton and Mars Orlowska and their crew. So: thank you! It was a singular thing, a unique thing, right here.

I’m not versed in the nuances of the music. I’m an outlier from the median age of the crowd. I only really dance when I’m making dinner. And still, it was everything I hoped it would be, based on Ian’s description of connecting people socially in the context of a creative and chill medium.

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 out to Michelle Purchase, our newest makebright patron.  Ok, on with the story!


Blue Dot 2017 030

A week later, I’m still sort of processing the experience. What I can share is a mostly visual, non-exhaustive walk-through, presented herein. The luxury of editorial freedom for all the community investment work I put here on makebright is that I can experiment, experience and enjoy.

The TL;DR: the most important takeaways from Blue Dot, for me, don’t show up in these photos at all. That’s because they are the conversations I had with friends new and old through the night. And sometimes it’s nice to drop the camera from my face and share some ideas.

More pics…

Continue reading

Posted in event | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

For the love of CAFKA

CAFKA16_launch_night 233

CAFKA == Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area. It’s a great thing. On this day of Valentinian love, I thought I’d dig up a whack of pics from CAFKA.16 that never saw the light of day and share ‘em with you, for the love of art.

The CAFKA biennial happened last May/June, drawing artists from far beyond our WR borders and stretching our brains through new levels of art experience. It delivers a stunning level of talent on a shoestring budget and is driven by hard workers, fuelled by their commitment to keep this 20-year old happening going. I’ve only been playing close attention for eight years, but I really connected with the 2016 show.

Here’s the TL;DR: as always, if you like the work, support the work. The call is out for CAFKA.18 artists, so artists get your submissions in before Mar15. And if you’re looking to get involved, the annual general meeting is mere weeks away, Mar20.

Above is a photo of Mary Ma’s wicked cool piece called Wind Water Wave. Giant fans billowed this ginormous piece of fabric upon which was projected a video of light on water. So mesmerizing was this piece that people camped out inside the piece. I came back three or four times in the course of June to see this piece. Well, and also to see the people seeing the piece.

CAFKA-JanesWalk-Public Art tour 2016 052

It was on a Jane’s Walk of public art that I started hearing about the CAFKA.16 installations…

Continue reading

Posted in art | Tagged | Comments Off on For the love of CAFKA

Problem-solving products and beer at IoTW

IoTW-Feb2017 027

On Thursday I hit the latest iteration of the Internet of Things Waterloo meetup at Descendants, specifically to hear my pal George Tsintzouras talk about about his startup Alert Labs. Regular readers know I geek out on hardware and in the course of my travels I get to see bits of electronics in varying states of functionality and finish. Having listened to hardware product pitches near and far and carrying a passing familiarity with a soldering iron, I feel reasonably well-equipped to assess said pitches on two counts: #1 Does it solve a real problem and #2 Is it likely to actually work?

Happily, at this meetup I got the scoop from both Alert Labs and another hardware play, Pitstop, that check both those boxes. While Kickstarter is full of aspirational and fantastic-as-in-not-quite-credible products, these two companies are turning out very pragmatic telemetry plays across rental properties and cars, respectively. That’s the TL;DR for this one. Oh wait, let me also add that the new JAMHacks high school hackathon by Ethan Guo was announced by his dad, Eddy. That’s coming April 9, free-no-pay, open to Ontario high school students and like all good things they need sponsors, mentors, volunteers and for you to spread the word.

IoTW-Feb2017 001 

Found myself back at Descendants again. It’s like a community centre…

Continue reading

Posted in event | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Problem-solving products and beer at IoTW

Kick-ass photog Suzy Lake at Art Gallery of Guelph

Suzy Lake at Art Gallery of Guelph - Jan 2017 003

“I still have something to say”, said top-shelf photog/performance artist/professor Suzy Lake on Thursday night at the Art Gallery of Guelph, and she had my rapt attention for her whole talk spanning nearly 50 years of work.

I landed at this talk (along with Brohemus) for two reasons: seeing some of Suzy’s work at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa last June made me wicked-curious to know more about her. And secondly, my brother took a photography class with Suzy in his undergrad at the U of G. Just last year, Suzy won the Scotiabank Photography Award which is a big deal. Something that I deeply respect is that she is a long-time meta-maker of the arts, working beyond her practice to increase the capacity of the Canadian art-o-sphere and to share her knowledge through teaching.

Suzy Lake at Art Gallery of Guelph - Jan 2017 001

The full scope of Suzy’s work is beyond this small blog post. My first encounter was with her costumed self-portraits, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Beginning her fine art studies at Wayne State University in Michigan back in the ‘60’s, she was intrigued by the tools of photography and film, but formal study in those mediums was only possible for Communications majors.  Nevertheless, she adopted them as the “ordinances at hand”. She mashed that up with performance work and constructed installations. She has and continues to have strong concepts that are well-realized and that hit me directly in my makerly breadbasket.

The TL;DR: Suzy Lake is massively talented. If you missed this talk, tune in to the street. Big thanks to Suzy, AGG, CAFKA and Musagetes for makin’ it happen.

Click through for a moderately-reasonable number of photos…

Continue reading

Posted in event | Tagged , | Comments Off on Kick-ass photog Suzy Lake at Art Gallery of Guelph

Making music where beer was made: WTMC


Nobody has ever mistakenly identified me as an improvisational musician. I am not that. I am, however, a fan of new things, tech+music things, DIY things and things that bring people together for whatever reason. Waterloo Tape Music Club is all that and I suppose that’s why I keep touching back with this group. I shot a few photos of their first meetup in Kitchener a year ago and caught up with them in March at Felt Lab in St Jacobs. Just last month, in the waning days of 2016, I was a fly on the wall for their most recent jam session inside the former Brick Brewery building on King Street in uptown Waterloo.

The group was looking for an industrial site, a large space offering lots of reverb, so I connected them with Josh at Distillery Labs (where I co-work), leading to a night of improvised electronic music, a blizzard and –22C temps notwithstanding.

The TL;DR: has nothing to do with music. Instead, it’s a suggestion that if you have an interest and a desire to connect with other of similar interests, then you can just start your own group. Whether you connect with 4, 40 or 400 people, the point is that anything you *do* is way better than watching youtube videos of other people doing stuff.


Here’s first-timer Jamie Miller. He’s got a PhD in environmental engineering. He does lectures and gives workshops on biomimicry at OCAD. He connected through Jordan at a conference in Toronto.

Click through for a borderline-unreasonable number of photos from the evening…

Continue reading

Posted in music | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Making music where beer was made: WTMC