Photogs passing it on

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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.

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

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My blue period in DTK–Blue Dot 2017

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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!


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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…

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For the love of CAFKA

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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.

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

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Problem-solving products and beer at IoTW

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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.

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

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Kick-ass photog Suzy Lake at Art Gallery of Guelph

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“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.

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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…

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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…

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Drinking with artists


My good friends, painter Melissa Doherty and blacksmith Sandra Dunn joined in the inaugural 2Tue monthly meetup that Art$Pay kicked off in December. The second Tuesday of January is next week, so I’m looking forward to chattin’ and chillin’ with this most interesting bunch of people again. Installation artists, sculptors, painters, photographers and a whack of people practising in other mediums showed up, too. We’ll be back at Descendants brewery on Victoria at Weber again Jan 10, so feel free to jump in. At this point, there’s no agenda, no pitches, no writing stuff on post-it notes: just hanging out and meeting other artists. And beer.


There is a surprising amount of value in regular, unstructured meetups and what’s even more surprising is that something like this doesn’t already exist for artists. Because I inhabit multiple spheres in WR, I know the tech community has embraced the recurring heart beat of connecting people in real life. HackerNest, UX Waterloo, DevHouse and Startups & Beer have all developed their followings. So we’re doing that in the arts.


Sculptor/painter Pamela Rojas and painter/maker/visualizations dude nik harron, a couple more of my very favourite people. Lots of laughs and catching up with each other.

You know the drill: leave yer sofa and get a 2017 start with art.

On Victoria Street in Kitchener, this is us.


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More beer from here


I stopped by Abe Erb’s new (additional) digs at the Tannery today. A social media post noted they had beer “up for grabs” which I completely misinterpreted as “free beer”, but that’s another story.


I rolled in just as Tony was bringing pizza lunch back for the hungry canning crew. Click through for a few more pics…

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Tech teen: maker in the house

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This is Calder White. My son. Grade 9 at SJAM in Waterloo. He loves to write code.

Started with Scratch, then moved on to Javascript, Python and now into Android-based Java. Nowhere in the parenting manual do they tell you that you’ll be having long discussions about machine instruction sets, the benefits of strongly typed languages and code portability with your kid. Back when he was 10 years old, I was hit with the existential question: “Ok, but how did they make the *first* compiler?” Now, four years later, he’s an accomplished autodidact and my software dev advice has been largely supplanted by the collective wisdom of Stack Overflow.

Where I *am* still able to exert some marginal influence is in supporting a mashup of hardware skills to go along with the software-fu. There’s a lot of practical utility in being multi-disciplined. And it has never before been easier/cheaper/more fun to explore this space.

The TL;DR: there are ever-increasing opportunities for your kids (and you) to make stuff out of bytes and solder. Schools, libraries, makerspaces and museums have all sorts of meetups in this domain. You just need to dig a bit to find them.


Here’s me back in the ‘70’s working on my 150-in-1 Electronics Project box with my grandfather, George Foster. My nine-year-old self delighted in making these wire-by-number circuits. Back then, when the internet was still an experiment, my projects were seriously jammed on two counts:

1. Nobody in my small world could fully explain how these circuits worked.
2. The parts to make (and *not* dismantle) these circuits were too expensive.

Fast forward several decades and these challenges are mostly solved, though the solutions are perhaps not uniformly distributed.

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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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