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.


Posted in event | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

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…

Continue reading

Posted in beer | Tagged , , | Comments Off on More beer from here

Tech teen: maker in the house

Calder White - Project Husky-Lite - Dec2016 067

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.

Continue reading

Posted in making | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Tech teen: maker in the house

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

ARTSPAY video shoot - Nov2016 022

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: http://artspay.org 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.

ARTSPAY video shoot - Nov2016 009

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…

Continue reading

Posted in art | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

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

Ralph Nader in Brantford - Nov2016 006

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.

Ralph Nader in Brantford - Nov2016 011

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.

Ralph Nader in Brantford - Nov2016 041

After the talk…

Ralph Nader in Brantford - Nov2016 045

Mr Nader was signing books…

Ralph Nader in Brantford - Nov2016 066

and posing for fan photos.

Ralph Nader in Brantford - Nov2016 069

I wandered out into the night…

Ralph Nader in Brantford - Nov2016 072

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

On Dalhousie Street, this is Brantford.


Posted in fieldtrip | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Nader: it takes less than 1% of the people to make change

My happy 7-hour weekend wandering: Night\Shift

NightShift2016 178

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…

Continue reading

Posted in event | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on My happy 7-hour weekend wandering: Night\Shift

Waldo found: the man beneath the tuque

Josh Waldo Bean 037

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

Continue reading

Posted in community | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Waldo found: the man beneath the tuque

1-hour film challenge: making filmmakers

One-hour film challenge Oct 2016 010

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.

One-hour film challenge Oct 2016 005

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…

Continue reading

Posted in film | Tagged , | Comments Off on 1-hour film challenge: making filmmakers

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.


Posted in fieldtrip | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on 1shot #264-Centre stage

Inside The Working Centre: toward understanding

The Working Centre - Summer Institute 2016 056

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…

Continue reading

Posted in community | Tagged , , | 1 Comment