On October 3rd, THEMUSEUM hosted Cultural Exchange 7.0, an opportunity for candidates to share their vision for arts and culture in our city. Here is my presentation:
My partner and I moved to our current home partly to be closer to many arts and culture events. We had been traveling to the core for things like the Multicultural Festival, the Kitchener Market, and the KW Symphony. Once we moved downtown, we were exposed to many more arts and cultural experiences such as Kultrun, the Art Gallery, Night\Shift, and events at the Registry Theatre. Then of course CAFKA made my June walks in and around downtown all the more interesting with installments such as ‘Head Man’, ‘Arena’, and ‘Recognize Everyone’.
My learning about our creative industry continues in many ways. I sit on the Downtown Action and Advisory Committee and hear regular updates from the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. We’re able to offer input and feedback on initiatives such as murals in the Downtown and public art at ION stations.
Just as we need a range of housing types, Kitchener needs a range of art venues. Kitchener is blessed with large-scale facilities like the Centre in the Square and Conrad Centre, but also mid-size venues like the Registry Theatre. Kitchener also boasts small hidden artistic gems, like the Backyard Theatre on Homewood Avenue. Kathleen and John write, direct and act in original plays with local talent all right in their backyard theatre.
We also have Globe Studios which I only recently discovered. I was so inspired by their work that I wrote an article for The Community Edition this past June. It gave me the opportunity to connect with local artists and learn more about potential partnerships and growth opportunities.
And that’s key, I think: listening to our local artists and partnering with them on projects, regularly and proactively. Anyone who attended Night\Shift feels its loss now. We need to look at what artists are doing right now and foster it so we don’t lose similar local initiatives. We need to have conversations about the resources required to ensure the viability of these creative endeavours, whether that’s space, financial, or people support.
We also need to establish connections across sectors. There is great potential for partnerships between artists and the local tech sector. And we’re starting to see these relationships develop, like Communitech offering affordable gallery space to local artists to exhibit and sell their work. The city must foster such partnerships and seek similar opportunities. Let’s look at options for new building developments to create work space for artists at a rent they can afford. Let’s discuss with our creative sector how best to use the space at 44 Gaukel. And let’s use our public spaces, such as community centres, to highlight our local artistic community.
Intensifying across the city helps to keep rents and housing costs lower allowing artists to better find housing that is affordable. We need to encourage housing developments rather than regularly opposing them. Increasing the housing supply helps avoid rising rents that adversely affect the arts community. We need to ensure our city has affordable spaces, in which to work and live, by building up, with ranges of affordability. Groups like Marit Collective are exploring how accessible and affordable space can be offered to community members. The next council needs to support its homegrown artistic talent by utilizing the city’s available resources.
I appreciate the unique contributions our artists offer the wider community which strengthen our sense of identity and belonging as communal stories are created and shared. But we can’t take these for granted. We must continuously engage and seek input from the creative sector to ensure such contributions are developed, fostered, and celebrated. My goal as councillor would be to expand the reach of the creative sector so more residents can experience the joy of engaging deeply with the arts.