Kitchener's artist-in-residence program has more value than final product, city says

Kitchener's artist-in-residence Janice Lee produced a series of poems, posters and YouTube videos during her tenure in 2015. But with just a few hundred views each, was it worth it?

'If folks are worried about the video views, I recommend that you go and watch them right now'

The City of Kitchener says despite the fact that 2015 artist in residence Janice Lee's spoken-word YouTube videos only have a few hundred views each, her tenure had a much wider impact.

Lee did hundreds of interviews with residents which inspired a series of poems, posters and YouTube videos featuring local residents performing spoken-word poetry. 

Those videos were posted to YouTube in December but as of mid-March, each video had been viewed between 170 and 300 times.

"I'm hoping more people will watch it, as time goes by. But it's not like I expecting the videos to go viral," Lee said in and interview with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

"I find that because there's four videos, people watch one, maybe two and then don't watch all four of them."

During her tenure as Kitchener's 2015 artist in residence, Lee did hundreds of interviews with residents which inspired a series of poems, posters (like this one) and YouTube videos, which featured local residents performing her spoken-word poetry. (Artwork by: Wendy Bones)

Value is in community engagement

But both Lee and Silvia Di Donato, the city's manager of arts and culture, say the value of Lee's year in residence goes far beyond four YouTube videos and their viewcount.

"The video was a way to document," Di Donato said. "The results we were looking for were really about the experience with the community throughout the year."

Lee noted in previous years, the artist in residence has been a fire artist.

"The piece would only be shown in the rotunda in City Hall. Now that the videos are online, people can engage with that art forever," Lee said. 

"If folks are worried about the video views, I recommend that you go and watch them right now, and post them on social media right now."

The City of Kitchener's artist in resident program launched in 1995, and was the first municipal program of its kind in Canada.

The artists get an $8,000 honorarium for their work and up to $2,500 for supplies and promotion. After their term ends, the artists can pitch a final commission, for which they are paid $2,000. 


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