Waterloo region artists share the creative ways they'll use grants, engage community
Artists who received funding are working with a variety of different mediums
New funding is helping boost the work of 33 local artists and creators from Waterloo region.
A total of $261,849 from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund has been split up between the recipients, depending on their individual need.
The arts fund receives money through an annual regional grant — but it operates independently from the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.
CBC Kitchener-Waterloo spoke to some of the artists who received money about how the funds will help them in their work.
Largest freestanding bead sculptures
Sharl Smith from Waterloo is working on creating the largest freestanding bead-stitched sculptures ever made.
Smith has been using her architectural background as a beading sculptor for about eight years.
She says she will be weaving large stainless steel spheres with steel cable.
"It's totally the same, like normal beach stitching, just on a much larger scale," she said.
"There are slightly different tools involved, crimping and clamping them in place and all of that, but there's no welding. There's no propping up with external scaffolding or anything," she added.
"It's all bead-weaving and that's been the the core of my practice — staying pure to the technique while using contemporary ideas."
She's hoping her work will help people see beadwork in a new light.
"Beadwork tends to be undervalued because it's considered women's work and it's considered a domestic art form," Smith said.
"But there's been a very strong contemporary resurgence of these art forms. So it it kind of underscores ideas about femininity being centre stage in a way that embraces the domesticity, it embraces the care and the history of it.."
Smith was awarded $15,000 from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund to create seven beaded sculptures that will be exhibited at spaces like the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Grimsby Public Art Gallery and Kitchener's city hall.
Workshops for Black theatre artists
Black artists new to theatre will be able to sign up for specialised guidance for their careers through a new program called On the Burg Writers Intensive.
The eight-month program is the first of its kind in Waterloo region.
Vanessa Spence from Virtu Arts Theatre said she's hoping the program will provide Black artists with the support they need closer to home — here in Waterloo region — rather than having to search for professional development programs in bigger cities like Toronto.
"There are a lot of Black artists who are not being seen on the stages here in this region, who are not being seen in the programming, who really just need that support from people who look like them and have gone through what they've gone through," Spence said.
Spence said the program will encourage artists to bring their cultural identity with them everywhere — from the rehearsal hall and work to their plays and writing.
"Black is a very expansive term. That's why it's important for us to identify as Black African or of Caribbean descent because Black is just kind of an umbrella term for all of the different cultures that consist of of this one very small word," Spence said.
She's hoping the On the Burg Writers Intensive will help build a community of support for Black artists who have historically not received the credit they deserve within the theatre industry.
She said she has received lots of positive feedback from the local Black theatre community.
"They are grateful that they can be in a room of people who look just like them, that they don't have to feel like they're putting up a wall. They don't have to feel like they're putting on a different face," she said.
"They feel like they can just be themselves because they are surrounded by people who look like them and have experiences just like them."
Spence said the program will include group sessions, dramaturgy sessions and public readings with actors and directors.
She was awarded $8,045 from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund to help finance the development program for Black theatre artists who live outside of Toronto.
Podcast mini-series for women in arts
A new podcast mini-series will help set up a safe space for women in the arts industry looking for somewhere to share their personal stories and struggles that come from having to navigate an industry with many roadblocks.
Kitchener musician Mary Abdel-Malek Neil will be calling her podcast series Good and Mad.
She's hoping it will help women in the arts industry reclaim their voices and fury.
This region, she says, "has become so focused on growing its vibrancy through things like our tech sector and other areas, but not necessarily through our arts community."
"[Artists] get here, they start to establish themselves. They see what resources are available to them. They see where their opportunities lie. And what tends to happen is — they tend to leave."
Abdel-Malek Neil wants to provide those artists with an outlet.
"I noticed here that there was a lot of emotion and a lot of, you know, just in general women who aren't able to express those types of emotions outwardly without being labelled a certain way," she said.
"My hope is if we have these conversations through this podcast, we can create a community and a space that is understanding of these women's experiences and their journeys here. Hopefully we can make a shift toward more positive change and we can keep these amazing artists within the community instead of losing them to other places that they can find more support and more resources."
Abdel-Malek Neil received $5,100 from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund to help create her Good and Mad Podcast Mini-Series.
Theatre piece about Japanese-Canadian identity
A dancer from Kitchener is telling the story of her Japanese-Canadian identity in a new theatre piece.
Kate Kamo McHugh is using a variety of elements like dance, improvised music, digital art and video projections to complete her new theatre piece about cultural loss, called 20 Grains of Rice: Seeds of Reclamation.
She said the title is a reference to the 20 Japanese words she grew up speaking.
"A lot of them have to do with food," Kamo McHugh said. "I'm primarily a dancer and I've created a gesture for each of the 20 words. One of the first scenes is me going through these gestures with the words in Japanese and in English, and then throughout the piece, as I'm saying different monologues and stories from my family history, I repeat the gestures throughout."
She said she was inspired by her own lived experiences and her family's history.
"I grew up in Elmira and kids were always asking me why I don't speak Japanese and why I'd never go to Japan. I very much identified as a Japanese-Canadian, but there were these missing elements, and it wasn't until I had my daughter three years ago that I really started to think about why I don't know anyone in Japan and why I looked Japanese, but don't speak the language," she said.
"That's when I started investigating my family history with Japanese internment in Canada, a part of history that we don't talk about that much, especially in Japanese-Canadian families. It's not often discussed, so I was curious to look at what parts of Japanese culture are still a part of my family after five generations of being in Canada and what parts of Japanese culture have been lost since internment and why and when that happened."
Kamo McHugh was awarded $10,000 from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund to help finance her project.
Giant, collapsible pyramid
Coming soon to the downtown cores will be a large, collapsible pyramid. And no — the art display doesn't have anything to do with the Mayan pyramids or the Great Pyramid of Giza.
This structure will be a much more local wonder.
Local artist Behnaz Fatemi is working on the structure called Mobile Safe Zone.
Once finished, she wants it to be a place where community members can share their ideas and artwork with each other.
"It's going to be a huge pyramid-shaped sculpture. The size is human scale or larger than human bodies," she said.
"It's foldable and it's based on the floor. Then people can go inside to their sculpture and express themselves. It's a structure that then I can mix my drawings or sound or light with this structure."
She said each day, she will ask community members to engage with the pyramid in different ways. One day can be based on sound and light, another day might be more interactive, asking people to share their drawings.
Fatemi said once completed, the pyramid will be placed strategically in key areas within the region like downtown Kitchener, uptown Waterloo and the University of Waterloo campus.
She said the inspiration to create an interactive art piece came from her own life growing up in Iran.
"The idea came to me because because of my personal experiences that I had during living in a dictatorship regime in my birth country," she said.
"So I was thinking that how we can share the idea and our personal experiences that are related to freedom of expression, social justice, how we can share these experiences together."
Fatemi was awarded $5,000 from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund to create her multimedia project called Mobile Safe Zone.