Come See the Revitalization of Downtown Kitchener through the New Art Walk!
The downtown area of Kitchener is undergoing a significant change. From the expanding number of condominiums to the restoration of ancient structures to the inclusion of the ION Light Rail Transit System and other developments, it has become virtually unrecognisable in certain sections. As a result of some recent additions to Downtown Kitchener’s Art Walk, the creative centre of the city has remained constant and is even more dazzling than before.
What is the purpose of an Art Walk?
Travelling on foot is the best way to view a city, whether you’re visiting from afar or are a native taking a leisurely stroll through familiar streets. It provides people with the opportunity to slow down and observe nuances that they may otherwise overlook. In the simplest of ways, it fosters community-building: by simply smiling at a passing motorist, speaking with a neighbour sitting on their porch, or stopping into a favourite local store for a treat.
This project came to fruition in a couple of months, between June and September of this year. The idea for the art walk was directly tied to the impact of COVID. The art walk was held on the grounds of COVID. With this event, the purpose was to provide a safe, enjoyable, and inclusive outdoor community activity while also supporting local artists and businesses at this tough time.
What better way to discover your own backyard than to attend a free, year-round art exhibition?
Bring DTK Back to Its’ Home
During the planning process, the organizers were mindful of people’s comfort zones as well as the demands of the public health system. It is recommended that individuals who work up an appetite on the art walk and wish to support the DTK businesses they see along the route stop for a meal (remember your mask!) or order food for takeaway or curbside pickup to enjoy at home. No matter what you’re craving, whether it’s delicious bakery treats, Vietnamese bánh mi, Middle Eastern or African cuisine, vegetarian/vegan options, a morning trip to the market, or a simple coffee, your tastebuds will be bouncing around with all of the different flavours to choose from!
How long has the Art Walk been taking place?
Numerous objects on the art walk have been a part of the downtown fabric for years – some dating back to the early 1900s – and are still in use today. The latest unveiling attempts to reintroduce these compositions to the general audience after a long absence. You might be amazed at how many people you’ve passed on your daily commute to and from work. At the Downtown Kitchener Art Walk, you will get an opportunity to meet the artists and learn about the stories behind each sculpture, statue, and mural that you see.
How did everything come together?
It was the collaboration of the Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Association (DTK BIA) and the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (KWAG) that helped to offer a little extra joy to the community during these difficult times. A team led by Shirley Madill, CEO of the Kansas City Arts Guild, chose the local artists and objects to be included. In order to determine which business owners might be interested in having their walls spruced up, Linda Jutzi, Executive Director of the DTK BIA, went out to them. The artwork was then printed on vinyl and incorporated into 11 new large-scale works on the outer walls of various buildings across the city.
To give a little more zing, the artwork in these frames will be changed out once a year, much like a gallery that presents a variety of shows.
Opening night is sold out!
When the Downtown Kitchener Art Walk was introduced in September, the response was very positive, despite the fact that it took place months after the outbreak began! In less than two hours, 500 printed self-guided Field Guide books were purchased, while more than 2,200 online copies were accessed by visitors. Hundreds of people soaked up the autumn weather as they strolled around the city’s central business district on a socially separated gallery tour. It seemed like there was a buzz about the city as people walked to the streets, making their way to each artwork and pausing to have a look at it.
Not to worry if you didn’t obtain a copy of the Field Guide when it was released in September. An additional free second edition paper copy of the Field Guide will be available for pick-up at local businesses due to great demand (who says print is dead?!). Additionally, a new map will be given to make travel easier.
Every time you walk, it’s a new walk!
Whether you finish the walk with a local tour company or simply with the DTK Field Guide, every time is a new adventure. What a truly immersive experience it is!
The tour and DTK Field Guide have inspired many to take a moment to appreciate Kitchener’s city street art anytime they pass by. The people who developed the numerous things we’ve been given and the concepts they desire to express come to mind when walking by. Every time you walk downtown, you will feel cheered by the increasing number of pops of colour, culture, and creativity that surrounds you.
The Works of Art
For the past year, over 43 great artists have given their talents to Downtown Kitchener, bringing colour and life to our spaces while also giving us pause and causing us to smile throughout the day. The artists include: Marilyn Koop, Luke Swinson, Sandy and Steve Pell from PELLVETICA, Michelle Purchase, Amanda Rhodenizer, St. Marie Walker, Mélika Hashemi, Soheila Esfahani, Raven Chacon, Tara Cooper, Shawn Johnston & Donna Noah, Ernest Daetwyler, and many, many more!
Many of them have art in other regions of Waterloo Region, throughout Canada, and even in other countries outside of the United States. It would be fantastic to arrange a trip to see their other works, both locally and globally, as the globe becomes more accessible.
More Opportunities for Exploring Urban Art in the Waterloo Region
In addition to the Hughes Lane Art Walk, the county-wide Art Fresco project, and Cambridge’s Instagrammable Galt Wings, there are several more opportunities to see Waterloo Region’s vibrant art scene. May these hidden jewels surprise and excite you, elicit lively discussion, and provide you with a greater understanding of the creative side of the Waterloo Region.