CAFKA takes over Walper

A wall found inside the Walper Hotel for the exhibit (Photo by Heather Davidson)
A wall found inside the Walper Hotel for the exhibit (Photo by Heather Davidson)

What do you get when you mix Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area (CAFKA) and the well-known Walper Hotel in downtown Kitchener? You get a provocative display of local art throughout a wickedly interesting hotel.

Running from May 3 to August 11, the historic Walper Hotel located in downtown Kitchener is playing host to CAFKA’s art extravaganza. For those of you who are unfamiliar with CAFKA it is an artist-run organization that produces a regular international exhibition of art projects in public spaces throughout the Region of Waterloo.

The exhibition featured in the Walper hotel consists of sculptural involvement, photography, animation, sound installations and mixed media installations. The works of art presented throughout are used to engage the Walper’s guests and animate the life and history of this busy urban hotel. They use the hotel’s lobbies, rooms and hallways to display the various works of local art.

As you walk into the main lobby, you are greeted with the first piece of artwork – technically video work – created by Laura De Decker. It is a video display of flashing dots of all different colours. The effect is almost hypnotizing and really kicks off the exhibit with a bang.

As you venture further into the hotel, some more great pieces start to show themselves. Strategically posted throughout the second, third and fifth floors is The Hive and The Host by Stephanie Vegh which depicts honeybees disappearing into the corners and crevasses of the hotel itself.   Their unpredictable and sporadic movement from public space to discrete corridors on the upper floors reallymakes this piece interactive and explorative.

Perhaps the most creative piece in the exhibit is “decoy” by Janet Morton. Suspended in the middle of the Eleanor Roosevelt terrace on the third floor is an inverted tree, which has been covered in thousands of small glass mirrors. It looks like the tree version of a ‘70s disco ball. Small flares of reflected light shimmer into the surrounding rooms giving it a very universal feel. This was easily one of the strongest pieces and one of the most interactive.

As you wrap up your tour of the exhibit on the fifth floor, you can’t help but be startled by Daniel Olson’s The Mad Hatter. Standing at around 5’9 is the life size portrait of a Charlie Chaplin lookalike painted on banner paper. Although startling at first, the painting is actually quite impressive with impeccable detail and life-like features. In addition, at a certain angle and with the right light, the painting almost gives off a 3D effect that can really spook an unaware guest.

All in all, CAFKA’s Walper Hotel exhibit displays the perfect integration of contemporary art into a public space. Even though I am not a frequent art aficionado, I truly had an enjoyable time roaming through the hotel curious as to what hidden gem I would find next. It is visibly clear that all the artists involved in this exhibit put serious time and effort into their respective projects. Viewing them as a whole really made for a true local art experience.

The art exhibit is located at the Walper Hotel at 20 Queen Street South.

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