Technology vs. arts


Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

It’s no secret that the City of Waterloo is very interested in fostering the growth of technology and business within the city. But with three post-secondary institutions that churn out graduates with skills in the arts, there is the question of how invested the city is in ensuring this culture is invested in.

According to Astero Kalogeropoulos, manager of arts, culture, festivals and events in the office of economic development at the City of Waterloo, there is a place for more arts-minded people in the city.

“I don’t think when we’re talking about business development and recruitment that we’re focusing just on engineers, for example,” said Kalogeropoulos. “Because the reality is all of those businesses depend on a variety of skill sets in order to be successful.”

She also emphasized the deep connections between technology and fine arts.

“A lot of those industries require people — like artistic directors or graphic artists with those kinds of skills — not just again the computer engineering folks,” she said.

Those who may have graduated with an arts degree, for example, bring different perspectives to the city, she added.

Jon Johnson is a graphic designer and screen printer in Waterloo. He has spent the last several years building his company, Bearface Design, in the area. After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University, he began getting into graphic art and, due to his connections and the opportunities in the city, decided to remain in Waterloo.

“I’ve been working a lot here now and this year especially I feel like I’ve hit a saturation point where the place is small enough and I’ve gotten big enough that people sort of know me more,” he explained.

Much of his ability to succeed has to do with the size of the city.

“I firmly believe that if you have an idea or see a need that isn’t being filled, just do it,” Johnson said. “The size of this city, it’s big enough that there’s space to do things but small enough that if you screw up it’s not a huge deal.”

According to Kalogeropoulos, bringing people with these skills is important in terms of the City of Waterloo’s Culture Plan, which is set on making the city a more vibrant place to live and spans until 2024.

“What we’re really striving for is a diverse, engaged community,” she continued. “So you need lots of different people to make that happen.”

She explained that one of the things the Culture Plan is looking at is how the city can integrate more traditional arts and culture into some of the plans that are already in motion for developing uptown Waterloo.

Marc Lecompte has lived in Waterloo for a little over 10 years and currently owns the Princess Café and Cheeses Murphy. He often puts on events featuring musicians and comedians who he wants to support.

“I felt like personally there wasn’t enough happening in my very small corner of what I consider to be art in the city,” Lecompte said. “For me personally I didn’t think there were enough cool bands playing bands or ways to find out about shows.”

He explained that lately he has been thinking about the state of art in Waterloo and doesn’t have a clear answer in terms of whether he think a change needs to happen.

“I’ve heard this one notion going around where the government or city could help subsidize people to be making art,” he said. “But to me that’s not a solution to anything.”

Currently he feels that the City is neither encouraging nor discouraging the kind of events he is putting on.

“I don’t know the City can properly encourage ‘art,’ when everyone likes different things and is into different things. I don’t know a way that art can be supported where it makes sense for everyone.”

Instead, he enjoys the ‘beneath the surface’ aspect of much of the art that is going on.

“If and when things are brought to the surface it loses something,” he explained.


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