We Are Waterloo community art project: Capturing diversity

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Graphic by Fani Hsieh

Graphic by Fani Hsieh

The City of Waterloo plans to capture the diversity of the Region through a year-long community art project titled, “We Are Waterloo Portrait Project.”

The art project will showcase personally portraits made by citizens in the community at a variety of workshops hosted by the Region throughout the year.

The final showcase of all pieces of art will be displayed at the City of Waterloo Museum in Conestoga Mall in January 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150 anniversary of Confederation. Portions of the exhibit will continue to circulate through different facilities.

The official launch date of the project is on January 23 at the John M. Harper Library and will be lead by portrait artist Heather Franklin. For the entire project, the organizers plan to collect more than 300 portraits. Designated scanning days are also in place to scan a professional replica of the portrait.

The aim of the project is to not only celebrate diversity, but to also showcase talent in the Region. With this idea, a different artist will be hired for every workshop.

According to Sonya Poweska, cultural program specialist, the City of Waterloo is looking to collaborate with both aboriginal centres at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.

We Are Waterloo Portrait Project operates on the 10-year culture plan for arts and culture in the Region and focuses on community engagement.

“We operate based on the culture plan, which is a plan that was initiated by the city in 2013. There are 37 recommendations in it in different areas and the project really supports a number of those areas,” said Poweska.

Poweska added participation in the project can also be beneficial for students as the submission of any portrait included in the show is considered a contribution to a professionally hung and curated exhibit at the museum.

Community art projects are not a new concept for the Region, as the city has implemented a number of projects within the past year. One of the biggest projects with around 300 participants was the Urban Knitting Project, which led to the donation of 600 knitted squares that were sewn together and displayed in various locations in uptown Waterloo.

The city also recently finished a project called “2016 Wishes,” which asked community members to write their wishes on art cards. These cards were then displayed in Waterloo City Hall and then at the mayor’s lobby.

Dave Jaworsky, the mayor of Waterloo, said community art projects cultivate a welcoming atmosphere.

“Community art projects foster a sense of belonging because everyone can participate,” he said in a statement.

Poweska said she hopes residents who live in the Region will recognize and celebrate the diversity and talent in their community.

“We’re hoping that this project allows for people to really celebrate the present while engaging with the past and the future of Waterloo, too,” she said.

She continued to add the community in Waterloo Region today has undergone many changes in the past 150 years.

“We have come a long way with 150 years of Canada and it’s a very different community now than it was 150 years ago. We hope to use this as our marker to really see where our community stands now and where it can go in the future.”

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