2020 was the 25th anniversary of the Artist in Residence (AIR) program. Due to the pandemic, we're honouring past artists in 2021 in lieu of a singular artist in residence.

When first launched, Kitchener’s artist in residence program was one of the first of its kind for a municipality in Canada. What began as a chance for visual artists to have access to studio space, and a chance for the city to create and add to its public art collection, has turned into a program that celebrates the diversity of artistic practice. Over the years, the program developed to focus on engagement with the community through workshops, events, and festivals, to allow for meaningful connections between citizens and the artist. The program continues to support local artists with diverse cultural backgrounds and lived experiences, seeking to support equity-deserving creators. With this program, we hope to change the definition of the professional artist and recognize those who may have taken a non-traditional route of developing their career.

This year we celebrate and thank all of our past artists in residence as we look forward to future proposals from innovative creators!

Past artists in residence

Learn about each of our artists in residence below, then check out a gallery of their work.

Behnaz Fatemi (2020)

Behnaz Fatemi is a visual artist who explores various media including painting, drawing, installation, and sculpture. Her residency start coincided with the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, necessitating different responses to the fluctuating restrictions. Behnaz led The Pegman Project – named after the small icon on Google Maps. She facilitated virtual and small group activities where participants used clay to explore its healing properties. With help from the community, the artist attempted to answer the question of how cultural background, past experiences, and social values can shape people’s views towards immigrants and refugees.

Website

Mary Neil (2019)

Mary Neil is a community musician: she creates opportunities for people to come together and make music in a process called participatory music making. For the residency, Mary engaged communities by hosting workshops and participatory concerts at various sites. Participants used recycled materials to build instruments, co-creating musical compositions that reflected the community represented. She compiled the compositions to release an album entitled: Songs of Kitchener.

Website

Sumaira Tazeen (2018)

Sumaira Tazeen is a visual artist, educator, and curator of Pakistani origin. During her residency, entitled Healing and Surviving: Sabz Bagh (The grass is greener), her work focused on engaging immigrant women of colour living in Waterloo region, to share in a communal collaboration to tell stories of common experiences. The resulting community tapestry is in the city’s public art collection and can be seen at Victoria Hills Community Centre.

Website

Julie Sperling (2017)

Julie Sperling is a mosaic artist working at the intersection of art, environment, science and policy. During her residency, entitled Climate in Pieces: From Art to Action, she worked with participants to create four mosaics focused on energy, transportation, food, and natural stormwater management. Community engagement consisted of partnering with environmental organizations to engage and connect with residents at festivals, events, and workshops. The four mosaic panels that are part of the city’s public art collection can be seen at the Kitchener Market.

Website

Sarah Granskou (2016)

Sarah Granskou is a local performer and textile artist, working her sense of innovation into Scandinavian oral traditions and creating felted items. During her residency, entitled Our Fibres, Our Forest: adventures in felting and song, Granskou involved the community in the creation of felted puppets and costume/clothing pieces of local relevance intended for an interactive performance. She undertook a musical composition and arrangement of songs in collaboration with local musicians, as well as the planting and tending of natural dye plants to use for dyeing and preparing the wool.

Website

Janice Jo Lee (2015)

Janice Jo Lee is a Korean Canadian folk-soul singer-songwriter, poet and playwright. Her residency project, Folk Myths of Kitchener, involved the collaborative community creation of four video poems and poetry posters. Janice visited four iconic locations and gathered stories from residents. She wrote poems inspired by these conversations and then developed them into short videos. Through collaboration with local graphic artists and designers, each poem was also presented in poster format.

Website

Dwight Storring (2014)

Dwight Storring is a digital media artist and storyteller. His residency, entitled Neighborhood Voices, was designed to document and preserve the authentic character of Kitchener's neighborhoods by giving voice to ordinary people. Dwight used the community centers as a focal point, consulting with neighborhood associations, meeting neighborhood residents and collecting their stories to capture their day-to-day lives in a documentary film.

Website

Susan Coolen (2013)

Susan Coolen’s residency proposal was titled Litter-Arti Project and was a photo-based project, developed from debris found in the local urban environment. Coolen’s intension was to take “throw away” objects and transform them into modern imagery that is colorful, playful, and inspiring, at the same time emphasizing the need for a cleaner environment. Citizens joined the artist to gather debris at selected public venues – an action documented in a series of photographs. Susan’s commission for the public art collection can be viewed at the Forest Heights Community Centre.

Website

Jefferson Campbell-Cooper (2012)

Jefferson Campbell-Cooper is a visual artist focused on human and geologic history. His residency was titled People’s Museum of Kitchener in which he created a large, detailed map of Kitchener for visitors to walk on and inspect. Jefferson’s goal for the project was to invite an open dialogue between artist and community in reflecting on our local landscape through mapping. Citizens participated by sharing their stories, mapping their memories, and contributing drawings. The artist’s public art collection piece can be viewed at the Downtown Community Centre.

Website

Sean Puckett (2011)

For his Portrait of Kitchener residency, photographer Sean Puckett attended festivals and events throughout the year, setting up a photography studio where he invited the public to sit for their portraits. His goal was to have 1,000 portraits by the end of 2011. He achieved his goal and tabulated the final number of portraits at 1,050.  The collection of photographs is a record of Kitchener’s many faces: old and young, poor and affluent, of all ethnic backgrounds and personality dispositions. Now part of the city’s public art collection, you can see the portraits at city hall, mounted in a large album on the second floor.

Website

Stefan Rose (2010)

Stefan is an artist interested in creative and documentary forms, using photography, videography, and poetry. The artist-in-residence program gave Stefan Rose the opportunity to ask residents about their relationships to the river, the city and their sense of community. Photos and poems emerged from his encounters with residents and his study of the many moods of the Grand River throughout the seasons. Selected photos from Grand River: Grand Conversations, were placed on GRT buses during the residency. Ten photographs were selected to be included in the city’s public art collection and can be viewed by the elevators of city hall’s second floor.

Website

Laura Kavanaugh and Ian Birse (2008)

The proposal from artists Laura Kavanaugh and Ian Birse, entitled Bright Moments, was a projection work based on images, like drawings and collages, made by citizens who were invited to create “images of happiness”. The images were then photographed and manipulated in a computer program to animate them and produce sequential transformations. Images of Kitchener streetscapes were added to the collection of citizen art and projected onto The Cube located on top of the city hall building.

Paul Roorda (2007)

Paul Roorda is a mixed media visual artist residing in Kitchener. His residency included organizing two student art exhibits. The first was a result of a contest for young people in Kitchener who submitted design concepts for their own version of King Street. The second exhibit featured the work of students in Africa whose lives have been changed through the AIDS epidemic. As was the case for the past artists, Paul used the city hall studio space for the development of his own work. His large public art collection mixed media work hangs at city hall on the second floor.

Website

Phil Irish (2006)

Phil Irish, a visual artist, has been practicing since 1998. His work during the residency focused on the development of a relationship with the public. He engaged individuals from all walks of life to join him in making maps illustrating important places and events in their lives. These were incorporated into a suite of paintings that communicate the experiences and memories of people from the region. His commissioned painting hangs in the Schmalz Room at city hall.

Website

Tony Urquhart (2005)

Tony is a highly distinguished artist, recipient of the Order of Canada, and an instigator in the founding of Canadian Artists' Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC). Tony worked from the City Hall studio to develop a relationship with the public, celebrating the AIR program’s 10th anniversary. He worked with many local arts partners in networking and dialogue. Tony developed a Visiting Artist Program incorporating his many years as a national arts professional, to bring special local and national artists to the program. His work from the city’s public art collection can be seen in the lobby of the Centre in The Square theatre side.

Website

Mike Ambedian (2003-2004)

During Mike Ambedian’s residency, visitors to the Reflecting Studio at city hall, were met by his distinctive and often kinetic sculptures. His work focused on issues dealing with environmentalism, industrialization, and consumerism, but also touched upon notions of beauty, history, and tradition as found within artistic practice. Ambedian provided national publicity for the AIR program by participating on “SWAP TV” where he instructed a young naval cadet on how to be an artist. The show was broadcast in Ontario on TVO and nationally on the Life Network. You can view his public art collection sculpture created from sawdust, on the second floor of city hall.

Sandra Martin (2002)

As part of her tenure, Sandra Martin organized summer workshops for adults and children that offered beginning instruction in oil and watercolour paints and continued the visiting speaker series. She began an ambitious project: the creation of a codex based on the Grand River. As well as having artistic merit, this detailed project was intended to create public awareness of the health of the region’s waterway. The Grand River became the inspiration not only for the work which Martin created as AIR, but also was celebrated through a juried show that she organized, celebrating the River’s designation as a Heritage River. Her paintings are part of the city’s public art collection located at the Centre in the Square.

Website

Andrew Wright (2001)

Originally from Kingston, Andrew Wright lived in Kitchener for several years, during which he had established himself as an erudite and challenging artist. Wright’s programming of guest speakers for a lecture series included some of Canada’s leading contemporary art practitioners. His workshops included pin-hole photography and digital imagery and he offered participants the opportunity to take part in an experimental film. His collection of photographs can be seen at Doon Pioneer Park Public Library.

Website

Melissa Doherty (2000)

Melissa Doherty is an active artist and a cultural worker. She is a painter whose works are deceptive and intentionally ambiguous. Her tenure as AIR was marked by her desire to share her experience and enthusiasm for the discovery of the “extraordinary within the ordinary” with the other members of the community. Melissa’s public art collection painting hangs at the Kitchener Public Library, central branch.

Website

Marshall Ward (1999)

Marshall Ward’s program as AIR was rigorous and included a panel of artists invited to discuss Modernism. In addition to studio work, Ward’s tenure saw him hosting life drawing classes for adults, illustration workshops for kids, and coordinating ten visiting artist talks. This was also the first time that exhibitions were held at the Reflecting Studio. Marshall is currently one half of the Bonn Park podcast, with Sara Geidlinger, and a longtime newspaper columnist. His residency commission is displayed on the first floor of city hall.

Website

Ron Hewson (1998)

Using cityscapes as his main imagery, Ron Hewson’s work was meant to create a sense of déjà vu for the viewer through usage of both black and white and colour photography.   As with his predecessors, Hewson offered workshops and exhibits, including workshops featuring the creative use of the Polaroid camera and pinhole photography.

Website

Bill Downey (1997)

Bill Downey became the first Artist-In-Residence who was a painter. He stated that for him, there are two parts to art-making: first his action as the creator of the work, second, the act of the viewer experiencing the art. As such, the AIR program provided the perfect opportunity for him to see and discuss first-hand how people reacted to his art. In addition to demonstrations and opportunities to view his work, Downey also offered classes and held a four-week children’s day camp at the Reflecting Studio. A large-scale painting included in the city’s public art collection greets city hall visitors by the Customer Service desk.

Website

Carol Bradley (1996)

A talented ceramic artist, Carol Bradley’s tenure saw the beginnings of Art Works!– Kitchener’s first outdoor visual arts festival, which gradually developed into the Contemporary Art Forum (CAFKA). Concerned with creating work and programming which integrates art with life, Bradley organized numerous workshops for adults and children where they created work that was inspired by everyday objects and ordinary things. She created a number of collaborative public art projects that grace several community locations. Her work is a prominent feature at city hall, hanging on the second floor by the Council chamber.

Nicholas Rees (1995)

The initial “Call to Artists” was answered with an official opening in April 1995. Nicholas Rees, born in South Africa and resident of Kitchener, became the first to assume the role of Artist In Residence. During his tenure, Rees developed and hosted workshops, arranged for an informal gathering of the artistic community, called Art in the City, which included planning for the on-going growth and development of the Kitchener arts community, invited guest artists to demonstrate their skills, and initiated Cheap Tuesdays which later became known as Tooney Tuesdays. He has remained a dedicated arts ambassador and continues to be prominent in the community as an artist and as the founder of the Kitchener Industrial Artifacts Project.

Website

Photo gallery

This year, we celebrate and thank all of our past artists in residence as we look forward to future proposals from creators!

Check out examples of their work below.

Photo Gallery: AIR 25th Anniversary will appear here on the public site.

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