Artists and tech experts from across the region will converge on St. Jacobs this spring to create an innovative series of projects designed to explore the village’s culture and heritage.
The Felt Lab, a community-based technology hub located in the Quarry building at 1440* King St. in St. Jacobs, will host a series of collaborative art workshops through the spring and summer run by Isabella Stefanescu of the Inter Arts Matrix.
With a $12,000 Waterloo Arts Fund grant and a passion for local arts, Isabella Stefanescu, an artistic director with the InterArts Matrix and researchers with the University of Waterloo’s Felt Lab – a tech incubator located in St. Jacobs – have teamed up to connect the art and tech worlds.
The idea, bring together talented and creative individuals from a variety of disciplines and fields, immerse them within a specific cultural context – in this case, right here in Woolwich Township – and give them the freedom to create together.
What the final product will look like is up in the air – from films to sculptures, painting and plays, it’ll be up to the artists to determine.
What is clear is the project’s focus.
“As artists we have a responsibility to create art that has deep roots here in the region,” Stefanescu explained. “What makes us unique is the place we live. Otherwise we are just like everyone else around the world; our community defines us.”
So much of the arts scene here is imported from other regions and countries, Stefanescu added. That’s fine, but we also need locally produced art to examine who we are and to spur the discourse on what it means to live in the Waterloo Region.
And it’s a fascinating topic.
“The artists themselves will have to start thinking about the place they find themselves,” Stefanescu said. “We will be working right there in the village (of St. Jacobs, at the Felt Lab studio on King Street) and we will be thinking about its history and really looking at the place and its natural features as they have been transformed by the presence of humans.”
They’ll ask themselves: “What is it saying to you or what do you want to say to it? And so the artists will almost enter into a dialogue with the place.”
She continued, “We know how to make a home out of a house, but how do we make a home out of a town, a village or a region, and do we feel like we somehow belong? I think engaging the artists and asking some of those questions and coming up with a variety of answers is something that all of us who live and work here really need.”
University of Waterloo drama professor and Felt Lab executive Jill Tomasson Goodwin concurred.
“We are very excited to be supporting Isabella’s latest project, which will utilize a variety of supports that we extend to artists,” she said. “She will be using (the Felt Lab) space and the technology to invite artists to play and work in the space over this next year.”
Artists bring a unique perspective to the tech field, which is why the Felt Lab and its parent organization – Research Entrepreneurs Accelerating Prosperity (REAP) – encourage collaboration between the two industries.
Sponsored by REAP (Research Entrepreneurs Accelerating Prosperity), Quarry Communications and Christie Digital Systems, the Felt Lab facility provides a unique setting for artistic and innovative collaboration.
“Artists really take a technology and they push its technical capabilities to work through new ways to express new ideas artistically,” she explained. “On the other side, technologists get to see how out of the box thinkers use their technologies in innovative ways, which are often ways that they may not have even thought of before. That often sparks innovation, based on the artistic insights, uses and applications.”
A wide range of professional and student artists will descend upon downtown St. Jacobs this spring, using the Felt Lab studio to create shows which are expected to be performed for public audiences in the summer and fall.