Having our kids go back to school has resulted in one unexpected thing – fewer half-completed art projects covering our kitchen table. That initial three-week closure in March that turned into the longest summer break ever generated a ton of art in our house. Our kids weren’t the only ones turning to art for comfort. At the outset of the pandemic, we all looked to art for an outlet for our fears, frustrations and anxieties.

With kids back in school and many of us starting to return to our offices and workplaces, the need for art in our lives has only increased. “What was everyone doing at the start of this – Netflixing, reading, live streams of musicians – everyone turned to art to get through this,” said Glodeane Brown, Programming & Operations Co-ordinator at Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener + Area (CAFKA). “That tells me the value of art.”

CAFKA is a biennial event and 2020 was shaping up to be another stellar year of interactive urban art throughout the city. Like most of our favourite local events, CAFKA made the right decision to postpone this year’s exhibition “Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost” to 2021. But you can’t keep good artists down. CAKFA found a way to use digital technology to connect people through art with a new initiative called Digital Originals.

Supported by Canada Council for the Arts and CBC/Radio-Canada, Digital Originals is a micro-grant program that helps artists, arts groups and organizations pivot to online sharing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CAFKA’s Digital Originals project is “Spell for the End of the World,” an animated visual poem with words and art by Laura Watson and animation by Ken Cooper. Watson is a drawer, printmaker, embroiderer and writer based out of Sackville, N.B. You’ll know Cooper’s work from videos produced by local production company Arc Media, where he works as their motion graphics and visual effects artist.

The piece combines the poem and drawings into an animated poem about the “sensation, and resulting anxiety, of living through an apocalypse.”


Watson was originally scheduled to be part of this year’s CAFKA. The Digital Originals project presented CAFKA with an opportunity to work with her in a new way. “Laura was going to be in the biennial this year, designing the exhibit guide and her work was going to be in the Berlin Tower Gallery. When this opportunity came up, we thought it would be a good opportunity to show her work in a different way,” said Brown.

For Cooper, the Digital Originals project was a chance to work with CAFKA again. “During undergrad, I did volunteer work during a term in 2012 or 2014, it was ages ago. Then someone recommended me (for this) and that’s how it came to be.”

Working between New Brunswick and Kitchener was done over the phone and of course, Zoom meetings. “I sent Ken the drawings divided up into slides and he did what he did with them,” Watson said.

Watson provided some rough ideas on the flow, suggesting what text from the poem should go where. “Ken did stuff with the drawings that I didn’t expect,” added Watson. As an animator, Cooper had worked in a similar style before, but mainly for corporate work. “Never pushed as tactile and procedural as this one was,” said Cooper. “Anything I’ve done before has been more whiteboard looking.”

Brown and the CAFKA team are excited at the chance to take Watson’s beautiful work and put it into a new way of sharing it. “We jumped on this because this is something that we wouldn’t normally do,” Brown said. “Normally we’re in public spaces, but most of the spaces weren’t available. International artists couldn’t travel here. This is a great opportunity to stay connected with our audiences.”

The organizers at CAFKA are already working on the postponed CAFKA for 2021.

“We hope to keep the same lineup, some of the projects may change a little bit,” added Brown. “It’s such a strong program and relevant to the moment right now.”

Relevant to right now and for years to come.

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Real-life events are starting to come back and I see and hear that…the City of Waterloo’s LUMEN festival is back with a physically-distant version called LUMEN lite on Saturday, Sept. 26 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. with installations throughout Uptown Waterloo. The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery has a new exhibition from Deanna Bowen titled Black Drones in the Hive opening on Friday, Sept. 18 and running through Feb. 28, 2021. Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region has launched a new podcast called She Is Your Neighbour. It features thought-provoking discussions on hard topics including domestic violence and the drug trade, violence against Indigenous women and girls, barriers for transgender youth seeking support and more.

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Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto.  This article originally appeared on their site.