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Over the past few decades, Waterloo Region has fully embraced creative place-making, the act of combining art, culture, and creativity to proudly display an area’s character and unite its community. Initiatives like the 2017 Love My Hood program gave neighbours the agency to build, collaborate, congregate in, and celebrate their neighbourhoods. In 2018, the artist-run non-profit organisation, CAFKA, hosted the Recognize Everyone interactive art installation. Additionally, St. Jacobs and the Tri-Cities have seen a burst of urban murals energizing and rejuvenating their outdoor spaces.
In combination with the City of Waterloo’s Culture Plan‘s goals to define and support cultural growth and the Uptown Public Realm Strategy which aims to inspire the public through art, the Region can now include the Uptown Waterloo Hughes Lane Art Walk in its creative place-making.
Prior to the pandemic bulldozing everyone’s plans for 2020, Uptown Waterloo’s Hughes Lane Art Walk was set to be revealed during the city’s Open Streets summer festival. Like everything this year, COVID-19 presented a bump in the road. However, better late than never, the dressed up doors, ready to strut their stuff, hit the town in September.
When you think of laneways, what comes to mind? It’s probably something dirty, dark, and out of sight. It’s almost certainly not somewhere you’d consider a destination. However, in the true innovative Waterloo spirit, you’re going to want to add this artsy laneway to your exploration list!
Historically, vehicles and cyclists predominantly frequented Hughes Lane, not pedestrians out for a stroll. This colourful community art initiative is already changing the status quo.
Hughes Lane is named after Anna Hughes, Waterloo’s first female city councillor. The laneway is beginning to live up to its namesake, as it breaks barriers and shifts perspectives. Hughes served her community for 12 years, from 1951 to her retirement in 1963. At a time when women were discouraged from being anything other than a housewife, she challenged the norm and made room for herself at the table.
Hughes was a strong advocate for Waterloo and dedicated herself to her community. She celebrated the diversity of the city’s strengths and encouraged people to recognize their home as more than just a “university town”. Hughes would be proud of Waterloo for valuing safe and inclusive spaces for citizens and visitors alike to enjoy vibrant urban art.
Hughes Lane runs parallel to King St. South, stretches from William Street to Willis Way, and again from the Uptown Parkade to Erb Street. The Art Walk is a collaboration between the Uptown Waterloo Business Improvement Area, the City of Waterloo, and several local businesses and artists. Part of the funding for the project came from the Regional Tourism Organization RT04 through their Shareable Moment Challenge grant program. The inspiration for Waterloo to initiate their own mini murals came from Vancouver’s “Canvas Corridor”. In addition, this project aligns with the city’s goal to provide artists with paid work for their valuable and important cultural contributions to our community.
To begin your gallery walk, start by travelling back in time. Your first stop is at a former livery stable that’s 150 years old. For a while it was Carl Schiebel’s auto repair shop and then in 1977 a family restaurant opened. Marbles Restaurant (8 Williams Street East) has been serving tasty food there ever since. We suggest grabbing some fuel for your walk, like the Pork Belly Bao!
As you enter the alley behind Marbles, graphic design artist Lucy Bilson’s door, an experimental depiction of 3 more local treasures (the Perimeter Institute, the Canadian Clay and Glass Museum and the old Post Office building) greets you. From there, be sure to walk the full length of Uptown Waterloo’s Hughes Lane Art Walk and take in each of the businesses’ back doorways.
We’ve provided you with a map and a checklist (see below) to use so that you don’t miss any of the fantastic doors at Marbles Restaurant, Hust+Flow, Zero Waste Bulk, 21 Fir, McCabes, King Street Trio, Bud & Sally Cannabis Co., or Patent Social. Let us know your favourites by taking a picture in front of them and tagging Explore Waterloo Region, adding the hashtag #ExploreWR.
Organizers put a callout for artist submissions to include and engage the community in the Hughes Lane Art Walk project. Of those submissions, 8 people were chosen: Lucy Bilson, Jackie Levitt, Nikolina Kupčević, Luke Swinson, Kat Hernden, Andi + Co, Tara Cooper, and Jason Panda. In addition to being extremely talented Waterloo Region locals, the artists for Uptown Waterloo’s Hughes Lane Art Walk range in age, skill, and interest. They include a graphic designer, multimedia performer, clothing designer, several educators, an Indigenous advocate, and a poet.
The Hughes Lane Art Walk can be accessed year-round and we’d love to see you, your family, and friends enjoying this new community space. Tag Explore Waterloo Region on social media and use the hashtag #ExploreWR in your photos.
Tara McAndrew teaches people how affordable travel really is, how to learn other languages, and where to find the best chocolate around the world. She is currently based in Kitchener creating a very large travel list, thanks to 2020’s shenanigans. She runs the Travel with TMc website, and is on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as @travelwithtmc.