Uptown Waterloo is home to a new art installation – the Hughes Lane Art Walk! It’s in a unique space to find art, because Hughes Lane is a back alleyway. My guess is, you probably haven’t gone for a stroll down this alleyway, because well, it’s an alleyway. There’s trash and recycling bins from the businesses, narrow spaces, and cats slinking through – exactly what you would expect in an alley. Vehicles drive through, stopping for drop-offs and pickups, and cyclists zip along to avoid the congestion on King Street.
But pedestrians, going for a stroll? Highly unlikely…until now. That’s all changing thanks to a little sprucing up of the back doors of the businesses in the alley.
Spooky Spots or Artful Alleyways?
Have you ever considered an alleyway to be a destination before? Nothing is off limits in a city that prides itself on creativity and innovation. It’s no surprise then that that is exactly where Waterloo’s newest art gallery is located.
Where is Hughes Lane?
Hughes Lane (Waterloo, Ontario) runs parallel to King St. South, stretches from William Street to Willis Way, and again from the Uptown Parkade to Erb Street. Marbles Restaurant, Hust+Flow, Zero Waste Bulk, 21 Fir, McCabes, King Street Trio, Bud & Sally Cannabis Co., or Patent Social.
Why Have an Art Walk in Hughes Lane?
Hughes Lane was chosen for its location within the Uptown Waterloo Area. Several small and local businesses back on to the lane and their doorways were the perfect spot for a burst of art. Like many businesses, particularly those that are independently owned, COVID has proven a difficult time to stay afloat and this project helped to highlight and attract visitors to the Uptown area.
The Art Walk is a collaboration between the Uptown Waterloo Business Improvement Area (BIA), the City of Waterloo, and several local businesses and artists. Some of the project’s funding was made available through the Regional Tourism Organization RT04’s Shareable Moment Challenge. 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. The Uptown Waterloo BIA issued a callout for artist submissions to include and engage the community in the Hughes Lane Art Walk project.
COVID Speed Bumps
The Uptown Waterloo’s Hughes Lane Art Walk was supposed to be revealed during the city’s Open Streets summer festival. However, COVID barged in and threw those plans in the air. Despite the major speed bump, the Art Walk made a grand entrance this September.
Who was Anna Hughes?
Waterloo’s first female city councillor, Anna Hughes, was elected in 1951 and served her community for 12 years until she retired in 1963. She must have been a force of a woman because she worked (in government, no less) at a time when women were told to stay at home. That didn’t stop her. Even as the only female representative, Hughes was a dedicated civil servant. To her, Waterloo was more than just a “university town”. She continuously advocated for the celebration of all of Waterloo’s strengths. If Hughes could see Waterloo today, she’d love to see the city supporting its artists with paid work, brightening up its community walls, and transforming spaces previously avoided by pedestrians.
Meet the Artists
Lucy Bilson is graphic design artist and owner of Lucy Bilson Design. Lucy’s door displays Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute, the Canadian Clay and Glass Museum, and the old post office in a “textural, graphic style”.
This doorway was my first introduction to the Hughes Lane Art Walk, while out for an evening stroll with a couple of friends. It was already getting dark out, yet the door caught my eye. I ran over to take a picture, not knowing that there were 7 more doors to discover!
Jackie Levitt is a visual artist, educator, and community organizer from Toronto, Canada. She specializes in many streams of art, including: live event visuals, set and stage design, video projection mapping, illustration, murals, VJ performance, workshops, art education and curriculum-based workshops.
Nikolina Kupčević is a young artist whose goal is to “promote states of mindfulness, mental peace, and questioning” with her art. She believes that “our thoughts, emotions, and intentions are an energy stronger than our eyesight and it is strengthened when we engage with art”.
Luke is an Anishinaabe Illustrator and Muralist. He lives in Kitchener and is a member of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. Many of his pieces can be found around KW, as well as in community collaborations such as with GoodCoProd.
Kat Hernden is an artist to the core. According to her website, she quit her job as a teacher in her 40s and started painting without any formal training. For her, the process of creating art is a reminder that everyone has something meaningful to contribute to the world. She is active in her local community and is a part of the Art District Gallery, Art$pay, and Button Factory Arts.
The Andi in “Andi + Co” is a multi-media artist, poet, yogi, discoverer and collaborator. The Andi + Co store features unisex apparel, prints, and other daily objects printed with their mantras.
Tara Cooper is an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Waterloo. She experiments and expresses herself through print, ceramics, film, installation, and book arts.
Jason Panda is an educator with the Waterloo Region District School Board and various other community organizations throughout Southern Ontario. He is a photographer, illustrator, and story teller.
Where to Start the Hughes Lane Art Walk
The gallery walk begins at 8 Williams Street, the current location of Marbles Restaurant. The restaurant’s building is a 150 year old former livery stable for the Alexander Hotel. For a while it was Carl Schiebel’s auto repair shop and then in 1977 a family restaurant opened. Lucy Bilson’s door greets you as you enter the alley behind this longstanding community gathering space. 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.
Have you visited the Uptown Waterloo Hughes Lane Art Walk yet? If not, it’s an excellent free, accessible, and safe outdoor activity to enjoy alone or with your COVID bubble. Get outside, soak up the fresh air, and explore Uptown Waterloo’s burgeoning public art scene!