New York City to Chicago to Kitchener. Not the typical journey for an arts writer/arts advocate but one we are delighted Lauren Weinberg made.
Lauren recently opened Open Sesame, a shop-gallery-community creative space nestled in front of Kitchener City Hall, to promote contemporary, even avant-garde culture in Waterloo Region, and provide a meeting place for people who care about the arts.
“The thoughtfully designed items we sell in the shop – from stationery, books, and housewares to jewellery, toys, and accessories – are intended to subsidize the exhibitions, concerts, and other activities we host in the space,” says Lauren. “At the moment, prices range from $3 to $395 and while I can’t say our housewares are particularly political, the shop as a whole has a feminist, progressive bent.”
Lauren, who has a masters degree in design history and spent several years in Chicago writing about artists, designers, and architects for Time Out Chicago, thought the people in her new home of KW would appreciate well-designed housewares and accessories. Inspired by similar art gallery/shop/community spaces she had seen in major US cities, she took a leap and opened Open Sesame last November.
While her 2016 plan for events is just getting underway, so far they have hosted two art exhibitions by local artists – Amanda Rhodenizer and David Blatherwick, for six to eight week shows. (You can still catch David’s show until Feb 21).
“We highlight emerging and mid-career artists,” she says. “We’re open to showing work from anywhere in the world, but most of the artist’s on this year’s exhibition schedule are from Waterloo Region. I have also learned that KW has no shortage of talented artists and musicians, but there aren’t many places where they can present their work and get paid for it.” Lauren is pleased to be able to contribute that sort of space to the community.”
For the musical performances, she has local musicians, Candy Young and Jessica Nielsen, coordinate the programming. “We are still playing with the vision for the music in the space, so at the moment they are brining in talented musicians from various genre,” she says.
The workshop offerings will run the gamut of photography, drawing, and crafting. Local artist, Ellie Anglin, will showcase her KW-focused zine library, starting February 12, and will be hosting zine-making workshops soon.
“I have big ideas for partnerships with the City of Kitchener’s arts and culture programs, local businesses, and non-for-profits such as Kwartzlab,” she says. “We are also planning readings and screenings of all kinds, and are certainly open to community suggestions.”
For a new business of any kind, the first year can be tricky as you build awareness of your work and figure out the best way to do what you do. Yet Lauren has been delighted with the support she has received so far. “Downtown foot traffic isn’t always great, but my arrangement with the City is that for discounted rent, I will try to bring more people downtown on evenings and weekends, though the performances, workshops, and exhibitions,” she says. “Event coordination is hard work but balancing these activities will be crucial to our success.”
P.S. Lauren’s favourite topic of conversation: Her daughters, followed closely by Gilmore Girls.
P.P.S. You can also watch for my profile of Open Sesame in Own It, the City of Kitchener’s magazine, this spring.