From the outside, it looks like a former LCBO building* and not a typical destination for the local architectural festival, Doors Open Waterloo Region, but it’s what happens inside Creative Enterprise Initiative (CEI) that makes the place so interesting.
CEI’s mission is to help build a prosperous creative sector in Waterloo Region. The big thinkers behind CEI know that for the region to be a successful hub of technology, education and innovation, we need to attract and retain top talent. Having an interesting and active arts and culture scene is one of the best ways to do that.
“The region can’t be all technology or science focused; it needs a creative enterprise to invoke innovation,” says Nancy Alaimo, CEI’s Coordinator, Community Engagement and Corporate Communications. “For the last two and half years, CEI has been building the infrastructure to help support the arts and culture sector.”
One way they are doing that is to rent out the main floor of the old LCBO building on Erb St. to artists, at affordable rates. They are working with the developer to enliven the space, taking the opportunity to pilot the CEI Studios initiative as an arts incubator. “Part of CEI’s scope is to provide creative types with the skills to build their businesses and showcase their work,” says Nancy. “This will ultimately lead to more prosperity for the region and increase sustainability for these businesses.” The rest of the building is rented out by Hep Cat Hoppers dance studio and Maxwell’s Music House who rents rehearsal space to local musicians.
Their main arts promotion vehicle is the recently launched Grand Social website, where people can discover all the interesting things happening in the area in a centralized site. It also acts as an artist’s resource, with a place to promote their work and connect with others. “In the broadest sense, it’s a platform for creatives, both urban and rural, to promote themselves at the local level and access resources to help them build their arts business,” says Nancy. Artists can be paired with a mentor, attend workshops on topics such as grant proposal writing and use Grand Social as a tool to promote their events and talents.
Behind the scenes, CEI staff are talking to industry leaders about the value of a thriving arts and culture community and the role it can play in elevating the economic capacity of the region. And at the same time, they are busy talking to creative types about the value of connecting to Grand Social through the CEI Road Show. This autumn, CEI is hitting local spots around the region to get more creatives connected to the site and learn more about what’s happening, beyond the big headline events.
On September 21, you can visit the CEI studios as part of Doors Open. The artists will be showing their work and giving studio tours. You should stop by.
*It is a former LCBO building, so this makes sense.
P.S. Nancy’s favourite topic of conversation: photography.
Are you a member of Grand Social? What do you think of it so far?