by: The Short Films
One afternoon, a friend sent me a Facebook invite to an underground art event, which was being hosted by a group of creative-sorts who run cultural and music events under the name of “The Box Factory”. They lease studio space in The Old Boehmer Box Factory on the corner of Duke and Breithaupt Streets near downtown Kitchener. I’d heard tidbits about the gig earlier in the week because several of my musical friends and acquaintances were either performing or attending.
The event poster read: The Box Factory presents “Spring Equinox: A Coffee House Event Cultivating Culture, Part 1”
The Facebook page advertised that this event would feature beautiful performances by an array of talented local musicians, coffee from a local coffee company, and the art of Glen Anthony.
Some time around 9:30pm I walked in the front door of the Old Boehmer Box Factory with my friend Mike, a recording engineer who works at a local music store. Inside the east entrance to the factory was an exceptionally long, steep, and crooked set of stairs that looked like something out of a bad Alice in Wonderland trip. The factory itself is full of musicians’ jam spaces, creative businesses, recording studios, and art studios.
When we walked in the room, it was instant artistic sensory over-load. The scene had the vibe from party in an old rock and roll documentary film. The incredible abundance of art, the lighting, the space, the live concert; everything was saturated in creative energy. The space itself was a combined area with one large room (Glen’s art studio space, the Fusion Implosion Gallery), and one smaller room (the music jam space). I would guess that the whole place was probably around 2000 square feet, with 15-foot high ceilings. Another friend of mine, Tyler, was planning to join us later in the evening. I pulled out my phone and texted him, saying: “Get here now, man. It’s like art ejaculated all over everything.”
I meandered slowly around the room, trying to absorb the visual feast. Glen had an art area set up that was strewn with sketch-pads, boxes of pencils, pastels, markers, water-colour pencils, and other artistic mediums. Small groups of concert-goers would cluster there, doodle for a while, and were gradually replaced by others eager to try their hand at impromptu sketch. There were several brightly coloured drawings scattered across the old wood floor. If you were too intimidated to start your own piece of art, you could just pick up someone else’s half-finished doodle and carry on where they left off. Glen would occasionally sit down and draw as well. He was working on an amazingly life-like owl that looked like it was about to climb right off the page and fly around the room.
I prefer to think of Glen’s studio not as an art gallery, but instead, I think of the individual pieces of art all being small parts of a larger artistic piece, which is the space itself. Glen was telling me he’s been in this particular studio for only 6 months. Nearly every available inch of the large factory space was covered in art. His paintings, drawings and sculpture covered the walls from floor to ceiling. His metal-work chandeliers hung overhead and his metal-work furniture pieces were clustered along the edge of the walls. There were countless un-hung pieces stacked in a corner. The ceiling above the huge factory windows was lined with an uncountable number of Barbies, and under the windows were shelves with hundreds of action figures, on display as iconic pop art. Glen was telling me how he’s a commercial artist, and spends about 18 hours a day on his work. It didn’t surprise me. The vast amount of art in the space was overwhelming.
The concert bill was loaded with local acts, including Simon Lewis, Christen Zuch, Adam Ormandy and Meghan Weber. The music room was decorated with more of Glen’s art, including a saran wrap sculpted hollow torso that had been filled with Christmas lights. On the left side of the room a retro TV was switched on to static, with the silhouette of some kind of carnivorous dinosaur intricately cut out of an LCBO bag and affixed to the glass screen. Behind the curtains at the back of the stage was a secret room, illuminated by a solitary green light bulb, screwed into a shade-less old floor lamp, casting its eerie glow over guitar cases and amps clustered in piles throughout the room.
Stone Pound Coffee Company had a small table set up in the concert room, where they were selling ethically-farmed coffee and various home-made snacks. I chatted briefly with the owner of the company, discussing social responsibility and ethical coffee manufacturing practices.
Tyler showed up not too long after this, with his 1978 Gibson Les Paul slung on his back, and the extra pockets in his guitar case filled with cans of beer. Tyler is the front man for local punk rock band The Decay. By day, he is a robotics engineer. His band has a jam space on the other end of the box factory building. Standing in Glen’s studio, Tyler was musing about how, years ago, he’d been accepted into OCAD and another art school in Montreal, but decided to study engineering with the idea that he’d always be able to do art on the side. As he looked around the room, he seemed to be reflecting on his decisions, pondering the artistic opportunities he has yet to seize. In fact, it seemed like many of us that night were contemplating our pissed out dreams and our prioritization, trying to come to terms with our pursuits of financially stable employment that had slowly severed us from our personal artistic craft.
Before her set, local musician Meghan Weber was talking about how she’s switching to part-time at work so she can focus more on her art, saying “I’ll be able to cover the rent, but if I’m gonna eat, I’ve gotta play.” Meghan is a photography specialist at Black’s. In her spare time she takes amazing photographs with her collection of vintage film cameras, manipulating the negatives for the desired outcome. She’s also a painter and a sculptor, an avid collector of 1940’s paraphernalia, and a blow-your-mind amazing songwriter and vocalist. Her recent performances have seen her transform into a musical power-house, pouring her soul onto the audience with aggressive dynamicism. Meghan brought some pre-release copies of her new album to the event, the cover art of each one delicately hand-drawn.
Meg played later in the night, and after her set a few of us journeyed down to the west end of the factory to hang out in Tyler’s jam space. The west end of the building was pretty neglected. There were metal bars and pad locks on the door to the jam space, and in the hallway there’s a huge rusted out industrial duct. “I’m pretty sure someone died in there,” he informed Meghan, as she was examining its artistic and photographic merits. Inside the jam space were stacks of old amps, cassette tapes, and music gear strewn in disarray. A large “The Decay” banner with a huge wolf face was tacked on the wall, which Tyler had painted a decade earlier.
The few of us sat on the couch, listening to Tyler noodle around on his guitar while we shared stories of our conception and early childhood. Yawning, and with thoughts of our next morning’s work obligations, we shortly thereafter parted. We said our goodbyes, dispersed through the maze of hallways in the factory, and made our way home in the dark early morning hours.