On the outside, the Walper hotel is a fairly unassuming building. But the inside holds more history then you would believe. On the third floor, for example, is a small courtyard named the Eleanor Roosevelt Terrace — so named because the famous former first lady of the United States dined there.
“As soon as I stepped into the terrace, it felt out of time and out of place,” said Janet Morton, one of the artists currently taking over the Walper Hotel as part of Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area (CAFKA) exhibition, running through August 11. “When you step through those doors you are leaving Kitchener and entering this dreamy other space.”
The exhibition brings eight artists from across Canada to the Walper to create installations that play with the notion of public space. “This [exhibit] just lets us work in a public space in a totally different way,” said Sarah Kernohan one of the curators working at CAFKA.
Morton’s installation dangles several feet above the terrace. A large tree branch is decorated with hundreds of tiny mirrors, creating a kind of disco tree over the space. When the sunlight hits at a certain angle, light is sprayed across the terrace and into the rooms.
“The idea was inspired by this space,” explained Morton. “Anybody who is sitting ourthere would be affected by it.” Morton is constantly looking for ways to integrate nature into city spaces so people can experience it differently.
Kernohan noted that having an art exhibit in a hotel may not have been that unusual once upon a time. Hotels were once the place to see and be seen, and the Walper was no different. Over time however hotels became more private. CAFKA’s exhibit encourages people to enter the hotel whenever they want to enjoy their installations.
“With the Walper working to redefine itself as a cultural hub, why not make it so it functions as an art hub?” asked Kernohan.
Working in a hotel also allowed the artists to play with the hotel as a palette. “I’m a big fan of site specific work,” said Morton. “I think a context is bound to influence your experience of the work.” In the hallowed halls of the Walper, the work feels surprising and, like the Eleanor Roosevelt Terrace, out of time and place.
CAFKA @ The Walper Hotel runs till August 11. Admission is free. For more information visit cafka.org