SAIL-ing Around Waterloo Region

The Student Art Innovation Lab (SAIL) is making its mark around the Region.

You may have seen it — a little silver trailer — at various events and venues around Kitchener-Waterloo. It was at The KW Multicultural Festival,  Waterloo’s Porch Parties, Extend-A-Care Hands-On Activity Fundraiser and the KW Clay and Glass Museum — to name a few.

“One of the things I’ve loved about this trailer is that it has this mix of kind of being this DIY and grassroots program that’s very modest in a way. It’s just a trailer … but at the same time it’s this chameleon that can kind of become all these different things,” said associate professor of fine arts, Tara Cooper.

Cooper teaches at the University of Waterloo and is one of the head Directors of SAIL.

“The idea was really about outreach and alternative types of programming, thinking about site and location and other kinds of ways of connecting in terms of visual culture,” she said. “What I love about SAIL is that we can enrich what’s already happening in all of the work that people are already doing in the city.”

In the past three years, SAIL has organized multiple workshops that range from screen printing and painting, to exhibits that highlight current UW students’ as well as UW alumni’s work.

“Because we have the University behind us [financially], I want it to be free. The event is free but you don’t have to pay us to come. We can come and do things for you and there’s no cost,” Cooper said.

In addition to workshops and exhibits, the space is also used as studio space for emerging artists.

Like many initiatives, SAIL first started out as a simple idea back in 2013.

“One of my colleagues, [Professor] Bruce Taylor … came up with this idea of our department running a student trailer,” Cooper said. “The thinking was that it could be this mobile space. Like a mobile exhibition space or an art lab.”

Once the trailer was purchased, it took about two years to renovate and prepare it in such a way that it was versatile and adaptable to its surrounding environments.

Now in its third year, Cooper believes that SAIL is settling into what its original purpose was supposed to be — collaborating with other local organizations and programs in the Region.

“The vision was always to collaborate with local organizations as opposed to reinventing it or making something new,” Cooper said. “It really was about the University connecting to the community in meaningful ways.”

In addition to collaborating with groups like Art Shine and the Monica House, SAIL has also collaborated with elementary and secondary schools in the Region as a way to encourage students to check out UW’s Fine Arts Department.

“[Now] I’ve learned so much about the city and connect with these organizations that I didn’t even know existed,” she said.

You can catch SAIL this summer at the upcoming Cherry Festival on July 6.