Guelph Cafe Report

On September 25 to 28, 2013 the Musagetes Guelph Café beckoned many temporary communities into being. While not all of the Café’s expressions, opportunities, and conditions were intended to appeal to everybody, there was something for everyone.

The Café activities included a casual chat about Sudbury over a brunch listening session; sipping grape soda and snacking on samosas at the Guelph Black Heritage Society while listening to David James Hudson’s spoken word poetry; proposing ideas for improvements to St. George’s Square via Jenn E Norton’s suggestion box; listening to live music in a school yard while watching some free-style breakdancing; and enjoying a burger at a BBQ on the city limits. The engagements were critical, loving, honest, humble, and communicative. The impacts are elusive and challenging to measure but they may not immediately be felt. Instead they ripple out over time and place and this is precisely why they are valuable.

Over four days and 20 events, the Café was attended by over 700 artists, researchers, business owners, students, families, activists, municipal figures, cultural producers, and engaged citizens. The program was designed to ask questions about the complex issues of how culture is central and meaningful to people’s lives in Guelph. Activities offered space for constructively provocative discussions and shared experiences of art and culture. It was agreed that the arts and culture in Guelph can be deeply meaningful, but a strong argument was made that they are not central to all peoples’ lives.