OWN IT 2018


Women-led organizations making an impact in DTK

a female wearing a shite shirt with writing: The Future is Female  

For proof that The Future is Female, you need go no further than DTK. From the arts to entrepreneurship, local women aren't accepting male dominance in any sphere, and they are bringing inspiration, assistance, and jobs to the community.


Like last year, when we featured female changemakers, we could have easily overflowed this edition with similar stories. This time around, we'll be introducing you to (or at least helping you learn more about) some of the women-led organizations that are teaching, helping, and growing our culture downtown.


Non-profit organizations are often unsung hero(in)es in the community, which is reason enough to showcase them. But these local organizations are also more broadly integrated, working with populations from tech companies to local government, and improving quality of life for everyone along the way.


LOL (Ladies and LGBTQ+) Out Loud 

facebook.com/LOLKitchWat  |  Erinn White, Co-founder


Feminists aren't funny? Please. Fortunately for Kitchener-Waterloo, Ladies and LGBTQ+ Out Loud (LOL) founders Suzie Taka and Erinn White create comedy shows that showcase just how funny.


In the last year LOL has built a great reputation for smart, inclusive, and hilarious comedy shows. They've put together solid lineups with queer and/or woman-identified favourites and new voices. While LOL has taken on summer festivals and large-scale events, their current home is downtown at Open Sesame.


As a resident of the core, Erinn regularly sees vibrant daytime hustle and bustle, with plenty of street traffic heading to the farmers' market and other shops. She was driven to do something similar after dark. 


"Creating this event here has helped me to feel like I'm helping to build the downtown nightlife we've all been waiting for."


LOL still operates at a grassroots level with no full-time staff or marketing budget, but Erinn and Suzie have hopes that LOL will become known in the region as a showcase for great comedy.


The space for that comedy has been given as much consideration as the jokes; LOL wants all performers and audience attendees to feel safe and welcome. To them, comedy can be a catalyst of social change and community building. They have put blanket rules in place regarding off-limits set topics like sexual violence, and they do their best to vet comics to prevent sexist, racist, or classist material. They admit LOL is always a work in progress. 


"Comedy is often about pushing boundaries and people get off the mark. It's been hard to be explicitly feminist and queer friendly in a world full of homophobia, racism, misogyny," Suzie says. "I'm sure it alienates some, but more importantly it creates a space for important voices to be seen and heard so that's worth any fear I have." 



artspay.org  |  Cathy Farwell, Founder


"I do it because I can, and because I have hope," says Cathy Farwell, visual artist and the driving force behind Art$Pay, a non-profit that educates artists and citizens alike on the value of creative work.


The new not-for-profit project aims to promote the local visual arts sector, focusing on employment, marketing, education, professional development and public awareness. The Art$Pay website acts as a twofold tool: the community can find local art; artists can build their career.


"For the first time in our area there's a place to post a job, find a job and other income-generating opportunities for this sector," says Cathy. "Artists can find information about fair fees and art prices, planning guides, models and everything needed to do business together more successfully."


Cathy's unique solution for Kitchener's growing arts community was born from her own background. As a visual artist and long-time community engager, she saw the gap that Art$Pay needed to fill.


"Time and time again, reference is made to the importance of developing a vibrant community to attract and retain talent," she says. "There are so many talented artists living here [...] but many have left for greener pastures because they can't make a decent living in the arts in this region."


Enter Art$Pay, bolstered by Cathy's passion to boot. 


"I think that if I can help make life better here for talented artists, my community will be a better place to live. I really believe that, and see this initiative as being mutually beneficial."


But reaching that goal requires support beyond Art$Pay. The way Cathy sees it, if municipal and private forces get on board, the benefits of a successful arts community are exponential.


"Original art matters, makes a difference in a city, and not everyone gets that. A vibrant arts and culture scene provides a dynamic creative context which fosters similar thinking in other sectors." 

(Art$Pay write-up contributed by MakeItKitchener.ca)


Melle Baker  |  melle.ca  |  @melle

Photography provided by LOL


More women-driven groups doing fantastic local work: 

Feminine Harbour


Lean In K-W


KW Multicultural Centre 


NextGen Waterloo Region


KW Poetry Slam 




Women's March Canada

Stay tuned for 2018 conference details: womensmarchcanada.com/


LGBTQ+ Out Loud (LOL) founders Suzie Taka and Erinn White



crowd at an Art$Pay event



Hive Waterloo Region 

hivewr.ca  |  Stephanie Rozek, ED  


The Hive team wants tech workers to be skilled, creative, and diverse. Tapping into our area's strong tech and maker cultures, they work with organizations to promote inclusion and teach skills for the 21st century, focusing on working with women and children.



Artsbuild Ontario


artsbuildontario.ca  |  Lindsay Golds, ED 

Vibrant art scenes require passionate artists, interested audiences, and a place to happen. Enter ArtsBuild Ontario, the province's only organization that helps guide building, management, education, and financing for arts spaces like theatres, galleries and museums. 



Neruda Arts

nerudaarts.ca  |  Isabel Cisterna, Artistic Director 

Neruda Arts is dedicated to building bridges in the community through music, dance, drama, and literary and visual arts. Their mandate is to support emerging and new Canadian artists and artists from visible minorities, whose work is underrepresented in local cultural institutions. They've coordinated many of DTK's most beloved murals and are the creators of Kultrun World Music Festival. 




Pat the Dog Theatre Creation  

(Women's Room) 

patthedog.org/the-womens-room-2018 | Lisa O'Connell, Artistic Director 

A SonderlustPat the Dog partnership, the Women's Room provides resources for female-identified playwrights to develop their work. Making the region a better place for women to live and work includes creating opportunities for artists to use their voices. 



Shore Centre

shorecentre.ca  |  Lyndsey Butcher, Executive Director 


It's right in the name: SHORE stands for Sexual Health Options, Resources and Education. Formerly Planned Parenthood, they welcome everyone and provide help with everything from accurate, inclusive sexual health information to pregnancy counselling.  




Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region (SASC) 

sascwr.org  |  Sara Casselman, Executive Director 


SASC provides counselling and 24-hour support to people and their families who have experienced sexual violence. They provide public education with a feminist, intersectional approach. Their team advocates for and assists those navigating legal, law enforcement, and medical processes. They provide expertise to initiatives focused on responding to sexual assault and human trafficking. Their overall mission is to transform systems that promote gender-based violence.




Sanguen Community Health Van 

sanguen.com/outreach-program/mobile-van-outreach | Violet Umanetz, Manager of Outreach

Those most in need often have barriers to accessing services. "The Van" comes to them. A regular feature downtown since 2015, Sanguen provides food, clothing, hygiene products, counselling, medical services, supplies, and overdose prevention kits and training.