Artists Transform Citizens’ Snapshots into Portrait of Guelph


by Katie Wilde

Look around you. What do you see?

Local artist duo KIAM (rhymes with Siam) wants to see what Guelph looks like to you. This summer, they are leading a creative collaboration with citizens of Guelph to create a six-panel artwork exploring Guelph’s six wards. Entitled “YourWard,” the project simply couldn’t exist without input from the community – specifically, images snapped in neighbourhoods, of people and places that make up their stomping grounds.

KIAM: Artists Kiel and Amanda Wilson-Ciocci (all images courtesy of the artists and contributors to YourWard)

As the City of Guelph’s 2018 Artist(s) in Residence, the pair have been collecting images from anyone and everyone in Guelph, since the project launched at Art on the Street in June. They are collecting images until August 4th, and will be using them to create the piece in their signature artistic style – a mix of collage and abstract painting – which will then be on display at the Art Gallery of Guelph during Culture Days from September 28th through 30th.

Ward 1: Adam Honsinger (left) Ward 2: Nigel (right) 

Curious would-be participants often say to the artists “But I’m not a photographer…” and that’s perfectly in the spirit of the project. “We want to see each ward, and Guelph as a whole, through the eyes of the everyday people who live here,” says Amanda Wilson-Ciocci (the “AM” in KIAM). Participants do not need to have any artistic experience, and are encouraged to submit photos taken with cell phones, taken by children, or found in old family albums and archives.

KIAM winter trees
Ward 3: Annica Jane (left), Ward 5: Oxanna Adams (right)

“We’ve lived in Guelph all our lives, but the people submitting photos to this project have introduced us to so many little corners and hidden gems! In our artwork [as KIAM] we are constantly documenting big changes in Guelph, urban transition, etc. but to see what other people see – the city portrait through their eyes is made of many things like a special spot on a trail, someone’s garden, the places we work and visit, and the people we see.”


 Ward 4: Linda Busuttil 

The project is about halfway through the process and about to change phase from ‘photo-intake’ to ‘artwork creation’. “We’ve had an overwhelming response so far,” Wilson-Ciocci says. “People have told us, ‘You’ve made me stop and look at my neighbourhood, now I appreciate small things I didn’t before’, or ‘Hey, I actually went out on my bike today and took images for your project.’ Now after seeing the submissions we want to go to places in other wards we didn’t know about before – even some in our own Ward 1!”

The artists are still seeking your photos. Here are your upcoming opportunities to take part (all free):

Until August 4: Submit your images by emailing [email protected] with your name, email address, photo and Ward number (see below or click HERE for a map to YourWard).

On August 4: KIAM will be at John Galt Day in Market Square outside Guelph’s City Hall in downtown Guelph. Look for the artists near the water feature, where you can chat with them about the project, and see examples of their art, and submit hard-copy photos if you can’t or prefer not to email them.

September 8: The artists are hosting an Open Studio – Image Transfer Demo Day where visitors can see live-and-in-person how the artwork is being made. Drop in at KIAM Studio between 2 and 4 pm.

September 28-30: See the finished artwork at the Art Gallery of Guelph, flip through all the photos submitted for each ward, and take part in an all-ages, drop-in activity where you can make your own collage with copies of the project photos.

For more info, FAQ and updates, see and contribute to a portrait of YourWard!

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