Rachel Behling represents the best of what this city is all about.
Behling took one look at a dirty, underused building in downtown Kitchener and imagined a space that would welcome anyone inside. She eschewed looking for grant money because she didn’t want to compete with other small arts organizations also looking for funds. She put her own time and talents to work, and her enthusiasm swept others up along with her.
The Kaufman Arts Studio became a haven for young artists who often had nowhere else to go. Every night and weekend, there are school auditoriums and theatres that sit empty. It costs too much to rent those spaces, to provide security or custodial services. And so there was a dearth of space for cash-starved theatre companies, musicians and dancers, not just to perform but to brainstorm, collaborate and rehearse their crafts. The Kaufman Arts Studio filled that void.
As city, regional and provincial budgets continue to strain taxpayers, it won’t be possible in the future to continue funding for every community project, whether it’s in the arts or athletics, literacy or multiculturalism. Behling is just one of many examples of people in Kitchener who have identified a need, and then set out to fill it with whatever and whoever they have within reach. But her work over the course of less than two years had only just begun. As a community, we cannot afford to allow places like the Kaufman Arts Studio to simply disappear.
Yes, Behling had help from her grandfather, one of Kitchener’s longstanding and venerable businessmen, Edmund Kaufman. But almost every person in this city has some advantage they haven’t shared with others, some talent they’re not nurturing, or some time they’re not expending on a useful pursuit, and could look to Behling as an inspiration.