CAFKA began in 1996 in Kitchener as a city-run annual visual arts festival called Artworks. Originally a two-day event with six artists’ projects, the event was held in the city hall, in the civic square and on King Street in downtown Kitchener and consisted of an art sale, cultural information exchange and art exhibits. The objective was to encourage the public to participate and see “art being made.”
In 2000, nine projects were exhibited over a two-day period. By 2001 the festival had changed its name to CAFKA, grown to 17 projects staged over nine days, and expanded its base to include Kitchener City Hall and environs. CAFKA operated under the umbrella of Globe Studios and went on to hold five successful annual events before moving to a biennial format for CAFKA.07: Haptic. Globe Studios, an artist run studio facility in Kitchener, provided support for CAFKA during its early years. CAFKA continues to occupy office space in the building managed by Globe Studios but its operations and mission began to evolve beyond the mandate of Globe. In February of 2005 CAFKA separated from Globe Studios and became incorporated as a separate non-profit organization. In 2006 CAFKA hired a full-time Artistic Director and full-time Executive Director. Each edition of CAFKA takes on an over-arching theme relating to the history or current preoccupations of the region. By having artists from across Canada and around the world participate in the Forum, each theme has been explored from diverse social and cultural perspectives.
In the decade spanning 2001 through 2011, CAFKA produced eight major exhibitions of art in the public spaces of Kitchener and the Waterloo Region (one per year from 2001 through 2005, biennially after that). 
Following the CAFKA.11: SURVIVE. RESIST., the CAFKA board decided to reorganize and relocate the biennial exhibition from the fall of the odd year (September 2011) to the spring of the next even year (June 2014). CAFKA formed a strategic relationship with the Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound in 2012 as they decided to move the timing of the Open Ears biennial festival to May/June of the even year as well. Together, to bridge the extended layoff, we organized the off-year events, CAFKA @ The Walper Hotel and Between the Ears. CAFKA looks forward to the complementary intersections of these two experimental art organizations.