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Bringing art into public spaces can improve the social fabric of a city – The Conversation CA



You don’t need to look far to see the impact of art in public spaces. Art can connect us to place and record history as it unfolds.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, stories on the importance of public art are being told globally. And this isn’t new. Times of crisis have often inspired some of the most influential artistic movements.

Displaying visual symbols of resistance publicly, like the face of George Floyd, can connect social movements across the world. And in Canada, the display of statues like Egerton Ryerson have been deemed unacceptable as we reckon with our ongoing colonial history.

Public art can be defined as art that is available to the general public outside of museums and galleries; publicly funded; and related to the interests or concerns of, and used by a public community.

Public art is referred to by some as creative placemaking: a process of artistic creation and collaboration that helps to shape the surrounding built, natural and social environments.

An elderly woman walks past a mural that depicts a Black health-care worker wearing a blue face mask and scrubs.
An elderly woman walks past a mural that pays tribute to health-care workers in Toronto, Ont.

For French philosopher Jacques Rancière, art is disruptive. Done right, he says, it can make the spectator rethink their understanding of politics and society by calling to attention previously hidden inequalities.

For many, the power of public art rests in its ability to turn artistic practice into a social practice. It challenges the viewer to confront social issues that affect the very place they stand.

Art in times of crisis

COVID-19 is just one example of a period of shared adversity when our connection to the arts has flourished. The Dadaists’ commentary on the 1918 flu reflected an intense and collectively frustrated desire for meaning in a world filled with chaos.

During the Great Depression, the arts became increasingly experimental. In the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal saw the largest public art funding initiative the country had seen. A few decades later, in the 1980s, provinces and municipalities in Canada followed suit and began significantly investing in public art.

A man stands infront of a mural depicting Bernie Sanders. The word demos is written above.
A mural inspired by a photo of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders bundled up and wearing mittens and a face mask at President Joe Biden’s inauguration on a legal graffiti wall at the Leeside Tunnel skateboard park in Vancouver.

Protest music during the civil rights movement and Vietnam War expressed anger, despair and hope. Gay artists and writers during the AIDS crisis memorialized a collective grief that was being either ignored or vilified. The art from both eras came at an immense cost, and has been profoundly culturally and socially influential.

Today, the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated inequalities that were already present.

Read more:
Coronavirus discriminates against Black lives through surveillance, policing and the absence of health data

But there has also been engagement and social solidarity: from Black Lives Matter, to the Indigenous Land Back movement and support for unhoused people.

Those who have the privilege not to pay attention are finding this option less viable. This engagement arguably comes with its own set of problems, but it is a momentum that can be built upon to imagine and do the work needed to create better futures for society.

Artists are well positioned to do this creative imagining.

Art beyond the gallery

As we each search for meaning throughout our intensely local and geographically limited lives during the pandemic, public art finds, creates and shares the beauty, joy and solidarity that can be found in public spaces.

Galleries are often isolated from the communities in geographical proximity. They have often been places of exclusion, and have historically served to uphold a dominant, European settler-centred narrative. They have played a role in perpetuating colonial and racist attitudes towards Indigenous communities, their art and histories.

Indigenous artists have long been challenging these narratives. Mainstream art is catching on, and there has been an unprecedented level of Indigenous representation and leadership within gallery spaces in recent decades.

People walk past paintings in a museum.
Galleries can often be places of exclusion that uphold colonial and racist attitudes.
(Unsplash/Diogo Fagundes)

This leadership should shape public art in Canada. Public spaces, like art galleries, have also privileged some more than others. Bringing art outside of the gallery space is not a catch-all solution. What matters more is how it’s done.

Toronto’s year of public art

In Toronto, the municipal government has announced that its “Year of Public Art” will begin in the fall with a total budget of $4.5 million in 2021. This is the inauguration of a 10-year public art plan. It responds to calls for an improved public art strategy, with a greater commitment to equity in the location of installations, the level of engagement with communities and the artists who create works.

Toronto has promised a strong commitment to Indigenous self-determination, leadership and placemaking within its public art strategy.

The city’s public art installations have increased in the past 50 years, with over 700 installations added between 1967 and 2015.

Toronto’s Percent for Public Art program, a commonly used strategy in cities in North America and Europe, encourages developers to donate one per cent of their gross construction costs towards public art in their development’s direct vicinity.

The program is voluntary though. And because most development is happening in the downtown core, this is where public art has been concentrated, meaning neighbourhoods with less development have received less investment in public art.

Nonetheless, the city is home to a multiplicity of adept communities and talented artists who continue to use public art to build community capacity and foster social inclusion.

Listening to artists of diverse backgrounds and elevating communities to participate meaningfully will support important conversations that determine our collective future. And that makes the investment in public art worthwhile for us all.

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Art workshops for teens offered in photography, poetry – Sarnia Observer



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Hopes are participants in an upcoming art workshop series for teens also get involved in a photo contest jointly hosted by Lambton County Library and the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery, a gallery official says.

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The Take Your Shot Teen Photo Contest that opened in May for 13-18-year-olds, and running until July 10, is one of the reasons photography was made one of the topics in an upcoming Random Acts of Art Workshop (RAAW), said Anna Miccolis, community art and education coordinator with the downtown Sarnia gallery.

The photo contest has been held by the library dating back to around 2009, but in recent years the gallery has come on board, she said.

“It’s had a number of different names over the years,” she said about the contest.

The July 6-8 RAAW “crash course of photography basics” with photographer Sierra Rei Hart at the gallery promises to help prep youngsters with photography knowledge, including composition, perspective, lighting and editing.

Winners, meanwhile, in the contest that challenges teens to encapsulate the feeling of home in their shots, get their photographs matted and framed. A choice of prizes is available to the grand prize winner.

Details are at

The contest kicked off in May with a talk about photography and storytelling from decorated photojournalist Larry Towell.

An Aug. 12 to Oct. 8 exhibition at the gallery called Feels Like Home is planned to showcase work by Towell, from the gallery’s permanent collection, and jury-selected entries from contest participants, Miccolis said.

The other Summer RAAW workshop is poetry with spoken word artist Shelly Grace July 20-22.

It ties into 10th anniversary plans for the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery this fall, Miccolis said.

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“We’re looking at our permanent collection and the story of how JNAAG came to be in this building, but we’re, in that exploration of the permanent collection, we’re thinking about what our collection encompasses at this time,” she said.

“And we thought that a program centred around poetry and performance could create an opportunity for some interesting responses from youth in the community.”

Details are pending for anniversary plans in October, she said.

“But we do have a plan for a rotation of exhibits, giving a survey of the permanent collection.”

The age 14-18 RAAW series – another for 9-13-year-olds is called TNT Summer Splash – has been hosted by the gallery for more than a decade, including its pre-JNAAG days as Gallery Lambton, Miccolis said, noting the workshops are free.

Past iterations have included making murals on walls of buildings, as well as stained glass artwork and experimental painting, she said.

“As always, we’re looking to create deepened connections to the work on display,” she said. “Whether it’s a current exhibition, or using programs as a primer to exhibitions coming in the near future.”

Current gallery exhibitions include photography exhibition One Wave by Ned Pratt, and Facing North, featuring paintings by Jean Hay.

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Surprised by art — Folks Art Festival uses garbage cans as canvas – Welland Tribune



The annual Niagara Folk Arts Festival may be wrapping up, but its Art We Surprised project will be around all summer — and perhaps even beyond.

So if you’re walking in St. Catharines’ Richard Pierpoint Park and find yourself face-to-face with a piece of art, make sure to take a closer look.

It was carefully created and designed — but instead of the artist using a traditional canvas, the work is on a plastic garbage can.

The point, as the name suggests, is the surprise.

“The project came from the idea that persons walking through (the park) would suddenly come upon a highly decorated art work, and be surprised to find it out in a natural setting,” said Pam Seabrook, fundraising and events manager with Niagara Folks Arts Multicultural Centre.

Originally planned for the 2020 festival through the City of St. Catharines Centennial Gardens Partnership Fund, Art We Surprised was placed on hold due to the pandemic.

Seabrook said the pause was because organizers wanted the art pieces to create “real engagement between artists and the general public,” but in the end, settled for a hybrid model — with some solo creations, and some group pieces.

Spanning an assortment of styles and inspiration, from pencil portraits to pieces reminding residents the importance of taking care of the environment. Each art piece is created by an artist who came to Canada as an immigrant.

Seabrook said the art project is an example of what the centre stands for: the inclusion of all cultural heritages, and breaking down of racism, ageism, sexism, homophobia, perceived lack of abilities and seclusion barriers.

One of the artists, Cemile Kacmaz heard about the project through social media. Kacmaz came to Canada with her 12-year-old son in 2020, with the goal of working as an education assistant, and bringing art into special needs programming.

Originally from Istanbul, Kacmaz said she came to Canada because of the difficult political situation in Turkey, and a lifestyle she did not want her son to grow up in. Being an artist in Canada allows her a freedom of speech and expression people in Turkey — and for much of her own life — are not always allowed to share publicly.

Kacmaz attended Niagara College for two years (graduating last week), but with most classes online, said it was difficult and lonely, with no friends or family nearby.

When she learned the fold arts centre was looking for artists to participate in its annual art project, she thought it would be fun and give her a chance to become involved with the Niagara community.

Art We Surprised was an opportunity to use her art for change.

Kacmaz spent a month and a half planning, and another month painting her garbage can. It was a “long, slow process,” she said, but the organizers gave artists the ability to take their time.

“Painting is the way of communication between me and the world. It is a kind of tool to understand the world around me,” she said.

Her inspiration was the universe, and by placing the garbage cans into the space, between “planets and stars, I wanted to point out how we treat the nature we live and exist in.”

All Art We Surprised garbage cans created by artists from across the Niagara region — artists with backgrounds spanning Lebanon, Africa, Colombia and China — will be placed in St. Catharines and at Pierpoint Park this month.

The Niagara Folks Art Festival has held a community art project each year since 2019, with artists invited to participate in communal art projects, regardless of ability.

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The in-person return of Art on the Street (8 photos) – GuelphToday



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The in-person return of Art on the Street (8 photos)  GuelphToday

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