The Spirit of Shared Spaces – Bringing the Community Together with Art | By: Joe Mihevc
Bright, creative elements that draw the eye make us more aware of the public spaces we move through every day. Luckily, it’s not difficult to inject life into utilitarian infrastructure. With a little imagination and an abundance of community spirit, we can introduce accessible art and encourage mindfulness of our shared spaces.
This September, “Three Points Where Two Lines Meet” will be installed at the intersection of Bathurst and Vaughan. The winner of an international design contest, this geometrical sculpture will bring colour and interest to this busy corner in Ward 21.
In June, we unveiled the School Yard Jams Public Art Project at Cy Townsend Park. With the guidance of ArtStarts, students from J.R. Wilcox and Rawlinson public schools created a series of beautiful mosaics that have been installed next to the playground. The students were encouraged to express their inner selves through art, and this message of creativity and self-worth was reinforced by displaying the mosaics in a community space.
Art can be the olive branch extended between a faceless construction project and the surrounding neighbourhood. Developers often solicit artwork submissions from the local community, which are then postered onto the hoarding around the project site. Metrolinx recently held a kids’ drawing contest, the results of which are now displayed around the sites of the new Eglinton Crosstown stations.
Not only is public art a great way to get residents involved, it is also effective in reducing graffiti on walls and rear-facing garages. Christine Liber and Ellie Dowson figured this out, and started the Kenwood Lane Art project. This group of community volunteers paint garage doors to beautify and help reclaim this lane as a safe, welcoming space.
The City of Toronto’s Transportation Division also recognizes that there is inherent value as well as practicality in encouraging art on public infrastructure. The StreetARToronto program provides the structure and support to “increase awareness of street art and its indispensable role in generating social and economic benefits.” You may have noticed some StreetART projects on electrical boxes around the city, or on retainer walls like the Jane Jacobs mural at Christie and Davenport and the FAILE mural at Bathurst and Davenport. A new pilot initiative this year will allow a few street mural proposals for non-major roads.
If you have artistic talent and are looking for your next canvas, consider contributing to your community by participating in one of the many programs available. A little art can go a long way!
JOE MIHEVC is the Toronto City Councillor for Ward 21, St. Paul’s’ West. His passions include social justice, public health, transit, and community building.
Photo Credit: Scubagal – Cy Townsend Park ribbon-cutting event for the School Yard Jams Public Art Project