Peterborough wowed its residents last summer with Kirsten McCrea’s Hunter Street Bridge Mural Project. In collaboration with Artspace, the city funded a competition for any artist, local or otherwise, to paint under the bridge. Toronto’s McCrea won the opportunity and she huddled under the gigantic arch for the better part of a month. Artspace’s Jon Lockyer and Bec Groves organized and managed McCrea’s stay in Peterborough as well as the opening ceremony back in October.
The City and the Downtown Business Improvement Association (DBIA) now wants more public art. On January 12, Public Art Coordinator Wendy Trusler issued a press release for “Wall Call and All.” The “Downtown Public Art Opportunity” asks businesses and landlords to donate a portion of their walls, doors, windows, staircases or any other spot of their buildings for the purpose of accessible art.
Artspace’s Lockyer is very enthusiastic about the City-funded initiative. “Following on what I think was a very successful 2015 public arts campaign for the City of Peterborough, it’s really great to see a continued interest from both the media and the public in terms of what will be happening downtown in 2016.”
Lockyer continues, “I think what the City of Peterborough, the DBIA, and Artspace [referring to the next bridge mural project] have committed to over the next several years is an ambitious project that will bring new life to the city, [and] bring an increased awareness of the diversity of contemporary art practices to the larger community.”
I met with Trusler to further discuss the “Wall Call.” She likewise expressed enthusiasm about the project and the opportunities it provides the City. Trusler believes that the public art sites will enliven and activate the spaces; they will transform uninhabitable space to inhabitable space.
She provided the example of the Hunter Street Bridge Mural – residents can and now want to spend time under the archway, with the art and with each other.
She further clarified that the new public art will remain on the sites for four to six years, in consultation with the businesses and landlords, of course.
The site submissions will be evaluated by an eclectic jury composed of individuals with expertise in contemporary art, design, building construction, architecture, history, and cultural tourism. So, this is not the Paris Salon of the early 1860s – their juries were made up of a tight-knit group of academics from the same School. The Public Art Project will emphasize diversity of art, spaces, and tastes.
Business owners and landlords may not be entirely familiar with the idea of a mural, Trusler mentioned. A mural does not necessarily have to be a grand work; in fact, spaces large and small will do. Additionally, the surface of the wall is not terribly important: paintings, ceramics, collages, and mosaics can be affixed to walls as well as painted directly onto the concrete or bricks.
Trusler hopes that Peterborough might become known for its public art (and thereby become a larger cultural centre in Ontario). This opportunity will hopefully reveal more sophisticated approaches to public art, and we discussed the idea of a public art walking tour once multiple installations are complete.
The deadline to submit a site is January 29 by 4 p.m.. The application process is simple: a letter identifying the site as well as images and dimensions of the proposed area (and adjacent structures). Selected sites will be shortlisted for possible artistic developments over the next five years. The call is not limited to businesses and landlords. Trusler encourages residential tenants to approach their landlords if they feel their building would be an exceptional spot for public art.
Trusler’s endeavour is, undeniably, an exciting bit of news for Peterborough culture. Run-down spaces will be enlivened by local and national artists. Combined with the continued work on the Hunter Street Bride Mural over the next few years, the Electric City may very well earn the title of Ontario’s mural capital.
The City will announce the downtown sites on February 29 with completion of the first public art piece scheduled for the Fall. For more information about the Public Art Progra, visit peterboroughdbia.com/news/wall-call-all.
Troy Bordun volunteers on the board of directors at Artspace.