I am lucky enough to have been selected for a second time to participate in the Art Place, an AOE Arts Council initiative, to get involved with a community that is different from the one I usually work with.
I am a landartist, which means I create with material found in nature specifically for the sites where I am. Most creative processes happen outside in both rural and urban contexts, whether forests, fields, festivals, public parks, school yards, etc. But I also develop concepts in indoor spaces such as galleries, businesses and private homes. Since 2004, I am proud and happy to say that I have been living from my art practice.
In 2014, I developed a first Art Place project at Bryuère Résidence Saint-Louis, an Ottawa-East long-care facility. Over the course of several weeks, I spent time with the residents and accompanied them through the building of structures and small sculptures inside the residence. People were really keen to participate even if some of them could not remember given their illnesses, and most came back several times. In the end, I combined all the pieces into one large outdoor installation in the courtyard adjacent to the residence’s cafeteria, doing so just as the first snow flakes were showing up. It is still standing as I write this blog.
This year, my new project is as exciting but totally different. Jasmine Crescent in Ottawa has been the theatre of several violent attacks over the course of this past year. A community gets quickly categorized and ostracized. My project is to create a diversity of sculptures at different locations on the crescent in order to help revitalize it, adding beauty, discussion material and and opportunity for the locals to engage with a creative process.
The original idea is to get youth at risk involved. But really, anybody from the community that will either be actively participating or that will engage in a conversation to question the project will be welcome.
Day 1 – Wednesday November 9
After many administrative hurdles, we got the final ok to go ahead with the project; among other things, we had to ensure that the site would be safe, not reaching underground wires, get access to a storing shed, etc. I brought a variety of branches and twine, and started a process by planting a few posts in the ground.
FIRST SITE : JASMINE PARK ENTRANCE
Alone at first, I was speaking to anybody walking by, presenting myself and the project. Without a clear design in mind, I knew however that I wanted to get a structure going that would allow locals to interact with it by penetrating in its space. Rapidly, a small room emerged. Nina from AOE joined me, helping me for an hour and teaching a local woman who stayed as well. Michelle, Community Development Coordinator from the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre, came by on her way to distribute flyers about the project.
Day 2 – Thursday November 10
Worked 3 hours.
Several people commented on foot, many slowed down by car, sometimes even stopping to ask what I was doing. One family (mom + 2 kids) came back after seeing it from the car to help for an hour. 2 youth said they would come back but didn’t. Finished in the darkness at 5.30pm.
People are noticing. People are happy to see something new. It makes them smile and curious. That already is good for the street! I publicized the fact I was coming back on Saturday 11-2pm to all. Hoping to finish that piece then.
Day 3 – Saturday November 12, 2016.
A windy and cold Saturday. Many cars slowed down again, many pedestrian commenting “this is nice” or “I like that”, only 4 stopping. Only a few young people went by. One couple went away and came back, and I caught them for a photograph. Another young man said he will try to spot me the next time and come with his younger brother.
No help today , but I worked 3 3/4 hours (11am-2.45pm) and publicized and explained. The final (?) piece is about 4m tall and 2 1/2 m wide. It allows people to step in to appreciate the surroundings in a renewed fashion. The structure looks a bit like a jester’s hat. Locals clearly notice. When I arrived, a man with his granddaughter were in the structure, appreciating the space. The word is out!
To find out more about Marc Walter’s land art project with the community on Jasmine Crescent visit his artist page. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and keep your eye on ArtPlace blog for updates as all the 2016-2017 projects progress!