Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Making Places

A while ago I encountered some colourful painting on Vancouver Street. There was an obvious design, so I guessed it was intentional, not just random tossing of paint from a can. Initially, I thought it might be "guerilla art", in the same style as guerilla gardening.

Vancouver Street intersection with Burdett, late June

Then, a day later, I was again walking the same street, and this is what I saw:


I realized I was looking at art in progress; there was nothing dead-of-night about this! Though the paints were there, I could not see the artist.

A few days later, I walked by again.

Vancouver Street art in the making

Finally, the next day, I met the artist, Jesse Campbell, a Victoria mural artist who has done many murals around the city, including some I have shown in posts on this blog. His website is campbellvisualarts.com.

I like the artist's statement on Campbell's site, especially how he phrases his desire to give back to his community, and his acknowledgement of the influence of a teacher in his life. Here is an excerpt:

Jesse spends time mentoring youth on the craft of mural painting and understanding the diverse forms of Indigenous art across North America. Since a youth, he has been inspired by the work of natural historians throughout the world as well as the knowledge of his adopted aunt Bev Haines (Haida) and the knowledge keepers of the territories he has lived. Jesse began taking his art more seriously while being mentored under Alex Clark, a long-time teacher in the Victoria School District who recognized his talent and taught him to live and work in a good way. Jesse hopes to continue passing on these teachings through his art, his collaborations, and his students.

Jesse Campbell at work on the Vancouver Street mural. Note the white painted road across the street. The plan is to bookmark the design. Campbell said he will be working on the other one across the street so it "flows" from one side to the other.

As the sign illustrates, the project is a work of the "Placemaking Network". Another sign indicates that it is being funded by the City of Victoria's Participatory Budgeting Program.

When I spoke to Campbell, he was waiting for the sun to filter light through the leaves so he could capture them accurately on the road surface.

Leaf detail

Another perspective on the Vancouver Street mural.

So - what is "Placemaking" anyway? I checked out the website of the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network (https://victoriaplacemaking.ca/placemaking/)

Here is its definition:

Placemaking is the process through which we work together to shape our public spaces. Rooted in community-based participation, Placemaking involves the planning, design, management and programming of shared use spaces. More than just designing spaces, Placemaking brings together diverse people (including professionals, elected officials, residents, and businesses) to improve a community’s cultural, economic, social and ecological situation. 

It is a creative but intentional process. Placemaking builds on our growing environmental awareness by helping communities adapt and thrive within our constructed and our natural world.

So, by this definition, Placemaking is intentional. One of the projects the website cites as an example of its effectiveness is the amazing Little Library network throughout Victoria. I have profiled a number of Little Libraries in the past, but more keep appearing. Here are a couple of recent ones I have encountered:

Little Free Library (LFL) in Fairfield

Niagara Street Little Library. The Threshold Housing Society provides a community for at-risk youth in Greater Victoria.

The other side of the Little Library shown above. I wonder if youth involved in the Threshold Housing Society created the artwork for this Little Library.
May Street Little Library. This is located by a bus stop, and the two benches provide seats for passengers waiting for the bus. Note the metal water bowl for dogs; I find these frequently in Victoria. Note the turf is artificial.

One of the things I like about the concept of Placemaking is that it is oriented to life on the street. Those of us who walk, or use human-powered mobility to navigate streets, do so at a pace which allows us to appreciate the art of the streetscape.

While I think it's fine for the Placemaking network to take "credit" for some of these initiatives, I am certain that there is a mindset in Victoria that equally contributes to the desire to create interesting things. It's an organic, "bottom-up" process that results in a multitude of touches and details.

Placemaking is oriented to public spaces; here are a few examples of privately initiated placemaking that I've encountered:

Bench being used by a man sitting in the sun, outside Birdcages Confectionary. The owners of the confectionary have contributed to the life of the street by providing the sitting area.
Colourful backyard art beside May Street in Fairfield. Passers-by get to enjoy the vivid display of art created by the house occupants.

A fountain from the same house on May Street.

An arbour over a sidewalk created by gardening the boulevard, Bushby Street. The occupants of the adjacent house have created a "place" for all who walk through their street garden to enjoy.

This is the same boulevard garden from a different perspective

A funky touch beside the sidewalk, again from the same garden

One final image from the Bushby Street garden. The sign reads "The road to a friend's house is never long."

A quiet stopping place in a hidden public garden at the Empress Hotel. This is available for public enjoyment, but is maintained by the hotel.

The Empress Hotel pollinator garden, with bee hives in the background. The hotel has a beekeeper, and uses honey from the hives in its kitchens.


One of three similar installations along Yates Street. I'm puzzled about these. There was bird seed, the installation is covered, but it seems an odd way to encourage birds. Perhaps some readers know the story? Whatever the big picture, I found the installation contributed to a shared sense of place.

A feeding station for birds?

Parks are part of our shared places Victorians enjoy. I've featured Beacon Hill Park many times in this blog; here is a smaller one.

Quadra Park, on Belleville. This is a small underutilized spot. There was Placemaking attention to detail to make this a pleasant place to rest.
The next series of images reflects the contribution of an unknown individual to the life of Dallas Road. I believe these masks are from a personal collection.
A power pole on Dallas Road, near the Heliport. A random contribution to place by someone who loves masks.




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One perspective of the power pole on Dallas Road



One of many fairy gardens to be discovered on boulevards. The sign reads, Fairy door on a tree. Does it open, come and see!

I like the public availability of this bench for "free stuff", built by a nearby occupant, and located on the public sidewalk.

I will finish off this post with a few examples of detailed crafts-person-ship, which I think helps contribute to a sense of place.

Here are a small selection of images which have pleased me recently.
Detail from entrance at Shoal Point condos on Dallas Road.

Additional detail from the Shoal Point condo entrance.

Detail from a cross at Ross Bay Cemetery.

Full cross, Ross Bay cemetery.

A yard gate on Ontario Street.

While the Placemaking network might be looking for more public space oriented projects, I think these examples of individuals making their spaces unique adds to the richness of Victoria.


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

A Rainbow of Colour

The colours of Pride Month are prolific in Victoria -- both conscious acknowledgements of Pride, and unconscious revelry in the joy of colour. 

I received feedback that people liked my May post on colourful art, so this is a reprise, looking at the amazing homage to colour that I see everywhere in this city. 

In front of the Empress Hotel, earlier this month

Steps to the Lutheran church on Fort Street

First Metropolitan United Church. This photo was taken in 2021.

A house in James Bay with an urban farm, owned by Chris and Susannah Adams

And now, to a few commercial buildings with wonderful splashes of colour. 

Bastion Square shop

Smoking Lily storefront

Friends of Dorothy Restaurant and Lounge, Johnson Street. I didn't know the reason for the name "Friends of Dorothy" until I did the research for this post. The term dates back to World War I, and was code for "are you gay?" There is a great short CHEK news video about Friends of Dorothy, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGUjiRON-As


Window reflection from a restaurant on Oswego Street

Johnson Street shop

The Paper Box Building on Johnson Street
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Colourful exterior at a bike shop on Pandora


In this post I'm focussong more on public, rather than private, examples of colour, but I can't ignore the vibrant rainbows of colours in James Bay. Here is a small sampling.

St. Lawrence Street home

Superior Street house


A recently repainted house near me, on Rithet Street

An apartment building on Cook Street, in the neighbouring community of Fairfield. This building was also repainted within the last year or so. While this one sticks to one bright colour -- it is a bright colour indeed!
I've devoted a few posts in the last few years to murals. I'll include a only couple of examples here.

Downtown mural by Nicole Majcher

Mural on the side of the Trees Cannabis building, Fort Street. "In the Trees".


Africa Fest, at the end of May, was setting up when I walked through Centennial Square.


Detail from one of the Orca Whale sculptures located around Victoria. This one is in the Inner Harbour


Full depiction of an orca sculpture. This one is at a hotel along Wharf Street.

Detail from another Orca, this one on Quadra Street

Decorated "pop-up" piano on Willows Beach in Oak Bay. This photo was from last September; the piano was in place for three months last summer, by Oak Bay Recreation. The words on the piano are Oak Bay's motto, meaning "Good fortune under the oaks" in Latin

Another decorated "pop-up" piano, also from Willows Beach, Oak Bay, last September.

Colourful mini park, called a "parklet". This one was created by replacing several parking stalls along Fort Street with this infrastructure. It separates the cycling lanes, on the left, from the vehicles lanes on the right.



And, for my last image in this post -- a unique Canada Post van painted with bold colours. 

Seen on Dallas Road in March - a cheerful splash of colour on a grey day.  Although this was the first time I have seen a truck with the design, apparently they started rolling out in March 2021 to recognize the front line workers in Canada Post who kept the mail going during the early months of the pandemic.