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.
|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:
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.|
|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.|
|A power pole on Dallas Road, near the Heliport. A random contribution to place by someone who loves masks.|
|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.|
|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.