Art Sparks in the Park

Controversy has erupted recently over the overpainting of images made as part of the On the Wall festival last August. A few other works had been altered in various ways without much comment, but then David Dossett’s paintings of snow angels and a street scene were layered over with a large red S. He is angry about this and has taken the story to the CBC and to the Whig. The story hooked in with the Wellington Street Extension debate today when the Whig published a letter from George Dillon asserting that because of the “vandalism,”

The current council needs to place high-intensity lighting along the top of the cliff so that the retaining walls can be clearly seen throughout the evening and night. They should have already placed lighting along the waterfront pathway. Surveillance cameras also should be added to view the area. But most of all, this should be an awakening to city council and others who question the need of the Wellington Street extension — that a two-lane street should have been built close to the retaining wall from at least Bay Street through to Cataraqui Street. The city had the opportunity to build such a street shortly after it took possession of the property in the late 1960s. The fact that the road would have been in use might have helped prevent vandalism in the vicinity.

My mandate here is to talk about the WSE, but I think I have to back up a bit first. Let me start by fully acknowledging that Dossett’s work has made an important contribution to the festival and the landscape. But then let me also say that it is/was by its nature temporary art. The whole idea of the festival was to enliven a crumbling wall with street art — with the stated expectation that at next year’s festival at least, the art would be painted over. We just can’t expect street art to be permanent — partly because of the wind and the rain, but partly because of its status as a kind of surprise and a statement demanding response. So somebody or somebodies jumped the gun, and without permission. Is this a crisis? I would say no. Unauthorized street art may not to everybody’s taste, but it is a major aesthetic and political phenomenon of our times, reflecting the dynamism and dialogue of urban spaces. Its presence suggests that (wow!) Kingston really is a city, and has moved into the twenty first century.

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photos courtesy David Dossett

Dossett feels that his work has been vandalized, and Dillon takes it further, saying the overpainting is as bad as burning down buildings. Because of the social disorder in the park, he says that we need Berlin-wall style of surveillance, and better yet, a lot of cars to keep people from painting. Dillon seeks the elimination of peace, quiet, and privacy in the park. And people too: he doesn’t want them, unless they’re in cars. Especially if they dare to leave any traces of their existence. Ergo, he wants the road as a mode of social control.

I suppose Dillon is quite right that the WSE might serve that function. I hope others will agree that it is yet another reason to resist the road.

Thursday night in Toronto, I walked alongside the train tracks in the Junction, by a long wooden construction hoarding covered with really beautiful street art — haunting faces, flamboyant stylized lettering, psychedelic twists and turns. It was dark and the snow was falling. Some of the first layer of art had been tagged or had other art superimposed on top of it. But to me, all that was a sign of life. It was a sign that people wanted to make their presence known in public. Nobody asked me to pay anything to see this art. Nobody else was there. But as I walked, I felt that delicious combination of solitude and sociability that cities are all about. Doug Fluhrer Park has a little bit of that too, and we’re lucky.

— Laura Murray

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How about a Homegrown National Park?

It’s important for us to remember that Hank Doornekamp isn’t the only man with vision for greenspaces in Kingston’s downtown. Many of us will find that this idea resonates much more than putting an office building in a waterfront park:

The David Suzuki Foundation launched the Toronto Homegrown National Park Projectin 2013, starting with the former path of Garrison Creek in the downtown west end [Toronto]. Two-dozen local residents were recruited as Homegrown Park Rangers, trained in community organizing and connected with local environmental and city-building organizations.

The rangers discussed common desires to make their neighbourhoods and the city more green and livable. They were also given evidence that, as the Harvard School of Public Health says, “even small amounts of daily contact with nature can help us think more clearly, reduce our stress and improve our physical health.” Then they returned to their home turfs with a simple mission: to make great things happen where they live, work and play, with the ultimate goal of co-creating a green corridor through the heart of the city.

These newly minted community leaders connected with local groups and agencies, participated in community events, made new partnerships and created opportunities for plantings in parks, yards, schools and laneways.

Friday’s article from the Toronto Star also notes:

Colossal crisscrossing hydro and railway corridors can be reimagined as recreational and naturalized spaces, such as Toronto’s proposed Green Line and ambitious 80-kilometre Pan Am Path.

Who wants to give the Suzuki Foundation a call? Let’s get moving on our own Kingston-scale naturalized networks and community building.

— Laura Murray

Waterfront Master Plan Public Consultation December 18

This is all about us folks — let’s show in numbers! Just a couple of hours’ break from drinking eggnog!

From the City of Kingston Press Release:

Come out and discuss recreational uses on the waterfront of the Great Cataraqui River area and offer input on this area of the City of Kingston’s Waterfront Master Plan. This public session is one of several consultations to take place in upcoming months and is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 18 in Memorial Hall, City Hall, 216 Ontario St.

The Great Cataraqui River, Focus Area 1, public session will look at the waterfront stretching from the La Salle Causeway north to Kingston Mills Locks.

Points of interest in the area include connections, pathways and trails, Douglas Fluhrer Park, Molly Brant Point, Emma Martin Park, Belle Park Fairways, the eastern wooded shoreline of the River and the Kingston Mills Locks area. Participants will learn about existing conditions in the area, view conceptual plans and be asked to offer suggestions on features, improvements and access improvements to the waterfront.

“If you have ideas on the Waterfront Master Plan, particularly relating to the Great Cataraqui River, please come out to the session.  We want to hear from you,” says Neal Unsworth, Manager, Parks Development.  He notes that an initial public consultation on this project was held in June 2014.

This next phase of public consultation will take place over the coming months and consists of several meetings, each focused on a different area of Kingston’s waterfront. Organized by Focus Area, the consolidated Waterfront Master Plan is expected to be ready for city-wide public review in June 2015.

For more on the Waterfront Master Plan, see: <http://www.CityofKingston.ca/city-hall/projects-construction/waterfront-master-plan>

The Waterfront Master Plan proposes to guide improvements to infrastructureand access on Kingston’s extensive waterfront for all Kingstonians and visitors. This project supports all four pillars of the Sustainable Kingston Plan, the plan to make Kingston Canada’s most sustainable city: environmental responsibility, economic health, cultural vitality and social equity.