A group of 30 people attended the Creative Placemaking Challenge workshop at Red River College on Wednesday May 28. Participants were a mix of emerging and established artists, design professionals, and even a few people who came across the event by accident!
Urban Idea Project Coordinator Molly Johnson led the group through a brief talk about placemaking and the importance of the arts in turning spaces, into places. Molly talked about the Project for Public Spaces and pointed to some resources that people interested in creating placemaking projects can look for inspiration, ideas, and guidance.
She presented some great examples of ways that the arts can animate cities – everything from big ideas like Anish Kapoor’s iconic “Cloud Gate” sculpture in Chicago’s Grant Park to small ideas like Little Free Libraries to Kurt Perschke’s Red Ball Project. She made the point that there’s no one correct answer to creating an interesting project that can engage with the public and create a connection with a public space.
Attendees offered their own experiences. Visual artist Theo Sims and performer Andraea Sartison spoke about the need to get as much information as you can ahead of time so you have fewer surprises when you actually execute a project in a non-traditional space. Musician Al Simmons recounted a story about busking in someone else’s spot in New York City and finding out the hard way that knowing your surroundings is a key element of attempting to engage in public space. Architect Brent Bellamy recalled his experience of designing a banquet facility in the middle of a forest, and the challenges of integrating something seemingly out of place, into a place to enhance what already exists there.
Participants then headed out to view first-hand the alleys and dray ways of the West Exchange District where the Creative Placemaking Challenge will take place later this summer. Upon returning they were put to work by Edmonton Artists Chelsea Boos and Carmen Douville. After hearing about Chelsea and Carmen’s Living Bridge Edmonton project, the group was tasked with devising ideas based on the locations they had just visited. Armed with pipe cleaners, styrofoam balls, lego, post its, and more, participants came up with on-the-spot ideas for alleyway installations and animations, and built prototypes using the materials provided.
It was not only fun, but a great way to “road-test” some ideas for the upcoming Creative Placemaking Challenge. Some of the results included landscaping, decorative archways, and even a zipline! Participants worked together to build their ideas into visuals to get a sense of how even the craziest ideas can be realized.
It was a fun evening of conversation and experimentation, and based on what we saw at this workshop, the creative juices are flowing in Winnipeg. We’re looking forward to the submissions. Thanks to everyone who came out to participate.
A reminder that the Creative Placemaking Challenge submission deadline is Friday June 13 and the details can be found here.