Novae Res Urbis | By: Bryan Baker
There’s a joke in Toronto that there are two seasons: winter and construction. Charitable organization Public Art Through Construction Hoarding is looking to make the latter of those seasonal changes a little more enjoyable with artwork on the hoarding around construction sites.
The project was spearheaded by Ward 27 councillor Kristyn WongTam, and with the help of Sustainable Thinking and Expression on Public Services, it’s coming to fruition.
PATCH is a sister organization of STEPS, and comprises planners, artists and city builders. Stakeholder relations coordinator Mojan Jianfar saw art on construction hoarding as an opportunity to explore the development of public spaces commonly seen as eyesores, and to make them represent the neighbourhood.
“With the STEPS initiative we’ve had a lot of experience working with artists and doing public art pieces and artwork, and so when councillor Wong-Tam, in the fall, was trying to push this idea of getting art on construction hoarding, we felt we were in a pretty good position to take that on, and look at it as a new initiative and a new project.”
Jianfar said more councillors are coming on board with the new program, including Councillor Ana Bailão. Th e Ward 18 representative teamed up with developer Edenshaw and professional artist Rui Pimenta on a pilot project to decorate the fencing around the developer’s project at 1544 Dundas Street West in time for the June 8 Dundas West Festival.
Edenshaw’s assistant development manager, Kevin Wassermuhl, was enthused by the fledgling program.
“To be perfectly honest, as a developer with a project, it’s always good to be on the right side of the councillor,” he said. “She asked us for a favour, so we go in there with our minds open to it.
“We thought it would be an attractive addition to their festival. A lot of people who were walking by [would] see a fence for a vacant lot, instead of some nice artwork,” he added. “It didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting to get us to see that it was a good idea.”
The initiative is picking up speed, and in some wards councillors are making it a requirement for developers to have public art on their hoarding.
PATCH is compiling a catalogue of artists to present to potential developers, and hopes to officially launch the program in the fall.
One artist on call is Sean Martindale, who sees PATCH as a solution to advertising that sometimes appears on hoarding, regardless of “Post No Bills” signs.
“I’d like to see it grow across Canada, across North America or everywhere that condos are being built,” he said. “It’s a better approach [to have] art rather than advertising.”
Another pilot project is being planned, according to Jianfar, adding the public art project will help alleviate graffi ti.
“We found that when public art is present somewhere, it decreases the chance that something will be tagged or postered over,” Jianfar said. “It also works for the benefi t of the develop company as well because they don’t have to worry about managing constant painting or removal of posters.”